Sunday, July 25, 2010

Whole Hearted

When Nurse Suzie called me to reveal which side of the study I'd fallen into, (in an excited southern drawl, "You're gettin' a device!"), she also told me that she and The Doctor had discussed my participation and both agreed that I was their favorite. Cheerful and open to possibilities and fun to be around (her words!). I grinned with pride and replied, "Well, I don't see any good reason to be crabby."

Fast forward two weeks...just a couple of days pre-op and I called another nurse to get a couple of details about the whens and wheres of recovery and visitors and whatnot. I don't recall which question led to this, but she told me that I couldn't do any lifting of more than ten pounds or so for a month. I quickly confirmed with a bit of incredulity in my voice, "A month?! I thought I just had to take it easy for a few days."

"No physical exertion of any kind for four weeks."

And it was in that moment that I lost my status of Most-Favored-Participant. You guys knew I was training for a marathon. I can't stop running for a month! What about spinning? And I went on and on and on until finally, Well, I'm not pulling out of the study just yet, but I am not happy at all right now.

She told me she'd get with The Doctor and call me back the following day. And I was in a tizzy for the rest of the night.

I sent a panicked text to Mark, then when he got home for dinner, I began hinting that I might ditch the study. I knew he'd been a proponent of plugging the leak all along, as were a fair share of my friends. He wouldn't say that I should suck it up, but calmly presented what he would do, and reported how he was not allowed to even break a sweat for a month after a minor surgery some years ago and how he wasn't able to run the first marathon for which he trained. I wasn't completely sold, but backed down from my ledge by a step or two.

The next day as I was driving to school with Running Jamie, she was bummed for me but agreed that stepping back from training wouldn't likely be the death of me. She even calculated that I could probably find a training program that wasn't quite as intense and still be ready for the 26-miler in October.

Unsure of how I have collected such sane and rational friends, I awaited the call from the nurse. By the end of class I'd learned that two weeks of taking it easy, followed by two more of mid-length runs and finally after a month, I'd have the green light for those long only-an-insane-person-would-subject-herself-to-this kinda runs.

And I was okay with that.

Who knew I was such a junkie? The very exercise that carried me out of my dead-marriage induced depression had become the crutch upon which my sanity leaned. Two weeks sans workouts was akin to a lifetime so far as I could tell, but I'd give it a whirl.

The surgery was Thursday afternoon, so my morning was class as usual, then home to gather a few necessities for my 2nd ever stay in a hospital (excluding the first days and nights of my existence). My parents came to town and Dad drove me to KUMed. Fairly soon after arriving, I was doing paperwork, then donning a sassy gown. Lots of poking, prodding, taping, recording and even shaving (they could have asked me to do that myself, y'know), and before long I was taken into the cath lab. I wasn't even knocked out completely and recall portions of conversations that bounced around the room while they were sealing my PFO.

Turns out, the 1-2 mm they had measured when I had my TEE wasn't precise. The hole was 5 mm in diameter, giving my loved ones another round of 'I-told-you-so's on the pro-side of getting patched.

I enjoyed the post-surgery anesthesia buzz for awhile, and soon enough, my beloved stopped in to see me, meeting the parents (for the first time) in the waiting area. Not sure what I said or if it made any sense, but I was really happy to have him by my side, even if separated by a buncha probes, cords and a big railing.

I then did something I hope to never do again. I was (more or less) still for eight hours. Two large catheters (a French 10 & French 11) had been inserted into my femoral veins and I wasn't allowed to move my legs until my blood had the clotting capability for them to be removed -- and then after their removal (which was sooooo-not-a-cake-walk) I had to lie still for another four hours so as not to disrupt the beginnings of the healing. I was also unable to eat until most of this time had elapsed.

And this is where I pretty much lost my mind. It was past 9 p.m. -- and the last time I'd eaten was at about 7:30 a.m. Some Greek yogurt (and walnuts and honey). That's it. I'd run six miles that morning, come home and had my cappuccino and yogurt. If you know me, you know how I adore food. Okay, it's more than just adoring food. I adore eating food. And finally after all of those hours, I'd learned that eating food actually served a purpose other than giving my mouth something to do other than talk. I learned that eating is a fabulous way to nourish the body. And my body needed nourishment (or certainly wanted it). Turns out, if you tell the hospital that you can't eat gluten, they have very little to offer. Meat, meat or meat. And broccoli. But no sour cream. No soup. No salsa (!) I hesitantly requested a garden salad (mmmm....iceberg lettuce and pink tomatoes) and a baked potato. In retrospect, I should have accepted a hunk of meat, or even a grilled cheese on what I can only imagine was horrible g.f. bread, but the salad and the potato, along with broccoli are what I got.

By the time I was allowed to eat, I was nearing weepy. Then when I lifted the lid on the plate that had been delivered some three hours prior, I fell apart. The broccoli had disintegrated into a barely intact grey tree of doom and gloom. And I wept. Gigantic tears. And I was stuck. Three more hours of not moving guaranteed that my blubbering mess would be discovered sooner or later by one of the oh-so-understanding nurses. But I didn't want to be found -- I'm roll-with-the-punches girl, right? Alas, one of the night nurses came upon me. And even though she wanted me to be happy and I wanted me to be happy, we both realized that I just needed to get the overwhelming irrational sad out. So she brought me tissues and left me be.

