ten on tuesday: the great outdoors (#projectfemur)

Carole’s prompt this week is “ten things I like to do outside.”

This is a tough one for me, especially as spring is finally arriving in DC. There are so many outdoor activities that I love, but I can’t do them because of… well, y’know. But I’m happy to say what I love to do in the out-of-doors, if only to remind myself why I’m doing all of the tough-as-nails physical therapy, pain and all.

  1. Ride my bicycle. This should be obvious: I love to ride my bike, and can’t really stand indoor riding. That said, this summer will be full of such activity.
  2. Ski. My first sporting love, and I’ll be back on those slopes this coming November.
  3. Camp. sprite and I really enjoyed camping in New Hampshire last fall, and I always like to sleep outdoors – it re-centers me.
  4. Picnic. My favorite Friday night activity is to gather with friends for a picnic at The Yards Park.
  5. Go to concerts. I love going to shows at outdoor venues, like Merriweather Post Pavilion or Wolf Trap.
  6. Read. Most progress I make in books is done at parks and cafés.
  7. Eat at cafés. DC has many wonderful cafés with outdoor seating.
  8. Go to the beach. And it has to be a real beach – i.e. one with ocean water and real waves for body surfing (which I won’t be able to do ’til mid-August due to my anticoagulant meds). Still: sun, surf, sand, I love it!
  9. Drink. A cold beer, a glass of wine or sangria, an icy daiquiri or margarita – all are wonderful and perfect for outdoor imbibing.
  10. Hike. I love hiking, and don’t do it often enough. And it’s something I will be able to do this summer, once the leg is strong again.

Do you have favorite things to do outdoors? Share ‘em in the comments!

Yards Park picnic

Camping at Mt. Monadnock State Park

getting locally political

I was once a more active political creature in DC. These days, I pick my battles a bit more judiciously, preferring to expend my energy toward things that keep me interested, where the frustrations can lead to progress.

But this current Democratic primary season (yes, I’m a Democrat, though one who’s seldom in lock-step with the local or national party systems), I’ve heard a lot of people try and bend ears with their endorsements. And now, it’s my time to do the same.

(For those looking for #projectfemur updates, more are forthcoming.)
Continue reading

ten on tuesday: a few updates on #projectfemur

This isn’t the official list topic, but it works for what I have to say with this update:

  1. Recovery continues to go well, all things being equal.
  2. I need to remain on an anticoagulant until at least mid-May mid-August.* Hopefully, that will be the end of it, as I can’t do any high-risk things (e.g. outdoor cycling) while on said medication.
  3. I now have a hematologist who will give me a date certain for cessation of the anticoagulant.*
  4. I saw my orthopedist yesterday. He’s impressed with the bone healing and the building muscle strength in my leg, and cleared me for full weight bearing – woo-hoo!
  5. My outpatient physical therapy is quite challenging. Both of the therapists I’m seeing (my main PT and another PT who previously worked on my shoulder) have me on an aggressive strength and flexibility program. They do deep-tissue massage on my hip and knee to loosen the atrophied muscles.
  6. After all of the workout and massage, these muscles are sore, especially my adductors and iliacus groups. The upside: I see tangible improvement from day to day and week to week.
  7. I’m walking around a lot, and my walking gait is far better as my leg gets stronger and more flexible.
  8. Last week at PT, I was introduced to a Pilates Reformer. It was a good challenge for my still-wobbly leg muscles.
  9. Riding a stationary bike will likely start this coming week, though I’ll know more about this after tomorrow’s outpatient PT appointment.
  10. I return to work on April 10.

I think that covers it, really. Despite today’s snow, DC’s spring seems to be rolling in.

Days since surgery: 72

ETA on 4/18/14: corrected end date for anticoagulant drugs to mid-August.

it’s time to admit something (#projectfemur)

I’ve been treating the entire #projectfemur as a new, positive opportunity. While it’s been a challenge, I’m enjoying the work and trying to channel it into exploring new opportunities in all aspects of my life.

But I have to admit something, a thing that has bothered me for a while:

I miss my bike.

I miss being able to ride it.

I miss being able to even get it down off its storage rack in The Burrow.

