Wednesday, June 5, 2013

PURGATORY

It may not be hell, but it sure is purgatory.

The last time I blogged was on May 12. There is a reason for that.

On May 7, a gorgeous day for a run, ended in disaster, at least from this runners standpoint.

Randy Haas, a 2:17 marathoner, and Olympic Trials participant, subject of the chapter, 'The Best,' in my book, Running Shorts, www.runningshortsbook.com, and I were about a mile into what was to be a six-mile training run. As we talked, joked, and covered a plethora of topics, my toe caught a raised sidewalk. Knowing I was on a collision course with the cement pavement, my body tensed, hands extended into a Superman-like position, and my left leg, a little stiff from the Boston Marathon, which I had run three weeks earlier, contorted in an odd manner. The sensation of pain, centered directly in the middle of my hamstring, was blinding. My hands struck the sidewalk, blood oozing from the abrasions, and I rolled onto a front lawn, writhing in agony. Prophetically, as Randy attempted to assist me, I yelled, over and over, "I'm done," I'm done."

In 2001, on a 7-mile workout, I felt a pain in my left foot. It was the type of soreness one feels when one's shoe is tied too tightly. I stopped, loosened the laces, and slowly, painfully, completed the last mile and a half of the workout. The next day, it looked like I was wearing a rubber foot, as it had swelled to twice its normal size. A metatarsal was broken, and I was casted for six weeks.

That pain was Little League. The pain I felt on the afternoon of May 7 was World Series Major League.

I was unable to stand. Unable to move my leg from the 90-degree angle in which it was locked. A neighbor, a man in his late 70s, emerged from his home with an ice bag in his hand. His name is John D.W. Reiley, the current mayor of my city, Pottsville, Pennsylvania. From 1990 to 1998, I served as the mayor of Pottsville. Mayor Reiley and I belong to different political parties. In my agony that day, the mayor displayed gracious political bipartisanship seldom seen in places like our nation's capital these days.

A friend drove by, volunteered to fetch my wife, (my home is only a half mile from the site of my collision with the sidewalk), and she and Randy scooped me into my car, my house, and into the bed, where, for several hours, I lie, wallowing the worst pain I can recall in my entire life.

Eventually, I was able to hobble, and early the next morning I sat in the office of a young, respected local orthopedic surgeon, who bore unconfirmed bad news: I did not pull or strain my hamstring, rather, I tore it. Swelling, ugly black and blue marks, and my inability to resist with any pressure as the doctor pushed on my heel as I lie on my stomach, leg raised at the knee, helped him arrive at his preliminary diagnosis. Only an MRI, however, would confirm his suspicion.

That afternoon I was inserted into the futuristic tube to receive my scan, and early in the evening my doctor called with the news. Of the three tendons that attach the hamstring, I tore two of them, in what is called a proximal hamstring tear. The hamstring tore away from the Ischium bone, so in addition to my inability to run, it is, literally a pain in the butt when I sit.

A follow up visit with the doctor was grim. Surgery was an option, but a 4 to 6 month recovery period was a little more than I could endure, so we opted for the conservative approach of rest and physical therapy. Within the next week or so, I may try an interesting new treatment, called Autologous Conditioned Plasma therapy. A vial of blood will be drawn from my arm, It will be placed into a centrifuge, where it will be rapidly spun, separating the plasma-rich platelets. That refined blood will be injected into the site of the injury. In baseball pitchers and other athletes, the procedure has helped speed up the healing process.

It has been four weeks since the injury. I have not run a step, and it has not been fun. My physical therapist is excellent. He knows me, my running addiction, and I believe, with his help, we will be able to accelerate the healing process. We are working on my flexibility, which is laughable. Most of us know that a "flexible long distance runner" is the ultimate oxymoron. I am on the elliptical, and I am riding a bike. Oh, how I hate riding a bike. I feel like Pee Wee Herman in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure." Other therapies have included: a lot of upper body weightlifting, planting, tilling, and weeding my garden at a frenetic pace, and frequent walks in the mountain with my dogs.

Thus far, my wife has not banished me to the shed in the back yard, although, given my irritability, she has every reason to do so.

On Monday, I visited my orthopedic surgeon, who informed me my rehab was way ahead of schedule. After a lengthy discussion about the severity of the injury, I asked him the inevitable question: "When can I run again" His reply was, "I'll see you on July 3, and I should be able to give you the OK then."

JULY 3!!! I don't think so.

That afternoon I issued my physical therapist a direct order: 'Beat me up." Enough of this sissy therapy, it's time for big-boy stuff. After a two-hour session, I felt good, with no strain on the injured areas. Of course, I do additional exercises at home

I'm going to behave for another couple of weeks, but I hope to take some running baby steps around the middle of June.

My injury is not life-threatening. There are many people in the world who are dealing with medical conditions that are truly serious. We are runners, however, and for us, a debilitating setback like this, in our world, seems like it's a life or death situation. I will slowly come back. I will chart my progress. I will pass along my successes and failures to my readers in an effort to guide all of you when you, as avid runners, are stricken with an injury.

Until then, I will serve my sentence in purgatory.
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                                                                   MY THERAPISTS