Ironman Countdown

Friday, May 22, 2015

Recovery -- Becoming Bionic

It has been almost a month since the great "Frederick Road Pothole's Attempt on My Life."  And it has been 25 days since my surgery.

I had my first post-surgery follow up two weeks ago with Dr. Gelb.  I got to see my X-ray with my new hardware.  It was pretty impressive.  Dr. Gelb was happy with the way the incision (i.e. my future badass scar) looked and how it had healed so far.  And he liked how the fracture itself looked on the X-ray.   He cleared me to bike via spin class or my trainer.  And he asked that I keep the sling on for another two weeks. 
the incision site

the hardware:  9 screws and 4 plates
For the first two weeks after the accident, I was in too much pain, or at least uncomfortable enough, that I did not miss biking or running.  I never miss swimming - residual from a lifetime of it I guess.  And I was busy trying to get everything else back to normal speed like:  showering without a garbage back on to shield the incision; brushing my teeth normally; driving; drying my hair; etc.
sling and my new cycling jacket!

I also was receiving lots of love from my triathlon peeps and my family and friends.  I got so many
happy greeting cards and well wishes.  From my dear friend Suzy, I even got this gem:  Wonder Woman, with a sling!  Perfect!
Wonder Woman with her gimp arm

I also got the very sweetest card ever, as well as this cool shirt, from my "niece" Meagan.  I've known her since she was a baby, and am so proud of the woman she has become. 

I am pretty good at seeing the big picture in most situations, always aware of the greater good and the ultimate goal.  So while I was in the initial stages of recovery, my general positive outlook prevailed.  I am also acutely aware of how lucky I am, that all I sustained was a broken collar bone.

However, just after Mother's Day, I was starting to feel pretty good, minus the shoulder area discomfort.  My body didn't ache anymore.  I was more or less sleeping normally.  My left-arm function for every day tasks was either up to speed or getting there.  And the weather was beautiful.   And all the first triathlons of the season were happening all around me.  And the running races.  I could feel myself getting antsy.

My first race this year was supposed to the the Olympic distance Columbia Triathlon on May 17, 2015.  It's a challenging course, and a great lead-up to Eagleman 70.3 in June.  The race is about 7 miles from my house, which means I can be there, race, and be back home well before lunchtime.  In the mommy balancing act of life, I can't argue with that.

However, the Columbia Triathlon and I have a history.

dangling derailleur
In 2013, I signed up for it as my very first Olympic distance (.5 mile swim; 25 mile bike, 10K run) triathlon, and my first major step towards longer triathlon races and goals.    I had a great swim split, and was off on my bike -- 5 miles in, my derailleur snapped off, ending my race

In 2014, I tried again.  The day before the race, my beloved yellow lab Bisbee got seriously ill.  I went to packet pick up, racked my bike, and spent the rest of the day at various vet hospitals.   I had to put Bisbee down that afternoon.
my beach dog:  Bisbee

I was an emotional wreck, and seriously considered not going.  Then I got the email that they cancelled the swim portion because Lake Centennial, due to all the recent heavy rain and run-off, had toxic levels in it.  So the tri became a duathlon of sorts.  I woke up race day, with a heavy heart, but did the bike/run anyway.
I did manage to smile
And here we are again, in 2014.  With the accident, and later surgery, I wasn't initially thinking of refunds or deferrals.  When I got back to work, I contacted the Ulman Cancer Fund, the race organizers for the Columbia Tri, to find out if I could defer until next year or arrange something else so I didn't lose the entry fee.  Unfortunately, all requests for deferrals were needed months ago.  So no refund, no deferral.  I went and got my race shirt anyway.  Might as well!
my 3 "race" shirts from Columbia
I was a bit sad over the last weekend, missing Columbia.  I know I would have had a good race, as my bike has gotten so much stronger.  And it felt like everyone had a race over the last two weekends, James included, and I was feeling down and left out of the fun.  Yes yes, I know, patience... and this isn't forever.  But I allowed myself to wallow a little.

I did start back to the spin class at the Y.  And Wednesday I got my bike back from the shop, complete with new handlebar tape and a total "safety" tune up after the crash.  She's already up on the trainer, so I will be back in the saddle with her this week.

Today, I am about to head out to see Dr. Gelb.  I am hoping and praying he'll clear me to run/jog.  I am hoping the fracture looks good, is healing normally.  Wish me luck.  Either way, I do see the big picture and always will.  There are a million things worse than a broken collar bone and delayed training!

Monday, May 4, 2015


So most of you already know about my bike accident about ten days ago, on April 24th.  Here's the whole long story, with pictures, for those who are interested.

