Tag Archives: recovery

Outrunning A Cold

2 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

A lovely view of the lake eases the pain of a 23km run

Two weeks ago, I started to feel a cold coming on. The timing was dreadful: I had a 10K race coming up and I was aiming to break my best time. As the race approached I suddenly got obsessive about eating healthily and taking vitamins. Anyone who knows me will know that this is not usually the case. I can get up at five on a Sunday morning to go for a 20km run, but I am oddly undisciplined when it comes to my diet.

Race day came and went and apart from a little bit of nasal congestion, I was fine. I found my zone and ran the best race of any distance that I have ever run. I left my previous 10K best time in the dust and had lots of energy left in the tank when I crossed the finish line.

At some point during the half-hour drive home from the race, the cold that had been waiting in the wings finally struck. As I basked in the glow of a race well run, I stayed home from work for the next two days, with my head feeling as if it had been run over by a herd of stampeding bulls.

Although I managed to drag myself into the office on the Wednesday after the race, I was still not well enough to run. Technically, I could have: running lore holds that as long as all symptoms are above the neck, it is safe to run. I knew better than to try, though. When I’m sick, I need to rest. If I don’t, I just get sicker and prolong my recovery. I decided to save myself for the long training run I had scheduled for Sunday.

By the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling a lot better but by no means recovered. Looking at the calendar and seeing that my next half-marathon was just a month away, I decided to head out for my run anyway. I had the foresight to shove a few tissues into the pocket on my fuel belt – I knew I would need them.

The thing that really got me going that day was the sunshine. It was such a perfect day for running, and if I hadn’t gone out I would have wasted my time staring wistfully out the window. Instead, I put on my hat and a light running jacket that would end up being removed after the first kilometre, and I hit the road.

Two and a half hours later, I limped back into my driveway, hot and exhausted. My legs were feeling every step of the 23km I had just run, and I was ready for three things: a hefty dose of carbs, some coffee, and a long afternoon of lying on the couch.

Every time I had to move for the rest of the day, I grimaced in pain. But I felt good about the miles I had put in, and the fact that two and half hours in the sun had given me a touch of colour.

And my cold? Well, it’s still trying to linger. And I’m trying to bully it into submission, so it slinks away, never to return.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

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No Fixed Destination

30 Nov

Phil looped his camera around his neck and trudged out to his car. The rain was pelting down and the wind was so strong that it was making his eyes burn. For a moment he considered staying home, but he dismissed the thought immediately. Every Sunday for the last twelve years, he had gone driving around the countryside in his battered old Volvo, taking photographs of whatever he happened to see. He was a good photographer, good enough to have acquired a decent following and sold a few pictures.

That’s not why he did it, though. He did it because it gave him a sense of purpose. He had worked so hard to overcome the addictions that had destroyed his life, and he was afraid that if he stopped these Sunday excursions, everything would fall apart again.

Phil pulled out of the driveway and headed north, with no fixed destination in mind. As he drove, he thought of Lily. She had been nine when he had seen her last. His heart ached as he remembered his ex-wife calling him an alcoholic junkie who had no business trying to raise a child. He had begged her not to take his daughter away from him. He had actually fallen on his knees before her, sobbing.

She had stopped yelling then, and looked at him with something approaching sympathy. “I know you love her, Phil, but you’re destroying her,” she had said. He had buried his head in his hands so he wouldn’t have to watch them leave.

After they had gone, Phil had allowed the drugs and alcohol to take over his life completely. Within a year, he had been out on the streets. He had lost his home and been fired from his job, and he had spent a few nights in jail for possession of illegal drugs.

One afternoon as he was staggering down the road with a newly acquired bottle of rum, a woman with a couple of kids had looked at him with thinly veiled disgust before crossing the street in order to avoid him. He stopped walking and stared after her, feeling as if he’d been hit with a sledgehammer. I’ll never see Lily again, he thought.

He slowly started walking again, barely paying attention to where he was going. His head was filled with images of his daughter. He wondered if she still had that pink feather boa that she loved so much. She would wrap it around herself and twirl around so fast that he thought she was going to fall over.

Now, as Phil drove, he remembered how the thoughts of Lily and her boa had stopped him in his tracks, and how the tears suddenly streaming down his face had attracted some curious glances from passersby. If it had not been for the kindly stranger who had offered him help, he did not know where he would be now, or if he would even be alive.

After he had gotten his life cleaned up, Phil had written to his ex-wife.

Tell Lily that I’m clean from the drugs and alcohol,  he wrote. Tell her I that I love her, and that I am more regretful than words can say for the pain I caused her. Let her know that I understand if she doesn’t want to see me, but if and when she is ever ready, I want to be her Dad. And this time I will do it right.

