January 2008 through May 2011 were the toughest years of my running life, I had so many major injuries that significantly reduced the number of days that I ran during these years. A quick run-down of the major ones:
• 1/4/08 – Fell off the Ladder while shoveling the garage roof
• 2/4/09 – Massive Migraine initially thought to be a stroke or Bell’s Palsy
• 2/10/10 – Injured Right Knee playing racquetball that eventually ended up with…
• 5/17/11 – Arthroscopic Surgery Right Knee
Yes, there were many more “minor” things that kept slowing me down, but those were the ones that seemed to hammer on the body the most.
Falling off the Ladder
My running that year had gone really well pretty much all of 2007. We had had an unusual amount of snow in Dec/Jan that year and I knew that I had to shovel the snow off the garage roof. It was over 4 feet deep in some places on the roof with an ice layer about a foot from the roof that had to be busted up with a crowbar before I could shovel through it in some places.
Not a photo of the day that I fell off the ladder, but look above the thermometer over to the left and that is where I fell from the ladder. It gives an image to base things on.
I had spent all afternoon snow blowing and shoveling (so I was pretty damn tired). The roof was all done but a small patch by the ladder, which I could get after I got down with the roof rake.
I stepped on the ladder and started to put all of my weight on the rung and the ladder started to move.
I tried to hold on until it hit the other snowbank, but as it moved, it became unbalanced and flipped over.
When it started to move, somehow my right leg slipped down between the rungs, and then I was flung upside down like a rag doll and dislocated my right shoulder (I know because I have done that several times before) while I was trying to hang on while being flipped.
Somehow I hung on and wasn’t laying face down in the ice/snowbank under the ladder
I am hanging there upside down with a dislocated shoulder, looking up between the ladder rungs at the sky – 10 feet above the snow and ice that I had shoveled off the roof.
All the while the ladder continued to increase velocity (that sound you hear when a ladder is scrapping against the roof when it is coming down), all I could do was hang-on. When the ladder hit the other snow bank and came to that sudden stop – I couldn’t hold on any longer. The last thing I remember as I was falling is “Oh f-bomb – This is gonna hurt”.
Yes, time does slow down in that kind of situation and while the wild ride only took seconds, it seemed like an eternity.
Gravity worked perfectly and I landed on my back – dropping that 10 feet – hurt…bad.
So I am laying there stunned and maybe a brief period of being unconscious (there was a nasty lump on the back of my head) – when I finally collected myself. I was afraid to move to see what was broke or doesn’t work – yeah I really thought that I had done some serious damage to myself.
While trying to breathe and slow down my heart rate, I finally got up the courage to move. The shoulder hurt, but had gone back in place, my legs and hands wriggled and when moved they were all under my control (relief), my right lower back felt like someone had a knife in it, the right knee hurt pretty bad and my right Achilles area felt like someone had hit it with a sledgehammer (I figured screwed up hip, torn ACL and a broken ankle – at the least).
I lifted my head up to look around and there were no big red splotches in the white snow.
You don’t know the relief I felt at that moment.
Injured yes, though still alive and able to move.
I slowly and very carefully moved away from the depression in the snow and saw why my back hurt, a chunk of shoveled off roof ice was where I landed – luckily it was laying mostly flat. I gingerly stood up checked everything over and knew that I was going to be a hurting puppy later.
The ankle bore weight – not broken, but hurt like hell, the knee flexed, and supported my weight, lower back hurt like hell, but I could move. Finally, I had one hell of a headache from bouncing it off the snowbank – probably one of those ice chunks.
What did I do next?
Once I figured out I was gonna live, be able to move a bit.
I got out the snowblower and cleaned up the mess that was on the ground in front of the garage. For the very next painful 1/2 hour, otherwise, the vehicles would have been stuck in the garage. Stubborn and stupid I am, but it needed to be done, if I waited I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
If TheWife had known that I had fallen off the roof, she would have had a hissy fit about me doing the cleanup.
I won’t say that the clean up was perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was passible. Finally, I went into the house and told her what had happened and she was all worried, but I told her no big deal and I just needed to rest for a while.
The rest of the night was painful, but I survived it pretty well – I thought I would be lucky and just be sore in the morning.
The next morning when I got up or more accurately tried to get up, I could barely move and my lower back was in so much pain that I volunteered to go to the Emergency Room. I hate doctors and hospitals so for me to do that – I was in a lot of pain. I called into work to let them know what happened and off we went to the ER.
At the ER they did a couple of X-Rays, gave me some medication for the pain, and told me to go see my primary care physician in a week. They also told me to forget about going to work for the rest of the week. Which I could not have done if I had wanted to.