As spring approaches, the weather will be perfect for rides all over the greater DC area. Spring is probably my favorite riding season in this area: cool mornings with pleasant afternoons and reasonable humidity. And while the roads show the scars of a hard winter, with tons of frost heaves and potholes on every conceivable paved surface, they are roads that I love to ride. Whether it’s a ride out of Bowie, Maryland, heading to Chesapeake Bay via lovely, gently rolling roads, or climbing the bigger rollers and hills in Loudoun County, Virginia, or zipping along with my friends during the upcoming “Downtown Breakaway” rides on Wednesdays here in DC, I miss all of it.

I miss the camaraderie of the Friday Coffee Club at Swing’s.

I miss my weekend rides with a crew of friends with whom I’ve shared many adventures on two wheels.

I’m missing the inaugural season of District Taco Cycling p/b BicycleSPACE. I was to be part of their roster for this season – another posse of great cycling friends.

I even miss my daily bike commute, even though I’m not yet back at work.

I miss the freedom of simply being able to hop on the bike and go somewhere – anywhere.

My physical therapist at Georgetown University Hospital happens to be a cyclist and a bike fitter – a happy coincidence, and definite luck of the draw. He knows my drive, my desire to get back on the bike and be stronger than ever. He wants me to start working out on a trainer or stationary bike sometime soon – though not soon enough for my desire to simply ride.

But the promise of getting back on the bike is real, and my goal of being stronger than ever is not unreasonable or unattainable. I know there will be some adjustments, but it’s a small price to pay to get back on my bike.

But right now, the bikes hang on their rack, taunting me every time I turn my gaze their way. They’ll get their cleaning, tune-up, re-fitting, and time back on the pavement.

I’m simply impatient. As Queen once mused, “I want it all – and I want it now!”

“In good time,” I keep telling myself.

In good time.

Days since surgery: 54

people of dc: shovel and treat your sidewalks!

DC is going to get hit hard by a storm, starting Sunday night and continuing all day Monday. Given it’s still winter, that’s great – it’s pretty snow!

What isn’t great? DC residents’ collective ineptitude at clearing their sidewalks. As a person who is limited to getting around on crutches, I implore the people of DC:

SHOVEL YOUR SIDEWALKS! TREAT THEM WITH ICE MELT! AND CLEAR THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE WALK!

Seriously, it’s as if DC people think that snow magically clears itself (hint: if it’s cold for days after a storm, it doesn’t!), or that doing the bare minimum of “clearing” – i.e. sort of shoveling/pushing aside a 10-inch-wide “path” – is acceptable. These people are just plain rude, and are also in violation of DC law (see below). For folks on crutches (like me), using canes, reliant on walkers, or riding in wheelchairs, these “goat paths” are often completely impassible.

So, DC: it’s time to cowboy up and shovel your walks!

As a person who grew up in snow country (20 years in Utah, 10 in New England), here are the basic rules when it comes to shoveling:

  • Before the snow falls, treat the sidewalk with halite, rock salt, or a pet-friendly ice melter. Note that rain transitioning to snow calls for this to happen once the snow appears -otherwise, the salt dissolves.
  • Shovel the complete width of the sidewalk, from lawn/planter box/retaining wall/foundation of house to the curb/tree box.
  • If you live on a corner, it is your responsibility to keep the ADA curb cuts clean, including a path to where the street is clear.
  • Clear all paths to the house, including stairs, and clean the full width.
  • In trying to place shoveled snow, do not block storm drains. This can cause flooding of your house or icing of the sidewalk when melting starts. Likewise, if you see these dams, break ‘em up with your shovel.
  • If you have neighbors who are elderly, infirm, or mobility challenged, please pay it forward and clear their sidewalks.
  • If there are vacant properties or absentee property owners, be nice and clear the walks, but contact the property owner and remind them they are legally responsible to keep their walks and curb cuts clear.
  • A note about DC law: legally, all sidewalks must be cleared and fully passable within 8 daylight hours of the cessation of snowfall. That said, it’s totally OK to shovel anytime, day or night.
  • If you live in a tony neighborhood and offload the shoveling to your gardener or landscaping service, note that they could be snowbound and unable to get to you in a timely manner. Shit happens. So be brave (and responsible) and shovel your own walks – it’s the neighborly thing to do (and if I see you are home and haven’t shoveled, I’ll come knocking… if I can get to your front door, that is).

