Thursday, October 18, 2012

Houston We Have a Problem

(The weekend before my injury. Out enjoying a beautiful fall day at the coast.)

            Last week I started to incorporate some “workouts” into my weekly routine and I was finally feeling good. My fitness from my long break was finally returning and I was excited to get training under way for my next season, indoors.
            I say “was” because I am now back to rest and rehab. I was in a bike wreck Saturday morning October 13th on my way to an all day Les Mills Body Pump Instructor training that we are incorporating into our class schedule at my work. Several factors had to line up just right for my accident to happen. First, there had to be no cross country meets for my high school team that weekend. Pretty much every weekend we have a meet, if we did I would not have agreed to teach the new class, so would not have been on my way to the training.
            Second, I needed to not have access to our vehicle. It was opening day for hunting so Levi needed the truck and I was fine commuting to work. Third, Seattle hadn’t seen rain in something like 60 days! Due to this, some of the hunting roads Levi needed to use were closed to vehicles, so he needed to use my mountain bike to ride on the dirt roads to his hunting area. I would use his commuter bike (with those tiny, thin wheels) to get to work instead of my bike.
            Lastly, and most importantly it had to start raining, a lot. Living in a city like Seattle you combine months of dry weather with a lot of cars driving around (think oil on roads) then add rain into the mix and it makes for some very slick conditions.
            The morning of my class it was raining. I put on all my best rain gear (helmet too of course) and headed down hill towards my work. I made it fine down the mile of hills before my last hill to work, having to cross busy intersections and all, but on the last 20-30 meter hill everything changed.
            There was a stop sign at the bottom so I started to hit my breaks to prepare to stop. The wheels came out from under me. It all happened so fast. I hit on my right side and went sliding 10-15 feet down the road to the stop sign at the bottom. Luckily the two roads I was sliding down and into were side roads and not heavily trafficked.
            My slide was actually pretty graceful. No injuries, no bruises, not even a scrape to the rest of my body, I was lucky for the most part but when I hit all of my weight must have went onto the outside of my right knee causing a lot of extra force to be displaced on the tendons and ligaments on the inside of my knee. I immediately felt pain and something go “loose.”
            A car came up behind me and stopped to see if I was o.k. I said yes, but deep down knew I was not. Something was wrong with my knee. I pulled my pant leg up and immediately saw a bright red bruise spot on the inside of my right knee. I knew this was a bad sign especially since I hit on the outside and the bike did not strike my knee to cause this bruise. I was wearing my favorite Brooks rain jacket so that was the second thing I checked and to my relief it was not ripped, though definitely a new shade of asphalt black instead of bright neon green.  My pants had a very small tear near the knee but I wasn’t as attached to these ones.
            I limped the last few hundred meters to my work, in tears. I didn’t know what to do. My boss had paid for me to get certified as an instructor but I was definitely injured. I decided to go to the training. I put ice on it and took ibuprofen and completed the 9 hour day. I could move my knee forward to back but it wasn’t comfortable. Lateral movement was terribly painful. My knee felt very unstable even standing and would occasionally buckle and give out. Now this training is not just sitting in a class room setting taking notes, it was training to teach an exercise class, so it all revolved around physical activity.
            I got a ride home that night and while at home broke down into tears and it was not due to the pain. I didn’t want to tell Levi since he was hunting and really there was not anything he could do to help. I didn’t want him to worry. Turns out having such a close family, word travels fast and Levi found out but I reassured him he was fine to keep hunting.
            I went back to finish out my instructor training Sunday. I couldn’t do all of the exercises but I did my best despite the pain. Now I am left with trying to figure out how to finish my instructor training by submitting a video of me teaching the hour long class when I can only do 1/3-1/2 of the exercises…but I really shouldn’t even be stressing myself with that right now.