Throughout the years, Phil sent letters to his ex-wife. He told her about the night-course he had gone on, the job he had got, the photos he had sold. He proudly wrote about the modest house he had bought, the quiet, solitary life that he lived, and the handful of friends he had acquired through his AA meetings. He sent birthday cards to Lily.

In twelve years, he had not received a single reply. But he never gave up.

Phil was abruptly pulled out of his reverie when the old Volvo suddenly blew a tire. He pulled over onto the shoulder of the quiet country road and pulled out his cell phone. Damn. Not enough battery life to make a call.

Phil got out of the car and started walking through the pouring rain towards the only building he could see. Maybe they would have a phone. It wasn’t until he got right up to the front door that he realized it was a pub. Instantly his palms started to sweat and he was shaking. He couldn’t go in there. He hadn’t had a drink in well over a decade, but he was still terrified of being in the same room as alcohol. He thought he had enough self-control to avoid drinking – it was the memories he couldn’t face.

He was unbearably torn. He needed to call Roadside Assistance for a new tire, and this place might have the only available phone. But if he went in, the memories of his old life would come flooding back, and he would feel like a ruin in the architecture of humanity. He found himself alarmingly close to tears.

As he stood in the doorway, a young woman ran from her car into the pub. As she was going through the door, she turned and looked back at him curiously.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Phil stammered. He was not good at talking to strangers.

“Well, you see, my car. It, uh, broke down, just down there, and I need to call for help. But my cell phone died and I cannot go in here because I’m – uh, an alcoholic. That is, I’m dry, but I don’t want to be anywhere near – you know.”

He tapered off and shrugged helplessly.

“You can use my phone,” said the woman, rummaging in her purse. Phil registered random details about her: the scuffed black boots, the flaky nailpolish, the red-gold hair tucked neatly under the hood of her raincoat.

As she handed him the cell phone, she said, “Actually, I’m not from around here and I could use some directions. I’m visiting my dad, only he doesn’t know I’m coming. I haven’t seen him since I was a little girl, and I want to surprise him. But this little town he lives in is impossible to find.”

Phil stared into her eyes, eyes that were exactly the same colour as his. And he knew that the second chance he had been waiting for for so long had finally arrived.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Bewildered Bug, who gave me this prompt: Write about anything you want, but include the following words/phrases:  pink feather boa, Volvo, architecture of humanity, flaky nailpolish.
I challenged floreksa with the prompt: You are at your own 100th birthday party, reflecting back on your life. Tell us about the best day of your life, from the standpoint of your 100-year-old self.

Overcoming The Bad Stuff: 19 March 2010

27 Feb

As I attempt to patch together bits of my life that feel as if they are falling apart, I find myself unable to write. This is a re-post from last year. In fact, this was only the third or fourth post in the life of Running For Autism. I’ll see you tomorrow, emotional Band-Aids and all.

 

2010 did not exactly start off well for me.  In early December, I had suffered from a strep throat infection, during which I had only been able to lie down comfortably in one position for three days.  This resulted in some stiffness in my neck and upper back.  It was not crippling, merely uncomfortable, and my chiropractor was helping me out with it.  The day before New Years Eve, a chiropractic adjustment went horribly wrong.  I had excruciating shooting pains in my back and going all the day down my left arm.  The fingers in my hand went numb. While everyone else was out partying it up the following night, I was sitting on the couch writhing in agony. I missed the New Years Day Resolution Run – something that I had been looking forward to for weeks.

Over the next month, I went to the Emergency Room twice, was seen by five different doctors, and got four different prescriptions for drugs.  I cried myself to sleep each night because I was in so much pain, and I appropriated the kids’ giant stuffed gorilla because it was just the right size for me to rest my arm on.  I was taking Percocet for the pain every six hours, and when the pain between doses got too much for me to bear, I was taking Tylenol Three as well.

For a month I could barely stand up, let alone run. In the end, it was the folks at Toronto SEMI (Sports and Exercise Medicine Institute) who saved me from insanity.  The doctor there told me what I had suspected, which is that I had a pinched nerve.  The pinched nerves always get resolved, he said, and it could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to a few months.  I immediately started seeing one of the physiotherapists at SEMI, and within days I was starting to feel relief.  After two weeks, she told me I could try running again.  Two weeks after that, I was in full-on training mode again, and feeling great.

As soon as I had gotten back on my feet, though, I was struck down again.  I caught a cold, and the cold turned into something a lot worse.  I had a hacking cough, I had a fever that came and went, I was weak.  I was so sick that I was off work for two weeks, and was not allowed back without producing a doctor’s note certifying that I didn’t have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. During this time, I was not able to run for three weeks.