I took the morning off that Friday, planning to do a nice hilly 40 mile ride with my new biking friend Chris.  Chris and I have lots of people in common, and our boys go to the same school, but don't know each other that well.  He had off that day, and offered to join me.  The plan was to meet in Ellicott City at 8:30 a.m., then head out to Centennial Park, pick up the bike leg of the Columbia Triathlon course (which I was racing in 3 weeks), and head home.  In a moment of irony or eerie foreshadowing, Chris texted me right before I left, detailing his wife's name and numbers in case of emergency.  I have my Road I.D. (don't have one?  get one!!!) on my shoe, but texted back with James's info as well.  I thought, how great that he's a safety conscious person like me?

Frederick Road (Route 144) is basically a big giant hill.  I have been up and down it several times.  It is the main road from my house to Ellicott City and beyond, if you don't want to take a major route.  It was cold that morning, so I had on two shirts plus my new winter cycling jersey, plus gloves, tights, two pair of socks... and of course my helmet.  I set off, noticing the cold, but thinking the hills at Centennial would warm me up soon enough.  I got to Frederick Road and made a right, heading down the giant hill.  I am a very VERY cautious down-hiller.  I ride with my hands on my brakes the whole time, slowing down reasonably... I don't like going too fast because I'm basically a chicken.

After just a mile from home, at about 30 mph, my front tire went into a divot on the shoulder of the road.  It was small, but deep, which is why I didn't see it until I was in it.  It is possible the jolt made me death-squeeze my brakes (a bad thing), or I just was already on my brakes too much.  I don't remember much from there, other then saying "oh shit" in my head as I felt my bike/body start to go airborne.  I have a flash of a memory of being upside down, because I saw one of my water bottles fall out and roll.   My best guess is I flipped forward, somehow unclipping my feet from the pedals, and landed on my left collarbone/shoulder area and elbow, bumped my head pretty hard, rolled and skidded on my back, coming to rest on my right side.  I know I got up and immediately started to walk and assess my situation.  I was conscious and no legs or hips were broken.  No blood other than my hand and some scrapes.  My head hurt but the helmet was intact (later found cracking to the interior where I hit). But I hurt.  Ohhh, it hurt.

A motorist had stopped, and she pulled my bike onto the shoulder.  I happened to have landed right near a cul-de-sac off the road, so I was able to sit down on a curb well off the roadway.  The motorist wanted to stay, but I showed her I had a phone and assured her I was fine (I wasn't), so she left.  I stood up and attempted to "walk it off" muttering "I'm okay, its okay."  I had thoughts of getting back on the bike to find Chris.  I was of course thinking of my season.  That's when I felt the pain on my left shoulder and got light headed.  I sat down.  I felt a bone sticking up from the collarbone area (not through the skin, but definitely up and not where it should have been).  I called James first... he works an hour away so really of no use to me right then and there.  By a miracle I reached him before he walked to court.  I told him what happened, trying to hold myself together and remain calm.  I told him I would text Chris and call our friends Jen and Mike, both of whom I knew were working from home or off that day.  I called Jen, and she was on her way.
road rash on my jersey, a few holes that went through all layers

the holes in my right glove where I tried to stop skidding

Chris got my text and biked up the hill towards me.  I had actually already seen him ride by after my accident, headed to our meeting place.  But he couldn't have seen me off to the side where I was.  He got to me, and sat with me while we waited for Jen.  He kept me calm, picked my bike up to examine its damage... which was thankfully minimal.  Chain drop... some scratches... bent in gears.  Jen arrived, with my 3 year old godson in tow,  and got me to the ER at Howard County General Hospital.

James arrived shortly, after I'd had an X-ray, and we waited for the doctor.  I was really hurting.  I was running numbers in my head:  how many weeks til the Columbia Tri?  (3 weeks)  how many weeks until Eagleman 70.3?  (7 weeks).  I knew, with a broken collar bone, October was well within range.   I wasn't too worried or freaked out yet.  James broke his collar bone years ago, so he assured me it was about 8 weeks in a sling/brace and not much else.  The ER doc said the same thing, that I would probably just be in a sling for awhile, and that's it.  He gave me the number to an orthopedic and told me to make an appointment.  I was terrified of that, if the ortho had to "set the bone" and all that stuff.

LEFT CLAVICLE - 04/24/2015


FINDINGS: There is a fracture of the distal left clavicle with associated angular deformity. There is mild comminution of the distal clavicular fragment noted. No discrete glenohumeral dislocation.

