Thursday, August 9, 2018

It's only going to get harder

My follow up appointment with the orthopedist was just over two weeks ago. As I expected, he had another x-ray taken to see how the break is healing and then basically told me no, I still can’t do much of anything. No walking for exercise, no strength work, no yoga, definitely no running, nothing. Oh OK, he said, I could do some light swimming. He was very clear that I wasn’t to spend hours in the pool, and then had me schedule another follow up appointment six weeks later. He did show me what he called the "fluffy bone callus" where the break is healing. I don't know that I'd have described bone as fluffy but I did see it on the x-ray.

The day after that appointment, I ditched the crutches at work and in typical Elizabeth fashion, promptly overdid it by including some stairs as I walked from meeting to meeting. While the pain never rose to the same level as when the break was diagnosed, I was pretty uncomfortable even while just sitting still. I called the orthopedist that day and asked for guidance (because yes, apparently I am that woman who needs to be told to stop doing something) and was told to stop weight bearing until I could do it with no pain. Well, OK, I went back on the crutches until this last weekend. I’ve been able to go without them at work this week, although I still have weird, random times when that fracture site just gets seriously annoyed. I wish I could figure out what the common denominator was, but honestly there doesn’t seem to be one.

Plastic Birks so I don't slip
and fall at the pool
I’ve also started light swimming. I took swim lessons for years as a kid—I’ve got fond memories of the YMCA in Bryn Mawr and I’ve always loved the water. It’s good for me right now because it’s non-weight bearing, I can get my heart rate up and get a bit of a cardio workout.

But at the same time, it doesn’t have the same positive mental impact on me that running does. With running, I think differently and I’m outside seeing things, noticing the neighborhood, it’s quiet and lovely and my own private time. I worked for years on my running form and had reached the point where I didn’t need to focus on my form every minute of my run. I could get in a zone and just go with it. Swimming though, isn’t nearly so automatic. There’s so much to think about and focus on, it’s noisy what with all the exhaling under water and I’m not especially good at it. I miss having something I excel in.

I hope I’m cleared for some more activity in early September, although I fear I won’t be. I mean, at this point he hasn’t even brought up physical therapy, which is discouraging. And I think I’m moving into the really tough part of recovery, where I’m going to be pain-free or mostly pain-free but still not cleared to do anything.

About the photo on the left: I use two different types of goggles because they both leave serious marks on my face and this way, I'm distributing those marks. And that swim cap works pretty well. While some of my hair does get wet, the cap keeps water out of my ears which I think is pretty amazing.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Not quite a book review

My friend Jeanne has a blog that I’d call a book blog. While she dabbles in other topics, she mostly focuses on books and poetry. Even if I don’t share her love of poetry, I am an avid reader and always enjoy her reviews. She’s been generous with me, sending books she thinks I might like, or in the case of one author, a copy of a book she knew I was looking forward to reading once it was published.

She made a comment a week or so ago on her blog (I think? Or maybe it was on Facebook.) about how she likes to know what others think of the books she’s read and recommended. So I thought it was past time to share my take on some she’s sent me.

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway. This is the book I mentioned earlier—I have read his other books (Gone Away World, Angelmaker, Tigerman) and loved them all. They’re well-written, I loved the story arcs and the characters, and could not wait until Gnomon was released. But I really didn’t like this book, and it took me a bit to figure out why. First, the book felt preachy to me. I disliked that about The Handmaiden’s Tale (which I read way back in 1986 when when it was first released), Seveneves was even worse—so bad that I stopped reading it at 94% done according to my Kindle. This book felt that way too.

The second reason surprised me when I finally figured it out. I never really cared about any of the characters and I realized that part of what makes a book compelling and good is when I can sort of fall in love with a character. And I didn’t really care what happened to anyone in this book.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. I enjoyed this book, it was a quick read for me. Basically, it’s a mystery set in space so combined two genres I like. Add in the question of what makes us human, and that made the story line worth reading for me. This was another gift from Jeanne, and one I wouldn’t have picked up without her review and her gift—thank you, Jeanne!

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. Oh boy. This book falls into the very preachy category for me (big pharma is bad, big government is bad, second class citizens are bad, etc.), with the addition of taking on too many social issues in one book and thus not doing any of them justice. I’m about two thirds of the way through and I don’t think I can finish it. This book also feels very young adult—what I mean is that there’s just so much angst and indecision. Yes, maybe that’s how things are, but I can’t stick with that over the entire course of a book.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells. LOVED this one, absolutely loved it. Again, it’s science fiction but also all about what defines us as human or sentient and looks at what it means to be self-determining. I had seen this book when searching for something to read on Amazon but passed it up because it’s pretty short and the sample shared on Amazon was a bit flip in style. Again, this was another gift from Jeanne and I liked it so much I will get the second book in the series (it’s already out) and almost certainly the third book when it’s published.

