Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Comeback begins...

All things considered, I am a very lucky guy!  How many people survive a 100 foot ground fall with no major permanent injuries.  My prognosis looks pretty good for a full recovery.  It's been 3 weeks since the accident, and I have already made incredible progress.  Everyday gets better and I am so grateful for all the support from friends and family!  The comeback is in full swing, but it hasn't been all fun and games along the way...

It all started with them rolling me back from surgery, plopping me in bed, and sticking a morphine pump in my hand.  "You can press this once every 10 minutes, and it will help with the pain", the nurse said.  "OK, whatever", I thought, "...but why is my left foot looking pidgeon-toed now?"  Great!  My right foot has always been tipped to the right, so now they are both pointing in that direction.  I joked that I will need to start running around the track in the opposite direction.

The reality of the situation was taking hold.  I had a cathader stuck inside me, my left thigh was about the size of my waist, and I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  My energy level and mobility was so poor, I had to drink water with a bent straw since I could not lift my head.  Visitors were streaming in and out and I did the best I could to put on a happy face.  I was amazed that so many of my climbing friends took the time to stop by the hospital or call.  Climbers climb....they don't go to social functions unless at night or weather is bad.  I guess it's different when it is one of your own though.  I was touched and humbled.

I didn't sleep much at night.  It was a waiting game until morning.  The techs came in every 2-4 hours to check my vitals and the noises in the hallway kept me awake most of the night.  On Monday morning, the Physical Therapy team showed up and started inflicting pain.  Actually, they helped me get some mobility back in my leg and over the course of 3 days, I made great progress.  Nevertheless, it felt like torture at times.

The big issue for me was my low hemoglobin level.  I had lost so much blood that they thought I might need a transfusion.  Yikes!  They put me on iron supplements to try to get me back to normal.  My hemoglobin level was around 8.  I think 14 is the low end of normal.  Lance Armstrong was around a 7 when he was going through his cancer treatments and Herman Maier (The Herminator), Austrian Pro Skier, was around 6 after he broke his leg in a motorcycle accident.  It feels like you have no energy, and any activity feels like miles 70 to 90 of a 100 mile trail race.  Moving from the bathroom to the bed required a nap afterwards.  When you are trying to get out of the hospital, it can be frustrating.  I kept trying to push to get better, and I seemed to go backwards each step of the way.

To compound my concerns, I was coughing up bloody mucus every few hours.  This freaked me out even though I was continually assured that it was OK and would eventually stop.  Additonal tests were run, and everything looked fine.  I still worried for a week until it eventually stopped.

There were cuts and bruises everywhere, going to the bathroom was like summiting Everest, and I just felt pretty miserable overall.  At the same time, I kept reminding myself of how lucky I am to be alive and to have so much love and support.

The therapists taught me how to go up steps backwards with the walker, so I could get into my house, and after 5 days in the hospital, I was psyched to go home.  Charlotte and Tara were a tag team in getting me to the car and home.  It was a huge relief when I was able to get myself into the house with the walker, and I was so happy to be in my own home.

It would be nice if I could say everything got better from that point, but the next few days were some of the toughest of my life.

On Friday, I went to see my local Ortho specialist, Dr. Veltri, and it was an epic just getting into the office and exam room.  He twisted my knee in ways that seemed like torture and informed me that my ACL was likely toast.  He said 6 weeks with no weight on the leg, gave me a set of 4 exercises to do on my own, and sent me home.  Goat got me home and in bed, and I was wiped out for the day.

We had a surprise 21st birthday party for my daughter, Jamie, on Saturday, and I was OK for about the first hour.  Then, my energy level tanked and my pain level was beyond uncomfortable.  I went into the next room and crawled into bed.  I felt horrible for not socializing more, but I was miserable.   I felt like a doll on display as my bed is in the dining room (since I can't go up stairs) and there is no privacy at all.  On top of it all, I was wicked constipated from the pain killers.  I never have this type of problem and I feel sorry for all the folks that have to deal with it on an ongoing basis.  After the party, I was determined to get that part of me fixed ASAP!

Without going into gory detail, I threw the kitchen sink at the problem and won.  The flood gates opened at around 1:30AM on Sunday morning, and life was getting better.  On Sunday, the stress of taking care of their Dad started getting to my girls, and things got a little crazy.  I was miserable and hated being dependent on others.  I a desperate move to get my head clear, I decided to stop taking the pain killers.  I hoped it would clear up my head as well as possibly bring an end to the bloody mucus and other issues.

On Monday, I had some time to rest, and my head started clearing up after dumping the painkillers.  Things were starting to look up.  As I look back, this was the point at which things started to get better.  My energy level started improving, and the bloody mucus started to disappear.  I felt like things were a little more defined in terms of the road ahead, and I could get my arms around the challenge.  Friends and family were coming out of the woodwork, and I could feel things coming together.

Several folks have generously indicated that I'm a fighter, etc.  One friend hinted that I probably relish the challenge of making this "comeback".  At this point, I'm just trying to take one day at a time.  Each week gets better.  The last week was definitely better than the first 2, but I still have 3 more weeks before I can even put weight on my leg.  It seems like forever at times.  It's frustrating to not be able to take out your own garbage or go grocery shopping.  It's tough to try to hold a conversation while watching to make sure no one bumps into your leg.  It's an epic adventure to hop to the end of the driveway to get the mail.  It's heaven when you can crawl up the stairs on your butt and take a long overdue shower.  It's spectacular when you can walk outside and breath in fresh air.

One day at a time.  Each day gets better.

Thanks to all of you for your love and support.  I appreciate every one of you.  Thanks,



Kocsis Family said...

Even before you fell, I would always think of you as I was pedaling up past those cliffs in the Gunks. Good luck continuing to get better. You are so lucky. Not just to be alive, but because you didn't get a serious head injury.

I know traveling is the farthest thing from your mind right now, but when you are back in the area again give us a call. We'd be happy to host a get together. You can reach us via facebook.


The Lisa said...

Thanks for posting your ongoing recovery, Steve. This will inspire others in similar situations. I am so glad to read that you are healing bit by bit, and have a wonderful support crew (crewing for races is nothing compared to this!)