In 40 years, I had never broken anything, other than minor hairline fractures in two fingers and a broken pinkie toe.  This was all new and scary to me.
that's basically what it looked like, sticking up

So we went over to the Potomac Valley Orthopedics that afternoon and met with Dr. Gelb.  He specializes in sports medicine, which gave me comfort that he would understand all my crazy triathlon/training questions.  He couldn't pull the X-ray at the moment on the computer.  So, for the first time I had to take off my shirts.... he took one look and said "Oooh, you're gonna need surgery."

ANNNNNND cue tears.

He said all good things though:  Ironman was safe; I could ride my bike on the trainer probably sooner rather than later; running by mid-June; biking by end of June/July.  He said swimming would come much later, which is fine by me, luckily, since I don't need to work on that.

So here are the photos of my collar bone, and other injuries.  Scroll through if you don't want to see:
my tore up right hand (thank god for gloves)

my left hip (got nastier over the week)

at the ortho, bone jutting up

Basically, I got through the weekend in a sling, with dull achy-ness.  Dr. Gelb's office called Monday, and we scheduled surgery for 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday 4/28.  My amazing friends and family came
guard dog
through with flying colors, with food delivery plans and visits.  My sister brought me the most amazing peanut butter pie ever.  And my sweet pup Camden hardly left my side.

Other than childbirth and other pregnancy related hospital stays, I've never had a true surgery.  By nature, I'm a pretty logical person, recognizing irrational fear over what is an actual likely scenario.  But I was scared.  What if I get an infection?  What if he can't fix it?  What if he fixes it but an infection gets in there, and then I'm out for the year?  And the worst, what if I die??  As silly as that one is, for a collar bone surgery, it's because I have my kids now... I can't help but worry about that.  My logical side kept piping up, but was taking some good punches to shut up.  Fear was there to stay.  I even gave James my "end of life directives" Monday night before I fell asleep, as we both laughed (me to alleviate the seriousness).  And we reminded ourselves we really need to get a will done soon!

James took me in to the hospital's "in/out surgery" wing.  He did a great job keeping me calm, making me laugh even, and making it seem like any other day for the most part.  I got started on my IV, met the anesthesiologist, got started on that, met the most TALKATIVE nurse ever, kissed James goodbye, and then they wheeled me to the OR.  And lights out.

I have a hazy memory from Tuesday evening.  They gave me oxycodone in recovery, so I was a wreck.  I almost threw up in the elevator, when they discharged me and wheelchaired me to the car.  James stopped at Target to get my prescription filled, as I passed out in the car.  We finally got home, and I got sick there.  My parents were at my home, because they were being amazing and taking care of my kids.  Jack waited up for me, and I remember hugging him, but that's about it.   Apparently I kept asking James how many plate/screws the doctor used (4 screws/one plate; bone broken in 3 places) and to have him text people.  He could be making that up, of course.


HISTORY: The patient has a history of clavicular fracture.

COMPARISON: 04/24/2015.

FINDINGS: Two intraoperative images were obtained during open reduction internal fixation. There are side plates and screws noted through the clavicle. The fracture appears to be in alignment.

Here's a photo of the incision, in case you are interested, which I will offset by an adorable picture of Julia and Camden taking care of me:
gonna be a badass scar!

just cuteness

I spent the rest of the week recovering.  James was home from work and took care of everything.  I had my phone and ipad by my side, and was happily receiving so many messages of love and concern.  We ate like kings:  steak dinner, balsamic chicken with veggies, shrimp/orzo/asparagus, shrimp with pasta and cheesy bread; chicken parm.  Seriously, I have the greatest friends and family.  My mom came over Friday and folded laundry, made lunch and cleaned while I napped and read my book.  Really good healing time!!

So here I am, a week after surgery.  I feel pretty good.  I can move my left arm around, but not up or down yet.  I have it in the sling most of the time.  sleep isn't the greatest, but I nap and catch up that way.  I go back to Dr. Gelb on Friday to hear what he has to say.  I have some mild "depression" from not being able to be out running in this gorgeous weather and from hearing all about the races going on.  And I can already feel biker's PTSD when I think about getting back out on the road with the bike.  I know I'll overcome the fear, but its there for now. I'm really good at seeing the big picture, especially in this moment.  I am extremely lucky this is all that happened and nothing worse, that it is not permanent, and that I have so much goodness in my life.

I am left handed, in case you didn't know.  So I am amazed at all the things you need your intact collar bone for:  teeth brushing, putting in contacts, blow drying hair, sneezing (that hurts!), hugging, getting up from a reclining position, eating, opening bottles... it has been an adventure compensating by other means!!

So that's all for now.  Down but not out.  Thanks for all the good thoughts, FB messages, texts, calls and everything else.  I am so touched by it all.