I also realized something else while reading these physical, paper books. I far prefer my Kindle. That may be heretical to some but here’s why. My hands aren’t super strong and the way I read is in bed, usually lying down holding the book and turning the pages with one hand. That’s really hard to do with traditional books, and most especially with longer books. The second reason is the lighted screen. I don’t have an especially bright bedside lamp, nor do I want one. But I need more light to read, and the Kindle solves that problem.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Thoughts while temporarily less than fully abled

I’ve been on crutches just over a month now. Good thing I already had strong arms, shoulders and back! I haven’t had any muscle soreness there. What I’ve had instead is pain in the heels of my hands, especially the left hand, I’ve developed a weird discrete lump on the top knuckle of my left thumb on the outside (not the palm side). It’s not in the joint, it’s clearly separate and I’ve noticed that it gets bigger (and more painful) if I’ve been using the crutches a lot and goes down when I’m on them less. Oh and my left pinky finger is on fire (guessing tendons or ligaments or something).

Basement stairs are on the right
When Kent and I bought our home just over five years ago, we thought this house would be suitable for aging in place. After being on crutches this long, I think we were mostly right. It’s a ranch house, so the only stairs are the couple of stairs to get into the house (front door or through the garage), and the stairs to get to the basement. However, while I can manage the stairs to the garage, if I were truly disabled, say needed a walker, I’m not sure I could get into the garage directly from the house. If you look at the picture, you can see the problem. The stair at the door to the house is narrow front to back, and we can’t add another stair because the stairs to the garage are right there. We can’t move the stairs to the garage, or at least we couldn’t move them without a lot of money and somehow rebuilding the entire garage because the stairwell is concrete.

The shower in the master bathroom might be problematic if either of us were truly disabled—it’s got a lip about four inches tall and three inches wide, but that could be fixed. The other bathroom has a tub/shower combo so that one would just go unused.

It’s also been interesting to see how people react or don’t react when I’m out and about. People at work have been great, offering to hold doors, help me set up for meetings, things like that. When I’ve been out with Kent running errands, some people notice and are careful to give me extra room but a lot are just flat out oblivious. Since I’m the one who’d pay if I got knocked over, I stay extra vigilant. Children are, ironically, mostly the best about paying attention. I suspect it’s because they see the crutches more because of their eye height. When they notice, I can tell they’re really curious and they often stare almost rudely (I take zero offense). However, if children are roughhousing in a store or chasing each other, then I really have to pay attention. They are so focused on their fun that they often don’t see me until it would be too late.

I can tell the fracture is healing, although not fully healed. When I am at home, I can lurch around a bit with either one crutch or sometimes no crutches. But based on everything I've read (thank you, Dr. Google), I need to give this fracture plenty of time to heal. Others who've had the same injury have reported it taking months (like four, five, or more). My long term goal remains to return to running so I will (or not do) what it takes to get there.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

One more happier note

My employer is quite active with charities and frequently buys tables at charitable events and then offers the tickets to the employees.

In April, I won two tickets to the Dream Gala, which supports the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. It was super swanky, people were dressed to the nines and the entire event was amazing and magical.

I was so proud of both my employer and Kansas City—that event raised over $1.8 million! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

On a happier note

Kent and I were in Boston/Cape Cod a couple of weeks ago for a dear friend’s 40th birthday celebration. We had the best time catching up with that entire group—I still think the most wonderful thing about having lived in Boston for five years was the friends we made.

In Detroit
We flew just two days after I’d gotten the news I had a pelvic fracture, so I reluctantly called Delta and arranged wheelchair assistance in the airports. That felt so weird, but honestly I’m glad I did it. I’m good with crutches and my arms are quite strong but airports are big, and people are oblivious. Delta was fantastic—I’ve been a loyal customer for years and this only solidified my loyalty.

I didn’t take many pictures. It’s hard to do that on crutches and honestly I was more interested in being fully present in the moment.

Pleasant Bay

My amazing husband

Ready for our friend's 40th birthday party!

Another view of Pleasant Bay

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Establishing that mind/body connection

I mentioned in my update post that my orthopedist told me I need to rethink the mind/body connection so that I pay attention to signals my body sends when something’s wrong. It would be more accurate to say I need to start paying attention. I’ve spent my entire life disassociated from my body, so I can’t rethink something I’ve never done. Unfortunately, I’m a pro at ignoring signals from my body.