Being limited to walking with crutches these days, it amazes me how many in DC (especially in Dupont, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, West End, and Logan Circle) do a bare minimum of cleaning, if any. The “goat paths” are really slick, and get even more icy after multiple days of freeze/thaw cycles. This is especially the case for sidewalks on the south side of east-west running streets.

Again, people of DC: please think of those of us for whom snow and ice are a dangerous challenge to everyday mobility. We are your neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

Thank you!

P.S. – a note to DDOT and DCDPW: please properly plow the bike lanes and cycletracks as you plow the car lanes. There are a lot of four-season, everyday cyclists in this town who would appreciate the respect from your offices.

ten on tuesday: a case of the “i feels” (#projectfemur)

Per Carole’s typical prompt, here’s a Ten on Tuesday. The topic: ten statements or sentiments that start with “I feel…”

  1. I feel a lot better than I did last week (thank you, doctors, for clearing my pulmonary embolisms).
  2. I feel better now that I’m cooking again.
  3. I feel like my GI tract still isn’t completely over the post-hospital antibiotics (what, TMI?).
  4. I feel like there’s another big breakthrough about to come about in my #projectfemur recovery.
  5. I feel a bit stir-crazy because of that previous statement.
  6. I feel like I may finally upgrade my high-speed Internet connection to The Burrow.
  7. I feel like that also may be accompanied by a computer upgrade (my newest non-iPhone computer is at least 6 years old).
  8. I feel better now that my lower right leg isn’t swollen like a sausage.
  9. I feel like my orthopedist may finally allow me to bear weight on my right leg (crossing fingers).
  10. I feel like shaking things up a bit.

So… there ‘ya go! Got any “I feels?” Leave ‘em in the comments.

#projectfemur update:

Really, things have gone well since the bilateral pulmonary embolism incident. I’m down to just the anti-coagulant and an occasional over-the-counter pain killer (usually when the weather is in flux – my right leg is my new weathervane). My in-home physical therapy is going well, and I’m out-and-about in the neighborhood when the sidewalk conditions permit.

(That said: this is probably the first winter where I’m wishing for “aesthetic snow” only, where the sidewalks remain clear and dry. Mark this occasion, as I’m usually an unabashed snow lover.)

home again (#projectfemur)

I returned home from GW Hospital on Saturday afternoon. It’s great to be home.

I’m a little weaker than I was going in, as my lungs took a beating from the embolisms. Yawns and sneezes are still works-in-progress: they are not as full-bodied as they should be. I’m on an anti-coagulant (Xarelto) and two powerful antibiotics (thankfully, not for too long, as they are beating up my GI tract, killing both the beneficial flora as well as the nasty stuff).

My PT is a little behind schedule now, which is to be expected – plenty of time to make up for the lost days. My right foot and ankle are still prone to swelling, though that’s improving little-by-little every day (I think some T.E.D. Hose are in order to try and keep the swelling at bay). The flexibility in my right leg is improving as the swelling subsides.

So all-in-all, I’m getting better. :)

a speed bump (#projectfemur)

I was released from National Rehabilitation Hospital on Tuesday, Feb 4. All good.

Then early Tuesday morning, I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism. What I initially thought was muscle cramping rapidly developed into crushing pain on my right side and the inability to take a deep breath. By 4:30am, I could barely breathe.

sprite rushed me to the GW Hospital ER, where my guess at diagnosis was confirmed, and I was admitted. I ended up being in the ER for 14.5 hours (no beds), had a litany of tests (CT scan, X-ray, ultrasounds of legs, lungs and heart), was put on big doses of Lovenox (a blood anti-coagulant), and tried to keep the pain in check (morphine was gooood). My pulmonologist told me I had PEs in both lungs, and that I was lucky I caught ‘em when I did.

I eventually got a room, and after eating my dinner (a sandwich provided by my friend, Greg), the pain presented with a bang on my left side. I couldn’t breathe, and I was in extreme pain, even with oxycodone in my system.

