Thursday, May 30, 2013

The (Slow) Return of the Running "Machine"

I wrote an entry a few weeks ago about the breakdown of a running machine and the (unintentionally) self inflicted injuries I've caused myself from running.  After a year of on and off pain, I've set off to try and fix this problem.  But it means navigating the medical system here for the most part in Spanish.  Most likely all my readers have "enjoyed" navigating the medical system in their home countries and see how frustrating it can be ... now try to do it in a language other than your own.

Yes, I know I just wrote an entry on the easiness of using the system here.  And it is actually quite easy.  But once you have the appointment the challenge is then being able to communicate your problem and understand the questions being asked to you in another language.  In the last few weeks I've had to do that for my orthopedist appointment, the emergency room for Liam, the eye doctor for Liam, the emergency room for Aidan, the eye doctor for Aidan and finally, for myself at my bone scan appointment.  

And so far in those past few weeks I've done pretty well with communicating in Spanish.  Only problem is that it's hard to make follow up questions when you don't speak the language fluently.  But I feel like progress is being made and so for now, I'll take that. 

But back to trying to fix the running machine... I had an appointment a few weeks ago with an orthopedist.  A doctor that I was told spoke English, but in fact, did not.  I told him what was wrong with me and how it happened.  He spent less than 30 seconds examining my leg and then said I had tibial periostitis (shin splints).  He ordered a gamagrafia and therapy.  I had no idea what a gamagrafia was and when I google translated it, I still didn't know.  So then I had to google the translation - turns out it was for a bone scan.

I scheduled the appointment for the bone scan which to be honest, seemed a bit extreme since we didn't even do a standard x-ray and now you are going to expose me to radiation equivalent to about 60 x-rays.  But hey, I'm not a doctor and the medical system as I've noted, is different here.  So I'm going with the flow.  My appointment was scheduled 2 weeks ago for 8:45AM to do the bone scan.   

I live less than 2 miles from Quiron Hospital which is where my scan was scheduled - one of only 3 places that has the appropriate equipment in this city.  I left my house at 8 for an 8:45 appt just in case. Good thing I did.  Because Travessera de Dalt and Vallcarca were like Rte 1 at Christmas.  I normally wouldn't mention a parking garage but I'm pretty sure this one went down at least 10 stories like a spiral staircase - no end in sight til you got to the bottom.  I will admit to slight panic of being so far underground.  I went into the hospital and asked where my appt was.  I knew he said bottom of the stairs and to the left but when I got to the bottom I saw the X-ray dept straight ahead, not to the left.  But to be seen I had to pick not just a number but the right department - like going to the DMV and picking licenses, registration, etc.  I took a guess. Turns out that my appointment actually was to the left... Oops!  So slightly late now which totally stresses me, I made my way down to where I had to be. I'm stressed enough already AND I need to do everything in Spanish.  Why can't life just be easy for a moment?  Because stuff like this is tough enough to navigate in your own language.  I checked in and got myself situated in the waiting area. Thankfully there were only 2 other people here.  A friend had once told me that you bring people with you to the doctor - no one should be alone... And yet here I am sitting by myself.  Meanwhile, these other people at least have their significant others with them. 

After 30 mins my name was finally called. The tech asked me a question and I had no idea what he was asking.  The fear set in.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  Thankfully a doctor who spoke English came in and explained.  The tech wanted to know if it was my first time with this type of X-ray.  He then explained the process.  They were going to inject the radioactive dye, take an X-ray, wait two hours and then do the scan again.  I must say, the tech did the injection perfectly - absolutely no pain.  I don't think I've ever had a needle in my arm without at least a pin prick.  And yet I could feel my heart racing while on the table waiting for the giant X-ray machine to take an X-ray of my legs.  The tech had asked if I had a belt on which I didn't.  But he forgot to ask if I had anything in my pockets and part way thru I began think I might have change in my pocket (and yup I did). Hoping that doesn't mess anything up!!!!   

