Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Story Has Changed


Last May I was sitting in a doctor’s office pulling tissue after tissue out of a box.  Minutes before this doc had explained that my lower extremity situation was symptomatic of something called Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome or CECS and that the only course of action was a relatively invasive “bilateral surgery” of which he explained was not worth it “just so you can run.”

Oh the tears.  So many tears.  ALL of the tears.  They gushed like a busted sprinkler line. “There’s a test,” he said, and continued the explanation of said test while my salty sprinkler spillage soaked up every last tissue in that box.

Let me back up and provide you with a quick ‘n dirty definition of CECS.  The human body has several muscle compartments that are held together with a cartilage-type sheath called a fascia.  The function of fascia varies, but for the purpose of this Story Has Changed story, I’m going to stick to the fascia that surrounds compartments.  The compartment fascia’s primary function is to hold the enclosed muscles within their intended location.  Without the fascia, you’d have random muscle parts floating around.

Fascia is super cool because it’s strong as steel yet elastic enough to expand and compress as blood flow changes.  As we age, our muscles and fibers and whatnot lose a bit of their elasticity.  Our fascias (fasciai?) are no exception.  As we age, or if we overuse, the fascia ditches the flexible part of its character set and subsequently loses its ability to expand and contract.  Therefore, when a runner is running, and the calf compartment fills up with blood, the fascia cannot expand.  Increased pressure in the compartment minimizes oxygenated blood flow and the muscle chokes. If the activity is continued, the result is often a strain or a tear.

Minor tangent: blogs are so cool.  My knee jerk reaction to that paragraph above was to go out and find the sources, cite the sources, quote the sources, etc., etc.  Then I realized Hah!  It’s a blog! I don’t have to do that! I’m really sick of citing sources…

The test for chronic exertional compartment syndrome is invasive. First, they jab a needle into all four of your calf compartments (times two calves, that’s eight jabs).  This is performed to measure your “before” pressure.  Second, you run on a treadmill until you tear something then run five more minutes.  Finally, they jab another needled into all four calf compartments (two calves, eight more jabs) to measure the “after” pressure.  If the pressure increases exponentially, it’s a CECS diagnosis in the affirmative.  All said done, that’s sixteen needle jabs and at least one torn calf.

The only cure for a positive CECS diagnosis is a surgical procedure called a fasciotomy (click the link for the gory details), which involves the filleting of all involved compartments. Most fasciotomies require 12 to 15-inch incisions; some cases require two such incisions on each leg.  Lots of recovery time. Lots of no walking. Lots of might-not-even-work. Lots of pain.  Lots of scars. 

The doc was explaining this to me over that box of tissues.  “It’s probably time to quit,” he said.  I looked up at him in disbelief.  Seriously, dude, is that the best you’ve got?  You’re throwing this news at me like a dollar-store Frisbee.  The only thing missing was “Here lady! Catch!” followed by a smack in the face. 

Normally, I understand that people who don’t run just don’t get it and I toss their remarks aside.  But this doc was an exception. I had just finished reading his epic sports-doc biography, one that boasted of his physical prowess ­– Cycling! Swimming! Running! Croquet!  Said biography, I might add, was also peacocking his plan to break 3:00 at his next marathon.

In the last year, I’ve grown to realize that this doc and so many other runners were not being insensitive.  You might think they should get it but they don’t. And by get it, I mean understand, empathize and relate to the loss of running.  I have lost something I love; something that can’t be replaced and the world seems to expect that I carry on as normal.

You’d think he and all the other runners would understand, having that same love affair, but in reality, they don’t get it because they are sure it will never happen to them. People won’t (refuse to) get it when they believe they don’t have to.  I know this because I was the same way.  I was grateful to run, that’s for sure, and thought I had empathy for those who were unable to.  It was a different sort of gratitude and empathy, however, because I was sure that I’d never lose it.  The irony of this whole ordeal, is that the running community (on-line, off-line, between-the-line, walking-the-line) completely sucks at empathizing with you when you can’t run.  We are cast out and left alone in the wind.  To walk! Of all things to do in the wind. 

So back to the doc and the empty tissue box and the test.  I had finally healed myself enough to hike and bike and was looking forward to the summer.  There wasn’t any way in hell that I’d subject myself to that dumb test – a test, no less, that would surely seal the no-running deal for the summer.  Maybe even forever. At this point, it had been a year since I had done any sort of running.

I drove home and could barely see because it was raining.  Wait… was it raining…?  No!  I was crying! And it looked like rain!  Even turned the wipers on!

Such a sad day.

The saddest part – and I remember this clearly – is that, in the midst of my blubber-fest and at the forefront of my woes, was this blog.  Thy thoughts were dire. It’s a running blog! I can’t write on a running blog if I can’t run!  Do I have to bury my blog now?! Prolly so.

So I buried the blog.  Sort of.  

I’m going to school now and it’s terrific.  I love it.  Right now I have this Digital Storytelling class, which has caused me to stretch and produce some really bad stuff.  It sure is a bonus when you stretch real hard and it’s still bad!  Oh the horror of my digital (image, audio, video) stories!  So bad! 

The final project for this Digital Storytelling class (aka Writing 3040) is a transmedia story, which as you might already know, is a story that goes across some media.  Trans means across, but each time I say “trans,” even in my silent mind, I think of Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show singing that Sweet-Transvestite-Transexual-from-Transylvania song.  

As I’m brainstorming this final project, it occurred to me that I already have a home base for the transmedia story, ten whole years in the making, so why don’t I just dig it up?  And make it transexy with some transmedia? 

I was all over that idea.  Until I remembered (as if I ever forget) that I don’t run anymore. If I dig up the blog, then it means the story must change.  How do I do that?  Make an announcement or something?  Okay!

On this glorious April 22nd, it is with great pleasure that I announce “The Story Has Changed.”


Hashtag Notrunning


2 comments:

Huw said...

What to say except I'm to say I'm so sorry for you! I've always had a gammy knee so know that my running career will be limited, but even so I'm not looking forward to the inevitable day I have to stop. Keep blogging though!
Best wishes,
Huw

Lisa said...

I stopped following blogs when you stopped writing :) I 'check in' every few months and am just now reading this wonderful post. YAY! I'm so glad you're back, and I don't care what you write about. I envy your MTB skills and I still want to be you when I grow up! Miss ya :)