Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Recovery Journey Part 6 - Progress is Progress

No one said recovery was going to be fast and it is not.  That said I am thankful for small improvements and I am now able to sleep for 6+ hours a night although I am still not able to get to sleep before the early hours of the morning. 

The other improvement is that the pain is reducing and I can manage for longer periods without pain control and that has allowed me to focus a little more which is a good thing in my books.

Well that is about all I have to share today on the recovery front.  I am counting down the days now until I see the neurologist about my neck and focusing on positive news.

The Steampunk Gun Project is almost complete and I will share the final outcome soon :)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Recovery Journey Part 5 - Start of Week Six

To be honest I should have written this post yesterday.  Yesterday I felt positive after the best night sleep since the accident.  Last night was a different story, I could not get to sleep until about 4 - 4:30am and the lack of sleep is definitely having an impact on my mood and emotional state.  There is good news though.  Last night I lowered the dose age of pain killers and was able to get through the night.  Anyway enough of my whinging about lack of sleep.

I would like to think I am getting more mobile by the day.  The pain in my shoulders, shoulder blades and arms is still present and makes itself known when I spend too long sitting.  Sarah said to me today that it has been a month already and it only seems like yesterday,  I told her it seems like both yesterday and an age ago both at the same time for me. 

I stayed in yesterday and spent the time on the steampunk gun project, painting switch plates and running the RC car.  Nothing exciting but it kept me moving and my mind somewhat occupied.  Today we meet up for a tea with a friend and I was able to spend a couple of hours chatting and sitting - yup that is a first. 

I had hoped to go to a local VW show in the afternoon but the exertion over tea was too much and I decided not to push things and skip the show.  It was good to get out and it certainly helped me find my current limits.

It is funny what you learn about yourself when recovering.  I certainly do not like sitting still, I have an almost constant nagging feeling that I should be doing something productive and there is the rub as I don't know what it is I should be doing vs the things that I could be doing that I don't feel I want to do, whilst feeling guilty that I am not doing them, sound confusing? welcome to my crazy mind. 

Then there is the whole away from work thing.  This is the longest I have not worked in my entire life and between you and me I was hoping that when I had an extended period of time away from work I would be enjoying it.  I know I just need to accept that I need time to heal, I know this at an academic level and know it is the correct course of action,  I would without doubt council a friend in my position the same.  So why does my emotions and feeling have to be so damn unreasonable.  Why do I have to feel guilty that I am not back at work and then feel guilty that I am able to move around and not put that energy into my work, back to that feeling of things I should do.  I can tell you it is all kinds of crazy.  The thing is knowing the crazy for what it is and dealing with the situation. 

Wish me luck as I manage the inner turmoil, continue to find distractions and look to stay true to the belief that every moment is a gift and finding something good, positive and beneficial in each moment regardless of adversity is the challenge. 

I am living with the injury, the injury does not define me.   Man who put that flower their - SARAH!!!  - Stay well and find the moments that matter most.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recovery Journey Part 4 - Day by Day

The one thing about recovery I have learnt over the years is that you just have to take the journey day by day, and this is no exception.  Today marks 5 weeks since the accident and just over a week before I am assessed by the neurologist.

I am now at the stage where the pain can for the most part be controlled but I don't have the energy or enthusiasm to do anything for a prolonged period.  I have gone on a History Channel "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers" binge with my favorite being American Pickers.  The bad news is that I only have 1 season of American Pickers left and I have a longing for Garage Sales and Junking, this cannot be good :)

Sleep is still the man problem as I am having to sleep on the sofa, it takes an age to get to sleep,  I wake up 3 or 4 times a night and then sleep late into the morning.  Last night I accidently double dosed on Ibuprofen that's how mixed up my mind gets at night.  The good news is that it is not mixed up enough to not know I made a mistake and a call to poison control confirmed I would be ok.   It was still a little worrying for a moment there.

With all situations in life making the most of what you have and finding moments of enjoyment are critical and I keep that front of mind.  Take yesterday for example, we took a trip to Ben Franklin to pickup some paints for my Steampunk Gun project that is quite honestly becoming a saga rather than a project given the time I am able to focus on it.  But I digress, heading out of the store we meet a really nice person.  She sympathized with me over the collar, telling me that she understood how difficult they are to wear.  With my jaw hurting when I speak too much, I was not initially inclined towards a long conversation but she was so nice that we soon started chatting and sharing stories.  We got along really well and I gave her my contact details and invited her to stay in touch.

Both Sarah and I commented on what a nice person we had met and hoped she would email us as finding new friends is always hard.  Well yesterday she did email and it turns out that after reading my blog we had more in common than we knew.   Today I replied to the mail and hope that it is the beginning of a great friendship.