Last weekend marked the end of this three-week drought.  I got up on Sunday morning, and although I was still coughing a bit and somewhat congested, I decided to give it a try. It went surprisingly well – slower than I would have liked, but considering all I’d been through over the last three months, I didn’t mind.  I was just happy that I was out on the road again.

On Tuesday I went for a lunchtime run.  Due to time constraints, my weekday runs cannot really be longer than 5km, but that’s still enough for a good workout.  About 500m into the run, my hair band snapped.  Not a good thing – I have quite a lot of hair.  I ran almost 5km with my hair streaming out behind me.  It reminded me of those movies about horses, where the horses are running across meadows with the hair on their tails flowing behind them in the wind.  That’s what I felt like.  A horse’s ass.  I had also misjudged the weather that day, so I was overdressed.  Hair flying every which way plus clothes that are too hot leads to a run that is uncomfortable and cumbersome.  I was not happy with my pace or the fact that my heart rate was reaching the stratosphere.

My next run was on Thursday.  I almost left my running clothes at home that day, because I had had zero sleep on Wednesday night and did not rate my chances for a good run.  But you never know, so I took my gym bag to work, not really expecting to use it.  Come lunchtime, I still felt like the undead, but knowing from past experience how a run can actually have healing powers, I suited up and hit the road.  My clothes were appropriate and my hair band stayed intact.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and I had a fantastic run.  Although the “pace buddy” on my training watch still beat me, my pace was a lot better than it had been on Tuesday.  My heart rate stayed within reasonable levels.  When I reached the end of the 5km, I could have continued.  It was one of those runs that reminds me why I love running.

I am planning another 5km run for tomorrow morning, and a longer one for Sunday.  I am looking forward to my 10km race on April 3rd.  I am hopeful that I will stay healthy this time.  I have to.  After all, there are only 190 days to my next run for autism.

One Step Closer To Normal

14 Feb

Life is one step closer to normal today.

James has rallied back after his week-long illness and is back at school today. It completely failed to register with my overtaxed brain that today would be the day to send in Valentines cards and treats for him to hand out to his classmates, but I don’t honestly feel too bad about that. I’ve had other things on my mind. In any case, James will no doubt get a lot of attention today.  He is immensely proud of the tiny little bruise on his hand where the IV line went in. He is going to show the bruise to his friends and tell the tale of his hospital adventures. I’d say the kid has earned the bragging rights.

George is still home, but he hasn’t thrown up for about thirty hours. He ate jam sandwiches yesterday, and right now he is digging into the scrambled egg that he requested. He has colour in his face again – a colour other than pure white, that is – and he is chatting away in his own little autie language. He seems happy, and definitely better. He’s getting one more day at home to recover his strength.

Gerard and I are at home as well. Both of us feel a little drained and weak, but we are also on the mend. My system is still very delicate – so delicate that I am, for the fourth day in a row, voluntarily foregoing coffee. Those who know me and my love for caffeine will appreciate just what a sacrifice this is.

Even though I am at home, I am well enough to actually work. Tomorrow I will go back to the office for the first time in almost a week. I’ll feel like Marco Polo must have when he got back from China or wherever it was he went, except that I won’t have boatloads of tea and rice with me.

After my return to work, I will be able to think about the next big thing. Running. Oh, how I miss running. How badly I want to lace up my running shoes and go out in the crisp, cold air and feel the crunching of the snow beneath my feet as I run.

If I try that today I will throw up all over that nice pretty snow. I have to be sensible. It will probably be Thursday or Friday before I try running again, and when I do, I will have to start out slow.

I won’t even care about being slow. I just want to be out on the road again.

And for everyone in my family to be able to go to bed at night without a designated puke bucket on the floor beside them.

We Survived The Gastro Bug Of 2011

13 Feb

It has been quite a week, one in which both kids made it to the Emergency Room at our local hospital. James’ visit resulted in an overnight stay, which left me feeling exhausted and sick myself. With George, we were luckier. His condition, while similar to James’, was less severe and did not call for any needles or IV lines. We were seen by a really nice doctor, and then sent home with strict instructions on how to orally administer fluids.

Most parents of boys aged 5 and 7 have seen the inside of an E.R. at least once. With this latest visit, James has now clocked up four visits (3 months: hair wrapped around toe so tightly that said toe was turning purple; 2 years: hand placed on rapidly moving treadmill belt resulting in the loss of several layers of skin; 3 years: arm pulled out of joint at elbow by big brother; 5 years: severe dehydration).

