Becoming Unscrewed

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When thinking of a title for this post, I wondered -for a moment- if admitting that I was ‘unscrewed’ was tantamount to saying I was somehow ‘unhinged’ – but that wasn’t the piece of hardware that was removed from my ankle!

Just over two months ago – on November 19 – I was finally freed of my biggest complaint during this entire ordeal: that “big ass” screw that had been sticking out of my inner ankle (annoyingly and, often enough, painfully just under my skin). Yes, the term “big ass” is appropriate here because there is really no better way to describe it. Believe me!ankle_xray_BLURRED

This was my first post-op x-ray in April 2012. The size of that monster piece of hardware was second only to the nine-hole plate on my fibula (which has never bothered me).

A lot of the pain and swelling that I have had since the start of this journey was because of that screw.

IMG_6159In pre-op, my complete joy that this day had finally come was revealed in my blood pressure, which was calm, cool… and low. I was smiling, laughing and joking with the nurses and anesthesiologists, and when my doc wrote “YES” on my leg, I told him he forgot to add an exclamation point!

In layman’s terms, they were making an incision to get at the head of the screw and backing it out with a screwdriver (think Dewalt, Black and Decker). He told me the procedure could be as short as 5 minutes, or a bit longer. It ended up being about 35-40 minutes total, because some bone matter had actually grown up the screw and covered the screw head. I found that interesting since there was still a void from the original bone break that still lacked any regenerated bone.

Here is what that screw looks like now! A few friends have remarked that it looks like a wood screw you can buy at Home Depot.

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IMG_6161And here (L) is what I was doing about 30 hours after surgery (with my doc’s permission)!

And I added this (below) one day later.IMG_6191

YES, this girl is unscrewed!! ….and I couldn’t be happier!

A Walk in the Woods

American travel writer and author Bill Bryson wrote a book in 1998 that I found absolutely captivating. It recounted his personal journey to attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking-only footpath in the world – a path that stretches 2,190 miles from the state of Georgia in the southern U.S., to the northeastern state of Maine, which counts Canada as one of its next door neighbors. Year-after-year, thousands of hikers attempt to achieve a personal milestone by traveling those 2,190 miles on foot. If completed, it’s a journey that can typically can take 5-to-7 months to finish. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, only about one in every four hikers actually succeeds.

…completing the journey requires something more…

Hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is a humongous and grueling undertaking for the  physical and logistical demands alone. Actually completing the journey requires something more: mental toughness and determination. Looking at it this way: there are more than 11.5 billion feet in 2,190 miles, and more than 5.2 thousand feet in just that very first mile after the starting line – and, all of it begins with that very first step.

Back on April 2, 2012, I arrived home in a wheelchair after a weekend that resulted in: two broken limbs; the expectation of two big surgeries with needed titanium implants, screws and pins; and, the harsh reality of a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation. The enormity of it all had finally hit me that day, because the mammoth challenge that laid before me seemed too overwhelming to comprehend. So, I decided then and there that the only way forward was to take it one step at a time, and I would celebrate every victory – no matter how small. Those small victories would add up, I told myself, and every single step was indeed another step forward. I will freely admit, though, that there there were many difficult days when my mind took a lot more convincing than others.

Some background: Prior to the start of my orthopedic adventure, I was hiking the wooded trails at a state park that is only 10 minutes from where I live – every weekend. One trail that was my favorite: a beautiful 5.5-mile hike that offered views of a lake, which kisses the park’s beautiful shores. Winter was the absolute best time to go, because it felt like you had the trail all to yourself. Often I went Saturday and Sunday, adding portions of other trails to my journey, resulting in 12 or more miles of hiking on many weekends. I was there so often, I had even achieved a social media milestone, becoming the “mayor” of the trail on Foursquare (LOL!). On Saturday, March 31, 2012, the day of my mud run mishap, those weekly visits to what was a personal bit of heaven on earth – came to screeching halt. And the one recurring thought I had throughout the days that followed was whether I would ever walk that trail – and sit on one of my favorite benches – again.

…a “yes, I can” attitude…

That bench – actually hiking into the woods and sitting on that bench – became a recurring thought, a familiar image in my head, and a “yes, I can” attitude that quickly become a motivating goal. But even I knew that goal would be a long time in coming and a lot of work in between.

