Month 1

It’s now been a month since surgery, and things are moving a little faster than I thought they would.  The surgery went fine enough.  Got to the hospital at our appointed time, after taking a cab ride with “The Most Interesting Cabbie On Earth” who had lots of stories about all the times he’s packed up and left his life to start new somewhere else.  I don’t know how one really does that these days, but it sounded like a great adventure. The waiting room was very nice, but we only waited there for maybe 10 minutes before they brought me in.  Very effecient.  Got changed (they let me keep my underwear on, which has never happened in all of the surgeries I’ve ever had), and I answered the 49980928298098234 questions they must ask before any procedure.  Then the nurse had to do a “wound/skin” check on me, which I thought was weird, and after that I had to wipe down with yet ANOTHER antibacterial wipe.   They really take this stuff seriously.

The anasthesiologist came in after a time, explained that they’d do a block, and the whole general anasthesia song and dance.  He was very nice, and has 4 kids of his own, similarly aged to mine, so we joked that this was like a vacation from kids.  Met again with the surgeon, joked around a bit, he autographed the leg to be worked on, and I signed the consent.  The OR was a bit backed up, but while we waited a little bit, it really wasn’t much time between when we got in there and when he gave me the happy juice.  I don’t remember a lot of the OR, other than we got there, I made some joke about getting the surgeon’s initials tattooed on, and then I was gone.

Woke up, had some trouble with a number of the pain killers, (Diluadid and I do not get along at all.  Fentanyl and I aren’t great friends either), but after several hours I was allowed to go home after showing them that I was able to walk on crutches.  I was loaded up with something, so putting full weight on it wasn’t too big a deal.  I don’t remember much about the ride home other than the fact that I kept getting text messages, but I couldn’t read my phone because my eyes wouldn’t focus — a fact I brought up about 400000 times on the way home. My father kindly opted to not video tape the weird conversation we had. I made it up the stairs to my bed, though I don’t really remember how, and set my alarm to take my pain meds throughout the night.   Somewhere around midnight, the block wore off, and the pain flooded in.  The pill bottle said I could take 1 to 2 pills every 3 to 4 hours, and I did.  I failed to notice that it also said not to take more than 10 in any given day — my regiment had me closer to 16 a day.  Decided to take myself off of those pills too fast, had some weird hallucinations, and a huge freak out panic on night #2 or 3 where I almost ripped off the brace and all of my bandages.  I stopped taking the percoset for the most part after that.   Friday the pain was bad, Saturday, I thought that was probably the worst pain I’d ever been in and was getting kind of hysterical, but by Sunday, it was like the pain was cut by 3/4s.  It was amazing.  I managed with ice and the occasional percoset over the next week, but pain was more than manageable after Saturday.

Pain wasn’t my biggest problem though — sleeping with the brace locked out was.  For some reason, it triggered an anxiety response in me, and I couldn’t sleep at all.  This continued for the two weeks that I had to sleep locked out.  I tried everything.  Sleeping on the couch, watching endless loops of “The Joy Of Painting” hoping Bob would soothe me, cheated a little bit by bending a bit in the brace.  That was a very long two weeks.

I started PT that following Monday.  I thought maybe we’d just talk about what needed to be done, do some ice and stim and I’d be on my way.  Nope!  The first thing they had me do was leg raises.  I couldn’t pick my leg up at all.  I had to do 30 assisted raises, and then they had me hang my leg off the table, which was agony.  Wednesday, I did 20 assisted leg raises, and 1o on my own.  By Friday I was doing all 30 on my own.  It was really something how fast that went.

On week 2, I got the stitches taken out, which might be the weirdest feeling I’ve ever experienced.  Not too unlike how a sweater must feel while it is unraveling.  They just snipped one side, and pulled the whole fishing line out.  I’ve never had more than one stitch in place (for gallbladder surgery), so I had no idea what having 5 inches worth pulled out would feel like.  Not painful, just weird.  The incision on the side of my thigh (where apparently he made a 2 inch incision to see where the drill was going) didn’t slide so easily, so they left those stitches in telling me they would dissolve.  The scar looked pretty good, and it was nice to finally be able to take a real shower.  The numbness was (and still is) a little weird, especially when trying to shave your leg, or scratch itches you can’t find.  I was able to ditch the crutches completely, except for if we were out and about, and that was more to give other people notice that I wasn’t steady on my feet.

