To Add Insight To Injury
There are many things we can learn from an injury and today I am honored to share my journey and a story from a friend who has willingly shared her incredible and inspiring story.
Katie’s incredible story.
About two and half years ago I started feeling some pretty weird tingling and numbness in my arm which progressed to constant pain throughout my arm up my shoulder and swelling of the arm whenever I was actively moving it. It took several doctors to correctly diagnose the issue. I did a lot of research to determine what was going on, asked a lot of questions, read medical studies, etc. When I finally found a doctor that said this what you have and this is how I can fix it, I was so relieved and thankful. It was called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and after months of physical therapy with no results, I was a candidate for an extensive surgery where my first rib was removed, scalene muscles in my neck were removed and my pec minor was “released” or essentially removed as well.
Insight: Understand the importance of being your own advocate when dealing with doctors.
The recovery was pretty long and required a lot of patience. Unlike other sports injuries I’ve dealt with, if there was any pain in the rehab, it meant stop. Not push through. The rehab also required a lot more work than others I’ve dealt with (perhaps in part because of age as well).
I had to take care of myself every day like I took care of things like my education or career.
I really had to work hard and devote to the rehab and then to the strengthening. I also took the opportunity to change my diet and fix eating habits to be a healthier person (though this had nothing to do with the injury, it was just part of wanting to feel better over all). It was all part of a wake up call that I wasn’t 20 years old anymore ha. Today, I am stronger and feel so much better than I did even before the surgery.
Insight: Seize this predicament as a reminder to take care of you. Every day.
In my Roll With The Punches post, I referenced my ACL injury as an example to keep an open, positive mind no matter what events happen in your life.
Fair warning, this post is different. This raw account dives into the post-op and rehab experience and surfaces with my reflections.
To prepare my right leg for bone patellar tendon bone reconstructive ACL surgery, the doctor injected a numbing agent into my femoral artery. As he explained the procedure, my feelings of excitement at being mended began to dissipate and I began to feel scared and started to cry. They gave me something similar to laughing gas or ‘truth serum’ as they joked. Indeed, soon I was telling them about a recent fight my guy and I had gotten into and then I was asleep.
I woke up and my leg seemed huge, swaddled from ankle to upper thigh in Ace wrap and caged in the immobilizer “Robocop” knee brace. When I tried to move, it felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. The surgery was projected to take around two hours, but my surgeon took four and a half hours! She said that she wanted to pack as many of the bone chips back into my knee since she knew I was a runner and this would hopefully decrease future anterior knee pain. I felt relieved that the surgery was successful and thanked her. The thought of running seemed so distant.
Insight: Have gratitude towards those who help you. (Even when you are out of it).
When I did not move it, my right leg was numb. Until the next day. When the numbing wore off, my leg woke up to pain. Throbbing, my-bones-have been-drilled into, the-middle-part-of-my patellar-tendon-has-been-snipped-out-and-screwed-into-place-as-my-new-ACL, pain. I took Percocet and felt nothing lessen. I thought this was one of those amazing painkiller drugs! I called the nurse and asked her if I could take more. No, she said. Not for another four hours.
Devastated by the awful pain, physically helpless, I gave up on my usual positive mindset and sat on the ground in our dark apartment and burst into tears. I caved. I was pain tolerant but this was worse than any of my previous experiences – worse than eye surgery or a bike accident or when I broke my collarbone. Nothing prepared me for this kind of throbbing, itching, pounding pain.
Insight: Go ahead, express how awful you feel.
Feel The Love
I do not wallow. The “woe is me” mindset is just not my style. So after the initial day two numbness-wearing off, pain pity party, I was back to my Pollyanna self. My guy left for work and I was home alone, crutching around the apartment. But I didn’t feel alone. My family sent flowers and gifts. Friends sent cards, teddy bears, and came over on their lunch hour with groceries or after work to visit. My client sent me a customized care package with magazines, lip balm, hand lotion (the antibiotics dry your skin), gum (and make your mouth dry), and some DVDs. Our dog could tell I was hurt and laid with me carefully on the couch while I dozed or watched Wimbledon (silver lining of having surgery in the summer).
Insight: Thank your people and reciprocate when you are able.
Strength and Sustenance
I drank water or juice with psyllium husks for intestinal health. Eating even cleaner than before, I made spinach, grapefruit, and avocado salads. Everything my physical therapist gave me as homework to do, I did, including Jane Fonda leg lift exercises and massaging the surgery site to break up the scar tissue. Once I was allowed, I went to the gym and lifted upper body weights and did sit-ups. Two weeks post op, I was cleared to swim with a foam pull float, which isolated my torso and arms for a strengthening workout. With my heart rate up I began to feel like an athlete again.
Insight: To heal quickly, follow instructions from your PT and eat clean.
The exercises got more and more challenging as my right quad muscle finally started to come back. I progressed to step-ups, lateral band walking, and skater jumps. Once I was allowed to go running, I excitedly set off only to feel tremendous pain. I was bummed out and disappointed. My instructor reminded me to stretch and said that I was progressing well ahead of what others are able to at this time in their rehab. I gave myself a break and kept at it.
Insight: Be patient and go easy on yourself!
Some say an injury is a message from the universe that is guaranteed to reach us. I got the message.
A year after my ACL reconstruction, with courage, I left a relationship that was not right for me. I ran in several 10k events and in one my pace was 7:51/mi for the 6.2mi race. Two years post-op, I was doing box jumps with the rest of the cross training class. Now it’s been over three years . A month ago, I ran a half marathon. Last weekend, our bootcamp instructor told someone in the class to watch me do skater jumps for proper form. “Great thanks, now everyone hates me,” I joked. “Teacher’s pet!” the others teased. I grinned. It was funny. And it reminded me of how far I have grown since skater jumps seemed impossible, and were initially so challenging, exhausting in physical therapy. As I moved to the next circuit, I felt inspired to write this reflection.
Final 3 Insights:
- Listen and make changes if needed.
- Realize your triumphs.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
What about you? Add your “insight to injury” in the comments or @kellymc247