By about 1 a.m., my usual insomnia relented and I rested a bit. Of course, at 2 a.m., it was time for a scheduled EKG. I then asked for a sleeping pill, and my adorable nurse wondered, "Would you like a pain reliever too?" Sheesh! Hospital grade food I can do without. Hospital grade pain killer...sign me up! I snuck in a few more choppy hours of rest, interrupted by the occasional bright light, cheerful nurse and even my own heart rate alarm (too low -- that's what obsessive running will get you). By 7 a.m. I'd been wheeled downstairs for an EKG (and saw my device in action), and by about 10, I was home.

So while I'd expected to be doing homework within hours of the procedure, I instead had a good 36 hours of low-grade misery. I have lived so much of my life in extraordinary health that a day and a half of not-feeling-great knocked my socks off. Not surprisingly, by Sunday morning, I was itching to run again, but had ridiculous amounts of homework looming and a cautious boyfriend keeping me grounded.

It's been a crazy busy week or so since then and I still feel fabulous. I've been taking long walks (in those ridiculous rocking shoes) and will return to spin class tomorrow. Thursday I'm allowed to run again. It will also be my last day of the summer semester, so I can only imagine by the afternoon, I'll be as giddy as a not-in-school-girl.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nobody's Gonna Rain on My Parade

I just had one of those "So that's how crazy I am" moments. I checked my marathon training schedule. Yesterday I ran 15 miles (my farthest ever, and yes, I patted myself on the back). Tomorrow I'm scheduled to run six. As I glanced ahead, I had to giggle. There will be school days that I'll be out the door by 5:00 a.m. to fit in my run, shower and carpool (whoohoo! I have a summer carpool buddy -- and she's even a marathoner!).

Actually, it was yesterday that I confirmed that I-am-a-flippin'-lunatic. The morning started temperate and hazy, as ideal as it gets here in the humidity belt for a July run. I made my toward some pedestrian/biker trails a few miles away and did my best not to count each passing mile. By the time I'd gone six miles, I noticed some lightning in the distance. I'd planned a turn-around anyway and hoped my breath-taking six miles per hour could outrun the storm. Really, what choice did I have?

Another thirty minutes passed and I began feeling the occasional sprinkle. Then the drops grew bigger and more sincere. Those of us out for our morning exercise traded sheepish grins. Sure, it's raining, but we'll be fine, our eyes told one another. And we all continued our treks.

The steady rain continued and I passed my opportunity to cut my run short. I wasn't gonna let a little drizzle keep me away from my longest-yet run. Off the trails and into some residential neighborhoods, I noticed the skies getting progessively darker -- and louder. The rain grew heavier and once I reached my turn-around point, I realized that for the last mile or so, a fairly strong wind had been at my back. It was a little less friendly face-to-face, but I kept on keepin' on. A nearby lightning flash and less than a second later, it's accompanying thunder alerted me that I was in the thick of it.

So I decided to run home.

The downpour was unrelenting at this point. And I ran. I found myself giggling as my shoes sloshed through puddles and the water washed away my sunscreen. And I ran. Cars had stopped on side-streets because visibility was so poor. And I ran. Streets were nearly submerged. And I ran.

The last four miles went by surprisingly quickly. I wasn't unbearably hot, after all. I wasn't particularly thirsty either. I was running new parts of town. And I was cracking up.

Once home, I dripped in the the threshold for a bit, then assessed the damage. Knees -- fairly angry. Quads -- ready to quit. Lungs -- reasonably content. iPhone (music source) -- on the fritz.

It had just been exposed to the equivalent of a day at the dunk tank. But I'd witnessed the revival of the same model once before. My genius boyfriend keeps a plastic storage container with several recycled packets of silica gel in the kitchen cabinet (for a long time, I thought he was working on a quirky collection or maybe just had a thing for silica gel). After a wet winter run, his phone acted up and he placed it in there for a few hours. Voila! Dry, happy phone.

I grabbed the container, put the phone in and crossed my fingers. My patience was tested, but by this morning, it stopped flashing ridiculous messages and could be used as an actual telephone once again.

So next time you get a new pair of shoes, don't toss that little packet o' poison. Keep it, find it a few friends and the next time your small electronics are subjected to unreasonable humidity, give it a try. The phone you save may be your own.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Finding Closure

Alright alright alright...as if you haven't grown to expect the beginning of any given semester to result in a long silence. You'd think that by now I would have learned that the first week is terrifying and then things start to fall into place. Nope. I think I'll let the next two semesters do the same thing to me. I'd hate to shake things up, after all...

Shake things up, you say? Okay. How 'bout surgery? Would that do it? A bit more than a week ago, I learned that I had fallen into the put-a-foreign-body-into-your-heart category of the cardiology study. I decided I'd write about it when I knew the date. And now I know. This Thursday. Scheduling within the parameters of the study as well as coordinating between two cardiac surgeons has me scrambling a bit. Oh well. Like I told a friend, it would hardly fit into my ridiculous life if it were as simple as taking an aspirin and filling out paperwork now and then, right?

So in a mere four days, I'll wake early, squeeze in my run, dash to school for a test, head back, grab an overnight bag and then stroll into surgery. One med center sleepover and I'll be home in time for lunch on Friday.

And then I'll return to my average, uneventful life.