Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Life's A Beach And Then You Dive

Yesterday Surfer Boy and I went for our first session of pool therapy.  Luckily, I'm married to an avid surfer who also used to be a lifeguard!

We found this lovely facility, close to our home which features a heated to 80 degree, salt water pool.

I downloaded the required release forms, filled them out and off we went.  We were greeted by the owner of this quaint establishment, a buoyant woman with closely cropped graying hair, a huge smile and two slobbering black labs at her heels.  It seems that we caught her in the middle of lunch.  She grabbed my release forms and said "Just leave the 5 bucks in the box on the picnic table and have a good time"!

I've been a surfer for several years and grew up in pools and the Atlantic ocean in Miami, so I thought this would be a piece of cake.  Just get in and frolic around the pool.  Fun!  Well guys, it was a lot tougher than I expected.  Water acts as a resistance against your body.  Next time you get into a pool, concentrate (like I never did) on how much easier it is to walk on flat ground than it is in water.  Kerry grabbed a couple of water noodles, wrapped them around his body and proclaimed that he was going to order a Pina Colada.  I was left to do all my resistance training.  Where was my Marco Polo game?  Where was my Cabana Boy?  Where was my Pina Colada?  Waa-friggin-waa!

When we were done, we headed over to visit our dear friend, Kevin.  Kevin used to be my next door neighbor.  He's in his forties and has been a surfer all his life.  Six years ago, he dove head first into the ocean, hit the sandbar and instantly became a quadriplegic.  Kevin is one of the most inspiring people I know.  The doctors told him he'd never walk again.  Through hard work, great attitude and determination, Kevin can stand for almost a minute, he can walk with a walker and is determined to walk again.

I walked into his living room, where he sat in his wheelchair, arms working his "arm bicycle" and told him that pool workout was not as easy as I thought it would be.  His comment: "You're not gettin' any sympathy here"!  (Kevin also has a New York"tell it like it is") personality.  We went on, as we always do, to have a great visit with lots of stories and good laughs.

Next time you feel like things are getting a bit tough, remember: Life really is a Beach.  Now where's that Pina Colada?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kobe Bryant Goes To Bikram Yoga........

Well, Kobe Bryant didn't exactly go to Bikram Yoga class this morning.  But my donor and I went, four weeks post op.  What an amazingly exciting day this has been for me!!!!!!!

Whenever I think about the knee graft donor, I always envision this young, vibrant, athletic person.  Someone who can run, jump, stretch, you know, the next Kobe Bryant.

One of my dear, lovely, talented blogger buddies, Ulyana who is also a Bikram Yoga enthusiast, had an allograft six months ago on her ankle.  When I read her posts right after surgery, that she was back in that 105 degree, 90 minute, kick butt yoga studio, on crutches, I was amazed, amused and incredulous.  Studdette of the Year!

After four weeks of not being able to sweat with these wimpy PT exercises I'm doing, I just couldn't take it anymore.  I can only put 50% max weight on the left leg, but heck, I've still got 100% on my right leg. (Yes, I'm 'all right' now) Kerry and I went to the studio, set up my crutches and walker in the back of the room and it was a-friggin-mazing how great it felt.  Ah, to be able to sweat, get my heart rate up, and feel the endorphins surging through my system again.

The class was crowded, as it usually is on Saturday.  One of the students had dragged her reluctant twelve year old daughter into class.  The young girl kept sitting down on her mat cuz she just couldn't take the heat.  Youth really is wasted on the young.  It made me realize how much of our motivation in life is mental.  Her twelve year old body is in perfect shape, will do anything she asks it to do, and mine?  I'm very proud to say that I didn't sit down once.  Motivated am I!

Okay guys, we need to come up with a name for my donor.  The name Kobe Bryant is already taken.  Interestingly, Kobe Bryant and I share the exact same birthday; August 23rd, twenty years apart to the day.  All star athletes were born on August 23rd!  Ha!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Get On Your Bikes And Ride!