On week three, we unlocked the brace, and by week 4, I was out of the brace completely.   In PT I am doing all of the leg lifts with 3lb weights, I can do a full squat holding onto the assist straps, and I can get full revolution on the stationary bike.  My butt quits the bike before my leg does.   My PTs are pleased with my progress, but sometimes it’s really frustrating.  More on that later.

Early Pictures

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4 Weeks. 5 days Post-op 12/22/2015

 

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Surgery Day

This is it.  I’m up, I’ve taken two anti-bacterial scrub showers as instructed.  The kids are ready to go to school, and now I’m just waiting for my Mother in Law to get here and the cab that’s coming to take us to the hospital.  I was told to report at 9:30, surgery will probably be about an hour or so after that.

I’m nervous, but not excessively so.  Not yet, anyway.  My mouth is dry, and I would really, REALLY like a cup of coffee, but that’s not allowed.

The CPM machine came yesterday, and we’re still trying to figure out the best place to put it.  The bed would probably work the best, but it’s upstairs, and we don’t know how or if I’m going to get up there yet.   Kevin rigged some contraption up with the old ottoman from the basement, some boards, and a few straps to keep it from sliding.  I don’t know how well that’s going to work, as we have The Most Uncomfortable Couch In The World, but I’d have TV and what not down there, where I wouldn’t have upstairs.   I really have no idea how any of this is going to go, but reading other accounts online of people’s experiences make me wary of how much pain I’ll be in, and how much the next few months to a year are going to suck.

Anyway, Here’s into the great unknown.

 

Final Countdown

This post is a little disjointed.  There are a lot of things going on in my head, and it’s not always easy to find a cohesive way to express them all. 

The surgery is next week.  I’ve been running around doing as many errands as I can, trying to get everything ready.  I had to get surgical clearance from my cardiologist (done), have to go to pre-surgical testing tomorrow, as well as go to the medical supply place to pick up my cryo-cuff (an icing machine).  Monday I pick up my post surgical brace, and get taught how to use it.  Thursday, Surgery.  I have to hope that the CPM machine we ordered is here on time, since I’m supposed to use it the day after surgery, but I have a friend working on that, and I’m not stressing that bit too much (maybe a little).

Went to PT on Tuesday, and we spoke about how my knee had flared up.  Took the balancing exercises off the menu, and that seems to have helped.  Not as much pain or swelling as last week, but the weather has been rainy and cold, and that hasn’t done much for my joints in general, my knee and my neck in particular.  I keep  meaning to bring the neck back up to my PT, but I get in the zone with the knee stuff and I always forget until I leave.  I must remember tomorrow!  It’s been bothering me a lot, and I’ve got some weird arm pain and twitching which is disconcerting.

Team stuff is still hard.  The WFTDA Championships were this past weekend, and were broadcast live on ESPN3 for the first time.  We managed to get The Main Event to let us use a few of their screens, and had a big viewing party, which was cool.  I was all in, but afterwards, after the excitement had died down a bit, I slumped.  I went to the league meeting last night, and it was good to see everyone, but inside I felt like an awkward outsider, even after finding out that I had been elected as one of the League Representatives (it actually came down as a tie between me and a teammate, but she conceded).    I didn’t go to practice tonight like I told myself I would, but I promised myself that I would go tomorrow.  It’s a scrimmaging practice, and there’s more to be learned and done than just sitting around watching people do things I want to be doing.   I have to at least try to go this week and Tuesday of next, because after that it might be a good long while before I’m physically capable of going.

