Road to Recovery

I have spent the last couple of days trying to figure out what to write next.. the memories are both vivid and blurry, do I really need to do this??  I want to leave it in the past but I have this unexpected urge to put it all in print, so here goes!

I remember being in the hospital, I remember lots of intense pain, I was forbidden to get out of bed without a nurse or an aide – I also remember that most of my nurses were all   pregnant and I didn’t want them to help me out of bed because I was worried about their babies! (I was in the hospital so long most of my nurses had their babies before I went home)   I remember this intense feeling of shame of not being able to attend to my most basic needs, I think one of the most demoralizing things of being in the hospital is someone wiping your *ss for you… how do you make eye contact after that??  If I had a male aide, I would hold out until the shift change.  I remember thinking what if I never walk again and what if people have to take care of me like this forever??  It made me feel in awe of people that are confined to wheel chairs and others who live with limitations and this terrified me too… which brought on my guilt again, it was a vicious cycle of hopelessness, frustration, suffering and pain.

So now that we know we are dealing with osteomyelitis we know I need a powerful antibiotic to fight it.  The last surgery was called a debridement – an infection of the surrounding tissues and organs of my spinal column, the infection was pretty widespread by the time they found it.  My “band-aid surgery” was now a raging infection with a dozen staples and a drain and a lovely PICC line installed in my right arm so the drugs can go directly into my blood stream to fight this monster of an infection.  Well at least I will get better now right???  The Doctors didn’t know at the time, but it was only the beginning of my little piece of hell.  I was informed that due to the care I needed I would be transferred to a rehab hospital where I could get stronger and receive physical therapy to regain my strength and balance.  I strongly felt something was wrong but nobody would listen to me, they just kept pushing pills and sent me on my way.  The first thing I remember about the rehab facility was it was HOT, I’m talking blisteringly hot, at the time we were going through a horrible heatwave where it had been over 100 degrees and humid for several days.  They put me in a room with several people and I could not breathe, the AC had gone out and it was stifling.  My pain was getting worse, everything was blurry and I could not move… I must have called my husband, I don’t remember much during this time, but I remember my husband’s parents coming in with a fan to cool me off…. I was burning up and I kept telling them something was wrong… My husband came by after work… not sure how I was moved or how many days went by, could be 1 or 3, but I was moved to a room with AC and he demanded a nurse take my temperature… I was 102.9 and we were informed they would not call a doctor until I was over 103!!  I was writing in pain and begging for someone to help me, my arm was red where the PICC line was and I was scared I was going to die there.  The nurse informed my husband she would page a doctor… he decided to go the nurses station and stayed there with his arms crossed until someone came in… now my husband can be an intimidating person when he is determined, for this I will be forever grateful, if he had not done this my story could have had a very different ending….Within 10 minutes a doctor was there.   That action literally saved my life.

The next few hours are a blur and most of this was retold to me by my husband and friends…. I know I was transported by ambulance back to the hospital, the PICC line threw a blood clot and was also infected!  Even as I am writing this my breathing is rapid and I feel very anxious….   After removing the infected line I had to wait for what seemed like forever for someone to come back in… My friend and her family were in the ER, her mother had fallen, and they saw my husband in the waiting room, they say they came in to see me, I don’t remember…. I remember being told I was being sent back to rehab facility and I flat out refused, begging them to readmit me here or they would kill me there!  Then I was alone for a long time, they had sent my husband home to get some rest telling him I would be moved to a room soon. In the confusion somehow they had mistakenly put on my chart that I had been sent back to Rehab… I was utterly alone… the room was dark, I was ringing the nurse button because I was in so much pain and I also had to go to the bathroom, I was still restrained to the gurney… it was that nightmare all over again… I was screaming but nobody could hear me…I don’t know how long I cried and yelled, it felt like hours, it could have been minutes I really don’t know.  Finally, by the grace of God, a nurse came by to clean the room and found me still in there… she was frantic, explaining to me she didn’t know I was there… I think I passed out after this, I really can’t be sure…

Osteomyelitis, Staph Infection In Spine

 

