Living Vicariously… But Bitterly
Here it is, four weeks into the road, or I’d rather say “trail” to recovery, because then at least I could convince myself I’m riding trail in some sense of the word. There’s convenient and not so convenient times to sustain an injury. And I consider injuries as being part of the game of life, especially if one likes to partake in activities that increase the likelihood of ouch. I would say that with a job that requires full use of my temple (body), a small tyke who requires constant picking up, bending over, and playing with on the ground, and the desire to want to take advantage of unheralded spring weather, this might not have been the best time to have taken a seat on the injured reserve roster. Especially because a fully ruptured vertebral disc is not quite as simple of a internal repair process such as say, a broken scapula. Man, now that I think about it, it’s been a hell of a 6 months with two serious injuries. Some might consider that to be a “sign”, or perhaps that “someone” who resides high in the sky might be trying to tell me something. I’m just not that kind of a guy though. I do believe that these events have certainly given me opportunities to reflect and learn and perhaps re-prioritize my life, but I don’t think they happened to me as the will of some higher power. I certainly prescribe to the belief that I have an intimate and ongoing relationship with said higher power, who I call God for the sake of simplicity, but I don’t think he (or she if you’d rather) brings ill will upon anyone, whether they believe in his existence or not. I think the shoulder blade fracture was just pure dumb luck. It was a pedal that reached 1 cm lower to the trail surface than I had predicted and happened to find the perfectly embedded sticky piece of granite that grabbed that pedal, held on for dear life, and sent my body into a superman flight in an upward trajectory dictated by Newton’s 3rd law of forces. Upon landing, I found the next sharp embedded rock in an otherwise smooth trail with my scapula, which as you know in my case has very little padding to protect it, and it broke. We call that an accident in the paramedic world, and I think that’s the more likely cause than a “lesson to learn from” imposed from some 3rd party force or being.
(My two favorite people, just cause I figured it was time for a fun pic)
In the case of my disc injury, well that was the cascade result of years of trying to fight through a herniated disc that resulted from a 35,000 pound fire engine hitting me squarely in the SI region of my back (that place where your spine connects to your sacrum and where your hip bones join in) in 2011. Since then, I’ve been out on injury at least once a year from lifting a patient without proper technique or in an awkward position which continued to push the herniation out towards the spinal chord. This winter, I think I finally managed to injure the disc enough that it tore open (an Annular tear) and then every little lift, every mile in a vehicle, every attempt at trying to stretch away the tightness and pain in my right leg just continued to squirt the inside out. So again, not the end product of some higher power trying to teach me a lesson, but rather an accident that allows me to find dependence on a higher power for hope, for healing, and for finding a new way to experience joy in life.
Row’s coffee mug
A day in the life of me right now looks like this- I hope to never repeat this again. But, it may be of help if you every find yourself in a similar situation…. In fact, it may be really boring so skip over it to save yourself from the drudgery of it all.
7ish- Rowen alarms us he is all done sleeping. Jen lovingly brings me an ice pack to lay on for a while to try and help reduce some of the swelling that naturally occurs around the injury at night and causes excruciating sciatic pain every single morning.
730ish- Ice pack is no longer cold and I muster the courage to get out of bed and hope that maybe today will be less painful than yesterday. Limp to the kitchen to boil water for coffee and to fill the hot water bottle.
8ish- lay on the hot water bottle with my coffee and a Compex electro-stimulation unit sending healing pulses through my SI region for thirty minutes. This usually facilitates the muscles to loosen up and bring a little range of motion to my back. I think it might help circulate out some of the swelling and inflammation that builds up through the night.
9ish- lay on my stomach and attempt some gentle mini-cobra’s pushing only to the point of feeling the sciatic pain shoot down into my calf. I then go through a series of mellow core strengthening routines that help stabilize and strengthen the area around to disc to allow it to be supported.
930ish- Eat some breaky, gladly take all 800 mg of ibuprofen and take a stroll around the block to check in with how the sciatic pain has changed in location and intensity. Get home, document in my journal (which is how I track my progress and attempt to find patterns of how healing goes following each day’s therapy)
1030ish- Play with little guy and then Jen has lovingly chauffeured me to all of my chiropractic, physical therapy, laser, and pool therapy sessions, which have been many! I have been blowing through my health savings/flexible spending accounts in record speed (though I hope to be reimbursed by Work Comp down the road once we get all this stuff sorted out). I’m literally attempting the shot gun approach of trying every possible avenue of therapy to expedite the bodies healing process in an attempt to avoid surgery.
12ish- lunch with the fam, more tummy time, thirty minutes of physical therapy on the yoga mat, and a longer walk where I might stroll with Rowen in the chariot.
3ish- Watch Rowen while I send my wife out on an adventure which I require that she sends me mid-trail photos of her smiling face (hence the living vicariously). I also find myself bitterly scrolling the social medias and seeing all the amazing fun that I’m missing out on (closing day on the hill, spring skiing on peaks in the park, mountain bike trips in Moab with half of Whitefish, etc.) This is torture in the oddest form. I’ve had internal conversations where I want to completely swear off all social media and live a life with blinders and ignorance so I don’t know what great adventures each of my friends and families are out enjoying. But, I remind myself that I’ve had no shortage of fun, and I will be back at it again soon enough. I can say though, FB and Instagram are like the saltiest of salts to pour into a gushing wound. A decade ago perhaps this could’ve been an easier injury to heal from.
Jen’s making sure Rowen gets some outside time since I’m not at that point yet
6ish- Usually when I feel best and the sciatic pain has abated to more of a dull ache in my calf. Do some dinner, pop some ales, and take one more stroll to check in again how walking feels. More tummy time, put Rowen to bed, and work myself that way too.
9ish- Night night, say some prayers, and hope tomorrow holds any measure of improvement no matter how infinitesimal.
Uggghhh. It’s kind of depressing just writing it. I miss being a functioning member of society. I miss my job, I miss the camaraderie, I miss my shift. I miss hammering with my boys on the bike or in the hills. I miss standing on the summit of a mountain. I miss feeling like I could do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. I miss adventuring with my wife.
On the flip-side, I’ve definitely had some benefits to rejoice from. I have been able to sleep (only more recently as the sciatic pain has decreased someone at night) consistently and feel what it is like to not fight the uphill battle of working a sleep depriving job and living with a sleep depriving child. I’ve been able to spend so much time with my son and get to watch him make so many little changes and progressions. I’ve gotten to witness how amazing of a mother Jen is to Rowen in every aspect. I’ve been able to connect with more friends for dinners. I’ve been on the receiving end of so much generosity, vibes, well-wishes, and prayers from friends and family. It moves me to know I have such an awesome community who truly sympathizes with my condition and does whatever they can to lift me up and give me hope. I’ve been challenged to find new things to find joy in and live a life that doesn’t have such strong influence by sport, competition, and the mountains.
Really, the take away is that it’s all good, and I’m so thankful that my healing is progressing at such a good rate and that I’m hopeful that I’ll be back sooner than the stats suggest and I’ll be a better husband, firefighter, cyclist, skimo-dude, son, brother, and friend as a result of it. Thanks to all of you for your support and love, you guys make this journey tolerable!
Sir Joelsy dartin’ me with the dry needles. He said that sometimes putting these tiny needles into the injured tissue can be like pushing a blunt butter knife through bubblewrap… and I rejoice with a howl of pain. Yep, you nailed that one buddy!