Monthly Archives: October 2008

free radicals

So I’ve learned something about my mom.  She’s a radical!  Well – not radical, but definitely politically engaged.  A couple of weekends ago, she and her book club friends staged a rally in downtown Kirkland.  The rally was titled "Babes for Obama".  That might seem odd (it did to me anyway), but apparently it’s based on the name of the book club (The Literary Babes, or something resembling that).

Anyway, the rally was a big success despite Senator Joe Biden and Governor Christine Gregoire opting for a rally in Tacoma instead (apparently Tacoma is ‘redder’ than Kirkland, so better to try to shore it up).

The big surprise for me was picking up the local weekly and being greeted with my mother smiling on the front page.


That’s her sitting over on the right.


How would it make you feel if your mother called herself a "Babe"?  I never thought I’d run up against this question myself.  Still, I’m proud to be her son – even if she’s a Babe.


the runner mumbles

The Runner Mumbles is the monthly newsletter of the Eastside Runners, very well produced by my friend Bob Wismer.  It’s received praise as possibly the best running club newsletter in the northwest, as determined by the folks at Northwest Runner magazine.

In addition to the useful stuff, like info about club events, race reports and the like, the latest issue includes several things about my accident and recovery.  Check it out if you’re interested :

The articles in question are on pages 7, 8, and 9.  I wrote the first one as a big "thank you" to the folks in the club, who did so much for my family and I during the first two months of recovery.  The second one is a nice article written by my friend Landy, centering on the first days in the hospital when everyone was coming together to help out.  The last is a thank-you note from my parents and brother to the club.

I’ve written race reports for the Mumbles before, and have really enjoyed swapping stories about various marathons all over the country with my ESR running friends.  You can read the back issues to get a sense of these stories.  Check out Spring 2006 (Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans), Summer 2006 (Sunflower Iron Event), Winter 2007 (Marine Corps Marathon), Summer 2008 (Free State Trail Marathon in Kansas) for a sampling.  These stories help to pass the miles when we’re out on the trail together.  They also helped form the friendships I’ve enjoyed so much.

Being out on the trail together for several hours gives you a chance to get to know people pretty well.  And still, those people can move you with their grace and kindness.

orthodontic surprises

As a result of the bike accident, my bite is screwed up.  My right side top/bottom teeth no longer touch when I bite down.  I mentioned a while back that I’d thought I’d have the braces for about six weeks, around the time of surgery.  The braces would complement the correction from the oral surgery, and my bite would return to normal fairly quickly.

I went to see an orthodontist this morning.  His recommendation is that the braces would be on for two years, with oral surgery occurring about halfway through.  That’s a little bit different than what I’d heard before. 

The other thing that’s annoying is that I need to contact my medical insurance company to see whether or not this work can be covered under medical insurance.  If not, the nearly $7K worth of work would be largely out of pocket.  By the way, that’s a lot of money.

I am also surprised that the orthodontic folks could not give me a straightforward yes or no answer to my question about the coverage.  I find it hard to believe that they haven’t dealt with accident victims like me before.

I did anticipate this issue a while back, and it’s popped up again with respect to the plastic surgery I’m exploring for my head.  I’m really hoping that the insurance folks draw a distinction between truly optional procedures, and ones that simply get my head and teeth back to the way they looked and worked before this guy hit me.

Surprises like this tick me off.

just carry the essentials – a full day of medical appointments

This morning I walked from home down to physical therapy in Redmond.  I packed some clothes into my mesh backpack, and set out for the four mile walk.  There are many things I like about going on foot.  First, it feels good to get my blood flowing.  Second, it’s a whole lot cheaper than having to fill the tank in my car up.  Third, it forces me to think carefully about what to carry along, because no one wants to carry more than they need to on a long walk.

There’s a great metaphor to live life by in there.  When you need to go from point A to point B, it pays to focus on what’s really important.  No need to bring excess baggage along.  It’s stuff you don’t need, and only serves to slow you down.

Over the past few days I’ve had a lot on my mind related to the accident.  The tinnitus and back pain I’ve been experiencing had gotten me down.  Intellectually I know these feelings are normal parts of recovery.  I also fear that these conditions may be with me for life, which stinks.  Ergo the down feelings.

The only thing I know how to do when I’m feeling like this is to focus on things that can get done.  In my recovery, that means making sure I’ve scheduled all necessary appointments, getting to them, working my healing body out as much as I can, and making the most of each day.

This doesn’t fix everything that hurts.  But it’s impossible to always do that, isn’t it?

I started out this morning with little time to spare to get to my PT appointment.  It felt good to be outside, and great to walk briskly.  I got to PT with just enough time to schedule next month’s appointments before changing into my bathing suit to do a 3 mile run on the pool treadmill.

While running this morning I felt pain in my low back again, especially when doing the sideways running I like to mix in.  I had Matt work on the back issue as a result – which meant I got to do some of the muscle energy exercises that my friend Katie (a skilled PT, not currently practicing) had introduced me to several years back.

Then, it being a full day of medical appointments, I grabbed some lunch and Kris drove me into Seattle where I met with a plastic surgeon.  I mentioned several days back that I felt a bit self-conscious about the hollowing around my left temple.  I also wanted to ask about the (unlikely) possibility of reanimating the muscles in that area. 

This was a good visit.  We discussed either using a synthetic material or grafting in some tissue from my forearm (I wouldn’t have guessed that location).  He also mentioned the possibility of improving the scarred area on my head, including transplanting hair to the semicircular area on the left side of my head.  I’m going to get a second opinion, but am pretty convinced I’ll have someone do this work ASAP.