Two weeks ago, on Sunday, January 4, 2016, I made my first return to that trail since March 25, 2012…. and I not only sat on that bench, I completed that 5.5-mile hike, plus a little extra – just because I could! It was a personal effort that felt so empowering, I went on January 11 to do it again. This was a New Year’s resolution for 2016 and I’ve already done it TWICE and there will be plenty more to follow. (Something happened in November that gave me that “extra” push toward this accomplishment – more on that in my next post) 

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I share this story for a reason:  In a world that too-often values instant gratification above everything else, it’s too easy to get discouraged by goals that require more work, more time, more patience, and – yes – more mental toughness and determination. It took nearly four years for me to get back to that trail and that bench. But that made my “Walk in the Woods” all the more sweeter.

Do you have a challenge or goal that has required extraordinary perseverance and effort?  Please share it in the comments section. I’ve found my inspiration and strength through others – and I remain hopeful that, by sharing my own story, others will feel that same empowerment, too!

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To the Superheroes Among Us

Oh my gosh – it’s March 31st AGAIN!!

While most anniversaries involve celebratory occasions, like weddings, graduations, years of service with a company, the date a company was founded or a building was built, there are others which provide us a time for more reflection.  As a career journalist, I can point to any number of examples for the latter.

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 6.42.06 PMWhat’s so special about this particular date on the calendar?  Curiosity actually got the best of me this year, so I decided to do a quick Wikipedia search and it turned up some interesting (and perhaps even obscure?) March 31st anniversaries.  Here are the ones that caught my eye:

  • In 1889, the Eiffel Tower opened (Joyeaux Anniversaire!)
  • In 1918, Daylight Saving Time started in the U.S. (and the complaints have grown louder every year since!)
  • In 307 (yes, 307!), Constantine married the daughter of retired Roman Emperor Maximilian after divorcing his wife Minerva (Constantine probably would’ve rivaled a Justin Bieber- or Kardashian-like following back in the day; was there a tabloid like the National Enquirer?!)
  • In 1992, the U.S. Navy Battleship USS Missouri was decommissioned.
  • In 1921, the Royal Australian Air Force was born.
  • In 1906, (and this is for college sports fans) the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (later the NCAA) was formed to make rules for U.S. college sports (good idea? bad idea?)
  • In 1774, Great Britain ordered the port of Boston closed. The move, a response to the Boston Tea Party of American Revolutionary War fame.
  • In 1909, construction started on the HMS Titanic.
  • And, in 1985, the first WrestleMania happened in New York, ensuring that names like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, The Undertaker, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Mr T, King Kong Bundy, and The Rock would remain a staple of American pop culture for years to come.

Compared to all of that, my contribution to March 31st seems rather insignificant.

  • In 2012, I broke my ankle and dislocated my foot in a mud run {YAWN!}; this was quickly followed early the next morning by a fractured wrist {wait…what?!!}

Seriously, anything with The Rock these days is far more entertaining, don’t you think?!!! (Did you see him on Saturday Night Live last weekend?!)

But I digress…

Anniversaries are marked because they hold significance to one or more of us for one reason or another.

My mud mis-“adventure” changed my life in obvious and not-so-obvious ways (and I have thought about this on more days than just March 31st).  It led to this blog, for one thing (as of today, I’ve had almost 7,000 visits – wow! really??!!)  It provided me a front row seat toward a better understanding of the mobility issues faced by many in their daily lives.  It made me realize that, on any given day, there are A LOT of broken people sitting in orthopedic offices and emergency rooms around the world because of broken or healing bones (accidents happen!).  It showed me how very blessed I am to have an amazing extended family.  It also changed my perspective on a lot of things – this includes a needed reminder that some really interesting “finds” might be in places I’m not usually looking (like the bottom shelves in the store)!

But chief among my many takeaways is this:  my life adventure, which included a few months in a wheelchair and two limbs in casts, as well as observations of others in similar predicaments, provided me an abiding appreciation and recognition of the strengths of the human spirit.  It’s that intangible superpower that allows mere mortals who face seeming insurmountable struggles in their own lives – from injury, illness or otherwise – to remain focused and determined to rise above that dastardly nemesis, known as ‘self pity,’ and say to themselves, “YES, I CAN DO THIS, I WON’T QUIT & I WILL SUCCEED!”

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It happens every day, like in chemo & radiation units where men, women and children continue their brave and noble fight to kick cancer in the ass; in rehabilitation programs where stroke victims learn to speak and use their afflicted limbs again; and in hospitals and rehab facilities where those who have lost an arm, a leg  (or more) find that inner power to become stronger than their disability and, in the process, become able again.  And that’s just scratching the surface.  There are no capes or Batman-like masks, but maybe there should be.  It would be one visible way that we all could recognize the countless superheroes among us who seize the importance of each day, refuse to quit, and continue to look forward.  Here’s to them – the real Avengers – and the amazing power of the Human Spirit!