I already had a little bit of mom guilt about going through with this surgery considering that I am doing it  for purely selfish reasons (getting back to derby, and being able to keep myself moving rather than turning into jabba the hut in an office chair).  More was heaped on when I discovered that T’s Kindergarten Thanksgiving show and party is planned for that very day.  Not even the Next week where I would maybe be able to drag myself to the school to see.  The day of the surgery.  I’m going to miss it, and that breaks my heart.  I told him yesterday that I wasn’t going to be able to go (after recruiting my mother to go in my place so he would have someone there for him), and the sadness that welled up from him… it started as a quiver in his chin that traveled up until big, fat, tears spilled out and he sobbed.  My heart shattered.  He’s glad Grandma will be there, but he really wants me to be there, and has now mentioned it several times since.  I’m hoping someone can film it for me.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, in preparation for the likelihood that I will not be able to drive because of the pain medication I might need to make it through the day, I made Kevin drive us home from Costco this afternoon.  He hasn’t driven in I don’t even know how long, and it was the most harrowing 15 minutes of my entire life.  Being the only driver in this house has been a tremendous burden on me, and I had really hoped my saying so repeatedly for the last 18 years or so would have prompted him to act before now, when I might actually not be able to step in.   He didn’t, and now we’re stuck.  I’m hoping to all hell that I’ll be able to drive soon after the surgery.  Specifically the Monday after surgery so that I can get us to my post-op surgical appointment and PT.  Since I have my mother in law coming to watch the kids, and my own mother works, if I can’t drive, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I don’t know if my heart can take being a passenger in my own car with Kevin at the wheel again any time soon.   I was told that I can drive as soon as I’m off of pain killers, but the other ACL recovery stories I’ve found have said that they didn’t drive for weeks afterwards.  That’s just not going to work around here.  Fingers crossed.

Hurt

Today is not great.  Yesterday in PT, my knee started to ache a bit with the bolster under my ankle during the calf stretches and quad flexing (not sure what that’s really called), and I thought my knee was going to completely give out during step ups.  After I left, it started to swell and feel uncomfortable.  By the end of the night, I was in actual pain for the first time since the first few days after the actual injury.  When I finally went to bed, my leg bones were doing something very strange, and really disgusting feeling.  When my leg was straight out, it felt like my lower leg was sliding to the left while my thigh was staying straight.  But it wasn’t sliding nicely — it felt like the bones were banging against each other as they slipped.  I don’t even know that I can adequately describe how terrible it really felt.  I had to eventually tuck blankets and pillows around it to keep it from shifting around.

This morning I woke up and it was swollen and stiff and painful.  More so then even yesterday.  I eventually put a call into my physical therapist, and he said that it’s entirely possible that we pushed it a little too hard.  That in a perfect world, we could beat the hell out of it to whip it into shape before surgery, but it was telling me to back off, so that’s what I’ve been ordered to do.  I believe his words were “Try to stay off it as much as possible… with 4 kids running around”.  Ah, yes.  That’s hilarious.  It figures that today has been non-stop since the kids got home.  T had a birthday party to attend, R was invited to a friend’s house for the evening, and I didn’t get home until about 30 minutes ago.   The leg is throbbing, but until everyone is finally in bed, I don’t really have the luxury of laying down and elevating because someone will undoubtedly need something.

Physically, this is but a minor set back, but hearing that my body was not up to the task of making itself stronger was yet another emotional blow.  I haven’t really spoken too much about the emotional toll all of this has taken, and that’s precisely why I felt so compelled to start this blog.  Physically, things are what they are, but I was not anticipating the depression that came with it.  I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety most of my adult life, but I had noticed since starting derby, that had begun to wane, or at least, wasn’t AS big an issue.  I was part of something, I was exercising, and I had an outlet.  After being “mom” all day long, it was really nice to go somewhere and not be.

I posted this on a Facebook group for injured derby skaters:

Having a rough time… Pity Party ahead.

I didn’t realize how much of a release valve derby had become until I didn’t have it. I’m not an exerciser, I play sports. I hate the gym, I hate walking to nowhere. I found skating and derby and that is what I did. Now I can’t do that. I ride the stupid stationary bike at PT and use the machines and do the exercises to get ready for surgery, knowing that in a few weeks I’ll be back to square one. It’s going to be months before I put skates on again, and it’s like a huge anvil of sad sitting on my head. When I first got hurt, I was still going to all the practices. Then just the scrimmages. Now, I don’t want to go. Sitting on the sidelines not feeling a part of anything. It hurts.