My point is that without the accident or the collar we would not have met and we would have missed out on the meeting.  Of course I would rather not have had the accident but sometimes the universe has other plans for us.

I will not suggest, I am enlighten and will leave the keyboard in a Zen like state with a sense of peace that the universe has it all covered, as much as I would love that to be the case.  It just seems that I am not wired that way, but the one thing that is very clear to me is the journey I am on right now is the only journey I have and it is the journey and not the destination that matters, so it is what it is and it is up to me if I whinge about it or make the best of it.

In the film "After Earth" with Will Smith, the main character uses the following quote, when I heard it, it resonated deeply with me:

If we are going to survive this, you need to remember, fear is not real. It is a product of the thoughts you create. Now do not misunderstand me; danger is very real. But fear is a choice.
Ok back to the "History Channel" for me 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Recovery Journey Part 3 - Sleep and Doing Stuff

One of the most frustrating things at the moment is sleeping.  I don't know about you but I am not a back sleeper but over the last 4 weeks I have been forced to sleep on my back due to the collar which you can imagine has not helped with getting a full, restful and healing night sleep.  Add to that the fact that the bottom of the collar is pressing against one of the fractures in my neck and that laying on my back puts pressure on the fracture in the thoracic spine you can understand when I say I am reliant on pain killers to get to sleep and wake up pretty much as they were off. 

So what about side sleeping, as you can imagine I tried both voluntarily and involuntarily during the  both without success.  The broken rib on my right prevented me from sleeping on my left as it felt like being stabbed in the chest and.  As for trying to sleep on my right both the broken rib and separated shoulder then later the TMJ flare up blocked that option.  Putting me squarely back on my back..

The good news is that with the rib break and spine fractures healing, and 4 weeks of practice I can lay and sleep more comfortably, I have even worked out how to kind of side sleep to my right side by supporting the collar with a pillow.  It is a trade off as I get a little sleep with the aid of pain killers but when they wear off it aches much more.  As of last night I am able to sleep in about 2 to 3 hour blocks.  I don't mind saying I don't like going to sleep at night as I am reliant on painkiller assistance and it takes ages to get to sleep.  I seem to be able to sleep around 2 - 3 am and sleep sporadically through to 11 /12 ish the next day.  Oh and getting up is a process as everything hurts.

Here are the injuries I am having to sleep with:

Cervical hematoma in C2, C3, C4 (Cervical Spine), ligamentous C-Spine injury (That is the neck ligament injury and the reason I am in a collar), right posterior laminar fracture of C4 that proceeds into the spinous process, left transverse process fracture of T2 (Thoracic Spine), Left AC joint separation and left first rib fracture and punctured lung (medical notes: Subcutaneous emphysema in left chest and a small apical pneumothorax on the left lung)


Baby Steps for Today

I am pleased with the amount of sleep last night, and whilst I still have a TMJ head ache it seems a little less than yesterday - fingers crossed it will continue to improve.

Oh, and I did my very first easy founder with decompression breathing as well as a standing decompression.  I held neither of then for very long but I am excited that I could raise my arms up and over my head, something I could not do a week ago. 

Getting on with life

For the first 4 weeks my mental state was all over the place as a result of the pain and medication, I went through wanting to do things, not wanting to do things, anxiety and optimism.  I felt I needed to get back to work as soon as possible and became frustrated with myself when I did not want to or could not find the motivation to get engaged.  This feeling was not just limited to work, I did not want to blog or even review or edit pictures.  I was able to get out and watch a cyclocross race but I even struggle with my cycling passion. It was and still is overwhelming.   Understanding that I need to heal was a major step as was / is accepting the need to take sort term medical leave something I have never needed and at some level seems like a failure.  Accepting that journey was an important step that was helped in a big way by my good friends Jenny and Tom.

Doing Stuff

If you don't know me I have to be doing things, movement seems to be critical to my life and finding myself in a situation where I can't think straight and do things has been frustrating.  The good news is that I have found my creative side has not been as impacted and that I am able to watch you tube DIY videos and find enthusiasm.  I feel in love with Steampunk design and after watching a few video's thought I could do that.  Well with a lot of help from Sarah (OK, all Sarah's work with me watching) we got the garage cleaned up and my work table turned into a craft table where I can sit and do a little painting.  We took a trip to value village where I picked  up a couple of old Nerf guns and over the last few days I have been able to do a little craft work each day.  The project is far from finished but here is a picture so far.

