Thursday, January 30, 2014

Moving ahead.

Time to move back the clock.

Or at least slow the damn thing down.

Graphic content in this paragraph; move ahead if you're squeamish:
On October 6th, 1999, I was leading an Outward Bound semester group up the Whale's Tail, a climb buried deep in the heart of Cochise's Stronghold in the Sonoran Desert. I fell, shattering my ankle. My protection system held up, but my heel took the brunt of the fall by hitting a small lip of rock about fifteen feet into the 22-foot fall. I looked down and saw my disfigured lower leg- foot looking like it had been duct-taped beside my ankle, rather than hanging below it. As my belayer slowly lowered me, a portion of my tibia popped through the skin. We had just gone from "in trouble" to really, seriously fucked.

It took two groups of Outward Bounders and instructors seven hours to get me out to a van where I could be transported 50 miles to a hospital. Along the way, we had to post two people in front of the group with ski poles, tapping on rocks, sweeping brush, and clearing the path for the carriers. Clearing the path of what? Rattlesnakes. We encountered four of them, all of different species. All of these people were endangered by my poor judgment. It was a nightmare. Pain control varied from 9 (on a scale of 1-10) to 11, depending on whether the Tylenol with codeine was still in my system. That was the physical part. That was the easy part.

Throughout my recovery, I was told over and over how I would soon be right back to normal. I'm not sure if the docs believed it, or were just trying to keep me positive. It never happened. I went back to work for OB for one more year, but an accident like that in a professional setting was enough to have folks at Outward Bound gently start nudging me out the door. I took the hint and left. Many of my former co-workers and friends from OB will not "friend" me on Facebook. I burned so many bridges...

Since then arthritis has become my constant companion. One orthopedist looked at my radiographs and said, "There's 'bad', there's 'really screwed', and then there's you. I don't know how you walked in here."

I knew this, of course, but the pain in itself was tolerable. The problem is that it cut deeply into my exercise tolerance. I became fat and lethargic, and recently my bloodwork has reflected this. My a1c and fasting blood glucose are way too high. My blood pressure is too high. My cholesterol is too high. My doctor put it plainly, "This ship is sailing in the wrong direction. And, it's picking up speed." Drugs would help, but I needed more than that if I want to be a father for very long.

10 days ago I underwent arthrodesis, a procedure to clean out the arthritic junk and scar tissue in my ankle, and to permanently fuse the joint. The main point of the procedure is to provide permanent pain control. I'm non-weight-bearing for a minimum of six weeks. Then I trade this huge cast for a boot, and some physical therapy.

Beyond the surgery, I see this as a jumping-off point for better choices and more activity in my life. I have been eating better, and actually exercising more than before. By lying on my back and moving my body around, I'm toning up while I also release the energy stored in my unused right leg. I'm also hoping to stave off at least some of the crazy muscle atrophy that happens so fast in cases like this.

Goals? a1c down into the mid-6's, hopefully better. Other bloodwork into normal ranges. Normal blood pressure. Remove the "morbidly" from my status as obese. My plan is to drop under 200 pounds this year, for the first time since I moved east 12 years ago. I expect to run a 5k race before the year is over, hopefully before the end of the summer. How I feel when this is over in March will help me to set a better timetable.

What does this have to do with my son Jay?


He will never have what I have right now- a living and loving father when he's 54 years old. BUT, I will do what I can to be his father as long, and as well, as ever I can. He will likely decide at some point he doesn't need me so much, but that's okay. I will know then what I know now; nothing replaces having dad and mom a phone call away. Nothing.

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