            Since it happened on a weekend, I had until Monday to figure things out. My next concern was whether I go see a Doctor and pay a lot of money for a test or do I rest it? I know this is pretty clichĂ© but these thoughts are true for many track athletes. Saturday I was thinking I would for sure see a Doctor but by Monday morning the swelling was going down and I thought maybe it wasn’t so bad. I decided to go see my PT for his opinion. HE did some ligament tests and said he believed I tore my MCL and possible ACL. His recommendation? Go see a Doctor and get an MRI! I am very comfortable with my PT so I opened up to him about the idea of waiting (due to cost) and he told me he could not recommend it. He made the good point that money is just money and the health of my knee going forward is far more important, especially as an elite athlete. He told me to not mess around and by knowing exactly what is going on changes everything from a rehab standpoint.
            He called a Doctor he has worked with before who also works with the Sea Hawks and got me in within the hour. I drove from my PT to the Doctor. To my dismay they had to do x-rays first. I asked if it was possible to just do an MRI (and save the expense of x-rays) but they were necessary for insurance reasons if I were to do an MRI. Again, I know I should not be worrying about these aspects but it is hard for me not to. Then I was scheduled to have and MRI Wednesday morning, once my insurance okayed it.
            You are all going to think I am crazy but I was seriously considering not getting an MRI and just wearing my brace. My dad knocked some sense into me and told me he would be upset with me if I did not do it. So this morning (Wednesday) I got my MRI. By the afternoon, the Doctor called me with the news. The good news he told me is that I did not tear my ACL or Meniscus and so would not need surgery. The bad news, which everyone suspected, is a full MCL tear. Luckily the ligament is still fairly aligned so should heal fine on its own. In rare cases surgery is needed as the ligaments go back under the hamstring and in even rarer cases surgery is needed farther down the road is the MCL fails to heal. The Doctor was very confident this would not be the case for me.
            As an elite athlete he did give me one other option to promote healing. He could do what is commonly known as Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy. This is basically an injection of my own platelets that have been removed from my blood and injected into the injured area via ultrasound. This helps speed up recovery by 20-30%. It is widely used in Europe but has not been FDA approved in the USA yet so insurance companies will not cover it. But in the future they may not just pay for it but have it as the first option before surgery. It would cost $600-$800. As great as it would be to speed up the healing process I can wait. If it were covered by my insurance I would do it in a heartbeat. I am o.k. with having to possibly miss an indoor track season. I am not looking forward to the bill on this but I would bet 100% of people when asked would not be particularly excited about their hospital bills.  Looking back I can honestly say it was worth it. So for those of you who may be injured and debating about going to see a Doctor I encourage you to go. Your health is not something to be messed with, nor do you want an old injury to come back to haunt you years down the road!
            Now I have a minimum of 6 weeks of rest from running and all impact activities. But I am lucky. I do not have crutches, I do not need surgery, I can walk, albeit slowly and I can pedal a bike without resistance. As each week passes I will be able to incorporate more and more exercises into my routine.
            I am not as heartbroken about the injury as I thought I would be or as sad as I was when it initially happened. This is my first “acute” injury since I fell off a slide when I was under the age of 5 and fractured my arm and I will be o.k. I will take this time to go after some other goals. Maybe I will work on some of my writing or poetry, yes, yes I just admitted I like to write poems, or who knows what else. But with all my free time I will be sure to keep you informed.
(Friends: Make it easier to get through injuries.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Life is a Gift

