Sunday, November 13, 2011

The dawn of running

As expected, despite the best of intentions and planning, there’s pretty much nothing that can combat the feelings of frustration and immobility I’m feeling post surgery.  I’m not a person that was meant to sit still, so this business of sitting in a recliner, no matter what is attempting to entertain me at the time, is pretty much a mental death sentence.  I have come to resent the fancy HDTV (Sorry guys, Scott already called dibs on it), as well as the laptop, the magazines, and even my Nook.  I know what you’re thinking.  This is going to be one of those annoying blogs where the writer throws a pity party and I click “Next blog” to save myself from being sucked into her narcissistic depression.  Not so fast, Jose!
Granted, I’ve grown a little bored with the Nook.  That’s only because I’m reading it not because I want to, but because it’s a lack of options.  I already read through Dean Karnazes’ Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss, in which I was half inspired, half grossed out, by the level of commitment that crazy fool has demonstrated for the love of running and the love of humanity.  He is amazing, and completely insane, and I am scared of love him.  My goal isn’t to be anything like him.  My goal is to be about 1/50th of him.  It would be hard for any running story to follow Dean’s words of inspiration, so in all due respect I should have switched gears to a different genre.  Instead, I followed it with Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners.  Also a good book, also with many inspirational stories.  I think it would have been a fantastic book for me to read when I first started out running.  It would have provided me with a lot of inspiration as well as education about running, gear, and grit.  Reading it now sounds familiar, as if many of these stories took tiny bits of my life and stretched them across many different tales.  After reading about the 20th story of another underdog/out of shape/middle aged/overcoming tragedy/bittersweet tale describing the entrance to running, I lost interest.  That might be too strong.  It’s not that I lost interest, but in reading so many stories with such familiarity, it made me reflect on my own personal journey into running.  That, I feel, is a tale worth telling.
I started running in 2009.  Similar to reading Chicken Soup, it wasn’t so much done out of desire as out of a lack of options.  I was one of those people that was occasionally very committed to going to the gym.  I would get a gym membership, and go religiously for a couple weeks testing out each of the different ellipticals before becoming “too busy with personal obligations” to continue fine tuning my elliptical skills.  When my job was relocated 60 miles north, getting to the gym before or after work became a real challenge.  It was about this time that I coincidentally had started taking my health a little more seriously, was eating better, losing weight, and was determined not to let this latest challenge unravel all of my hard work.
This is where my friend Kerri comes in.  Kerri was an established runner and cyclist, completing grueling long distance races such as the Pan Mass Challenge and the Boston Marathon.  Doing this required Kerri to overcome some personal challenges, and she was a great role model.  She taught a spin class, which I attended with consistent irregularity, so when we were relocated it was natural that I would turn to her again.  Kerri is the original lunch-runner.  Her solution to longer hours and longer commutes was to squeeze workouts into her lunch hour.  With a little cajoling, Kerri suckered me into coming along.
Kerri promised to start slow, and we would do a walk/jog routine along the perimeter of the company property.  She showed me the locker room, which at the time was used by no one but us.  Back then, running at lunch was a very foreign concept and we were met with some strange looks by co-workers as we walked through the building in our sweatpants.  Our first couple of outings were a little rough, with me gasping to catch my breath while she effortlessly glided along.  She doesn’t know this, but she was a mentor, an educator, and an inspiration.  When I told her about my blisters, she told me about proper fitting socks and running shoes.  When I confided in her about the unsightly, bloody chafe marks I endured under my shirt, she enlightened me to the wonderful world of sports bras. 
When I first started running I wasn’t confident enough to go out and run a few miles on the streets.  This walk/jog routine may have been acceptable on a lunch break in the confines of a parking lot, but I didn’t want to look like a loser in front of passersby every time I stopped for a walk break.  Stupid when I look back on it, but it was a true concern at the time.  Instead, I decided to take my walk/jog routine to a local track.  It was summer and school was out, so I didn’t have to worry about the track being used by student athletes.  I will never forget the first time I went to the track.  I was determined to look like a real runner, so as not to look bad in front of the absolutely no one that was looking at me.  I grabbed my iPod, did a number of impressive stretches in the parking lot, using my car door for balance, and headed up to the track.  My first obstacle was entering the track itself.  I remember scouring the chain link fence, with sheer panic, unable to find the break in the fence.  Foolishly I wondered if each of the runners on the track had actually climbed the fence to get in.  I made eye contact with a runner, and although I was mortified with embarrassment, I hoped he would at least give a nod to point out the entrance to the track.  He didn’t.  Eventually I found my own way onto the track, and looked for a place to set down my belongings.  I placed my water bottle down on the ground, but couldn’t bring myself to set my car keys down.  I was convinced that one of the other 3 or 4 runners on the track would swipe my keys and take off in my SUV, so I decided to stash them in my jacket pocket.  This was a time long before I realized that I only needed to take that single car key with me.  On this track debut, I brought the whole jingle-jangle keychain.  I started off in my warm up jog, feeling the weight of the keys, the bottle opener, and the palm tree key chain bouncing in my pocket.  The “I won’t tell you where the break in the fence is” runner passed me, glancing over in irritation at my jingling metronome, and I responded by turning up the volume on my iPod and staring straight ahead.  I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way since then!
A lot has happened since those initial runs in the parking lot and on the track.  I have logged thousands of miles on the roads and trails.  My very first race was a 10k, and I’ve entered in at least one race a month ever since.  I still avoid the gym as much as possible but instead of dodging stationary bikes, I embraced mountain biking as a form of cross training.  I joined a running club and recently received an annual award for their Grand Prix race series.  Our lunch run has grown into a group of five, and we constantly support and motivate each other to keep running.  My confidence has improved, and I’ve realized that whether I’m running or walking down the street, I’m still doing a lot more than the person driving past me.  I hope that someday I can be a role model for others as Kerri was for me.  In the meantime, I’m proud to report that I have finally convinced Kerri to join my running club.  Now that is an accomplishment!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hip Surgery - 1 week later

