Monthly Archives: March 2009

culmination

Kayla’s school does ‘culmination’ events at the end of each term.  This past Thursday we went in to see the culmination for term 2.  It was an extraordinary experience.

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The evening started with the girls each performing a poem they’d written about themselves, in a room surrounded by self-portraits they’d drawn.  The portraits were all meticulously drawn, with lots of attention to the shading, and to the facial detail.  The poems were inspiring pieces of work.  All of them told a rather expository and in-depth story of each girl. 

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The academic highlight may have been when the girls did “Grand Rounds”.  They’d each researched a medical issue, and then answered questions from a panel of doctors.

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I was very proud of how Kayla did.  When we talk about it, she points out the things she doesn’t feel good about, but I’m having none of that.  The courage it takes to get up in front of people and do what she did is extraordinary.  She was wonderful, as were the others.

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tapering down

I’m going to run my first marathon in nine months this coming Saturday.   It is the Yakima River Canyon Marathon, a nice small point to point event about two hours east of here.  I have to say that I’m feeling nervous about it.  Probably more than I have since I ran my first one.  I look forward to getting this one out of the way, so I can get past a need to prove something.  I’m also a bit concerned about coming down with something, as a cold has made its way through the family, and there’s a nasty flu bug around too.  If I could simply sleep all week, to prevent sickness or injury I would.

My preparation has gone very well.  I ramped my mileage up nicely, and have introduced a bit of hill and speedwork.  I am trying not to set a personal time goal, but I have been feeling pretty strong nonetheless.  Who would ever have thought I’d be here eight months ago?

This is the thing I need to remember.  Race day is about showing off the quality of your preparation.  I’ve done two twenty-plus mile runs and have logged lots of other miles as well.  I’m tending towards 36-38 miles per week, about 6 per week more than before the accident.  My mindset is pretty solid too – recovery has given me good perspective on training.

Everything should be okay, provided I can stay calm :).


a trip to the emergency room

My eldest daughter took a fall at a roller skating rink this afternoon.  She apparently fell onto her face.  As I was sitting there, I considered what to do.  On the one hand, I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything too serious about it.  I wasn’t completely sure though, and figured I couldn’t live with myself if anything was wrong.

So off we went to the emergency room.  This was the third time in two weeks I’d visited (once with my mom and her cellulitis, and then yesterday with a family friend who had turned her ankle).  I’m wondering if they have a "frequent emergency" punch card or something – I might have already earned a freebee.

We checked in, and then waited a few minutes.  After seeing two people with less-potentially scary injuries get called, I went to the person at the front desk and said "I’m probably just a nervous dad, but my daughter hit her head pretty good on the skating rink floor".  Two minutes later, they wheeled us in.  Several X-rays and a CT scan later, we were assured that she was okay.  The doctor posited that she did have a concussion, but said there were no broken bones or brain bleeding.

So now I feel about 99% sure that everything’s okay.  The other 1% will keep me up for a while.  I wonder if that will ever change.


seattle post-intelligencer – r.i.p.

This week marked the final paper edition of the elder of Seattle’s daily newspapers – the PI.  I have several sentimental attachments here, which make me very sad to see it go. 

First off – my good friend John was the Photo Editor for the paper.  In addition to being a great runner, and a really nice person, John was very good at his job.  You can check out some of his handiwork yourself by checking out the photo archives available on http://www.seattlepi.com/pimemories/final.asp.

Secondly, owing in large part to John’s input – a group of us graced the front page of the PI back in November of 2006.  This was for an article talking about Marathon Maniacs in general and the Seattle Marathon in particular.  The article and accompanying photo appeared between articles about Iraq War casualties and suicide bombers – an upbeat diversion with some good human interest as well.  I remember being interviewed for the article via cell phone, while in the car with two very unhappy, noisy kids.

Another sentimental time with the PI was seeing our late friend Peter commemorated there in 2005

The central issue for me is who will fill in the estimable gap for responsible local news reporting?  The few times I’ve watched local TV news have not impressed me.  The Seattle Times has been hit with staff reductions in recent years, and the emphasis is more and more on aggregating news from the wire services.

