Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Briefly Boring: Retore? Strained?

A week ago was a Wednesday like many other before. I went to work, came home, cooked dinner for my son, and was starting to clean up.  It was only when I was walking around my kitchen island and my knee gave out that something went horribly wrong.

My knee giving out isn’t terribly uncommon post surgery. It probably happens every 2 weeks or so since. It’ll go out and I’ll catch myself with my other leg – only a slight twinge in my knee and a hitch in my step to show for it.  This time, however, was very different.  I was in mid stride which meant that all of my weight was on my bad knee.  So, when it gave out I instinctively snapped my bad knee straight (essentially doing a single leg squat w/ my bad knee) followed by white hot shoots of pain and maybe a swear.  Bummer.

It swelled up, was hot to the touch, and my range of motion was significantly reduced….. Basically the trifecta of BAD THINGS. My Physical Therapist said that I likely strained it, but possibly indeed retore it.  Time will tell.  He said that if it doesn’t feel better after 2 weeks, something is really bad.  I previously had an appointment with my surgeon for my 8 week checkup next week which was good because my PT said that he wanted me to schedule an appt with him as a result of my pain anyway.

My recovery has been slow and has honestly plateaued a bit, so this recent setback has me frustrated beyond words.  But, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, I’m well past my deductible met.  So, if I need surgery again, it is basically free!  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Solo Family Camping

While I promised that I'd blog more with shorter posts, I still do want to post the super long one every so often. Think of it like watching Netflix...Sure, watching one or two epps at a time is great, but every so often you have to park it on the couch for 5 hours and let your ass go numb. As such, below is my 400 picture post about my 24 hour camping trip.  Think of it as a 3 part race report about a 5K.  No one cares about my thoughts at mile 1.45, but by god they're going to hear about them anyway!!

Ever since going camping with Ryan and all of his super fun neighbors a few months back, I've been looking for weekends to go camping. Granted, the camping that we did with Ryan was somewhat glamorous, (I've recently learned about the term "glamping" to describe it) but I really enjoyed being able to unplug.  So, with a weekend of just my son and I hanging around, I decided to seize on the opportunity and head into the mountains.

I decided that we'd head to the "closer" mountains in Tonto national park around Payson.  Its a quick 90 min drive north east of Phoenix and sits at a brisk 5,300 feet above sea level. Low enough to not be TOO cold, but high enough that 2-3 beers makes me want to scream Taylor Swift songs at the top of my lugs....all the while gasping for air because you know...5300 feet.  So, it is still remote, but not so much that if I burnt all of my hair off in a flash-fire accident I couldn't still get somewhere safe.

One thing that I needed to do before this camping trip was pick up a few things. You know, like a tent, a pan to cook in, a grill to cook on... little things, really. Ryan had offered to let me borrow his (and offered to let me borrow about everything else of his) but I figured that I might as well get some of the stuff on my own. So, a quick $200 purchase later, I had a tent and all the fixings to head out.  Unplugging sure is expensive!

Obviously, important prep for camping - light saber practice
(Along with a post-soccer lolipop)

Although, my son calls it a "Light Saver"

No seriously, we didn't do this for like 10 minutes in target....

So, with everything all loaded, we were off to the mountains.  The drive up was pretty, if not a bit crazy.  We were going highway speeds on mountain roads (and getting passed left and right like we were standing still - who ARE these maniac driers?) which requires a lot of focus. That said, whenever I could, I was trying to take in the scenery.  The AZ mountains start off desert like (exactly like you would think AZ would look like w/ lots of phallic cacti) but then looks more and more like Colorado with pine trees everywhere.

Getting a picture while driving is hard.  

Sadly, my navigator only made it 45 miles before he was OUT

This was just outside of Payson, starting to look like the mountains!

One of the things I was most looking forward to was checking out a local brewery in the area. THAT Brewery is just outside of Payson in a sleepy town called Pine. It seemed like it was 1/2 sports bar, 1/2 family restaurant, and 1/2 biker bar.  Their beer was good, my son loved coloring with their crayons, and the pizza was super cheap at $10 for what would normally be considered a large.  I took the opportunity to celebrate the drive up with a nice taster of all of their beers.