The biggest foreseeable delay will be getting the insurance company to buy off on what they may deem an purely cosmetic procedure.  This is another reason is stinks to get hit by an uninsured driver – wouldn’t it be more fair for his provider to foot the bill?  Or for him to?  I digress …

Then it was back to the eastside for a CAT scan (needed by the surgeon), followed by an appointment with my internist about the tinnitus.

The word on my ear ringing is that (as anticipated) it may or may not resolve itself.  He expressed that this sort of thing is not unusual following a severe head injury, and could be the result of nerve damage.  He did not have an answer as to why this would have just started within the past week.  A quick check by the doctor led him to believe that I would probably not require amplification (hearing aids), but he’s sending me to an ENT specialist to take a look.

Anyway – it was day so full, I didn’t get to work.  The trick will be figuring out how to make the time up given that I’ve got a 2-4 hour appointment scheduled for Thursday afternoon as well.

Definitely lots to think about here though.  As always, the trick will be to focus on the essentials and not ‘carry more along’ than I need to.

walking through the workouts

Over the past six weeks or so, I’ve been walking a bunch.  Sometimes I’ll choose to walk to an appointment, sometimes it will be just for the sake of getting a workout in.  I’ve developed two short-term goals over time : to walk up Mount Si on Christmas Eve, and to walk to Seattle Half Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend.  Note that this has nothing to do with celebrating holidays per se, but it has everything to do with celebrating good health, both on the physical and emotional side.

One week I walked about 36 miles, but more often I’m closer to 20-25 miles.  While walking doesn’t provide me the higher heart rate workout, it does help to develop stamina, and definitely provides a sanity break similar to running.  It’s done wonders for my mental health, and has definitely helped hasten my recovery along.

This morning found the whole family doing the "Pumpkin Push" 5k down in Seward Park.  The original motivation was that Kayla’s cross-country team was wrapping up their season by going out and doing a 5k (longer than the distance they’d run in their meets).  It turned out that the whole family did the distance.  And this was Rachel’s first 5k!

Kayla set a new 5k PR for herself.  I surprised myself by walking each mile just under 13 minutes.  Kris and Rachel did the course in under 20 minutes per mile (the first mile was under 15 minutes!).

Being active is a great way to work through adversity.  I was just talking with my sister in law on the phone about how great it is to invest in yourself in such a healthy way.  It’s good for your physical health.  But don’t overlook how central it is for your emotional health too.  Even getting out for a 15-30 minute walk each day will help you feel about a thousand percent better than before.

I woke up feeling creaky in my low back, and feeling down about my tinnitus … three and an eighth miles later the malaise had faded a lot.  Part of that was because I got to watch lots of people physically challenging themselves this morning – which is definitely inspiring.  Being in the 12-13 minute per mile part of the pack is different for me, and I got to see more people doing their first 5k, or working hard to go the distance.  Watching an event from a different vantage point definitely feels inspiring.  Also though, when you challenge yourself in a  new way (this was the first race I’ve walked), you can find new things to appreciate within.

why the pain and nuisance ?

So in the midst of all of this recovery, I’m feeling some pain and discomfort than wasn’t so bad before.  I’m confident that both of these examples are related to the accident.

For the past three days or so, I’ve had noise apparent in both ears.  In the months before, I’ve had a lot of fluid in my ears, which definitely hindered my hearing a bit.  But the tinnitus is really annoying.  It’s beginning to affect my sleep.  The literature online is not very encouraging.  It tells me that tinnitus can occur as a result of head injury or ear infection, that it affects millions, and isn’t necessarily curable.

The other thing that’s annoying is a pain in my very low back, along the inside edge of my sacrum.  My chiropractor checked it out earlier this week, and he speculated that I may have had a fracture there as a result of the accident, because the bone is skewed off to one side (ergo the pain).  If there was a nasty injury there, it’s possible that this is pain I’ll have to manage for a lifetime.  This one is really annoying because if it hurts when I walk, it could hurt more when I run.  Having a limiting back injury would really stink.

I recognize that this sort of bellyaching isn’t positive, but the frustration is real.  Actually, things aren’t too bad now, but I’m concerned that these things won’t resolve, and that I’ll have to deal with them for the long term.  That’s where the attitude comes from.

the guy under the red hat

I wear a hat most of the time now.  In part, it’s habit.  A while back, my surgeon told me to wear one to protect my head.  Now we all know that wearing a baseball cap doesn’t provide much protection, but put that aside for now.

The second reason is that I’m still self-conscious about the asymmetry that the cranioplasty left on my head.  I’m speaking to a reconstructive surgeon about it next week, but it will likely be a while before anything can be done.  In the meantime, I’ve been wearing hats.  For the most part, I’ve worn baseball caps. 

But one evening last week there was a package waiting for me when I got home.  It was a nice cap, very much in the style I’d wanted to buy.  And it’s red.  Thanks Dad!


I like the hat.  It’s a great conversation starter.  On the other hand it does potentially draw attention to the place (my head) I’m not wanting to talk about so much.  Although you can’t see the injury so much under the hat, it can be hard to control self-conscious feelings.  All of that said, what I enjoy about the cap is that it’s a chance to converse about something that’s not related to the accident.  That’s an interesting challenge to my self-conscious feelings. 

The hat is very comfortable, and will be handy now that the weather is turning cooler.  So – I’ve been wearing it a lot.