Yesterday was a really big day;  my first follow up with Dr. Bugbee. Week four since the allograft.

We started out by heading to the Living Water Rejuvenation Center in Carlsbad for my colonic.  Not being able to work up a sweat these days, my body is more than ever craving a detox.  Get that crazy anesthesia out of me!

I made the decision on my own this week to get out of the walker and transfer to crutches.  What an amazing feeling of freedom.

After the colonic, my body was light, happy and full of energy.  When we got to Scripps Clinic in La Jolla to see the Doc, I was so pumped up, eager to get the thumbs up on my progress.  Kerry was laughing at me in the waiting room as all the other patients were sitting around in their knee braces, wheelchairs, or canes, most of them with a forlorn look on their faces.  I was Ms. Energy, pacing back and forth on my crutches, swinging my leg up in the air, smiling, getting my game face on before I saw the Doc.

I am thrilled to report that he says everything looks great, it's healing well, and that I can start adding some stationary biking, pool workouts and even Bikram Yoga!  I can also put up to 50% weight on the left leg while walking with crutches.  He said the words that were magic to my ears "You're doing even better than I expected you would"  I think that's because I was such a cry baby in the hospital.  Guilty as charged, the entire hospital staff at Green Hospital got to see a grown woman cry.  Several times.  It did get me some extra desserts, though :)

Dr. Bugbee handed me the Op report before we left with the disclaimer: "Wait until you get home to read this"

This morning I got up the nerve to scan the report.  There are many mentions of the term "sawing" "Nuff said.  The part I was most interested in was what they found when they opened up my knee.  Dr. Bugbee in medical, technical speak said it was "Pretty Messed Up"  It turns out that the defect was 5 cm. x 2.5 cm. in size.  5 cm. translates into 2 inches.  I can't believe I was walking around like that for so long.  I did the right thing!

Today, biking and tomorrow Bikram Yoga!  And 'aint the prettiest incision you've ever seen?  I think it is!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Me, Myself and I. NOT!

I remember reading a study several years back that went something like this:  Researchers recorded the voices of a control group of men.  They counted every time the men used the words Me, Myself or I in a sentence.  The study concluded that the men who used those words most often had the highest incidence of heart attacks.

Last night, I received devastating news about the health of a very close family member.  My first impulse was to jump up, get in my car and make the three hour drive to the hospital bed in which she lays.  Tears of frustration leaped to my eyes as I'm not even cleared to drive yet.

I have a new impetus to heal my body and get strong.  My family, friends, and community need me.

When I was an ultra marathon runner I always had this confidence:  "If there's ever an emergency, I can always run 50 miles.

Not so today, but I can do other things.  I can pray, I can phone call, I can support those around me, I can egads, cook.  And don't forget, I can FaceBook!

It's not all about Me, Myself and I, folks.  Our loved ones need us.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Me and My Donor. We've Got A Real Good Thing!

Take someone who is used to workouts six to seven days a week and make them non weight bearing for 6-8 weeks.  Hello!  Welcome to week three in the life of the osteochondral allograft patient.  Emphasis on patient.

Three and a half weeks out from surgery and the biggest challenge has been getting my knee bent into my chest due to inflammation.  What could I do to get this inflammation to reduce?  My neighbor is a nurse, so she says "Ask the Doc if you can take Alleve"  Well, it turns out that is out of the question because Alleve (Naproxen) is, are you ready for this one: a bone growth inhibitor.  Not what you want when you've had a bone graft.

I got to thinking.  Inflammation is the bodies natural response to injury.  Why would I want to take an anti inflammatory?  Then I got to thinking again, as I so often do, about the donor whose living bone and cartilage are so merrily growing in my knee.  How could I sit here feeling sorry for myself, when this person died and here I am, lucky enough to have their living tissue?  I have no idea who the person is, or even the sex of the donor.  But in my imagination (aren't we making our lives up as we go along anyway)? I imagine the donor to be a twenty something, male, dark curly haired, athletic individual.  Hey, it never hurts to have a little testosterone on your side.