6 beers in a cupcake tin. Would have been better if there were cupcakes.

So, with the essentials taken care of, we were off to the actual campsite itself.  A friend at work had told me about some disparate / free camping outside of town that was well developed but still remote. He delivered on all counts.  The only "difficult" part was the last mile or so of the drive was on a rather rugged dirt road.  Never one to be stopped, I put my (otherwise small) sedan into a low gear and started up the road!!! Only to be stopped by a guy w/ a big truck: "Umm, do you know where you're going son? It gets pretty hairy up there."  Psh, little did he know how determined I was to go camping. There were certainly some bumps, but nothing that stopped us from getting to a great campsite and setting up camp.

Of course, by "us setting up camp" I mean "my son light sabered trees and bushes while I set up camp".  The brand new tent wasn't hard to put up at all and everything else went together over the course of 30 minutes.  Not bad! The campsite we chose actually had 3 separate locations for tents along with 3 separate fire-pits that had already been built.

Camp it set up!  The only thing missing is a beer in my hand and some FIRE! What could go wrong?!

Step 1: Beer.  Step 1 is always beer.

Step 2, FIRE!  Camping can start now.

As is the case with all of my camping trips, the thing that I look forward to most is the campfire.  And, as an extension to the campfire - cooking on the campfire.  This time for some reason the cooking did NOT go well.  The campfire was either roaring at approximately 5,000,000 degrees or was lukewarm. So, I burnt the first batch of food to a crisp and undercooked the second batch a bit.  So, on average I cooked everything perfectly.

Yeah, those black hockey pucks? They used to be burgers.

S'mores were SPOT ON, though. 

One thing that I didn't think about was firewood.  Normally, I'll just go hunting around for firewood caveman style, but since it was a bit late in the season, I think all of the good stuff had been taken. So, I relegated to burning my clothes and singing around the campfire naked. So, while I had lots of heat to cook with, I didn't have much to light the campsite into the night.  That meant that there were a lot of activities by candle light and I went to bed at like 8:30pm because I was getting too cold.

The best pic of the weekend - my son coloring by firelight 

Overall, it was really fun to get away from work, life, and the hot weather of Phoenix. I really like how I have most of the "stuff" that I need so future camping trips won't cost too much - just some money for food and firewood.  I did have a few lessons learned: More firewood, coats, pot holders, and less clothes.  It seems that I never brush my teeth change my clothes when I go camping.

But, before I knew it, it was time to pack up and head back down to Phoenix. Life could be ignored no more. It had started to sprinkle early in the morning, so I packed all of the stuff up in a HURRY to try to beat the weather.  Fortunately, no sooner did I get everything into the car that it started POURING down rain.  I get the feeling that I'll go camping a lot in the future!

Rain clouds!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Briefly Boring: Scars and Beer

My knee recovery is coming along.  Still no running until around Thanksgiving, but I’m doing more and more without remembering that I had surgery exactly a month ago. To that end, tonight for the first time I’m going to go for a very short swim.  I had to wait until my knee incision closed up before I could get into a public pool – longer than normal because it wasn’t all laparoscopic so I have a 2” incision.  Lord knows what kind of e coli or herpes I would get if I swam with an open wound.  That said, I will be the first to admit that I don’t mind the big incision on my knee. Gives me some street cred… “What is up, ladies? Want to see my knee scar? Ignore all of the stubble on there from where the surgeon shaved it.

Ignore that this is totally a picture of my crotch

Actually, while it is getting better, my knee is a bit sore today. I brewed 15 gallons of beer this weekend and pushed my knee to the limit with all of the heavy lifting.  But again, I think that can only add to my street cred, right?  “Yeah, I screwed up my knee again but it was while I was brewing beer. Yeah, there was fire involved…no big deal.  So, just ignore my limp while I chop wood and spin these mad beats” (I assume that is what hip/cool guys do now?)

100% sure my neighbors thought that I was making meth

The fruits of my labor!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Briefly Boring: Soccer practice

Laura and I were talking about how we both want to blog more but seem to be rather….verbose with our posts. The problem with that is that (as if reading something I wrote could be bad!?!?) they take a bit of time to put together. As such, I’m going to start a series of random posts I call “Briefly Boring”. Enjoy! 