I am also excited to say that my RC car arrived and it is a blast to drive.  I can't spend much time driving it but it goes like a rocket, jumps with no fear of personal injury and the dogs love to chase it.  Looking forward to getting out and driving it more.

This has been my longest post today - so another mini breakthrough. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Recovery Journey Part 2 - Start of week 5

Today I am going to blog first thing rather than later in the day.  Over the weekend I had intended to write a post a day but by the afternoon my focus and the pain typing causes in my upper arms and shoulders I was unable to transfer my thoughts to words, so today I am going to get my post in first.

As you know I have been managing a flare up of TMJ for the last two weeks, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge joint that connects the lower jaw (mandible) to the temporal bone of the skull, which is immediately in front of the ear on each side of your head and in my case it has been causing a stabbing and shooting pain almost constantly.  The symptoms of TMJ can be very similar to an ear infection and whilst I was 99% sure I was experiencing TMJ I had to have the ear checked just in case.  A visit to an ear nose and throat specialist confirm I did not have an infection.

Saturday morning my dentist took a look at me.  I am very grateful to have such a great dentist.  He came into work at 8:30am on Saturday to make time to help me.  It turns out that my bite was out and causing me put pressure on a few points instead of an even application of pressure.  I told me that this causes the jaw joint take the pressure and could be contributing if not causing the TMJ flare up.  He adjusted my bite and I was able to see the changes in pressure after the adjustment.  He told me that it could take a few days for the inflammation to subside although the collar is not helping by forcing the jaw together.

Since the adjustment on Saturday the pain has subsided, it is more controllable with pain killers and I am optimistic that it will continue to get better. 

As I enter week 5 I am surprised at how much pain I am experiencing in the shoulders, arms and back.  It is no longer debilitating pain but in is wearing and makes it hard to concentrate and do things.  Later in the day even holding a book up is hard.  It is hard as it is tempting to push myself to do things and let the pain killers run out, both of which I have done and found to be a really bad idea.

Ok by "do things" I mean, write a blog, or drive an RC car or do a little model painting, go for a walk or visit the shops. 

The good news is that I am able to do a little of all of them and I am at last sleeping longer than 6 hours a night even if it is broken into 2/3 hour blocks.

Sarah mentioned to me yesterday how since the accident we have been blessed with random acts of kindness and whilst is it difficult to deal with an injury it is heart warming to experience simple acts of kindness.  For example yesterday I took an old watch in for a new battery.  Whilst there I looked at the new watches and Sarah shared my story with the assistant.  When we picked up the watch she took us to one side and said it was free, it was only $15 but the thought and consideration was priceless.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Recovery Journey Part 1

One quick decision, a blink of an eye and everything changes.  All the work you put into training, all the goals and plans you had change in an instant.

Everything comes to a grinding halt and survival and recovery become the focus and you are forced into a journey all about  next steps.  That has been my world now for the last 4 weeks.

Did I mention I am a lousy patient, no, well I am.  I can accept a week or so of recovery but then I am itching to be fit and better, but nature has other ideas.  It wants to remind me all the time through this pain or that pain the consequences of injury.  Then there are the meds and aids.  The meds help but introduce their own problems with emotional swings.  The other day I had to switch up medication as the anti-inflammatory was causing anxiety and depression.  I have definitely learnt the importance of keeping the pain medication active.  Oh and then there is the collar.  Having never had one before I did not realize how impacting they are.  It presses on injured muscles, forces me to sleep on my back and rubs where is should not rub, but again I am not complaining (well may be a little) as it is keeping my head on.

Every time something hurts or I get frustrated or I can't do something I remind myself that I could be paralyzed and the journey could be so much worse.  That said, it is hard when you can't sleep or get comfortable but I have to remind myself that the journey is one of recovery and that is a blessing.

For the last week I have enjoyed a major TMJ flare up in my jaw brought on by the collar.  It's not enough to have the crash injuries but now I have a problem brought on by the device aiding my recovery.  If you have never had TMJ I am happy for you as it is like being stabbed in the head whilst having a head ache that just will not go away.  It can also feel very much like an ear infection and today I paid a visit to the hospital to confirm it was not indeed an ear infection - thankfully it was not as that would have needed more medication.  Now it is time to visit my dentist to see what they can do.

Daily Progress

Still suffering from TMJ but I had a break through and slept for 6 hours last night , that is the longest night sleep I have had in 4 weeks, thanks to an increased dose of pain killers from the doctor yesterday.