Overnight, I was put on Dilaudid (worked great) and later Tramadol (useless), and I got some sleep (sitting up – reclining hurts). Today, my pulmonologist has me on a PCA Dilaudid drip (i.e. the “happy button,” where I have some control over the dosing), as well as antibiotics as I seem to be battling pneumonia. It was a better day.

And today, I’ve made the transition from the IV Dilaudid to a Dilaudid pill – all good. I also got to take a sponge bath – ahhhh….

I’ll be here for a few more days. Once out, I’ll be on an oral anti-coagulant for a while.

Lessons learned:

1. My apartment is bad for ambulation, which likely caused the PE (not enough walking/standing activity). Once I get home, I’ll need to stand and boogie a lot, and get outside when I can. The recent snow in DC doesn’t help, but it’ll get warm soon enough..

2. My physical therapy has given me great strength in my legs, arms, and core (about 3 weeks ahead of an average person with the same injury, per my PT evaluation here at GW).

3. My endurance and overall conditioning likely saved my life. Even with the PE, I still had a pulse-ox of 96, normal blood pressure, and full heart function. Even when I had my issues late last night, I only dropped to 93 (still within the “normal” range).

So that’s where I am. NRH got me working on strength and crutching skills, and I did really well. My hemoglobin levels are good again. But the mistake was my not being active enough at home: the PT alone didn’t cut it.

So… there ‘ya go! Just a speed bump – albeit one that could’ve been lethal. I’m glad I knew of the risk and was familiar with the symptoms.

ten on tuesday: i am… (#projectfemur)

Per Carole’s prompt this week, I figured her topic fit in well with an update on my injury recovery. So…

I am…

  1. …able to function well with crutches.
  2. …happy that my hematocrit is essentially back to normal.
  3. …almost ready to transition back to OTC pain medication.
  4. …still smiling every single morning.
  5. …still seeing this as an adventure – a positive, fun adventure!
  6. …appreciative of all the doctors, nurses, techs, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, custodians, and fellow travelers on this rehab journey.
  7. …glad that my right leg is getting more flexible and mobile each day (and without my being able to bear my body weight on it).
  8. …pleased beyond words at the support I’ve received from family and friends – y’all are awesome!
  9. …grateful to National Rehabilitation hospital for getting me from weak and anemic to strong and (mostly) independent over an 18 day span.
  10. …happy to be home.

So there… I am!

another update on the ‘ol femur

Many things have happened since my last update, so I’ll give a quick summary:

I can now walk (tripod-style) with both a walker and crutches. The latter will be my go-to for most things, but the walker will be more useful in the house and for some other endeavors.

My hemoglobin level is back to normal, which means I have a lot more energy when doing things, with more endurance. As a result, I’ve been doing really, really well in physical and occupational therapy, exceeding my therapists’ (and my own) expectations. I do well on stairs, can get into and out of a car without assistance, can navigate a kitchen, work my way around a bathroom, and make my way into and out of bed.

My upper body and core strength, in particular, has made great progress from all of the PT and OT. My left leg is also getting stronger, especially in terms of lateral stability. And my ability to balance on my left leg has improved a lot as my right leg improves.

My right leg is getting stronger and more flexible every day. It still isn’t lifting as a whole, but that’s coming along well, and should happen sometime fairly soon. As muscles re-awaken, the leg gets more stable and mobile – all good.

I still can’t bear weight on the repaired leg, which is typical for my kind of repair (a rod running the length of the femur, with screws and pins at both ends holding things together). The break is starting to calcify, which is a big plus. My orthopedist is happy with my progress, and he removed the staples from my incisions yesterday (lemme tell ‘ya – it felt great to have the staples out).

I’m being released from the rehab facility next Tuesday, heading home from there. I can’t wait to get home to my sprite, my cats, and my kitchen. Yes, The Burrow will be a new challenge, but I’m up to it. I ordered some equipment to help me function during my recovery, which is a tangible sign of going home – significant, for sure.

Thanks to everybody for the emails, tweets, cards, visits, and other messages of support. They make a real difference, and I’m grateful.

Days since surgery: 18

thoughtful. entertaining. random.