My son started his fall soccer season a few weeks back. I’m the assistant coach which means that I still get to wear the coaches shirt but don’t really have to do much of the work. (Just like our favorite assistant-president, cool uncle Joe!)  While it isn’t a super huge time commitment now, one practice a week and one game on the weekends, I can absolutely see how after school activities could spiral out of control in a hurry.  That is exactly why my parents let me drive by myself starting around 13…. Who wants to cart a kid around to a billion activities when he can just drive himself?  My dad was #LifeHacking before #LifeHacks were a thing.

Stay cool, uncle Joe!!

Anyway, it is fun to see over the course of 8-10 weeks how the kids actually put things together….such advanced skill as “kicking the ball in the CORRECT net” and “not stealing the ball away from your own teammate”.  Okay, I’ll be honest.  We’re still learning both of those skills.  But, I’m sure they’ll come soon enough. Until then? There is no crying in soccer.  Just kidding, there usually is. Juice boxes and granola bars for everyone!

From this spring, but whatever

Monday, September 21, 2015

Post surgery post

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. 

For those unfamiliar with my knee pain odyssey, feel free to read back to some of my other posts about it. This one or this one are both good. The cliff notes version is that I hurt my knee in February and had surgery on it August 31st.  I had a number of things “wrong” including a torn meniscus (except not torn, but only frayed), a maltracking kneecap, and a torn patellar tendon – the latter causing most of the pain.  The recovery has been MUCH slower than I originally thought it was going to be, so this post is a bit delayed.  I wanted to be a bit more positive with the post so I thought that I should wait until I actually had something positive to say.  While that isn’t totally the case, I figure I’ve waited long enough!

So, before I go into the details of the last two weeks since my surgery, I feel like I should mention how much I HATE surgery.  Like, tearing up when they put in the IV hate. Like, write an “if I die” note and put it in the safe hate. I am honestly not sure WHY I am afraid of it. I’ve had surgery once before and it went fine (other than fainting while they were putting in the IV).  It is sort of how I’m afraid of little baby snakes – the worst that could happen would be I get a little tickle and MAYBE a weird sensation when he tried to bite me. (aka: Saturday night at Adam’s house!  Heyoooo)

Oh, how far we have come...

The morning of surgery went off without a hitch. I have to admit that I had to force myself from going through the routine of stumbling to the coffee maker and making myself a hot cup of coffee. As Laura knows, this is almost an automatic instinct response at this point. Of course, this was strictly against the pre-surgical rules - lest I drink a cup and barf all over my recovery nurse. I have to imagine that coffee does NOT taste as good on the way out as it does on the way in.

When I checked into the surgical center, I noticed right away that I was a solid 30 years younger than anyone else in the waiting room.  Socks and sandals paired together flowed like the River Nile from the door to the check in desk.  But, before I knew it I was changed into my assless gown and hairnet and was reminded by the nurse that I didn’t actually have to take off my underwear.

Stand back, ladies. Sexy is coming through

Probably the worst thing of the day was getting my IV put in.  Unfortunately, I have a bit of a weak disposition when it comes to those and may have had a bit of a “moment” while the nurse was putting it in.  But, with a short peptalk from her and lots of eye rolling from my mom, we got through it.  No fainting! I’m a big boy!!

Clutching my phone to try to hide my terror of the IV. A good heroin addict I would not make.

I don't know why women complain about shaving their legs. It was sooooo easy!!

My surgeon is one of the best sports med surgeons in Phoenix – he is on staff for the local NFL, NHL, and MLB teams in some capacity. (Read: I’m going to have to sell my son into child labor to pay for him.)  So, while the anesthesiologist and I shot the shit for a while, he was in and out like a flash….being very careful to answer every single question that I had fully and directly, but not wasting any time to talk about the weather.  I found out from him that I couldn’t do a whole lot until the stiches were out (no swimming, lifting weights, etc) and regrettably something like HGH or Testosterone were not likely to help. Yes, I asked.  Bummer.

"So, you're saying you can't make it bigger?  What about making it just LOOK bigger?"