The scan was pretty easy with the only challenge being my ability to lay still.  But I managed.  As soon as the scan was done, I took the change out of my pocket, again hoping this didn't mess anything up.  They told me to come back in 2 hours so I headed up to the cafeteria for a croissant and orange juice.  I basically just hung out for 2 hours reading and playing Candy Crush (I cannot stop playing this stupid game!).  It was kind of nice having no pressure to be anywhere or to be getting anything done - too bad I had to spend that free time hanging out at the hospital.

Anyways, I headed back to the waiting room and 2 hours turned out to be 3 but finally it was my turn.  They did the scan again and said my results would be ready to pick up in the morning.  Damn that's fast!  I had been told it takes up to 10 days to get them.  So I rushed home to call the insurance company to set up an appointment for as soon as possible with an orthopedist to review the results.  Since my appointment was on Thursday and my results ready on Friday, the earliest they could do was Tuesday (Monday was a holiday).  The doctor my friends had recommended had nothing available til June and I wasn't willing to wait that long so I took a chance that the doctor would speak English.

I picked up my results with no problem.  On Tuesday morning I decided that in an attempt to prep myself for the doctor saying I couldn't run ever again, I rode my bike to my appointment.  It actually felt good to ride it to get from point A to point B and not just to work out - the ride itself was a workout anyways and it got me to my destination.  Why I didn't start doing this sooner is beyond me.

Sorry, I digress.  I went in and the orthopedists are on the 1st floor.  But when I checked in, the guy told me to go straight ahead and to the right.  It all said traumatology and ophthalmology.   I was like, hmmm, I think he misread where my appointment was.  So I went upstairs anyways.  The woman at reception told me, no I need to go downstairs and I was pretty sure she said ophthalmology.  I started to panic thinking that they set me up with the wrong type of appointment but it turns out this guy is traumatology.  Ok, whew!!!

And bonus, he spoke English.  And it kind of threw me off a bit to be able to explain everything in English.  We didn't talk long but he looked at my x-ray and said that I definitely had tibial periostitis but that if I'm not having any pain right now, I can start to run.  SLOWLY.  And short distances.  And slowly work my way back up.  He told me that if I don't listen to him that I'm at risk for a stress fracture and that, I can do without.  The pain that I've had off and on over the last year felt like a stress fracture and if that pain wasn't a fracture then I don't know want to know what is!  I need to do warm ups before I run - something I'm not used to doing as my run usually is my warm up.  And for the time being I can only run inside as it's less pressure on my leg than running on the hard pavement.

My face just totally lit up.  I could't stop smiling.  He was telling me I could run.  I don't think I realized how much I missed my ability to run until that moment when I thought he might tell me I could never do it again.  But to be told that yes, you can do it, but take it slow... I can manage that.  But it's been a challenge.  I'm competitive, even with myself.  So to take a step back bothers me from a mental standpoint, not a physical one.  The idea of running at a 10'30" pace instead of a 9' or 9'30" pace bothers me.  I know I need to do it, but I'm having trouble with my ego on that one.  To the point where I haven't uploaded any of my runs since I started back again last week.  Stupid I know.  But it bothers me to know I'm not running at my best or trying to beat my best.

However, I know it needs to be slow progress if I'm ever going to be able to run consistently again.  And so I've slowed my pace down and my distance.  I started off last week running at 10'30" and only ran a mile.  The next day I added 2 minutes to my run.  Then I rested for 3 days with no running.  This week I've run every day at least 10-15 minutes.  I'm slowly, slowly increasing my speed.  This morning I ran for 20 minutes and ran at about 10'7" per mile.  It's a start.  I'll get there and I know I will.  Progress is still progress and I'm just happy to be back on track again.

I go back to the doctor in mid June for a check up.  He's hoping I won't need physical therapy (I'm hoping the same) so I plan to do my best to be "good" so I can show him a print out of what I've done in the 3 weeks since our first appointment - that I'm slowly increasing both time and speed.  That I'm doing a warm up before my runs and making sure I stretch after (that part I was actually doing before).  But with any hope and perhaps a bit of luck, I'll be back to my "normal" self within a month or two.  Here's hoping!


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