The air is clear and cool, flowing past and drying perspiration from my brow as I glide around the track. The early morning light makes every sight vivid and etches it into my brain; the trees in the distance, the grass edging the field, the three lopsided dandelions missed by the mower. This is the best time to run, early in the day, before life intrudes. My breathing is regular and deep, each drawn down to the bottom of my lungs, giving energy to my strides, carrying the scent of newly mown grass. My sneakers seem to touch the track only lightly, making metronome like pat-pat sounds. I feel like a gazelle, able to run and run and run.
I hear a cell phone ring. Who the hell brings a cell phone on a run? And wasn’t I alone out here?
The cell phone’s beep changes into the intrusive sound of my alarm clock. I groggily hit the OFF button and roll to the edge of the bed. It takes a minute to locate my cane under the bed and use it to push into a standing position. As I hobble to the bathroom to start the day, I remember the dream.
I was recently reminded that I haven’t updated on my blog in a while. Due to my accident, chronicled in a recent post, I have been concentrating on recovery. It’s time to update my status.
I am now back working in my primary job. I still have some physical limitations that impact my work, such as not being able to easily climb stairs or stand for long periods, but I can still perform essential tasks.
Luckily, my job doesn’t involve a lot of physical movement, just System Administration and managerial skills. Not exactly the type of job where Olympic level stamina is needed. My running days are behind me now. Even when I ran well, years before the accident, I was never gazelle-like. More thrashing hippopotamus.
I consider myself blessed, despite the new limitations of my body. Why blessed? You might ask.
First, my company went to great lengths to support me in my recovery. Even though I was out for several months after the surgery, I still had a job to go back to. The cynical would say this was required by Workers Compensation law. I will note that the law doesn’t require an employer to hold your old job for you, or keep paying you at the same rate (Workers Comp mandated pay rates are normally lower than the average salary). My manager was instrumental in keeping me employed.
Next, I have the extreme good fortune to be married to a nurse. Not just any nurse, my wife is an Emergency Room specialist with many years of experience. She was my advocate with the doctors, hospitals, home health caregivers, and physical therapists.
For example, soon after discharge from the hospital, I had my first office visit with the Orthopedic Surgeon who had repaired my knees. The doctor removed my stitches (actually, they were staples), checked my knees for movement and said, “Come back in a month and try to have your knees bending to 90 degrees by then.” He then hurried out of the cubicle to visit the next patient. My wife chased him down. “Wait a second, doctor. How is he supposed to do that? Do you have a treatment plan, exercises, or advice?”
“Oh, right,” he said, “Talk to the front office nurse. She will provide you with a sheet of instructions. Call this number,” as he scribbled, “tell them you need a CPM, Continuous Passive Motion leg exerciser. Start with two hours per leg at 10 degrees and increase daily by a few degrees. That should get you to 90 degrees by the next visit.”
Another example, I had home health caregivers, who were supposed to visit our home to care for me while bedridden. Several times, a caregiver would arrive late, and in one instance not at all. My wife jumped all over the organization about their laxness. Since I was fairly self-sufficient, I asked her why she was upset. Her response, “If I show up an hour late to the Emergency Room, I will be terminated. If I leave a patient, I can be sued for Patient Abandonment. They have to stick to the same rules as we do.”
With this kind of support, how could I not succeed?
And succeed I did. From the wheelchair, to the walker, to using a cane; it has been a slow but steady trek toward regaining mobility. I am now at a point called MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement). That’s the point where the doctor doesn’t expect the patient to make any further significant gains. There will be further improvements in stamina and mobility, as long as I keep up the exercises. Hell, I might even be able to throw away the cane. But it looks like running will be impossible.
Despite the limitations imposed by time, misfortune, and the surgeon’s knife; I still consider myself fortunate. I’m luckier than a man who has bought two winning lottery tickets in a row.
But still, but still… I dream of running.