George has been somewhat luckier in this regard, having only needed to visit the E.R. on two occasions. This is a good thing – I cannot describe how good. James takes stuff like this in his stride. Sure, he cried when the IV line was put in place on Wednesday night, and he cried when I explained to him that we would be in the hospital overnight instead of going home, but when these things happen, he understands that the doctors are there to make him better. George has a much harder time. His autism makes him resistant to changes in routine, new places, unfamiliar people, and strange smells.

Doctors’ offices are bad enough. Hospital E.R.’s have the ability to send him right over the top. It is a good thing that George has managed to stay healthy and relatively injury-free.

The first E.R. visit, the day after George’s 4th birthday, was prompted by an accident in the daycare he attended at the time. He had been stimming, spinning round and round in circles. The daycare staff were attempting to move George to the centre of the room where he could safely stim without hurting himself, but he lost his balance and fell, hitting his upper lip on the corner of a bookshelf.

The E.R. we took him to was very understanding. We registered him and completed all of the requisite paperwork, and then wondered out loud how we would cope with what was likely to be a long wait. The admitting nurse, realizing that George’s autism would make a hospital wait unbearable for him, told us to go to the donut shop across the street with him. When it was his turn, and when the examination room was all set up, someone would come and get us.

The nurse was true to her word. A hospital orderly came and got us after about twenty minutes, and we were taken straight into the examination room, where the doctor, a nurse, and two other orderlies were waiting. Before George had any clue what was happening, he was placed on the bed, and the orderlies expertly wrapped him up in a sheet like a burrito, so only his face was exposed. The nurse immediately swabbed his face, and the doctor, who was waiting with an already-prepared suture, gave George the single stitch that he needed.

We were in and out of there in less than three minutes. Kudos to all staff at that E.R.

This time round, George had to stick around for a longer time. His utter lethargy, while certainly a concern from a health perspective, definitely helped the E.R. visit go more smoothly than it otherwise might have. He endured the admission tests, with the exception of the temperature check. He was having none of that thermometer business, either at the front desk or in the examination room.

He  allowed the nurse to put a tamper-proof hospital band around his wrist. In the examination room, he tampered with it and got it off (people who make tamper-proof products should really test-drive them on out-of-the-box-thinking auties). I was very concerned about the prospect of an IV line. The kid wouldn’t even keep on a wrist-band. How were we going to prevent him from ripping out the IV line?

Imagine our relief when we were told that IV fluids would not be needed. We were told how to administer fluids, how frequently, and in what amounts. We all got to come home.

*Phew*

A day later, we are all officially on the mend. Well, except for James, who is completely recovered. George has just eaten a jam sandwich – his first real food in three days. I’m no longer feeling nauseous (I still think that was due more to pure exhaustion than anything else). Gerard is a bit more lively than he was yesterday.

And now, hopefully, we return to a “normal” life in the special needs family.

A Night Away From Home

11 Feb

They should sell T-shirts that say, “I survived my child’s first overnight stay in a hospital.”  Or they should give out badges, like they do in Girl Scouts. Because let me tell you, it is quite an accomplishment. Just one night in the hospital with my son left me feeling jagged and raw. While I was sitting there yesterday afternoon wondering when I would be able to grab a sandwich and a cup of coffee, I sent a message to my friend Amy, expressing my pure admiration for the fact that she did this in a far more serious situation, day in and day out, for five months.

It all started when James started tossing his cookies at the daycare on Monday. For a full 24 hours he was throwing up and having attacks of diarrhea, and even when they kind-of-sort-of passed, he didn’t get better. By the time I got home from work on Wednesday evening, he was still not eating or drinking, and he was crying out from the pains in his tummy.

Recognizing that most kids’ tummy bugs are over and done with in a day or so, and we were now at the end of Day Three, I took James to the walk-in clinic (no family doctor – ours had the gall to retire, citing stuff like “time with family”). The doctor at the clinic examined James for five minutes and decided he wanted none of it. He told me to get James to the hospital. “Now,” he said.

The triage nurse at the hospital was cranky. She was abrupt and acted as if we were inconveniencing her. I didn’t hold it against her. She was nearing the end of what had probably been a long shift in the emergency room, but still. Being cranky with a sick five-year-old seems a bit much. She did her thing and then sent us off to see the admitting doctor – go to the room at the end of the hall and wait in partition D, she said.

The doctor was cranky. He overheard James saying that we were looking for “Number D” and grumpily said, “D is not a number.”

For God’s sake. I mean, I know E.R. doctors are taxed to the limit. These guys are on their feet for long shifts during which they no doubt have to make many life-or-death decisions, but come on. Don’t take out your stress on a five-year-old child who is visibly ill.