I made a pact with this person.  Okay, my friend, you and I are a team.  I'm not going to let you down.  From now on, we're going to work together.

I went down to the park, stood overlooking the ocean, put my foot up on a rail and slowly pushed, pushed, pushed past the point of pain.  Breathe, push.  Breathe, push.  Voila'!  Amazingly, for the first time since the surgery, I could feel the tightness slowly unfurling, like a garden hose that had been kinked up for too long.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Me and my Donor.  We've got a real good thing.....

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life is just a bowl of cherries...Cherry Garcia!

Week three since the osteochonrdral allograft.

My physical therapist came over on Wednesday (I'm still not cleared to drive) .  I handed him my neatly typed out list of all the exercises I've been doing four times a day.  Religiously.  Yes, I have been practicing in church!   When he saw that I was still having trouble getting this knee bent into my chest, he very politely told me to: RELAX why don't ya?  Mind you, this is coming from an imposing man who was a top NFL pro.  He looked at all my ultra marathon medals and told me that this rehab is not the same as hitting the wall at mile 80 of a hundred mile race.

That afternoon, Surfer Boy and I took the three grand dogs down to Heisler Park in Laguna Beach.  We walked, people watched, sat at a bench and had a lovely one hour conversation with a 70+ year old couple retired to California from Brooklyn.  Cynthia and Sam finish each others sentences, ask a zillion questions and show you pictures of their grand kids.  What a hoot those two are!  And the best part?  Not once did they ask about my knee.

When I got out of the shower today, I could lift my leg up and put my foot flat down on the toilet seat, a feat that was impossible two weeks ago.

Success = balance.  I'm taking all my favorite supplements for healing, including systemic enzymes for inflammation, eating organic foods, taking bio-identical hormones - don't leave home without 'em: they're all natural and they make life, ahem, sweeter than cherry wine.  The most important component to healing: Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Here's my new stretch goal:  Once I'm walking again: To walk the one and half miles from my home, with Surfer Boy and the three grand pups, to the ice cream shop, then sit on the bench with Cynthia and Sam, enjoying the view.  Make mine a double scoop, please!

Remember to relax and have fun in life!  That is the true key to healing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This woman looks fit!  She looks like she's fixin' to bust outta that new ultra marathon tool and run a hundred miles.

Two and a half weeks since the allograft.  The docs are really strict about only allowing 25% max weight bearing on the left knee.  Perhaps I've been over cautious.  Unlike me, I've really been taking the admonition to heart and playing it super safe.

Today, Kerry and I ventured out on our second "let me out of this house" adventure.  We drove down to Doheny State Park as it's one of the few beach areas around here that's flat.

Out of the car, the first thing I saw was, not the ocean, but a twenty-something State Park worker on his knees scraping old paint off of a curb.  I smiled broadly at him and announced that he was so lucky to have that ability (to kneel)  He smiled back.

We, very slowly, walked along the boardwalk area.  The fresh air, the ocean, the sunshine!  I felt myself getting choked up with the emotion of how lucky folks are to be able to just get outside and move.

Next, we saw a teenage kid drive by on a gas fueled skateboard thing.  I told my patient, handsome, lovable, (have I mentioned patient) Surfer Boy husband "Why would anyone want to be on that thing when he could walk"?  To which he replied "You know guys, we just gotta have our gas fueled engines"

It was a gorgeous outing.

And all the while, I was wondering "Why isn't anyone staring at me"?

Okay guys, here's my deep, dark, secret:  The past few days, I have allowed an unwelcome visitor by the name of F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) to set up housekeeping in a corner of my mind.  Where were my pitying glances?  Wasn't anyone, someone, going to feel the least bit sorry for me?  Where's my fifteen minutes of fame, darn it!

When we got home and I saw the above photograph, I burst into hysterical laughter.  The woman in that photograph is healthy, happy, athletic and radiant.  Did I mention humble?