I know my teammates care about me and I know they want me there. I’m not being willfully ignored or left out or anything. I’m just not a part of the action. I’m still involved in the league in committees and such, but I feel like I don’t belong. Im not a rostered skater. I was still in my second fresh meat class (got a minor injury during my first run that took me out for a month or so and I didn’t pass my mins, but was making huge improvements before tearing my ACL during a drill). I was barely one foot in, and now I am totally out.

I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m bored, I’m eating like crap, I don’t feel like doing anything. My husband and kids are suffering cuz I’m just not very nice to be around lately, and I’m tired of fielding questions about why I keep putting myself through the rigors of derby from family and friends who don’t get it. I can’t explain it. I’ve never wanted anything so badly.

That pretty much sums up the last few weeks.

I didn’t go to practice this week.  I should have gone, but it’s increasingly hard to get myself there.  I feel left out, though it’s no one’s fault that I do.  It’s easier to sit at home feeling sorry for myself, than sitting in the middle of the track watching everyone else play and feeling sorry for myself there.  I SHOULD go.  I SHOULD be there, but it’s hard.

I’m going to go next week, because after that it might be a while before I physically can.

That’s depressing.  I’m feeling this bad, and I haven’t even gotten to the really hard part yet.

 

Surgeon Shopping

This is the last of the background information.  I feel like I’ve told these stories a million times, but that’s not really what this blog is for.  It’s really for all of the things that have come up since the injury, but I thought I should include it for context.  From now on, it will likely be a semi regular account of what’s going on with my recovery, and my road back to Roller Derby — both physically, and emotionally. 

The first surgeon on Wednesday was ok.  He wasn’t warm and fuzzy, and had a little bit of the arrogant doctor vibe, but his PA was very nice, and he seemed confident enough that I could easily be back on skates by my timeline.  I had told him that my plan was to start again in July, with yet another Fresh Blood class (does this make me Rancid Meat now?).  He said that if we did the surgery soon, that was a definite possibility.  He wanted to do a hamstring graft, with a cadaver graft (allograft) back-up, in case the hamstring wasn’t suitable.  He was affiliated with a hospital I trusted, but the surgeries were all done at an offsite surgical center a few miles away.  I wrote all my notes down, and left with his card.

Friday’s appointment came, and just driving up to the office, I had more or less written this doctor off.  The office was huge (easily four times the size of the other one), and crowded, and in a ritzy neighborhood, and while everything was shiny and fancy in the waiting room, the practice had a dozen doctors, and it felt a little like a patient mill.  I settled in figuring I would be there for a long time.  While waiting my turn, I kept seeing this nurse come out to collection patients.  She was effervescent.  Hopping around the waiting room with a smile for everyone. Seemed to know every patient she spoke to personally.  I thought she was fun to watch, but thought to myself how exhausting being that bubbly all day could be.

At exactly my appointment time (I’d gotten to the office a bit early), Nurse Bubbly called me into the back.  I was impressed that they seemed to be running so well on schedule given the number of people waiting, and the fact that she was my surgeon’s nurse was an odd comfort.  How could a stodgy old surgeon have such a great nurse? (Keep in mind, I still hadn’t met the man, and was judging this book SO hard by his cover… online photo).  Nurse Bubbly was fun to talk to, and we chatted a bit about tattoos and derby and what happened, and then she bubbled off to fetch another patient and I was left to wait only a relatively short time in the room — maybe 15 minutes?  Considering how long I’ve waited for other specialists, this seemed like nothing at all.  As soon as he walked in the room, I realized that I had been super duper wrong about him.

He was as friendly, if not as bubbly, as his nurse.  He came in, we talked, and I liked him almost immediately.  He wasn’t arrogant at all, he knew about derby and told me that he was also a skater, albeit an ice hockey skater, and we bonded over how hard it was to get crossovers.  He explained a whole lot to me, including telling me why he would prefer to do a Patella Tendon Graft on me.  It’s a harder recovery, and there’s more of a scar, but considering I wanted to go back to a contact sport, his thinking was that the PTG was a better choice because it was a stronger graft than the other two options, AND he said that taking a tendon from a hamstring would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul. He didn’t want to do a cadaver graft at all unless it couldn’t be helped.