For instance:

  • I took a hard fall from the top of a pretty tall slide when I was 9. Remember, I was a child in the dark ages when our playground equipment had zero safety features, and the playgrounds were hard-packed dirt, not the cushy stuff used today. I landed flat on my back and knocked the wind out of myself. My lower back felt awful, sort of unstable, but I didn’t tell anyone I’d fallen or that my back hurt. That night I remember lying on the daybed in our basement in Bryn Mawr watching the moon landing and thinking I wish my back weren’t hurting. It’s pretty much hurt ever since.*  
  • When I was 19, I had all the symptoms of appendicitis for three weeks. I finally went to the clinic because I threw up (hate, hate, hate to throw up) and was in surgery three hours later. My surgeon later told me that if I’d waited one more day, I would have died. My small intestine was compromised, I had an NG tube for about 5 days and a 7-inch long incision.
  • I went on to have four abdominal surgeries in five years and had a fair amount of pain and discomfort in my lower back (same place from that fall). But what’s the prevailing advice if you have back pain? Do more core work, you’ve got a weak core and once that’s strong, then your back will be good to go. I cannot tell you how much ab work I’ve done over the years. Point in fact, my core is rock solid. That back pain never went away, and I never thought to mention it to any doctor I ever saw. More about that in a moment.
  • I had an MRI a few years ago to see why my ears were always plugged up. When I met with my ENT to discuss the results, he asked me how often I had sinus infections. Never, I said. He told me that I had a raging sinus infection right then and showed it to me on the MRI. That was a recalibration exercise for me right there as I realized the face melting headaches I’d had all my life were in fact sinus infections. That particular sinus infection took two rounds of antibiotics to cure.
  • About that back pain. The same MRI that diagnosed my pelvic fracture also diagnosed mild degenerative disc disease in L4-L3. Guess where that is? Yup, the same spot that’s been hurting me all these years.
  • And of course, I ran a 10K on Memorial Day this year with a fractured pelvis. Yes, I was in pain—enough pain that I had to walk a fair amount, enough pain that my average pace was 90 seconds more a mile than usual, enough pain that I was nearly puking the whole way through. I still didn't stop. Once I ran across the finish line, that was it. I haven’t walked normally since then.

Right this second, I’m trying to pay attention. I say trying because this is hard. Now I feel all the aches and pains, all the discomfort and it’s not pleasant. OK that’s an understatement. I’m in pain and not just from the fracture. I don’t like this at all and to be honest, I long for that disassociation because at least then I don’t hurt.

I’m sure if you aren’t wired this way, I sound utterly insane.

*By the way, I'm not dissing today’s playgrounds—I couldn’t have taken the fall I did if the slide had been both shorter and made of that industrial plastic used today. I was basically skiing down the slide with sand under my shoes. I didn't get enough sand for that trip, caught an edge of my sneaker at the top of the slide and flipped right over. I don't think you can ski down today's slides that way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

An update

I saw the orthopedist yesterday afternoon. This was the first time I’d seen him (I saw the physician’s assistant in the urgent orthopedic clinic on May 29, which is also when I had the x-ray taken—I had the MRI on June 1).

Good news:

No proximal femur fracture or stress reaction, no right hip effusion, hip cartilage is normal, ligaments are good, and gluteal tendon attachments are good.

Not so good news:

I’ve got a nondisplaced transverse fracture of the right inferior pubic ramus with extensive bone marrow edema and adjacent edema in the inferior fibers of the right obturator externus muscle (which is consistent with a low-grade muscle strain). I also have mild right hamstrings origin tendinosis and left hamstrings origin tendinosis, both with no tearing.

What’s next?

Well this is the hard part. No exercise, zero exercise for the next six weeks. I think I probably blanched at that part. He was really clear though. He told me that I won’t be running for three months (best case) and that I need to rethink and reconnect with the signals my body sends me. No running through pain, no ignoring it because next time, it might be far more catastrophic and completely end running for me. He just did a hip replacement on a 28 year old female, he said, who ran through the pain. Yeah, I don’t want to be that woman. And to be honest, this is about what I expected. The internet is a wonderful resource, and Dr. Google had warned me this would almost certainly be a lengthy recovery.

He’ll take more x-rays in six weeks to see how the bone is healing and I may be cleared then for some very light exercise (think upper body). But yeah, no running, he said, unless I’m being chased by a rabid dog.

For now, I’m on crutches as I need them. I can sort of gimp around the house on one crutch but it’s dicey at work—people don’t always realize I need a bit more clearance coming through. But I expect to be off them in a couple of weeks. I can put weight on the leg now which is a huge improvement. What hurts is bringing my leg forward, or doing anything that involves moving left or right.

Stay tuned. I’m determined to recover completely from this and in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to learn to be patient.