Kerry wondering what was so funny, took out a blank piece of paper and wrote the word "Doubt" then circled it and put a big slash mark through it.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lose Ten Pounds Easily! Ask Me How.....

Quite easy, really.  Have a series of colonics, then surgery, and you too, will be at your fighting weight.  Every woman/person (don't want to leave the guys out) I know, myself included is looking to lose those last ten pounds.  And I did it!

Welcome to my life:  Workout, read, workout, read, workout read.............Sleep

It seems easier to run 100 miles than it is to get this knee bent into my chest.  But determined I am.

Being grounded is actually quite nice.  I love to read.  So, I will leave you with this quote that I read today. I'm going to follow the advice:

Knowing is not enough, we must apply.  Willing is not enough, we must do.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Back to the workouts!

Monday, March 7, 2011

If You're Happy and You Know It Stamp Your Feet

In a land not so long ago, and not so far away, this magnificent body of mine could cross the finish line of 100 mile, 50 mile races.  That made me happy. 20 mile training run on a Saturday morning?  Walk in the park.

I was a single Mom, mother of two beautiful daughters (nobody admits to the ugly ones) top salesperson, multiple times Presidient club winner, made good money, single for 17 years.  I didn't need a man.  That made me happy.  I may have wanted a man, but no, Ms. Wonder Woman didn't need anyone.

Today, I'm humbly walking in a walker, 25% max weight bearing on my new knee, made it through these wimpy physical therapy exercises for the first time today without crying.  That makes me happy!

My two daughters (they're still beautiful) are making me proud, taking care of themselves, working, but most importantly, being great, loving family members.

I'm four years newylwed to a super great man.  And, the father of my daughters and I have maintained a really nice relationship.

Don't get me wrong.  I've experienced some very dark nights of the soul.  Do I miss having, being, doing all the things I'm not doing able to do right now?  Heck, freaking yes!!

But I discovered something.  Happiness is a decision, not an experience.  Love is a decision, not an experience.  If we think we have to have (fill in the blank) to be happy, it's never going to happen.

Eleven days out from my surgery and I still get all teary eyed thinking about the donor whose living bone and cartilage are now cheerfully growing in my knee.  Who was this person?  How did they die?  How is their family dealing with the loss?  I pray fervently every day for this person and his/her family and friends.  One of the things that keeps me going is my plan to send the family a letter and pictures of myself running, biking, surfing etc. once I'm able to do so.  Every small victory I have with my PT, I am happy and grateful for this opportunity.   I can almost raise my leg high enough (with a towel) to kiss that beautiful knee.  That makes me happy.

So, if you're happy and you know it, stamp your feet!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bone Grafts But Were In Too Much Pain To Ask

Tonight marks exactly one week since my osteochondral allograft.  One of the main purposes of this blog is to help others that may someday be going through something similar.  Hopefully my research and information will help another soul along this path called life.

One of my favorite bloggers, the lovely and talented Ulyana, recently went through a similar surgery.  The affected portion was her ankle, while mine was the left knee.  Her posts have been inspiring, funny and informational.  It was Ulyana who gave me the idea that YES!  I needed a shower chair.  Most of us think of a shower chair as something only folks of advanced ages would need.   Not so.  I am going to encourage us all to purchase this nifty little device.  Think how great that will feel after a long run or workout of any kind.  If you have a significant other; allow your imagination entertain some very interesting possibilities.  Chihuahuas in the home?  Just set them on the high chair adjustment and bath time will now be a a breeze.  They also come in many fashionable designer colors.

Many of you have asked for more details, so here goes:

My diagnosis was osteochondral dessicans.  Translation: A portion of my knee (the medial femoryl condyle) was dead, dried or dessicated, is the technical term.  There's no way to know how it happened as there was never an acute injury.  In other words, I didn't step in a hole and scream out in pain.  This affliction affects children and no one knows why.  I've spent the past 20 years or so of my life as an ultra marathon runner.  Folks love to blame it on that, but it's not the case.