(Photo taken by Joshua Ricardi on the Sahale Peak trip)

           A lot has happened since my last blog. A lot and also nothing at the same time. I don't really know how to give an update on what happened without sounding insensitive but I will give it a go.
            The week before the Montana Mile my brother John and his (now) fiancĂ© Jane were in a climbing accident while hiking Sahale Peak in the North Cascades. I know I wrote a blog after this incident but I wanted some time to pass to make sure they were o.k. and not be overwhelmed with too many questions about what happened. Both were extremely lucky to be alive and though they suffered injuries they will make a 100% recovery. John is already back training and even racing and Jane is doing quite well considering her injuries were more severe. She suffered a broken scapula, clavicle, four broken ribs and a broken ankle. She was in a wheel chair for eight weeks but has now moved to crutches and can put 30% weight on her foot. You can read a write up on what happened in the August issue of The Northwest Runner or at the July team report for Club Northwest. John and Jane's incident had a happy ending but not all accidents do.
(Jane getting flown off the mountain. Photo courtesy Joshua Ricardi)
         On August 30th my college coach passed away in a tragic accident. Jackie Poulson was a young woman full of life and passionate about her friends, athletes, and those around her. I remember her energy on track trips. She knew how to make people laugh. Sometimes I didn't quite know how to take her, especially when I was a young wide-eyed naive freshman, but you could tell she loved to make people smile and she was very confident in being herself.
          When I heard the news it seemed unreal. She was killed while out looking for her missing dog. She was electrocuted in a canal of water as one of the farming pumps shorted out. She had no warning that the moment she touched the water would be her last. Her soon-to-be father-in-law and his friend were unaware that the moment they tried to rescue her would be their last.
            Jackie was robbed of many firsts, like getting the chance to walk down the aisle and marry her love. It seems so unfair but she also had a wonderful life. If you didn't know Jackie you could tell this by the many wonderful posts, people at her funeral with such love to share about her, and all the photos and stories about her life. Jackie touched many people's lives over the years and she will be missed.
            As you go through life there will be tragedies, hardships, and sometimes things won't make any sense and as you get older my Dad tells me you can expect to experience more of this. If you are one of the lucky ones to live to a ripe old age you will probably experience a great deal of loss as those you love pass on. And that is the trade off. You will mourn the loss of many people but each tear you shed can help serve as a reminder of the wonderful gift that is your life.
            Shortly after Jackie's passing we (the Idaho State Alumni) lost another one of our young members. Keegan Burnett died the Monday after Jackie was buried. The dirt was still soft the day another mother had to wake up to the terrible reality that she had out lived her child. Earlier in Keegan's pole vaulting career at ISU he had survived a near death accident while warming up for a vaulting competition only to suffer a life altering skiing accident a few years later. The skiing accident left him paralyzed. Keegan had undergone major surgeries and had recently been released to go home where he would continue his healing. He was trying to adapt to his new life but it proved too much for him to bear and I was left shocked at the news of his suicide.
            Life will be filled with times of sadness and mourning but also of joyous occasions and celebration. After the sadness of losing two more young lives I was able to be a part of the joining of two lives in a celebration of marriage. My good friends Rose and Tim were married on September 8th and it was a most joyous occasion. It was a celebration, a time to dance and laugh and feel happy just to be alive. A week after that, I was celebrating the joyous news of my younger brother John and his girlfriend and my good friend Jane's engagement. There is always balance and true joy can be found each day if you chose to see it. It is easy to focus on all the sadness and question God's purpose but you cannot stay stuck in the grief forever or it will consume you and another life will be lost.
(Enjoying the wedding with Levi)
(Wedding silliness)
            The times of loss and sadness really make me appreciate the gift I have been given when I wake up each day. It makes me realize how precious life truly is and how numbered our days are. Lately I have been dealing with a knee pain that does not seem to heal no matter how much time I take off. This knee pain is annoying but it is a minor inconvenience and nothing to be that upset about as there are much worse things that I could have to deal with. Which brings me to my "nothing" part of my blog.
            After my last race of the season on July 20th I rested, and rested, and rested. My cross training was almost non-existent because everything seemed to aggravate my knee. Well unless you call wake boarding and trapeze cross training!  Even being in the water swimming or trying to aqua jog caused discomfort so it made even wanting to cross train hard. One thing that helps keep me feeling positive is in coaching my high school cross country team. I had my first season of high school coaching this past track season with The Northwest School and I loved it. This fall I was asked to be an assistant cross country coach and I gladly accepted. I love working with the kids and getting to know them. Each kid is so unique and has their own distinct set of talents. I hope my work schedule stays flexible enough so I can continue to play the role of coach. 
(Coaching The Northwest School Cross Country Team. At Portland with the Varsity girls.)
(Wasp sting!)

            I started running, well walking first, a few weeks ago. I have only done slow easy running of less than 6 miles and no workouts. On one of my easy runs I was stung by a wasp and had a mile allergic reaction. As if getting back in shape wasn't hard enough! My knee is feeling better than it has been but it is still not 100% so I am scheduled to see a sports doctor in about a week. My right Achilles has be starting to get a little tender again so I may have a couple things to talk about during my appointment. The Achilles baffles me because it seems to cause pain. With all my time off for my knee I had my Achilles feeling 100% but the moment I start any form of running it comes back. I will be playing around with ways to help fix this problem in the coming months and any advice any of my readers may have I would love to hear it.
           That in a nutshell is what has been happening over the last couple of months. I celebrated my 28th birthday and ran a cross country race recently but I will save that for another post as this one is already too long.
(Spending time with my nephew.)
            Until then, keep living your life to the fullest and always be sure to tell those you love how much they mean to you because our days are numbered and God is the only one with the count.