Anyway.

The doctor examined James and said that he was severely dehydrated. He invited me to feel James’ hands. I did, and they were ice-cold. The dehydration had made his core body temperature drop right down. We were taken to a dedicated examination room and IV fluids were started. Within 20 minutes, James’ temperature was looking better.

The on-duty pediatrician came in, examined James, and made the decision to keep him in overnight. He was transferred to the pediatric floor, and we were installed in a room. I helped the nurses get James as settled as he could be, and then I lay in the bed provided for me and failed to sleep. Every now and then I kind of sank into a trance, only to be roused by the comings and goings of the nurses who came in to fuss over James every now and then.

James was in much better spirits when he woke up in the morning. He still couldn’t eat, but he requested and received a Popsicle. In a turn of events that was very sweet, when the nurse came in with the Popsicle, he asked her if she would please get another one for his Mommy. We sat there in companionable silence, eating our Popsicles together (and it was so welcome – my throat was parched), and then another nurse came in bearing gifts.  Apparently, every child admitted to the pediatric floor gets a bag of toys that they get to take home with them.

I borrowed a BlackBerry charger from the doctor, and was able to be in touch with the outside world again. I read and responded to emails, James played with his new toys plus the ones his Dad had brought him from home during the night.  Apart from the occasional stomach cramps and attacks of diarrhea still plaguing James, all was well, if a little bit boring. IV fluids continued to drip into his system, and the comings and goings now involved a different group of doctors and nurses.

In the middle of the afternoon, I was finally able to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich. By this point I was beyond exhaustion and beyond hunger. With the nurse watching James, I fled to the donut shop, where I got a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Then, in a bid to extend my freedom for a little longer, I went into the gift shop and got James a new Cars toy and a book.

Back upstairs, I drank my coffee and ate half of the sandwich. I promptly threw both of them up.

Lovely. Just as my son is getting better, now I start to get sick?

Since I have not had a repeat episode since then, I am assuming that my system was just responding to exhaustion, and that the shock of actually receiving food for the first time in 24 hours was a bit too much for my body.

In the late afternoon, the pediatrician came in and declared James almost well enough to go home. He was hydrated again, he was drinking on his own, and he had even managed a bit of food. All we were waiting for, she said, was for him to pee. Once he had peed, we would know that fluids were getting both into and out of his system OK. In the I.T. world, we would refer to this as end-to-end testing.

A couple of hours later, James’ bladder obliged, and we were given the all-clear to leave. The IV was disconnected, final temperature and blood pressure checks were done, and we were out of there. James was definitely a much more healthy, brighter child than he had been before going in.

It felt almost obscenely good to be back home.

James is OK. George, who was doing a great deal of his own throwing up in our absence, seems to be on the mend. I have not tossed my cookies again (although, to be fair, I haven’t taken a chance on eating either).

Equilibrium seems to be returning…

And I am truly grateful to the doctors and nurses at Centenary Hospital for taking such good care of my baby.

From Cold Meds To Running Shoes

1 Feb

For the last week or so I’ve had a cold.  It snuck up on me with no warning, last Tuesday afternoon.  On Tuesday morning I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill.  I had a great run – very fast (for me), averaging 4:57 minutes per kilometre.  I felt fine while I was running, my heart rate was not elevated, and I felt great when I was done.  I went off to work and had a good morning.  While I was on the subway coming home, I suddenly got that feeling of pressure in my face that usually heralds a cold.  By the time I went to bed that night, I had cold sweats and felt absolutely awful.

Since then the cold has ebbed and flowed.  Right now, it is flowing.  My throat hurts, my head is throbbing, my nose is running, and my eyes are oozing.  I look – well, let’s just say that I don’t look my best right now.

As always when I get sick, I have been fretting about my inability to run.  I have been thinking about the races I am registered for and wondering how I will train for them if I’m sitting here with a snotty nose.  The truth, of course, is that this is only a cold, and it will be gone a matter of days from now.  I will no doubt be doing short runs again by the weekend, and by next weekend I will in all likelihood be well enough to go for a longer run with my running club.

Despite the fact that I always turn into a pathetic crybaby when I have a cold, my attitude has made a more positive shift this morning.  Yes, I’m still fed up with the cold, but I’m feeling excited about running again.  It’s a positive kind of excitement.  It’s not the kind of excitement that says, “Go out and run no matter what, even if you feel like crap.” It’s the kind of excitement that says, “Rest and get better, and then you’ll be able to really enjoy yourself when you’re back on the road.”

So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m resting, drinking orange juice, taking vitamins and supplements.

My anticipation to get the running shoes back on is a great incentive for me to get better.