Have you ever had a nightmare, where you are scared and trying to scream to people so they can save you but you can’t get the words out or be heard… you wake up in a cold sweat and out of breath?  That’s what the next hospital stay felt like every day.  I was trapped in a shell of pain,  I couldn’t get out and no-one seemed to be able to get to me and make it stop.  Even as I type this the details are blurry at best, I remember Doctors and nurses and blood draws and confusion of what to do with me.  I remember morphine and IV bags… I remember the look on my husbands face of helplessness and frustration.  I remember many of the ER doctors remembering me because we had spent so many visits to the ER together… oddly, this comforted me, they genuinely seemed concerned for me but also baffled by what was causing me such pain….. blood counts starting coming in, something was very wrong, my white cells where off the charts, so at least they at least knew they were fighting infection, but how to fight it?  I was awaiting a CT SCAN aspiration – this involves inserting a large needle into the spinal column to drain fluid and determine what bacteria is causing infection so it can be eradicated.  I remember being awake, which was explained to me that I had to be able to tell them if something causes pain or other sensations, there is some sedation but you are aware of what is going on.  I remember lots of pressure and praying it would be over soon.  Sadly it was over soon, my spinal fluid was filled with blood and pus… I was being told I had to go into emergency surgery.  To back up a bit, my husband was not with me as I was admitted during the night and it was a weekend so my test was going to be some time the  next day, we didn’t know when and there was no time to let him know I guess.  So back to surgery, I was unable to give consent as I had been midly sedated for CT SCAN, I remember a sense of urgency to get my husband to the hospital to give consent as it  could not be done over phone, I remember crying and thinking I would never see him or my children again and I needed to tell them I loved them one last time….I was lying on the gurney on the way to surgery and I still didn’t know exactly what whas happening, it was like watching a movie in slow-motion accept I was the main character.  I can’t really write about what happens next in order as I don’t have real memories or they are so fragmented I can’t be sure what is real and what was dreamt…I have to think about how to continue my journey, I’m not sure I can relive this part yet, reliving this is harder than I thought and I am in such a good place now, but I feel like I need to put it in print to leave it behind??

May 6, 2013

The day my life changed forever…. Having just had one of the greatest weekends of my life with my closest friends for an early Cinco De Mayo pre-surgery party, (more on that in another blog someday, it was epic) I was ready for surgery, truth be told, I was excited, I was looking forward to getting back to the WOD… My surgeon told me how simple the procedure would be that I would probably go home later that day with a bandaid – a simple lumbar discectomy laminectomy it was officially titled.  I realize now that I never even asked any questions, logical ones like, how many of these have you done, what exactly will happen, what are the risks?  Sure you have to sign all these forms, but does anyone really read them?  Anyway… the surgery goes on without any obvious signs of complications.  I remember waking up and feeling no pain in my right leg where hours before it was all I ever felt, great right, surgery worked!  I’m healed and can get back to Crossfit in a few weeks! They decide to keep me overnight, I don’t remember why (sign #3??)  I go home the next day still feeling OK… the following morning I am woken up by an intense pain in my left leg!  I cannot stand, or walk without help, this pain is worse than the pain from before, I am starting to be concerned.  The next few weeks, months would turn into countless ER visits, hospital stays and more surgeries much of which I do not remember.  As weeks go by, tests are finally ordered, it was determined that my disc’s were not only herniated, they were deteriorated, and had ruptered into small fragments along the spinal column, the Dr. had “missed” a couple of pieces during the 1st surgery, and the fragments were pressing on the nerve along the spine which was causing pain on the other side.  He needs to go back in, the fear is starting, the voices I had ignored are at a fever pitch, but I am in so much pain, I just want it to end, do whatever it takes to be pain free…

Note…. my injury and initial MRI was in February… my 1st surgery was not until May.  Looking back if baffles me why a surgeon would operate on a woman’s spine, having not ordered a single test based off another doctors MRI done over 3 months earlier… That simple test may have changed everything… more damage obviously occured between February and May, but I was to naive… I trusted blindly, so essentially, he was operating blind, only looking for a herniation –

June 6, 2013 the second surgery is performed and I know immediately upon waking up something is very wrong.  It’s not just the pain, it’s thet way people are looking at me, fear, alarm, confusion??  I have gained an enourmous amout of weight in a short period of time, I am not sure how long I have been asleep, I am bloated, fuzzy, medicated and so damn scared.  I am soon sent home again, hopped up on pain med, steroids, antibiotics and God knows what else… I was unable to walk and had a wheelchair for a little while… My son was graduating high school and I was not going to miss it… not my baby’s graduation.  A friend of mine is a teacher at the school and arranged for me to have a special viewing section… Sadly, I don’t have many live memories of that day but I have the pictures, we put on a brave face for him, but inside we knew something was brewing.  Pain is an odd thing to describe to people, after awhile you start to think it’s you, that you are weak and just suck it up, you think people around you are probably tired of hearing about it, everybody’s got something right?  Why can’t I beat this, why is my body betraying me like this, a few weeks ago I was deadlifting 150 pounds damnit! I feel guilty, my husband and kids are working and taking care of me 24/7 I should be taking care of them!

About a week later we were having my son’s graduation party – it had been pre-planned and was a big deal (our parties are kinda epic).  My husband, family and friends had to do all the work as I was still in my wheel chair… I have vague  memories of that day.. I remember only a couple of snippets.. I remember one of my husbands oldest friends staring at me in disbelief… (did I really look that bad)!  Looking back, I did…  He later told me, he never thought he would see me alive again…..  I have a hazy memory of  dozing in a recliner in my living room while my girlfriends whispered to each other while looking at me – I can’t even be sure that happened I may have been halucinating.  Something was terribly wrong…  by the end of the night we were back in the ER… the hospital would be my home for the next month….