I met with his scheduler, and we talked about possible options and locations.   He works out of two different hospitals, both very good.  So I picked a date, with the knowledge that I could cancel it if I decided to go with Surgeon #3.   When I went to PT later that day, I told them what he had said about the PTG vs the Hamstring and two of my therapists agreed that the patella graft was the better choice.  They had reservations about recommending any before I spoke to the surgeons, but said that all the reasons S2 gave lined up with what they were thinking.  Both of them had ACL reconstructions themselves, one of them having had both the PTG and the Hamstring graft, so I took their opinions to heart.

I had pretty much made up my mind that S2 was my guy, but went to the appointment with Surgeon #3 anyway.  I liked him, and he hooked me up with some ACL support groups via FB and Twitter, but he also wanted to do a hamstring, and he did his surgeries at a surgical center in a town that was really inconvenient to get to and where the closest local hospital should something go catastrophically wrong is a place that I would not take anyone.  Having met three surgeons, I figured I’d met enough, and made a definite plan for having the PTG with S2.

My surgery is planned for November 19, 2015, and then it’s between 4-6 months (maybe longer?) of heavy rehabilitation to get me back to normal.

I’ve been in “Pre-hab” since two days after my injury, and I already have near complete extension and flexion. This is good because we’re basically going to be starting from zero after the surgery, but the better shape your leg is in before going in, the easier (supposedly) it will be coming out.

Physically, I’m doing ok.  Emotionally, it’s been a little rockier of a ride.  I think that’s why I decided to start this blog.  I am a big face to face talker, and a prolific Facebook poster, but sometimes there’s just more that you want to say, and a lot of times in person conversations and Facebook posts can come across as being “Woe is me, dump sympathy upon me!” whining, and that’s not really what I’m trying to do.  I wanted a place to just get my thoughts out of my head, and in a format that I can digest a little better. I’m at the very beginning of what looks to be a very long and tough road, and I’d like to have a record of it.  If someone else finds this, and it offers them something, or there’s advice to give, all the better.

The Hits Keep Coming

The journey to rostered skating has been long and hard, and at this point, after so many hurdles, I’m wondering if the universe is trying to tell me something.  If it is, I have some choice words for it. 

October 6, 2015 – Disaster #3

Things have been going pretty well.  Felt confident at practice, except for the pack 27/5 drills. My ankle was a little twingey after skating in a broken skate at one practice in August, but with an ankle brace I was feeling pretty stable and thought things were on their way to good.  The skills test is coming up in December, and I felt like I had a real chance this time.

On October 6th, we were doing some blocking drills without our skates on. I’m not great at a lot of things, but I’m pretty good at taking and giving a hit.  My partner couldn’t knock me out, so as a joke called one of our coaches over, who also happens to be one of our hardest hitters.  I took a couple of powerful hits and was about to take one more, so I locked down hard.  She hit me on the right, and my left knee just went sideways.  I heard a pop, but it didn’t really hurt.  Something just didn’t feel right.   We did a few more land drills, and then put our skates on.  We did another pack 25/7 (my absolute least favorite drill), and halfway through I had to tap out.  My knee felt unstable, and weird. I took my skates off, and put ice on for the rest of the practice.  On the way home, my knee started to ache, and by the time I pulled into my driveway it actually hurt and was definitely swollen.  I walked into the house, my foot slipped on the wood floor, my knee bent the wrong way, and I crumpled to the floor.  My husband made me promise to call the doctor the next day.

I slept fitfully, and woke to an even more swollen knee.  I called the orthopedist that’s in the office where I had been going to physical therapy for neck issues (bulging discs that were aggravated after having to lay flat for so many hours after the ablation – I’m just full of awesome!), and they saw me that day.  The doctor came in, and I explained what had happened the night before.  They did an x-ray that showed that nothing was broken (good). She noted the swelling, and while extending my leg was uncomfortable, when she tried to bend it I yelped and almost fell off the table.  At that point she said that I needed an MRI, gave me a brace and instructions to go to PT ASAP.  I walked across the hallway, talked to my PT and made an appointment for that Friday.