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If you haven’t heard of 7-year-old Alex Pring yet, give this video a watch.  You’ll be glad you did!

A New Year and Still Working Hard

How is it already 2015?!  That means I am nearing the three-year anniversary of my life-changing ankle injury.  I have certainly learned a lot about myself in that time, which often seems short.  The time only really seems long when I factor in all the hard work I’ve put into my rehab since then.

A refresher for those who might not have been following this blog from the beginning:

  • My wrist is completely 100 percent back to normal, though I usually like to bump that up to 130-150% now since I have the added reinforcement of Titanium!  The only visible clue that something actually happened is the bad ass scar that extends down the inside of my forearm from my wrist for 11 inches (that’s almost 30 centimeters!).  It has become a great conversation starter with the guys, but – most of all – I consider it my ‘girl scout badge’ for all that I’ve been through.
  • The ankle remains a work in progress.  Am at the gym 3-4 times a week (usually 4) to strengthen leg muscles, ride the stationary bike, do some squats and get some other stuff into the workout.  My progress has been noticeable, especially by all the guys at the gym!  I’ve started to do a short bit of walking on a flat treadmill now and then, mainly when the bikes are occupied (it’s a purposely slow pace of about 1/2 a mile in 15 minutes; those machines scare me, especially with a bad ankle).  If I do that, I add some bike at the end of my workout (am usually at the gym for about two hours when I go).  Everything that I am doing has been working GREAT for me, though I am fully aware I will never be back to ‘normal’ (whatever that is!…my normal has been redefined).  Biggest changes in 2014 were adding the intense weight-training for my legs and getting a new orthopedic doctor (yeah, I did that – but this is the first time I’ve mentioned on this blog).  It was also the first chunk of time since all of this happened that my ankle wasn’t my absolute ‘top’ priority – it got bumped down a couple of centimeters by layoffs at my work (I was one of many hundreds who were let go in the past year) and my dad’s diagnosis with a very rare cancer, both of which hit me at the same time.  I won’t lie – I already had enough to deal with before these two new challenges, but for lack of a better way to say it – that’s Life… and sometimes it can really SUCK (can I say that word on my own blog?!!).  That said, I truly believe that it’s in Life’s challenges that we all learn and grow (I would just like an opportunity to come up for air once in a while).  So, this is one reason I wasn’t posting blog posts every day – the other reason is that, once you move into your longer-term rehab, the changes you see are not as often as when you first started out from square one.

Where am I now?  Well, for starters, I haven’t had a cortisone shot in my ankle since October 2013.  That alone is pretty amazing!  I had my first and only ankle x-ray of 2014 on December 19th, mainly because I wanted to see what was going on in there.  My last previous x-ray had also been in October 2013.  I am going to credit both of those ‘feats’ (can I call them feats?) to my hard work in the gym – yes, I OWN those abductor and adductor machines! 🙂

Goals for 2015:  I am STILL working to get back to the state park near my house so that I can hit the hiking trail.  I used to do 6-12 miles there every weekend before all of this happened.  Am counting on getting there this year – just need to find someone else who likes to hike, too.  Will admit that, post-injury, I am not so keen on hiking alone anymore, even with 110+ pounds of dogs (my two Springer Spaniels).  I learned the hard way that “sh*t happens” – so I prefer to have someone (or more) along for the fun!  Oh — and then there’s this item:  I am going to get that crappy, ginormous screw removed from my ankle – the one that has been my complaint since the very beginning.  When it happens (soon?), the news will be *BREAKING* here first!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ME & MY GUYS

Springers never stop moving, especially when some entertaining Christmas collars with reindeer bells are added to the mix (my dogs love squeaky toys & making ‘music’), so our ‘selfie’ photoshoot didn’t work as planned –

It IS, however, ALL SMILES & LAUGHS!

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Of Breaks …and Progress

Amid news in the U.S. of Paul George’s stomach-turning leg break during a Team USA basketball scrimmage, and the very recent broken ankle suffered by NFL football player Sanders Commings (Kansas City Chiefs), I realized that I am long overdue in adding a post to my blog.   While I’m sure that sport stars have the ‘best of the best’ in orthopedics available for their care and recovery, any of us who have endured a similar mishap can certainly relate to what they are going through and the challenges ahead.

