Monday, March 18, 2013

Recovery Log - Monday, March 18, 2013

It's been a month since my last blog update. This is probably the longest time between blog posts ever since I started this blog over three years or 541 posts ago. It's kind of ironic, since it has also been my longest layoff from any type of physical activity.

Monday of last week marked another huge milestone in my path to full recovery, both from my ankle injury and from my blood clots (DVT and PE). Six weeks after my reconstructive ankle surgery my orthopedist finally removed the non-weight bearing ankle cast and placed me in a weight bearing ankle boot instead. That also meant I was able to "retire" my crutches and the wheel chair I had to use at work to make my way around the office. Hey, you try carrying your morning coffee and a bottle of water all while using crutches. Take it from me, it's impossible. Don't get me wrong, there were ideas for new products floating through my head, like cup holders that attached to your crutches (including some type of gyroscopic device, just to make sure the coffee wouldn't spill while walking with the crutches. Hey, I said I thought about it, not that I had it all worked out. If I did, I wouldn't have chosen to ride the wheel chair. Instead, I would be writing this blog on a tropical island somewhere while sipping Mojitos and counting the money I made of this brilliant idea.

But, it wasn't meant to be, so here I am and since the orthopedist had told me that I would be able to start PT as soon as the cast was removed, I was sitting in my PTs waiting room Tuesday morning. After a short chat, we got started on my initial therapy session, which consisted of exercises to increase the range of motion in my ankle. I also scheduled my biweekly aquatic therapy sessions, which my PT recommended for the 4 week duration of my physical therapy.

Along with the biweekly aquatic therapy I also had to complete a very mild exercise regimen twice daily that would continue to work on increasing my range of motion without putting serious stress on my ankle. By Wednesday morning 5AM I was in the pool swimming laps for the first time in over 25 years. I hadn't been in a pool to swim laps ever since High School, when students were required to get certified as rescue swimmers as part of our PE class. To say that I disliked swimming would be an understatement, but my doc and PT said that I could participate in any activity that didn't put stress on my ankle and from an endurance/aerobic activity standpoint that really only left swimming (yeah yeah, I know, there is some weird spinning contraption for upper body use that must look like an upside down bike or something, but I figured I'd stick to something I was a little more familiar with, even though I "disliked" it). I figured three lap swimming sessions per week would be much better in my quest to full recovery than no aerobic activity at all.

Now that I had sorted out my approach to aerobic rehab for the next 6 weeks until the boot would finally come off for good to allow me to start walking/running recovery, I needed to think of a way to regain some of that muscle that I'd lost over the course of 4 months. I say regain "some" muscle, because I never really had a lot of it:-) At least I wanted to try to turn some of that fat that had deposited itself around my midsection into muscle. I still can't decide what's worse for my health and fitness, my lack of running and other physical exercise or my chocolate, gummi bear and general carbohydrate addiction, but I'm starting to have a pretty good idea.

Anyway, I also started entering the weight room again to add a small 60 minute biweekly strength training routine to my recovery schedule. Obviously, it could only do seated weight exercises along with some core work while laying down, but it was still waaaay more than I had been doing. I can honestly say that even though I'm using small weights, I am pretty sore to start off this week. Regardless, it just feels great to do something, to be active again, even if it is way less than what I was used to prior to the injury and my other health woes. I take it. I don't mind taking it slow. I have no desire for an injury relapse. I am looking at it long term. Do I want to run an ultra marathon or play a soccer match next week? Heck, yes. Am I okay to wait or even dial it back a notch long term? Absolutely. Do I expect to make a full recovery? 100%...and then some.

It is very hard to believe, especially for my friends and close family, that I would be willing to do the right thing, meaning to strictly follow my "doctors' orders". If you know me, you know that I want things now. And while that might not always be a good thing or reasonable thing, I am always willing to put in the work to get there, if not now at least very quickly. But this injury has been different than other previous injuries. I was always ready to come back right away, not afraid to get hurt again, ready to jump right back into the proverbial deep end of the pool. Not this time. This time I'm worried that I'll get hurt again, worried that I'll reaggravate the ankle, worried that I'll require surgery again. Nervous that any pain that I feel as a result of my rehab and recovery could be another blood clot forming in my legs or my lungs. Worried about all the things that can go wrong.

And it's not just during or after exercise. I've had moments were I'm sitting down on my couch or were I'm laying in bed, wondering if that little pinch in my chest is another PE or where that pain in my leg really is a sore muscle or another DVT. Whether I told my wife and my son that I loved them today...just in case. To be honest, those moments scare the crap out of me and it always takes me a while to get over them.

Will I ever not have these moments? I'm not sure. I expect that they will become less and less frequent over time. In the meantime, I make sure I tell my wife and my son that I love them more often than I used to. I know it still hasn't fully sunk in just how lucky I was these few days in early December, when I was admitted to the hospital for multiple DVTs and PEs. I think it's because I was lucky to have an amazing wife that stood  (and slept) by my side the entire time I was in the hospital along with a son who got up in the middle of the night to be there with his dad during the first 48 hours that were by far the scariest for me and my entire family. Having them close by the entire time made me not worry, made me truly think that everything was going to be fine. And it was...is...fine. Maybe I haven't fully processed how close I came, but I have realized that I am very lucky to be alive and to be loved.

Sorry for rambling on in last three paragraphs. They appear to be more about my mental than my physical state and while I'm not sure how I ended up going there, I'm glad I did. Writing it down felt good. Hope to see you all soon, either on the trails or on the soccer field. It's been too long:-)

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