Friday, May 19, 2006

Getting back on the bike

(recovering from wrist surgery)
March 2006

If February was the month of inconvenience and depression living with a cast from my thumb to my armpit, March was the month of self-inflicted pain, forcing my wrist to stretch and rotate like it did before the break. I am forbidden to get on a bike, unless it is a stationary bike (where's the fun in that??).

I am assigned to Occupational Therapy at Balboa Medical, under the care of one Lt C., all-around good guy and self-appointed resident ogre of rehab. At first glance he seems stern and cool, but he reminds me too much of my Uncle Bailey, who used to take delight in frightening us as small children so that we would behave. In return, I used to take delight in crawling up into Uncle Bailey's lap or sitting quietly next to him, just to provoke his warm and fuzzy side, and watch his stern facade melt away. A quiet and kind man by nature, he simply preferred order to chaos (which children seem to create). I see this in Lt C., and immediately decide he is warm-hearted and mostly harmless.

I come in one day to see "Lt C's Mood Monitor" written on the white board with a smiley face in some degree of joy or distress. It is medium-happy at the time.

Another day I realize they are playing Christmas music in the rehab area (it is March). When I ask about it, one of the girls tells me with a grin, "We put it on because it annoys the Leiutennant."

I like these people.

In our initial interview, he asks what limitations I have due to the injury. I respond that I have trouble doing push-ups, washing my hair, and crossing myself (it's Lent). This gets just a beat of silence before he resumes typing the data into my medical record. I don’t think he ever had quite that response before - at least not from a civilian woman.

The other individual I work with is Alma, who reminds me of Glenda the Good Witch of the North from the Wizard of Oz. Always warm and pleasant, she will tell me that I work hard enough on my own, and that she will just take the next 20 minutes and massage my wrist and hand. I love her for this. Then suddenly the spell is broken and for good measure, she has me do stretching and mobility exercises on "the wrist rack".

I know that with the Navy, often you get whatever they have. But I have to say that I had the best Orthopedic and Rehab team a person could ask for. They are the kind of people you want to know all your life.

Reluctantly I begin going to spin class, wondering why anyone in San Diego would be going to spin class when it was so easy to ride outside, but grateful that spin classes are popular so that injured people like me can attend them. Big shout out to Heather “The Machine” Spin Instructor at MCRD.

April 2006

By the beginning of April, just 2 months after the surgery and one month out of the cast, I am ahead of schedule and almost at 100% mobility. Lt C. discharges me from occupational therapy, saying that I am doing fine on my own, and should come back only if I want a check-up.

Three days later, Dr P. sees me and says that I may get back on the ROAD bike, as long as it is a smooth road and I will not be enduring much vibration.

I'm cleared to ride!!!

I am ecstatic. This means I'm six weeks ahead of schedule and on the bike much sooner than I imagined.

Since I am so ahead of schedule, I suggest, perhaps I would be ready for a race the beginning of May? I had totally written this one off when I was told I would be off the bike till May 20. Dr P. tells me to come see him just before the race.

I am so excited, I go home and submit a post on a mountain bike forum that I had not browsed since my accident. I was a semi-regular poster, and dropped off the boards when I broke my wrist. If I couldn't ride, I didn't want to hear about anyone else who was out there on the bike having fun. But now I was back! I post my x-rays and invite discussion, then send the link to Dr P. in an email: "Your handiwork in a bike forum". His response: I love it!

It is Lent all thorough my recovery. I have no red meat, which I later find out is a good thing recovery-wise. And while I lament not being able to race the Winter Series at Fontana, I find myself truly benefiting from being in church those Saturday nights and Sunday mornings when I might otherwise have dashed off to make it up north for a 1pm Sunday race start. I am forced to slow down. In the Orthodox Church, we say that the Church is a hospital and we are all in need of a physician. My time off the bike was therefore not wasted, but well spent, seeking healing for my soul and body.

I continue the weight training, the stretching exercises, and taking every bone-strengthening supplement know to the western world. The last week of April, Eastern Orthodox Holy Week, we hold the service of Holy Unction at church, in which we are all anointed, for healing and restoration. I receive the standard anointing on my forehead and hands, and hold out my wrist for Father Alexander to anoint it too.

May 2006

On May 3, Dr P. looks at my x-rays and proclaims me healed. I ask if it is any more dangerous for me to race now than it was the day before my fracture. "No. You are cleared to resume all physical activities," he says with a smile.

“All??” I asked.

“Go race, and stay on your bike!" he smiles.

Bring it on. The next day, I pull on the body armor and head up to the top of the expert downhill course at the National Championship Series race in Fontana, CA.

Going for a practice run on the expert course as your re-introduction to the fat tire after 3 months off the bike was a bit frightening at first, especially since I've just moved up from sport to expert, and I've only ridden this bike twice before. But I stayed on my bike and raced well, placing 2nd in Expert Women's Downhill.

My confidence is up, my goals are realistic, and I’m ready for the next challenge.

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