I was barely able to walk until the following Sunday. This is the only time in my life I have ever taken pain pills for more than a couple of days, the pain in my lower back was excruciating for the first five days and tolerable for a couple of weeks after that.
When I saw my PCP, he set up a bunch of X-Rays and other tests, after which he told me that I had crushed the soleus down towards my right ankle, bruised the hell out of the back of my knee and did something to the sciatic nerve in my lower back, in addition to separating my right shoulder.
I was in physical therapy for quite a while and wasn’t able to really start running until the following October without a great deal of pain in my right ankle – it still bothers me at times today. Looking back I probably should have seen an Ortho, but the PCP kept saying it would be fine.
That September I even paid for a chiropractor out of pocket 75 miles away who used the Graston technique to break up scar tissue and to help speed recovery – it helped, but got too pricey, time-consuming and I had to stop.
By November I was running with some pain in the ankle but other than that nothing hurt and I was starting to increase my mileage again — slowly and doing it mostly on the treadmill, but doing it. It was one of the longer recoveries from an injury that I have had.
I was very, very lucky on that one. I know that and I am a lot more careful when I shovel that damn garage roof off now – which is very seldom.
Massive Migraine or Whatever
Things were just getting back to normal again, I was running pretty consistently around 20-25 miles a week. I was also working in a different job, with a lot of stress and we had had a pretty tough last couple of months.
About an hour after I got to work that morning while briefing my boss on the latest issue with an ongoing problem we had, my eye started watering, then it felt as though someone had stuck an ice pick into my right temple and the side of my face felt like it was drooping, my speech was slurring and my right arm felt sort of tingly.
Something felt pretty wrong – to say the least.
At that point, I told her that I thought I needed to go to the ER immediately. She looked closely at me and agreed. Even though I was having a difficult time walking/controlling the right side of my body and seeing out of my right eye. I drove myself over to the ER, I think I might have driven past the hospital a couple of times before I figured out where I needed to be. Yeah, I caught all kinds of hell for driving myself over there later from the hospital and my wife, but I wanted to get there ASAP — I kind of think that I almost didn’t.
Stubborn old cuss aren’t I.
Initially, the ER responded as though it was a stroke – it sure had all of the symptoms of a one, but all the tests came back negative. No one seemed to know what was going on, other than I couldn’t function, had problems talking, the side of my face was dropping down, my right side was fucked up and my head felt like it was gonna explode.
I was a mystery to the ER staff and all they could do was send me home, with some pain meds and refer me out to a neurologist, who was able to squeeze me in after a couple of days in bed.
At the time he and I didn’t see eye-to-eye, he was an arrogant arsehole, who didn’t like patients asking questions of his diagnosis that he had announced before ever seeing or talking with me based on the medical records or why something wasn’t right with my body, blah, blah, blah. I will be honest, I wasn’t in the best of moods and we had a bit of tiff.
The strangest thing was the pain and slurring of my speech continued for almost a month and I couldn’t do much of anything for the first couple of weeks other than sit in my chair and piss and moan about how shitty I felt and being scared out of my mind, because the medical professionals and I didn’t have a clue about what was wrong, other than something was definitely not right.
I know that I missed a lot of work during that time. I stopped taking the meds the neurologist prescribed because they were screwing me up worse than the pain in the head was. During this time I didn’t run and the neurologist said just in case it was something beyond the migraine to not run for a couple of months.
After getting the pain in my head under control and getting complete control of my body back, I got so I could go back to work. While getting better, I walked a lot, talked a lot with TheWife, thought a lot about life and what I wanted to really do with it. This episode and falling off the roof had really, really had scared me and made me realize how quickly life could change and not for the better.
I finally got back to running regularly that May and was starting to feel good about it and that October, I actually went back to teaching, which was something I had always loved. From that May until snow fell I was doing between 15-20 miles a week. Once the snow was on the ground I started to use the gym’s treadmill after work 3 or 4 days a week.
However, for a long time, I could still point to that sport in my head, where it felt as though someone had slid an ice pick in there and done something. I really wonder what happened that day, because I sure as hell don’t know and neither did the medical professionals.
I was running fairly pain-free and going to the gym as much as a Special Education teacher is able to with all the meetings and paperwork that is necessary, in addition to teaching 3 blocks of 8th Grade level English in the Resource Room. I started playing racquetball again. I had been a pretty good player back in the early ’80s in Michigan and thought it would be a nice complement to running.
While I was playing a game in February 2010, I stepped wrong while going for the ball and crashed into the wall. I felt the knee immediately buckle and flare to new levels of pain I had never experienced before and I didn’t try to finish the game or anything. I gimped to the front desk and asked for some ice and sat there for a while to get the pain under control, so I could go home.
Surprisingly, there was not a lot of swelling.
