Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Welcome to Rehab

As I laid in pre-op Friday morning, watching the nurses and doctors hook wires, tubes and equipment to me, I thought to myself, "Really? It wasn't even that a good of a fall." Now, I've done some things that should have landed me here and I would have completely understood. And it would have made for a lot better blog post. How about bad mountain bike wrecks (like the time I toppled over the edge of a bank, tangled in my mountain bike and hitting a branch that gouged my back but caught the back of my sports bra stopping the fall)? What about stage two hypothermia or close encounters with copperheads, rattlers, and scary people in the middle of the wilderness? Or one of my more exciting scar-inducing falls or many really stupid decisions (like, I think I can crawl across the ice without sliding off the edge, because I'm miles in the middle of nowhere and if the fall doesn't kill me, the cold will)? But frisbee at cross country practice, really? I didn't even get to get carried off on a stretcher with thousands of adoring fans cheering me on. Sigh.

Anyway, my little blog will now document my adventures as an ultrarunner in rehab. It's pretty exciting. Today I get to take a shower. I actually shed a tear or two this afternoon because I could turn the pedals of the stationary bike one rotation. Hmm...okay, so maybe I won't spend a lot of time on the details, but I will pass along helpful hints and revelations from time to time because it seems like everyone expected me to understand what was going on. It's kind of scary when you don't know what to expect. So here is what I've learned thus far.

1. First, I need to vent. I've done this myself, and I know everyone meant well, but please never, ever, say to anyone, "It could be worse." Don't you think I know that? Yes, I could have lost my leg, my life, or someone I love. But that doesn't mean that losing something I love (running) for 6-9 months is not hard on me. I don't whine or complain, so please just say, "I understand." Let me cry a little about this without trying to make me feel guilty for being relatively lucky. Okay, I'm over that now.

2. Crutches. If you have the opportunity to try them out before you are in pain, weak, and on drugs, do it. There is definitely a learning curve. Especially if there are stairs involved. More upper body strength and more single leg squats would have helped, too. Expect major frustration.

3. I had general anesthesia and a femoral artery block. I felt like crap the first day and a half. By the end of day 2 of post-op, boredom set in. I don't think I've been this stationary for this long in years. I'm not sure what I am supposed to do with myself. Most all of my hobbies involve my legs. I should try to be a little more well-rounded.

4. I have to approach this like a 24 hour race. I can't think about all the time and miles I have left or I'll make myself crazy. I also can't think about how good I felt beforehand or it will take the fun out of celebrating little milestones, like being able to bend my leg 90 degrees today.

5. The week before surgery was weird. I had two legs that worked more or less. I was still running, even on trail, albeit cautiously. I knew that Friday morning everything would change for several months. I have no advice about dealing with that. It was just kind of difficult.

6. Say goodbye to being independent and self sufficient. Say hello to more frustration. Exactly how do you carry a glass of water on crutches? Hope you have an understanding and patient spouse who only cusses at trying to set the monstrous brace to zero.

So thus begins another ultra-journey. I'm bound to take some good out of this experience, right? In the meantime, crutch races, anyone?


mkirk said...


I know you've heard it before: I'm truly sorry you're in this predicament. But here's something you may not have yet heard: I'm thankful you're documenting it.

You are a pioneer for a countless # of us who could at a drop of a frisbee be right where you tread. Please keep documenting this unique journey for the inexperienced among us. And many thanks in advance!

Rick Gray said...

Matt is correct and I do thank you for documenting your travels to being in one piece again. I can promise you that you will be back to your old self again, but you will be stronger than ever before due to your experiences along the way. Your healing will take time, so attempt to be patient with yourself.

Jason said...

You're taking care of yourself so be proud for that. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be and please know that you are missed out on the trails.