Today is Friday, so it was one week ago today that I underwent my long awaited hip surgery.  I had anticipated this surgery for so long and had prepared for everything I could think of ahead of time.  For instance, I knew I would have lots of downtime so I had bought the comfy recliner, the amazing HDTV, the Nook, and prepared to settle in for lots and lots of blog updates.  What I didn’t take into consideration was how absolutely crappy I was going to feel during the first week.  Today is the first day that I feel good enough to write.  Even still, I’m sure it will take a few fits and starts to muddle through this.  Here we go…
Last Friday I arrived at the hospital promptly at 8:00am as instructed, despite a bit of a late start.  You see, Mother Nature had thrown up ice and snow all over the yard the night before, so I spent a good while chiseling the car before we could leave.  We headed straight to surgical admissions where I was promptly escorted to my room.  They explained that this would be my pre and post surgical room for the day.  I changed into my glamorous Johnny (this one actually reached the floor) and waited for a nurse.  The nurse came and explained that I would be there for at least an hour after the surgery was completed, so my mother was welcome to leave and come back later.  I answered a zillion questions from the nurse and then waited for transport to bring me to the surgical ward.  Finally my ride came, and I was rolled up to the next floor.

Waiting for my ride up to surgery

This floor was where all the action took place.  There was a lot of commotion, tons of medical staff, and an overwhelming amount of equipment.  I thought it looked just like they do on television, complete with all the surgeries posted on the board – just like Grey’s Anatomy!  I tried to absorb every detail but things were moving too fast, and finally I was parked to wait for another nurse, and another round of questions.  Most of the questions were the same as the questions I had just answered.  When she left, the anesthesiologist stopped by.  He asked another round of questions, again, similar to the ones I had answered a few times now already.  I was starting to think they were trying to catch me in a lie!  I mentioned to him that the last time I had surgery (oral surgery in July) the anesthesiologist never warned me when he was starting the sedation.  He promised me he would let me know.  After several more interviews, the rock star surgeon came in to say a few words.  We both marked the correct hip with a sharpie to make sure we got the right one, and I told him I had high expectations of him, since I have big plans of running next year.  He said he planned to fix everything up that he could, but it was all going to depend on what kind of arthritis he saw once he got in there. 
Finally I was instructed to put cap over my hair, and the anesthesia started.  This was just a pre-dose, enough to make me groggy but not knocked out.  They wheeled me into another room with lots of equipment and informed me that this was the room where it would all take place.  In a little while I’d be waking up downstairs in the room I started in.  The anesthesiologist then gave me the final nod and began injecting the sedative, and I abruptly drifted off.
“The surgery went very well, and there were no signs of arthritis” said the surgeon.  He waved a picture in front of me, but I couldn’t focus my eyes.
“Wake up, Jill” said a nurse.
“How you doing, Jill? Time to get up!” said another nurse, or maybe the same one.  “We just can’t seem to get her to wake up” she mumbled to someone.
Eventually I pried my eyes open enough to recognize the room I was lying in as the admissions room where my morning began.  I peeked at the clock and saw it was mid afternoon.  I started to panic, realizing my mother was probably already there waiting for me to leave, and I couldn’t even lift my head.  I was locked in a battle of conscious versus unconscious, and the unconscious won out. For the next couple of hours I was repeatedly pried out of the haze, only to be rendered unconscious once again.  Occasionally I would wake enough to overhear the nurse talking, sometimes to other nurses and sometimes to my mother, who was on the phone asking when she should come back.  Eventually when the nurse came in, I willed myself to stay awake long enough to tell her that I was in tremendous pain.  One of the most common interrogation questions they ask at the hospital is, “On a scale of one to ten, how much pain would you say you are in?” and I always struggle.  I don’t know…five?  Six?  I can’t really tell the difference between a five and a six.  But at this moment I knew the answer.  The answer was ten.  I had never been so sure of anything in my life.  The pain was a ten.  In fact, if there were bonus numbers on that one-to-ten scale, I’d claim those too.