Either way, before I knew it, after a 30 minute quick surgery I was waking up in the recovery room. My knee didn’t hurt TOO bad as long as I didn’t move it (famous last words). At the time, I thought that I was pretty coherent, but as I think back I really can’t remember how I got my clothes back on.  Mom has a LOT of explaining to do on that front.

Dad's little helper

The rest of the day was essentially spent laying on the couch complaining about the pain. I filled a prescription for a type of Vicodin, but I am not a huge fan of those and mostly tried to just take Advil. The only exceptions to that were the first few days to help me sleep.  It was hell on my stomach, but now that the pain has subsided, I’m glad I went that way.

Disclaimer this is gross just kidding you already looked. Sucker.
About 24 hours post surgery. Still super swollen

I have no idea why I gave the thumbs up here.  My mom asked?

Week 1:
Like I mentioned in the first paragraph, the recovery has been SLOW.  I went back to work the day after (yeah, yeah… I know... believe me, Laura let me have it about that decision too), but was essentially sent home by my Physical Therapist after meeting with him mid day. The issue was that I had almost no mobility in my knee and my quads had shut down. The lack of mobility was causing me to limp pretty bad which could screw up my hips and my mess up my other leg.  The prescription for that is a cane and shrieks of “GET OFF MY LAWN” every hour.

Learning how to walk with my cane at PT.  Lovely.
After this pic was taken, I learned how to shake my fist and talk about the "good old days"

The next time I met with the Physical therapist was even more humbling. The “test” was for me to lay on my back and lift my leg.  Nope.  Couldn’t do it. That was met with a bit of a “hmmm” from the PT guy and a bit of reassurance that we’d take it day by day. Of course, I took that as a personal challenge and worked as hard as I could to get it working again over the coming days.  Honestly, most of those attempts failed which was incredibly frustrating.  Not being able to even lift my leg was a tough pill to swallow. It felt like I was going SO far backwards.

3 days post surgery. Still lots of swelling, but less puffy for sure

Week 2:
A little over a week after the surgery, I got my stitches out.  I had a few more than I thought – either 7 or 9 by my count….not that it matters I guess. Counting stitches is sort of like how guys like to measure everything else. Unfortunately, the incision along my knee for my patellar tendon still hadn’t healed fully so I was still stuck with doing a whole lot of “not much” until that took place.  That said, PT that second week was starting to get better.  I could lift my leg AND bend it! Miracles do happen.  By this point the swelling was coming down more and more and flexibility was increasing leaps and bounds.

Rolling on 20s!! Seriously the best part about surgery thus far.

Any time I flexed my quads, I could feel my platellar tendon pulling…so the PT said not to do that. Easier said than done if you’re used to having free range to doing whatever you want.  But, that tendon healing is what is going to enable to me to run again someday, so I am doing what I’m told…albeit reluctantly like the crotchety old man I am.

Starting to look really good about a week after surgery

In the middle of week 2, I stopped taking all Advil.  Much like most things with my recovery, I did it a bit too early and paid the price.  I went from being able to walk pretty well to wincing with each wrong step and accidental pivot of my knee.  The days after doing this were probably some of the hardest to get through.  I was thinking that I was doing well with recovery when in fact I still had a very long way to go.  Certainly a crushing blow combined with the 12-16 week timeframe the PT gives me on running again.

Went to watch the ASU game a week after surgery... Ryan wanted to do another photobomb pic

Week 3:
It seems like the weekends are when I make the most gains in my recovery.  I assume it is because I’m up and moving a lot and keeping it loose. As such, little over two weeks after surgery I not only went to a beerfest but stopped using my cane for the most part. Both were probably plenty early, but the questions about the cane were starting to become more hassle than the cane was actually worth…. God forbid I start smacking people with the cane.

These are my people. GET OFF MY LAWN

No seriously, the beerfest made it feel SO much better

The third week was mostly focused on walking without the cane and trying to regain as much quad strength as possible.  It still pulled when I flexed my quad, but I was able to walk by using forward momentum to swing my leg forward.