The surgery involves waiting for a donor with a viable graft that fits my size knee.  It has nothing to do with blood type, sex or anything at all other than size.  Once a donor graft finds its way to the donor bank, it's tested for disease and must be used within fourteen days.  In my case, I got the call on Friday and was in the O.R. on Wednesday.  As you can tell by the photo, this is not an arthroscopic surgery.  Nope.  A good old fashioned incision is made.  The dead portion of my knee is removed, then the donor graft is inserted.  This procedure utilizes a surgical saw and a core reamer until the graft is properly seated, all the while my leg is put through various manipulations to ensure proper flexion.

Three days were spent in the hospital.  Now that I'm home, I'm non weight bearing (NWB) on the left leg for six to eight weeks.  The Doctors are very strict about this.  The graft has got to settle in and re-grow in concert with my own bone and cartilage.  I currently walk with a walker (another great invention) and will soon be on crutches.  In home physical therapy starts right away.  My kick butt P.T. who also happens to be a former NFL Super Star is putting me through the paces.  The movements wouldn't have seemed like much in the past.  But now........  Ouch!  Thank God I've been so active all my life.  I've got strong arms, a strong right leg and a strong will.

When my good friend and training partner, Chris, came to visit me in the hospital, I showed him the physical therapy outline which slowly yet steadily progresses over the next year.  His response:  "WOW.  I had no idea how intense this was."  When I asked him if he would've done the same given my situation, there was not a moments hesitation.  "If it helped me get back to a normal life, heck yes!!"

Pain meds:  Necessary at this point, they grafted my bone, guys, but am cutting back.  I was a bit concerned about constipation but I found a supplement that works like a charm.  Perhaps it will help you even if your, ahem, stoppage is from another source.  It's called 3A Magnesia by Lane Medical.  Love that stuff!

No cast or brace required, thankfully.  Showering is allowed for as long as your hot water heater can perform.  Mine is being put to the test.  I've learned to appreciate every little thing I previously took for granted.  Showering has become one of the highlights of my day!

Sleep:  Our bedroom requires stairs so we're sleeping in Ruby's room.  Ruby sleeps in a California King Size Bed with a pillow top mattress.  Ruby is our fourteen year old black kitty whom we rescued from the pound.  She purrs really loud and she snores.  It's quite soothing.

Food:  I have a great appetite.  Kerry is getting the hang of shopping at Whole Foods and is learning how to use the VitaMix.  I have advised him that when I'm dead and buried, he'll be a great cook and housekeeper.  No getting on my case for this one, guys.  So far as I know, no one gets out of this one alive!

Life, my dear friends, is extremely good.  Cherish every step you take today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pain is inevitable, suffering, is optional.

"Pain is inevitable, suffering, is optional."

This was the phrase that my brilliant surgeon, Dr. William Bugbee presented me with after the surgery.
"What Zen book did you read that in?"  Said I.

Day two, home from the hospital.  Here's what I've learned:

•  Buy stock in Ben & Jerry's

•  The rumours of Kerry's lack of cooking expertise are greatly exaggerated

•  If you can ever get your hands on one of those clay infused, instead of gel, ice packs, buy one.  I don't care what it costs

•  The hand held shower massage was one of God's greatests inventions

•  Pets really do offer unconditional love like no other.  Just don't get more than four.  Please.

•  Victor Jose Snaggles (Jessica's chihuahua) is so strange looking that he's precious.

•  If you live in Southern California, you just might get Brad Budde as your in home physical therapist.   Evidently, he's a football legend, whose name was lost on me, but Kerry was all impressed.  We had our first meeting yesterday.  He's 6'4" 262 lbs. and quite imposing.  If anyone can whip me into shape, he can.

•  I have the world's greatest friends and family.  Many of which are much better cooks than I would've ever thought!

•  I'm surprised by how few people have ever heard of this amazing sugery: the allograft.  Perhaps the recovery will be long, but more about that later.......