Over two years into my own ‘adventure,’ I find myself asking more and more about the longer term recovery.  Elite athletes – like Baseball pitcher Tim Hudson – can say, ‘Yes’ the long term prognosis IS good.  The Atlanta Braves traded Hudson to the San Francisco Giants after his ankle break, and as of June 12 when this article was written, he was leading ALL OF BASEBALL with a 1.81 ERA (a BIG #facepalm to the Braves on that decision!).  But, what about the rest of us?

Even Joe Theismann, who arguably had the sports injury of all sports injuries (I devoted a blog post to it!), tweeted some encouragement for Paul George. Screen shot 2014-08-05 at 5.05.42 PM

Where am I  2-years and 4-months into this?

Actually, somewhat better.  I get a bit superstitious about talking too big… but, yes, I have definitely made some measurable progress due to continued personal efforts in my own recovery, my ‘never say quit’ attitude, and a change in regimen at the gym.  But first, let me back up to February, when I was having some real problems.  Had been having new pain/discomfort at both the interior and exterior ankle bone. On the inside, right where that BIG ASS SCREW (sorry, there is really no other way to describe it) is sticking out of my tibia (see the x-ray here) and can be felt under my skin.  It was as if the screw was getting hung up on the ankle bone and throwing my entire joint out of whack.  The result was some measurable pain at my exterior ankle bone and this mainly reared its ugly head while walking.  I reluctantly backed off the elliptical (the closest thing to running, or complete ‘nirvana,’ that I’ve experienced since my injury).  But eight miles on the stationary bicycle wasn’t enough.  So, I started some work on the inner and outer thigh machines. Within three weeks of starting those, I noticed I was walking better and had less and less pain.  Was it in my imagination, I wondered.  The guys at the gym said ‘no’ – that I was definitely reaping some benefits of my work.  So I continued….

outer thigh machine In May, I was doing the abductor/adductor exercises 5-days a week to build up more strength. By June-July, I had figured out that 3-days a week was actually optimal for maintenance, though I might try another month of 5-day weeks soon. I’ve always had strong legs, but, as one weightlifting site says, these exercises work muscles that are often neglected, and as a result – imbalanced.

I can comfortably do four sets of 25 repetitions with 120 pounds for the outer thigh; four sets of 25 with 110 pounds for the inner thigh.   The benefits?  Increasing strength and getting my muscles in better alignment from the hips on down.  Don’t forget: I dislocated my entire foot in my mishap, so those muscles were probably wondering why I hadn’t started this earlier.

At the same time that I started the inner/outer thigh workouts, I also started some squat exercises with a 25-pound hand-weight. I now do three sets of 15, followed by one more set of 20.  All of it is definitely helping!!  I have ZERO PAIN!!

My equivalent of a Tim Hudson success story will be to finally make that first post-injury hike in the woods, hopefully this Fall….but I still have some hard work ahead!

The lessons I can share at this point are:

  • You must be an active and willing participant in your own rehabilitation!! You are the only one who can do the work, so just do it!!
  • It would be great if all orthopedic doctors were like head coaches, celebrating your personal post-injury touchdowns.  But, they aren’t.  Some are overworked, too busy, and may seem more interested in cookie cutter replies to your questions.  Don’t let that discourage you!  (Heck, I’d be happy and honored to help anyone get motivated – just send me a message!).
  • Celebrate every step forward, no matter how small.  Everyone has to start somewhere — our goal is the finish line, but we have to get there in steps. My high school volleyball coach was a big fan of NFL coach Vince Lombardi and I still hang on to one of his quotes as a motivator:  A WINNER NEVER QUITS AND A QUITTER NEVER WINS. My other favorite quote is from college football coach Lou Holtz:  LIFE IS 10% WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU AND 90% HOW YOU RESPOND TO IT.  I hold onto those quotes, and you are welcome to do the same.
  • Set realistic personal goals. And as you achieve one, set another!  Those small goals add up and help you become more confidant and determined.
  • When you get discouraged, remember to look back over your shoulder now and then to see how far you’ve gotten!
  • And ALWAYS Remember:  You are not alone!

I started this blog because I couldn’t find anyone who had suffered my combination of injuries (ankle and wrist).  Hopefully I have shared some helpful information along the way.  I will continue to do so as my journey continues!

 

 

 

The Force was with Han Solo

hansoloJust as I was getting ready to add Harrison Ford to my coveted Ankle Hall of Fame… comes a correction (update, what have you) that, NO, he didn’t break his ankle in an accident on the UK set of the Star Wars film now in production. They say he actually broke his leg. And, yes, the jokes about actors breaking their legs have already started.

What wasn’t said was whether the accident involved Han Solo’s beloved Millennium Falcon, as originally reported. Ahhhh, details!