Week 4:
So, where am I now?   I’m going into my 4th week post-op (it was 21 days ago today). I am just now starting to go up / down stairs very slowly and can walk a bit on my toes where my quads activate. The issue is that if I retear my patellar tendon I not only can’t run but also likely have to have the surgery again.  NO THANK YOU.  The overall plan is to see the PT for 8 weeks, do a month on my own, and then see him for a final 4 weeks.

If I can't have running, at least I can park my ass and enjoy time with family

He thinks that I should be able to do a test run 3-4 months post surgery which would put me right around Thanksgiving or the weeks after.  This is way longer than I thought it was going to be which is all sorts of frustrating. But, I suppose if I’m just now starting stairs 3 weeks after surgery it does make sense that I’m not going to be running marathons any time soon.

Going forward:
I think that the hardest part about all of this is the unknown combined with my unrealistic expectations.  I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to run pain-free again (something that my doctor confirms isn’t 100% guaranteed so it isn’t just me being overly negative). Combine that with everything moving so slowly, myself included, and I've been pretty down in the dumps about the whole process.  BUT, I do know that it is indeed a very long process and I have a pretty long road ahead. The good thing is that I'm willing to put in the time and the effort it takes and accept whatever outcome that gets me!  Until that time, I'll be the one focusing very intently on each step all the while muttering about the good old days.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Swimming First Thoughts

My son still has the training wheels on his bike. I  tried to take them off a few months back, but he got frustrated and stopped riding it altogether. So, I caved and put them back on – probably not my best “parenting” moment. The truth is, learning a new sport is hard. It takes work and dedication to continue to try even when you know you are terrible at it and even skin your knees up a little bit. Learning to swim laps is very similar. But, since it is all that I’m going to be able to do post-op for a WHILE, I am trying really hard to learn…and failing quite impressively.

Like I mentioned before, a month or so back when I received my knee diagnosis, I asked my doctor if I could bike until my surgery. (I had stopped biking mostly out of frustration of the situation.) I received the ever so reassuring **shrug** and the response of “well, you probably can’t hurt it any more than it already is”. Hmm, okkkaayyyyyy......   His nurse also mentioned swimming. “Do you swim? You can pretty much always swim.”  With that simple statement, I started to look into it.

Now, if water sliding would provide cardio benifits, I would be SO fit!!

I don’t swim laps. Up until a month ago, I had tried swimming laps exactly twice before…. And those times were across a normal play-pool – not exactly Michael Phelps style training. In doing so I learned:

  • I’m not a fish and thus cannot breath under water
  • Related to revelation #1, water in my lungs hurts a lot
  • Water in my ears feels like one of those amazon worms crawling into my brain
  • I can have 5% body fat and still have a muffin top while wearing triathlete spandex shorts

So, when I tried to actually learn how to swim laps a month or so ago with Laura (who is an excellent swimmer), I was essentially starting from square one. Laura offered lots of great tips like “You’d be faster if you didn’t hack and cough so much” and “keep the water on the outside of your body not in your lungs”. Just kidding, she did exactly what I wanted and provided no tips – just let me figure it out on my own. I guess I am pretty thick-headed when it comes to trying to power through things on my own via brute force.

And...well... It is actually starting to work! I've swam 1000yds a handful of times while only choking on water a few times each session. The main issue that I've been having is pacing - I simply go way too fast. Either that or I just suck / don't have the fitness I need. After I do 100 or 150 yards I am GASPING for air and need to take a few moments to catch my breath. But, as long as I catch my breath every few minutes (in spite of still being impossibly hard and even more humbling), it is coming.

I think the thing that surprised me most about swimming is indeed how humbling it is. I've always been an above average athlete and am most certainly a well below average swimmer. I've had the opportunity to be lapped by Laura more times than I would like to admit - which I have no problems admitting bothered me at first. But, I've decided that I'm going to look at it two ways:  First, everyone is a beginner at everything at some point. All it takes is throwing off the training wheels and practicing more (usually after I hack up all the water I swallowed). Second, while I'll likely get better, I will probably never be "great", which is just fine. I've never wanted to be a professional swimmer (their abs? Different story) so just being mediocre is fine. Because, let's call a spade a spade, this is really a bandaid until I can do what I actually enjoy - running. Something my surgery should hopefully get me back to ASAP.

Swimming requires a lot of fuel