Life After Crossfit

By the night of my WOD I cannot stand, I cannot sit, I cannot walk… the pain is intense, nothing like I have ever felt before… and I had at this point already had 8 surgeries unrelated to my back, a couple being pretty major, so I was no stranger to pain and like to consider myself to have a high tolerance for pain… but how high I had not even imagined yet.  My husband has to somehow get me into car, I remember lying face down in the backseat of his pickup truck barely able to breathe through the pain… If I’m being honest, I can’t even be sure what I remember during this time, the next few months are a blur of Neurologist, surgeons, MRI’s and tests all leading to the same conclusion… 3 herniated discs, L-4, _L-5, S-1.  I have never been a fan of back surgery, and was a firm believer in avoiding at all costs, I had been a Medical Assistant in a neurology office… no way, not happening!  But at this point it is only February 2013, exactly 4 weeks since I started Crossfit… Full disclosure here… Even though I could not walk unassisted, my pain level was a steady 6-7 and was on a healthy cocktail of opioids, I was talking daily with my mentor and doing partial WOD’s from home… go back and read that last sentence, even writing it I am shaking my head, the stupidity could have paralyzed me knowing what I know now about my condition… I was addicted to the rush of the WOD, the feeling of pushing myself to limits, the community of being part of that world which so many awesome, fit, beautiful people live by, why couldn’t I be like them?  What was wrong with me??

I decided to try a therapeutic approach, meds, rest, ice, heat and physical therapy, not only did I not get better, I got worse, much worse.  I was unable to work, drive, do anything but stay medicated and lay around, I was useless to my family, to my son who was getting ready to graduate and had no support because it was all being spent on me.  I went for a second opinion, a “respected” neurologist I had known through friends.  He confirmed surgery was my only option before I suffered irreversible damage to my legs and lower back.  This decision would prove to be another “voice” I didn’t listen to.  I scheduled the surgery with the second Dr. even though it was now almost May and he ordered no additional testing such as X-rays or recent MRI… I trusted a stranger not myself – again. So back to bed I went to wait for my surgery date – May 6, 2013.  You would think that date would be the worst date of my life, but it was not, while home bedridden in pain, my son called me early in the afternoon of April 15, 2013 from the finish line of the Boston Marathon… he was watching the marathon like he did every year while at college in Boston at Suffolk… he was separated from his friends and was terrified, coverage had not even hit the news yet, we were crying and scared and cell phone service was getting cut off, my children (my other son also lives in Boston) were in a city with an active terrorist on the lose and I was unable to help them, I will never forget that feeling of helplessness and ANGER.  Before I stop this post, I need to mention, both of my boys are safe, but it was single handedly the worst day of my life… talk about the seconds between events….

 

 

WOD

WOD (workout of day) 3 little letters that became my motivation at crossfit, I remember my first workout like it was yesterday even though it has been 5 years almost to the day.  I was about the same age – a little older than some of the newbies in the new RAMP class, I remember my confidance going up with each activity that I completed, the pride I felt as other people puked and could not complete the runs… the pride, my ego grew with each task I completed.  I was invincible…. or so I thought.  I worked out 3-4 times a week, slowly going from last to toward the middle of the class for completing the WOD’s and I was feeling great.  I had many health restrictions at the time due to several surgeries, etc that most of the instructors were aware of and I was even assigned a workout mentor to help keep an eye on my form to avoid injuries… sounds great!  My back started to bother me after a couple weeks – “no pain no gain” right?  Hell, I can do this, I am no longer a weak woman in mom jeans, just work harder, focus, push through the pain…   So part of this day’s WOD was deadlifts… do as many as you can for specific time then increase the weight with each set…. which I did, was I in pain… YUP, was I gonna quit?  Hell no, was I being watched by my trusted staff?  I thought so but sadly … NO!!!  Too late I realized I was not.  This particular day the owner came in with his dog, I had never worked out with him before and he was more interested in what the dog was doing than what I was doing… so since no one stopped me to correct my form I kept going…. this is where I own my actions, I  SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO MY BODY, but I LISTENED TO MY EGO, keep going, “you got this” I would silently say to myself, don’t be a wuss, show them how strong you are!  I could blame the gym, the coach, my mentor and maybe they all have some ownership, but ultimately, I am in charge of myself and my actions… I didn’t listen and then it was too late – something gave in my back, I didn’t know at the time as I had never had back issues, but apparently it was brewing for awhile and I had just deadlifted one too many times… In the blink of an eye my world was about to change…

And so my journey begins… As a 40 something mom of 3, I decided it was time to get in shape, two of my boys were in college and one getting ready to go in the fall. It was time to focus on me. “Try Crossfit they said, “you will love it” they said, “you will be amazed at what your body is capable of” and they were right – until it all went wrong. My journey into fitness was literally overnight, I had been an athlete as a kid, softball, basketball and my proudest achievement Powder Puff football, and even in my 30’s I ran 4 miles a day – albeit a 10 minute mile, but I was active. Then one day you look in the mirror and you don’t recognize the older fatter lady in the mirror. So I signed up, showed up for my first class and started drinking the Crossfit Kool-Aid willingly. Please note this is not a Crossfit diss, this is my journey and how it changed my life, I own all my choices and actions, it was just the tipping point for the radical change in my life. An hour ago