Monday, February 3, 2020

Not a setback, but a lesson in Gratitude



Have you ever been sidelined?

As runners, and athletes in general, I'd wager most of us have claimed "sidelined status" at least once.

Myself? I'm no exception. In fact, I was sidelined for three months, a few summers ago. THREE MONTHS! During the SUMMER, my favorite season for all things running and fitness. Not only did I live to tell about it, I am grateful for all that I learned about myself (and others) while on my running sabbatical.

Let me set the scene...
Without going into all the nitty gritty (and graphic) details, I (somehow) had developed a case of bursitis near my right knee, which (somehow) had morphed into a staph infection, in mid-June of 2017. One of my local doctors brushed off the redness and the swelling and gave me a few days of steroids (probably to ease my mind more than his). A few days later, I got in to see a specialist in Des Moines (on my own accord), and a few hours later I was on the operating table, undergoing emergency surgery to "clean and flush" the infected area near my knee. I woke up with a delicate 6-inch suture seam, alongside my knee ... and my summer was immediately thrown upside-down.
with my IV pole, affectionately named Guido, who accompanied me everywhere while I was hospitalized
After spending an entire week in the hospital, awaiting my white blood cells to stabilize, I was sent home with a PICC line in my right arm, as well an endless supply of dressings and in-home IV infusion supplies.
with the stitches still intact, steri-strips, and the healing scar
I had strict orders to keep that leg as straight as possible (to allow the suture seam to "seal and heal"). BTW, let me tell you it's difficult and scary going down a stairway with a straight leg, and getting in and out of a car is quite a production. I also was advised to stay inside that first week back home (by then it was early July) to avoid any unnecessary sweating, which could pose a further infection risk if anything seeped into the suture site. EEK!

Oh, did I mention the IV infusions? I have had ZERO medical training, so this was probably the scariest of all the post-op instructions. I had to give myself infusions three times each day (at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m.) for the next three weeks.
The PICC line? I named him Linus...
Let me remind you, I am a runner. Runners run, especially in the summer. My surgeon told me absolutely no running for at least two months (and I'd already gone a good three weeks without any running, due to the bursitis in my knee, before all the other drama unfolded).

He also had told me had I waited even a day longer before that appointment with the specialist (which morphed into a quick consult with him...and then the subsequent surgery a couple of hours later)...I may have needed a skin graft (some of the flesh on my knee was starting to turn purple from the infection). A skin graft would have most likely ended my running career there and then. End of story.

Knowing we'd caught the infection when we did (and the severity of everything) was pretty eye-opening. My pity party lasted all of (maybe) 20 minutes that first night following the surgery. Fortunately, I had the sense to realize I was lucky to be in such good health (and under such great care in the hospital). As such, the odds of a full recovery were very promising.

So, how did I deal with this setback? How does one function when their favorite sport of sports is  taken away from them, with no warning?

Thankfully, I had a few crutches (no pun intended) in my arsenal.

First of all, I was able to see the big picture, instead of focusing on the small detour that was forced upon me. It was disappointing to have to DNS a couple of summer races, but there were several races happening a few months later. These future races were all mine if I followed the surgeon's instructions and took one day at a time.

I had a sense of humor. I don't necessarily use humor to hide behind reality, but it does ease the pain of it at times. Not only did I name the IV pole and the PICC line, I also named the unsightly scar on my knee...Voldemort. Fitting, no?
bidding a fond farewell to Linus...
I'm a glass-half-full gal. Even when things looked bleak, like that afternoon as I waited for my turn to walk down the hall to the operating room, I had a weird feeling of calmness washing over me. I just couldn't feel any dread or worry. I was so relieved that the surgeon was going to make all the pain, swelling and redness go away, that I didn't care (at that moment) about what would happen afterwards. Later, upon hearing even more about the severity of everything, I was relieved it wasn't any worse...because it could have been.

I kept busy doing other fitness things. Even though I couldn't bend my leg for those first 10 days or so, I was able to do leg lifts, push-ups, and all the planking my heart desired. Upper-body strength work was also well-utilized.

I was able to get outside everyday and walk. After those initial days were over and done, and I was granted clearance to do light activity, I walked. Daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. Even though I couldn't do my sunrise runs, I got up and headed out early, every morning, for 2-3 miles of walking before heading to the office. Fortunately, this daily walking (and fasted cardio routine) has stuck.

Finally, I had a huge revelation. I was very envious of all of my running friends, logging miles in the summer heat. I would have gladly traded places with any or all of them. That said, although I was sidelined, I knew I was going to run again, and I was still able to walk and do other things for the time being. A lot of injured runners (and athletes in general) aren't as lucky. There were probably countless others, sidelined indefinitely, who would have gladly traded places with me. How's that for some perspective?

Alas, I soldiered on and rallied through the summer of 2017. I was granted clearance to resume running (slowly and easily) in early September. I'd been registered for a 5K at the end of September, so I was hoping to possibly be able to run the entire race (but definitely NOT race it). As a back-up plan, I could do run/walk intervals, or even just walk the entire route if need be (by that point I was power-walking up to six miles at a time).

September 29th arrived. The hubby, Barb and myself did the Kickoff to Kinnick 5K...and I did it! I was able to run the entire race, finishing just under 30 minutes!

A few weeks later, I ran the Mercy Live-Up Loop 5-Mile (affiliated with the IMT Des Moines Marathon)...and was able to bring home a 3rd place AG award.

A year later, on October 13, 2018, I ran the Cannonball Marathon (Greensboro, NC). It was a tough, hilly route...but crossing that finish line really made me feel like my rally-back had come full circle.

The rest is history.

