Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Non-unions and re-unification

They have a special term for it....when your bone refuses to grow back together.  It is called a "non-union". There are a few other things that could use this term as well.  Instead of a divorce, it could be called a "non-union".  Sounds better, eh?  Anyway, my x-rays were looking very "non-union-esque", so I went to see the "non-union" specialist.  Can you believe there is a specialty in "non-unions"?

The Doc looked at the x-ray, took a measurement, and said, "It's OK."  OK, what do you mean by OK?, I asked.  OK, like good or OK, it could be better?  Basically, my bones are put together at a 10 degree angle from my hip to my knee, and it should be in a straight line.  He said, It should be zero, but 10 degrees is OK.

OK, Great.  I have a rod and two screws holding me together, two bones that refuse to grow together, and the bones happen to be offset at a 10 degree angle.  What do we do know?  The Doc said my strength and range of motion were very good and I could start riding the bike and swimming, but no more than 50% weight on the leg until it heals further.  He indicated that something happens around 13 weeks and good healing should result.

OK, I told him I wanted to run another 100 miler and he didn't say anything.  Nice!  I guess we don't have data for how one performs with a 10 degree offset in a 100 mile run.  Looks like I'm in unchartered waters....a somewhat familiar feeling.

He told me not to bother with Physical Therapy because my fitness level is where it needs to be and I know how to get myself working again.  I think he gave me a little too much credit, but I figured I could start off on my own and see how it went...

After a few days of walking with 25-50% weight on the leg, I was ready to hit the gym.  The walking had helped improve the blood flow, so the swelling and color improved.   I was hopeful that the gym workouts would speed up recovery even more.  I sat on a recumbent bike and tried turning the crank.  At first it was stiff as you might imagine The knee was the big issue.  I felt no pain in the fracture zone.   Encouraged, I pedaled for 30 minutes...gradually increasing the resistance to level 5 (very little resistance).  I felt good afterwards with very little pain.  Good first data point.  The workout was not much from a cardio standpoint, but it was  something  for the leg.  The horse is out of the gate...

The next day I wanted to see how far I could go... I wanted to see if I could do 1 hour.  30 minutes seemed like child's play and I needed to get in a decent workout.  I also wanted to sit on a real bike...not the recumbent.  It was tough getting on the bike seat, but I was fine once my feet were on the pedals.  I rode for 1 hour with minimal pain and broke a slight sweat.  I did some stretching and light strength training afterwards.  All systems seemed fine...Data point number 2.

On Monday and Tuesday, I did 45 minutes on the bike before work and made slight improvements on the resistance level each time.  My leg felt good, and I was becoming a regular at the gym.  My crutches brought a lot of attention and I had to explain my story to enquiring minds.

This morning I was determined to get the endorphines flowing.  I wanted to get the stress buster workout  I needed so much.  My goal was to do another hour on the bike, stretch, and do some core and upper body work.  I talked with my new friend who reads the Wall Street Journal while pedaling away and chatting to anyone within earshot.  I cranked as hard as I dared and put down the equivalent of 16 miles in an hour...not bad considering the circumstances.  I actually got a decent sweat going toward the end, so I was pleased.  Both knees were a little tender, so I need to keep an eye on it.  The good news was no significant pain in the fracture area.

My range of motion is improving and the knee seems to be improving everyday.  I'm even wondering if I may be able to avoid surgery on the knee.  We'll find out soon enough.

I remember running last winter and thinking how I could not live without running.  I couldn't imagine how I could cope without it.  I have been running regularly since the age of 12, and the thought of not running is not one that I care to hold close to me.  It feels good to be working on my fitness again, and I desperately want to get rid of these crutches.  I've gained weight and know the cycling is not enough.  It's a start though and I need to keep it all in perspective.  I've made daily progress for the past 12 weeks, and just need to be patient.

It feels like I could walk without crutches.   On several occasions, I have messed up with the crutches and essentially put full weight on the leg.  I haven't felt any pain as a result, so I find it encouraging.  If this continues and the knee does not require surgery, I could be back to running in the near future.  I know I need to be patient and not get ahead of myself, but it sure is nice to be moving in the right direction.

It's been tough for nearly 3 months, but life is slowly getting back to normal.  The daily gains are small, but it's also amazing to see the progress over the past 12 weeks.

I am very grateful to be getting another chance.

Hope you all have a safe, warm, and loving holiday!



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