I thought it would take a really long time to get an appointment for an MRI, but surprisingly, I was able to be seen that night.  They had appointments until 9pm, and I was the last one.  We did the MRI, and they told me that I would probably hear something in 24-48 hours.  The next day I heard nothing, and even that Friday I had heard nothing by the time I went to the PT evaluation.  Because they weren’t sure what was wrong, they did some stim and some stretching, but were pretty gentle with it.  It took until the following Monday to get a confirmation of the diagnosis that I had been dreading, but all signs had been pointing towards (I had a whole weekend to look up my symptoms).  A complete tear of my left ACL.  Game stopper, career ender.  I got the report from the radiology center the same day my orthopedist did, and she called me to confirm what I had read.  She suggested surgery considering the fact that I’m still relatively young, and I had a strong desire to return to derby.  She no longer does surgery, but gave me a list of names of orthopedic surgeons she recommended.  I passed them by my PT team, got some more names, went home and started making appointments.  I was surprised at how fast I was able to get in to see a lot of them.  I made calls on Monday, and was able to get appointments that Wednesday, Friday, and following Monday.

I went to practice that week, and sat on the sidelines.  It was hard being out of the action again, but I was still in go mode, and decided not to worry about anything until after talking to the surgeons.  I spent a lot of time learning all I could about the different kinds of surgery in order to ask the best questions of the surgeons I was planning on meeting.  I learned about Patella Tendon Grafts, Hamstring Grafts, Cadaver Grafts (aka allografts), and saw more pictures of knee surgery than anyone could want (Thanks Google).   I’d never shopped for surgeons before, and digging around looking for derby specific ACL experiences,  I found an older Punkymoms member who had ACL surgery herself after getting hurt playing derby.  We reconnected on Facebook and I spent a good deal of time asking her questions, while she patiently explained her experience with the surgery and after.   I knew I was in for a long recovery, no matter what I decided.  I had my list of questions, and I was ready.

Master of Disasters

November wasn’t the regular recruiting season for the League.  There wasn’t a formal try out, but instead I was thrown into a regular practice.  I’d been skating for a couple of months at this point, but I wasn’t prepared at ALL for what we were doing.  Pace line?  What’s a pace line!? Plow stops? I found out, and while I didn’t die, I was pretty sure I was going to.  I was still smoking fairly regularly, was way out of shape, and we were doing things that were way out of my wheelhouse.  But,  I didn’t give up, and the next day was sent an email congratulating me on my new status as a probationary member of the League.    Just like that, I was part of something amazing.  I was going to every practice, learning new skills, and I was still going to open skates on Monday nights to work on those skills.  There were a couple of other girls who came in the same day I did, and we had a nice little pack of Fresh Bloods.   Things were going great for about a month.

December 1, 2014 – Adult Skate Night – Disaster #1.

I’d been going to Adult Skate Night (ASN) for a few months, and had started to get to know a lot of the regulars.  There was one gentleman in particular who was always very nice, but something was a little off about him.  I’m still not sure what.  Usually we just said hello, and that was the end of it, but this night was a little different.  About halfway through the evening, one of my skates started to feel wobbly, so I skated off to the side to check them out.  I had my foot up on a bar stool to look at the bottom, when he came over, said something about my trucks probably being loose, took my skate (with my foot still in it) by the front wheels and wrenched it in an apparent attempt to tighten my trucks.  I wasn’t expecting this, and my other foot (also still in skate) shot out from under me and I went straight down, landing hard on my tailbone.  My vision blanked out, and I thought I was going to vomit.  The pain was so intense that I just lay there for a few moments while my helpful “friend” told me that I should go skate around on it and see how it felt.  No recognition at all that what he had done had quite literally put me on my ass.  All I could feel was pain and nausea, so I politely waved him off and crawled over to a bench to try and stand up.   Dipsy saw me on the floor, and I told her that I thought I needed to go home.  About halfway there, I told her that we needed to stop and get something like frozen peas because I was really, really sore.  Because she is the best best friend, she ran into a supermarket for me and before I knew it I had peas jammed down my pants. I had fallen down the stairs a few years before, so I knew what a bruised tailbone felt like, and figured I’d just need to ice up and be done with it.   Got home with my peas, took some Advil, and tried to go to sleep.