The big lesson I learned from this experience is to be ever grateful. Every day, for every run, and for every race...no matter how easy, tough, challenging, or gut-wrenching the experience may be. I get to choose to run (and work out), and I'm grateful to have that choice.

So, that's my story. If you're interested in more details of my rally-back, check out my Road to Recovery page (along the tabs at the top).

Talk to me...Have you ever been sidelined? Was it forced, or by choice? Any lessons learned from the experience? Did you come back stronger for the fight?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up


I'm also linking with DebbieRachel, Deborah, Lisa, Smitha and Jenn for the Runners' Roundup
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33 comments:

  1. Wow, that is quite an injury! I like your attitude: it is SO IMPORTANT to be keep perspective. Yes, you're injured, but there are many things you can still do. And it's only temporary. If we feel grateful for that, I think it's a lot easier to keep a positive outlook.
    I was sidelined by my Achilles tendon for 10 months last year. And it was all my own fault, too. I ignored the signals my body was giving me and ran through pain. But I have learnt my lesson. And here we are, both back to running! :-)

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  2. I love so many of your blog posts but I think this is my new favourite! I love your attitude and perspective. It's easy to get stuck in the pity party stage (and I'm all for that, I'm the girl who loves a good cry and a sulk) BUT at some point you have to figure out "What is this awful moment/incident/injury teaching me?" and as terrible as it is, how I can grow from it?

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    1. Oh, thank you, Shathiso! To echo what you said, I realized (almost immediately, after speaking with my surgeon a few hours post-surgery) that feeling sorry for myself was not going to make the healing happen any faster. I chose to look at the positive, and I honestly think that was my secret weapon in rallying back so successfully ;-)

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  3. It's great that you've been able to take away so many positives from your knee infection. Luckily for you it was relatively short lived and you've been able to move on.

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    1. Right? Those three months were pretty short in the grand scheme of all the running I still wanted to do.

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  4. I remember when that happened - such a scary time and the crazy part is that you never really knew how you got the infection. It's so scary that it literally popped up out of nowhere. You handed the whole situation very well, especially all of the recovery!

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    1. Thanks, Kim! You were one of my biggest cheerleaders :-)

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  5. Not being able to run is a skill that all runners need to learn, and that's why it's so important to talk about the bad times along with the good. The good times are aplenty, and shinning a light on the bad brings it out of the dark. I am very grateful for every step that I get to take.

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    1. Oh, you said it with perfection! We all need to learn how to NOT run. It's really not the end of the world :-)

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  6. Kim, what an ordeal! I know you had a scar you called "Voldy" but I had no idea what you went through with that injury. Staph infections are scary with all the bacterial resistance out there. The fact that you call this a lesson in gratitude shows your good attitude and resilience. So glad you came through it and are back to running and stair-climbing, etc.

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  7. You were so inspiring through all of that Kim, and you HAVE come back so much stronger! I also think that you will help so many injured people (not even necessarily runners) with your story. Thanks for sharing it again!

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    1. Thank you, Judy! It was a very surreal experience...I still have a hard time believing it really happened...to ME.

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  8. wow has it really been almost 3 years since Voldemort!? You did have a great sense of humor and positive attitude through it all. It's really amazing how you rallied back so strong!

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    1. Thank you, Deborah :-) I think the positive attitude (and an occasional joke about my situation with Voldy) were key to a successful rally-back.

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  9. That is a wonderful perspective. Being injured sucks, but you're right, some people can't run at all ever. It's all relative!

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    1. Exactly. When I realized that whining and feeling sorry for myself weren't going to help things heal any quicker, I moved on.

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  10. You always have such a positive outlook and it's a great perspective to have.

    I like to think I'm pretty positive, but this current recovery has been hard on my sunny personality. I am grateful in a lot of ways, but being immobile for weeks and months has also let some negativity and anxiety creep in. I'm starting month 3 of of no running, and I'm hoping that I can start month 5 with at least a power walk. Broken bones are no joke :(

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    1. Honestly, my biggest worry was that I'd lose all of my endurance. Thankfully, I was able to walk (after the first couple of weeks), and that became a quick "replacement" for running. Obviously, your situation is very different, but you've been doing well with all your PT :-)

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  11. Man, that was a crazy ride. I remember all of that.

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  12. I can't believe this was over 2 years ago! Its all about having the right perspective. You made such a strong comeback after that whole ordeal!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! It's hard to believe it's been almost three years...it seems just like yesterday.

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  13. Wow, I can't believe it's been almost three years! Having a positive attitude is so key. I'm glad you're up and running now! Thanks for linking up with the Runners' Roundup!

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  14. Being sidelined definitely isn't fun--I'm so sorry you had to go through all that! :[ Major props to you for having such a positive outlook on things! I'm glad you've gotten to go back to doing what you love!

    I was sidelined with a broken hand a few years ago during a time where I [finally] would've gotten to go back to lifting weights, dancing + doing jiu-jitsu so I was definitely pretty bummed, but it definitely could've been worse and I'm glad I get to go back to everything I adore now!

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    1. It's amazing how we learn to function and bide our time until the healing has finished. I, too, am quite grateful that I was able to get back to running.

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  15. Under 30 mins for your first 5k back, wow! You are one determined lady!
    We should all be grateful for every day that we can run. Great post.

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  16. You have such great poerspective on a setback. I am not sure that I could stay so positive. I had to be a in a boot for 6 weeks once and it was hard!

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    1. I have heard so many horror stories of being in a boot. I'm so glad I didn't have that going on!

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  17. I love your attitude! I remember reading along when this happened. So weird that your doctor didn't think it was serious. Definitely a good thing you went to see someone else.

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