To be quite honest, I was just excited for the opportunity to add the words “Star Wars” and “Han Solo” to my ankle blog – good enough for a few more readers don’t you think? And maybe Harrison needed some helpful advice on, say, compression socks or titanium implants?!

I did learn something else, though, from this writeup in Entertainment Weekly.

It’s right there in the sixth paragraph:

“….When Robert Downey Jr. broke his ankle on the set of Iron Man 3, the shoot was halted for a month and a half — resuming in October 2012, while the film still went on to meet its planned May 2013 release date.”

WHAT??? How did I ever miss this?!!! And the same year as my injury, though it appears Downey had an easier time of it.

Well, The Force was definitely with Han on that set outside London. I wish Harrison a speedy recovery, and according to the Express (see link below) he already wants back on the set!

Iron Man – YOU, my friend, have now officially been inducted into the Ankle HOF! 🙂

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Now, I am in Good Company

Now, I am in Good Company

Screen shot 2014-06-19 at 2.48.38 PMSay it isn’t so!!!  Michelangelo’s David has ‘cracks’ (i.e. fractures) in his ankles??!! Saw this item from the BBC and knew I had to share it here.  Suppose it also means that the David can now officially be included in my Ankle Hall of Fame.

For the record, David and I go back to when I was living in Germany. We shared quite a few dates in Florence – in fact, he and I got together every time I was in town! Mister tall, mysterious and handsome was never much of a talker… but I have always found the quiet types intriguing! 😉

I will admit right here that for me personally ..there is a certain irony that David and I have something in common.  After all, I have complained on many mornings that my ankle felt like an immovable slab of marble, too!

 

An April’s Fool

Through humor, you can soften some of the toughest blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation may be, you can survive it ~ Bill Cosby

Yeah, two years ago today – this was me! Not sure how many people have actually seen this hospital room photo (with an already very swollen right foot). As you will note, I am still wearing my mud race t-shirt from the day before. And in the 24 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, I had added a fractured wrist to the equation. Oh joy!

hospital_blogWhat do you do when you’ve somehow added a left-handed wrist/crutches mishap… to a right-footed nightmare?? Since it was April Fool’s Day in 2012, I realized that the only thing I could do was LAUGH! If I didn’t cry when I broke the ankle, I knew I wasn’t going to cry about this. Thankfully, an ample sense of humor is a genetic trait in my family.

Humor… laughter…. will get you through life’s challenges. And it definitely served me well.

My wrist was the joke on me. I never had any real pain, problems or complications – other than not being able to write my own name for a couple of months. Looking back at it now – that wrist helped me keep the larger issues with my ankle in perspective. It also left me with a rather awesome scar! 😉

Life can deal us some amazing lessons!

 

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

Bill Cosby

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/billcosby401323.html#6s4QhYq2q4dfIce1.99

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

Bill Cosby

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/

How 10 Seconds Can Change Your Life

How 10 Seconds Can Chage Your Life

My view in the ER in Auburn, Alabama, on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Two years later, I am still dealing with how that 10 seconds (or less) muddy mishap – on a day that was supposed to be “fun” – has changed my Life.

My words to live by? They come from Vince Lombardi (via my high school volleyball coach): A Winner Never Quits… and a Quitter Never Wins. Here’s to NEVER quitting even when the going gets tough!!

Sincere gratitude to EVERYONE who helped me that day on the mud run course! I still owe a personal thanks to the paramedic (and fellow mud race participant) who held my hand for that long hour I was waiting for the ambulance.

Thanks, too, to everyone who came to my aid: at the emergency room (the nurses and doctors at EAMC are AUsome and even laughed at my jokes!), in Auburn, and once I got home.

I have said it many times: How do you thank a hundred people? Y’all ROCK! ….and I am extremely blessed!  #payitforward

 

Closing in on Two Years

Can it really be almost two years since all of this started?! That thought crossed my mind today as I was checking this blog and realizing that I hadn’t shared an update in several months.  Believe me – my lack of sharing has not been for a lack of updates on my ankle.  In truth, it’s been more about having less time in the day to sit and write about it. Full-time jobs can get in the way of blogging sometimes… and that was the case with me.

So, where am I at with my ankle today?  Nowhere near my finish line… nor have I been able to return to the hiking trail. There will be some updates coming… that I can promise you!

A good friend of mine recently joined the broken ankle club (slipped on Winter ice) and another friend recently had surgery to alleviate pain from his old ankle break. Be careful out there everyone! If I hear of anyone else joining this club, I will have to design T-shirts and hand out membership cards!