I was up all night.  Muscle spasms would start at the base of my spine and shoot all the way up through my head if I so much as blinked too hard.  I tried getting through the next day, but it just hurt terribly, so I made an appointment and went to the doctor where nothing was definite, but she figured it was probably cracked or very badly bruised.  She gave me muscle relaxers for the spasms (which were terrible and constant), and told me to stay off skates for 3 weeks.   First major setback.  I stood on the sidelines while the rest of my Freshies moved on ahead of me.   Came back at the end of those 3 weeks shaky, nervous, scared, and sporting a new pair of butt pads.  Eventually I got back in the swing of things, but I felt significantly behind everyone else and I was frustrated.  I felt like the fat, old fraud.

In the background of all of this was another medical issue that I had been dealing with since August of that year.  I was having uncontrolled and frequent PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions — extra beats, skipped beats, palpitations).  I’d been seeing a cardiologist throughout, and was put on numerous medications that would work for a time and then stop.   The biggest problem with some of these medications is that they lower your blood pressure and heart rate and can sap your stamina.  Endurance training becomes an absolute nightmare.   Dizziness is often a side effect, and because your heart is beating slower, your legs aren’t getting the blood they need, and they just quit.   I was frequently in the emergency room with shortness of breath, chest pains, and other frightening symptoms.  I was missing practices, and falling even further behind, but I was afraid to tell anyone on coaching about the PVCs lest they think I was some sort of cardiac danger.  I wasn’t, and exercise was actually very beneficial, but I was afraid sharing it would make me even more undesirable than I already felt.  Fat, Old AND cardiac issues?  WOO! Triple Threat! I was floundering big time, but I stupidly kept my mouth shut.

My first minimum skills test came up that March and I was not ready.   I was behind in skill level from the other Freshies, and I just didn’t have the stamina to keep up. I had just started a new, more aggressive medication, and I was feeling pretty terrible.  On top of all of that, our test was in a venue I had never skated in before, on a surface I had never skated on. I was doomed from the start.  Just doing practice laps on the uneven sport court tiles, I was wobbly, and unsure.  I biffed the first few drills of things that I could do without issue on the wooden skate rink, and my confidence completely tanked.   When it came time to do the 27/5, I think I made it 5 or 6 times around before just giving up.  I was spent, I was frustrated, I was ready to quit.   I took my gear off and was trying to make a quick exit, but was called over for a chat with coaching.  I was told to shake it off, get a grip on myself, and keep trying (in a much nicer way).  I told them I would try, went to my car and sobbed.  What was I doing???

Cardiac Ablation – Disaster #2

Shortly after my complete nightmare of a skills test, my cardiologist and I both agreed that medication was no longer working, and the only thing that was going to get rid of those obnoxious PVCs would be an ablation.  At this point I was in near constant bigeminy/trigeminy, which means my heart was skipping every 2nd or 3rd beat.  I felt horrible, and just wanted it done.  The basic idea of the procedure would be that they would snake a catheter with electrical probes through my femoral artery up into my heart, map it all out, find out where the misfires were happening, and then zap them.  The effect would be nearly instantaneous.  The biggest downside to the procedure was that while my heart would be ready for action immediately, the femoral artery needed to heal, and I was going to be off skates again for a month or more.  It was time to fess up to coaching what was going on.  I had the procedure scheduled for April 23rd, and I let them know.  They were cool about it — something I should have anticipated.  I just gave my doctor’s note, and had the procedure.  It worked, I was off the medication, and after a few weeks, I was back in my skates and trying again.

Another skills test came up shortly after my return, but I wasn’t expected to pass it.  My plan was to start fresh in July during the main recruitment season.  I attended the boot camp, went to the official try out, and joined my second Fresh Blood class as “Rotten Meat”, a nickname given affectionately by one of the coaches.  I was finally getting all of the knitty gritty Fresh Blood classes I had missed out on the first time around.  I was feeling confident, and I was getting better.  Some things still needed work, but the foundations were there.   I had quit smoking, was eating better, my endurance had gone way up, and I was feeling pretty confident that I would pass my skills test in December. The universe had other plans.