The nurse was thrilled to see my eyes open when she entered the room.  Using a buddy system, two nurses attempted to sit me up in bed.  I was going to need to be able to sit up, balance on the crutches, and hit the bathroom before I could leave.  As soon as they sat me up in bed, I immediately vomited.  The nurses lowered my head back down, administered some anti-nausea medication, and dimmed the lights.  An hour later they tried again.  Again I vomited.  They were starting to worry that they weren’t going to be able to release me, which apparently was going to be a problem because the surgical admissions ward isn’t an overnight area.  Finally they got me up and fitted for crutches.  With two nurses guiding me, I headed across the hall to the restroom.  I made it a couple of feet into the hallway and then vomited.  Let me tell you something about vomiting.  As unpleasant as it is, trust me when I tell you it’s even less pleasant when you are in a hallway, wearing a Johnny where your entire naked self is hanging out the back, trying to balance on crutches, and someone’s holding a bucket right up to your chin so you don’t look down and pass out. 
The nurses brought me back to bed, gave me Benadryl, and told me to go back to sleep.  Another hour later the nurses checked on me, and I felt much more coherent.  I could keep my eyes open, and I didn’t have the waves of nausea immediately after sitting up in bed.  Feeling more optimistic, we tried again to get out of bed.  With the utmost caution we made it to the restroom and back, and then the nurse helped me get dressed.  This is when I realized how utterly helpless I was going to be for a while.
Finally at 6:30, five hours later than expected, I was released from the hospital.  The nurse said it was a real blessing that my surgery was first thing in the morning or I never would have been able to leave.  The 45 minute ride home was a real test of will, trying to avoid any motion sickness.  Mom brought me to the back door so I could avoid any stairs.  When we entered the house I realized quickly it was going to be a whole new challenge of navigating through hallways on crutches.  The cats looked at me with curiosity, and the dog scattered when he saw my “extra legs”.  Andrew was a huge help in getting me into bed, and helping me to the bathroom throughout the night (all those IV fluids finally caught up).  It was frustrating going anywhere.  The process of trying to maneuver my legs out of the bed, onto the floor, and crutching my way to the bathroom was excruciatingly slow.  Oh, and just for fun, a rogue October nor’easter was scheduled to hit on Saturday.  As if crutching around wasn’t bad enough, the thought of having to do this in the dark and cold (if the power went out) made me positively panic.  Well, relatively speaking.  Panicking is hard to do when one is sleeping 15 hours a day, zonked out on Percocets. 
This last week has been just about the most inactive week of my life.  I have been too groggy to read, so that new Nook hasn’t gotten much attention.  That nice fancy HDTV…well, it turns out it gives me motion sickness when I’m taking my medicine, so I haven’t even been able to watch much television.  I’ve spent a lot of time lying in bed, and a lot of time sitting in my recliner.  All of the medicine makes me very groggy and very nauseous, so I’ve had very little appetite.  Still, every morning I get breakfast in bed. 

A couple days ago I made it up the stairs to the rest of the house, and today I even ventured out to the barn for the first time to say hi to the horses.  Rocco wasn’t nearly as scared off by my extra legs as the dog was, and was just happy to have someone to scratch him. 

My follow up appointment at the hospital is Tuesday.  I’m eager to hear the details on how the surgery went, when I can start PT, and what my running future looks like!