Keep The Spirits High

One of the most important things I have found when recovering from injury is to do things that keep the spirits high, whilst not always possible I try to find small things to lift me.  After hours of T.V. and You tube I have focused on expanding my knowledge of Steampunk and making simple things when I have a few minutes and can manage the work.  This has lead to the purchase of 2 second had Nerf Guns that I plan to Steampunk.  It also resulted in a visit to the local hobby shop for a short outing, whilst there I look at RC cars and that inspired me.  If I can't get out and ride maybe I could by an RC car and drive it.  Hey it's an extreme sport I could do for 5 mins in my back yard.  Well RC Car ordered yesterday, delivered today and charging.

Another break through this is the longest I have been able to type for a while, although right now I am tiring so I will check out for now.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rossland and CRASH

Cycling this year has been all about getting back to race fitness with a focus on competing in the MFG Cyclocross season that started in September.  The preparation included increased focus on nutrition, hiring a personal coach, the purchase of power meters, a new cross bike and a new mountain bike.

The mountain bike training has been focused on speed and skill to build skills for cross racing and one week before the season started back in September I booked a training week with my coach in Rossland BC to dial in the last tweaks before race season.

It is amazing how a simple decision combined with simple mistakes can either lead to a crash you walk away from or a crash you don't.  This time it was one I did not walk away from.

4 weeks ago Thursday I headed up to the Paydirt track on Red Mountain in the morning as my coach could not join me to get in a couple of hours work out and work on my form and skills.  Don't ask me why as I still don't really know but I got a bug in my head to ride a wood 10' drop off, so on the last ride out I decided I would hit it.  What could go wrong, I hit similar drops all the time at my local bike park. 

I don't know for sure what happened but my guess is that I entered the drop too slowly and instead of focusing on the take off, I looked down at the wrong time resulting in the bike rolling off the drop and sending me 10' onto my head.

Alone on the mountain and unable to move I was close to panicking.  I had to gain what control I could of my body and attempt to get out.  In retrospect not the smartest thing to do but then again my mind and body was not functioning at anything near peak performance.  After what felt like an age I was able to stand up but the pain in my shoulders and neck was uncontrollable.  I tried to lean on my bike and walk, then I tried to sit on the bike with my weight on the handlebars and roll.  The pain was blinding and I was forced to stop.  It was about this time I remembered I had a cell phone.  I called my coach and got an answer phone, I then called my wife and from there she was able to get search and rescue to me.  Long story short I was immobilized and taken to the ICU in Rossland where I found out I had very nearly died.

I broke bones in my spine and neck, broke a rib and punctured a lung, tore all the ligaments in my neck and separated my shoulder.  Had my neck ligaments torn a fraction more and I would have broken my neck.

Whilst the injuries are bad I am truly grateful for the fact that I am still here and that I was not paralyzed a fact my neurologist emphasized when he told me most people he sees with my injuries are paralyzed.

So four weeks have passed and the cross season has started without me.  I was able to get out last weekend to see a bit of the racing but it is difficult as I am still dealing with the pain, pain meds and a TMJ flare up that is driving me mad.  The lack of sleep and focus is a daily struggle at the moment.  I just want to be back to normal but there is still a journey ahead.  I will attempt to keep a daily log going forward.

There is still more to say but I can't type any more as I am losing focus and my arms are aching.

Catch Up

I don't know about you but I seem to be afflicted with the need to sum up what has happened before moving on to what is happening so I am going to take five to summarize what has been happening since my last post.  As I write this I am recovering from a serious injury and in pain but I have been promising myself I would make an effort to post for the last few days and of course failed.  So here it is rough and ready.

I have to start by saying it has been an amazing summer in Seattle and with a great new role at work and a focus on bike training, things were going great.  We even got out for a few camping trips in Benny our VW camper, although even then cycling was a focus either with training rides and a trip to Whistler.

At work I had the privilege to work on a project to help people afflicted with ALS and in my spare time my cycle training was going from strength to strength after deciding to hire a coach to keep me on track and motivated for the upcoming "Cyclocross" season that started in September.

I have a lot to be thankful for in the last few months and whilst I am not in the best frame of mind right now it is good to look back and remind myself of the good times and here are a few pics.

Wetwesties Walla Walla Camp

Down hilling for the first time ever at Whistler

Whistler with the girls

Anacortes Camping
Winning Project of 3200+

Getting to throw ice water over my CEO in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - Priceless :)

Road biking in the Spring to Chinook Pass with the Pacific Bike Crew

Mountain Biking at Crystal Mountain

I had the great privilege to photograph an engagement, maternity and wedding.  Help train clients in foundation training, oh and get in one day of paddle boarding.

It is good to look back at the good times and I am thankful for all of them spent with my loving wife. puppies and wonderful friends.