I figured that I had twisted it bad and gimped around on it for about a month, before finally giving in and going to see the doctor. He bent twisted and tugged on the damn thing and almost lost some teeth when I told him to stop and he didn’t. He told me he didn’t think it was ligament damage, but that he wanted me to go see an orthopedic surgeon.
The initial consult with the ortho was in May, so I hadn’t been able to run since early in February (I had tried almost every week, but it just hurt too much). He told me to do this and that and made another appointment for June to see how it worked out. I hadn’t improved at all and he ordered a bunch of tests and made an appointment to see me in September.
In September, the ortho diagnosed me with a degenerative knee (there is a fancy name, but don’t want to use it here) and discussed various options up to and including knee replacement. We talked for a while and discussed what would happen if we did nothing for a while, school had just started, I was still a probationary teacher and didn’t want to miss a lot of school with surgery and jeopardize my job.
He told me probably nothing, but that sooner or later (probably sooner) I would be back for the surgery. We elected to wait until it got so bad that I couldn’t wait any longer. Hoping to last until after the school year ended.
By April the knee had reached the point where I was willing to undergo surgery – the ortho had been correct.
I was having significant issues just walking up the steps to the house, couldn’t walk any distance without difficulty (I still walked Bennie a mile almost every morning though – sucked it up and did it). At school, I had to use the elevator and the cane – not the combo that I enjoyed at all.
When I had to start walking with a cane almost all the time and it seemed every week the knee was getting worse, we decided it was time for surgery. I was tired of being an “old” man before I got old.
I went back to the ortho, confirmed the diagnosis, and set up a date in May for the surgery.
We went with the idea that it was exploratory surgery to see what was actually wrong in there and if the knee needed to be replaced to do it and get it over with. I was pretty sure at this point my running career was over.
I was scared as hell.
I hadn’t even ever had an I.V. before, so surgery was far beyond my experience and one that I had no desire to do. But I when I gimped (in a lot of pain) through the O.R. waiting room doors using a cane, there was no doubts about what I was doing. I knew surgery was the right decision. Knowing that didn’t lessen how scared and nervous I was about it though.
I don’t remember a lot about that day (real good drugs), but the doc gave us some GREAT news after the operation and I was almost cognizant of what was going on around me, I didn’t have a degenerative knee!!!!!!!!!!
I had had a piece of cartilage about the size of a dime was floating around inside my knee, which he took care of! He did some cleaning up of some old frayed ends and general 50-year housekeeping while he was in there.
No knee replacement surgery, which would have ended my running career completely according to the Doc.
The recovery from the arthroscopic surgery was easier than I ever expected, no it wasn’t painless, but not nearly as bad as some had told me. By June 15th I had run a mile (against doctor’s orders) and was plugging along nicely. By the end of June, I had been discharged from Physical Therapy and was running a couple miles a day.
However, by mid-July, the knee was starting to swell and hurt more, so I decided to take a month off to let it heal some more. I am glad I did and it felt a lot better. When I started back up again late August, I started slowly and every other day until around mid-October. Then I started to run daily.
At the end of October, I decided to start running again and have been running mostly pain-free with the knee since. Yeah, it pops and snaps a bit too much, and every once in awhile it gets a little yappy about things, but for the most part, I have been able to do whatever I want with it.
The first Question is
The first question that I have always asked all of the doctors after the medical crap is over or my questions for the docs have been sort of answered was “When can I run again?” A couple said, “it would be better if you didn’t or I don’t recommend you running ever again”.
I would respond with the refrain “When can I start to run again?” I know that I wasn’t and still am not the best patient and don’t always follow doctor’s orders, but it is my body and like my primary care provider stated when I refused the wheelchair “You’re gonna wear it out aren’t you?” I looked back at him – smiled (grimaced) and said “Yep” and gimped off to get my X-Rays.
Hey guys, I am still running 🙂
The Reality is
that those four years were very difficult for me – all the injuries had forced me to not run nearly as much as I wanted to. There were even questions if coming back to running was even an option at times. Coming back to the point where I am today has not been easy, there has been a lot of pain and suffering just to get back to where I am now. Especially when it would have been a helluva lot easier to simply stop and do what the doctor told me to do.
That ain’t me.
Yes, I am a stubborn old bastid and until the wheels fall off, running will be a part of my life.
Running is an important part of who I am and will be. As long as I am able to get out the door and run – I will.
I may no longer be as fast as I was or be able to run a far as I used to, but damn it I am still running.
I wonder how different the past few years would have been if I had been able to run and release some of the frustrations and worries that were part of my teaching job, which really got to me while I couldn’t run.
I just hope that the running muses feel that I have paid my dues and allow me to run injury-free for many years, after those four years of shall we say “interesting” running times.