Over the years, the PI demonstrated good journalistic discipline and focus, which serve to keep public figures more honest.  Irony was evident in the Everett Herald’s account of the PI’s closing, in which they quoted controversial political activist Tim Eyman as attributing the PI’s closing to " … all the liberal policies they’ve advocated all these years have come home to roost and contributed to them going out of business,".  Eyman would definitely have motivation to dance on the grave of the PI, because the paper exposed him as skimming money off the top of his PAC in February of 2002.

The new PI will employ 20 reporters and 20 advertising folks.  That isn’t likely to yield much journalistic reach, no matter how hard they try.  Who’s going to keep people honest?  I understand that the business side of things needs reworking, but know that somehow – there’s got to be a financially viable way to do real journalism.

Check out the pictures of the last day of the paper PI too.  It illustrates that the people behind the paper will miss doing this.

Sadness.


traumatic brain injury in the news today

Actress Natasha Richardson lost her life today, as a result of a fall she took while skiing.  We’re about the same age.  She and her husband also have two children.  Based on the little that I’ve read, she probably suffered an epidural hemorrhage that didn’t reveal itself immediately.  After her fall, she was apparently conscious, and even joking. 

Background articles on Traumatic Brain Injury (T.B.I.) abound in the news today.

It’s not unusual for traumatic brain injuries not to reveal themselves immediately.  Bleeding can be very subtle, decreasing the blood flow to the brain suddenly, while not being apparent on a CAT scan.

I don’t know the circumstances of her fall, but do know a little about the dangers associated with an epidural hemorrhage/hematoma.  It’s similar to what happened to me after my bike accident last July.  I was apparently conscious for a short while after the accident. 

My doctors apparently did not detect my bleeding until several hours after the accident – during the third CAT scan.  As a result of the surgical procedure to eliminate the brain bleed, a piece of my skull was removed to permit my brain to swell, and then heal.  This procedure is considered essential to avoid "brain death" or severe damage.  In other words, if they’d not detected the bleeding in my brain, I probably would have died.

Following the surgery, I was in an induced coma for nearly a week.  This allowed my brain to heal some more, as it was able to survive with a lower blood flow due to my very low level of activity.  Although my life was not so much in danger during that time, it was unclear whether the same ‘me’ would wake up or not.  Friends tell me that by the fifth day, they detected some optimism from one of the doctors monitoring my level of response to spoken requests, which made them feel much better.

I am so lucky that I was close enough to the trauma center to get such quality attention.  I am truly sorry that Ms. Richardson was not so lucky.  I assume that the decision to transport her from Montreal to New York was made to ensure that she received the best trauma care possible.

It seems she was very respected as an actress.  However, I’ll be thinking about the two boys and husband that she left behind.

Update from 19 March 2009

I read an article about her cause of death in the New York Times today.  According to her autopsy,  Ms. Richardson indeed died of an epidural hematoma.  Apparently she fell, and tore open an artery that caused bleeding between her skull and dura (the lining covering the brain).  According to a neurologist interviewed for the story, usually this is due to damage to the middle meningeal artery, and surgery is required quickly (usually within the hour). 


how long does recovery take ?

This is a hard question, and there are many ways to answer it. 

Physically,I’ve recovered nicely.  Other than losing vision in my left eye, and having some numbness in my face and tenderness in my scalp, I’ve got no complaints.  That’s so much better than I think anyone expected last July.  I’m getting ready to try to run my first marathon since the accident, much more quickly than I’d imagined.  I’m swimming just a notch more slowly than before, but close enough to believe I’ll get there.

Cognitively things are going well too.  I notice some differences in my ability to remember things like names.  But I’m not feeling ‘limited’ cognitively.  Work can be pretty intellectually engaging.  I read a bunch.  I’m playing lots of Scrabble, some bridge, and I do crossword puzzles and play KenKen regularly.  Although I know my brain has had to form some new neural pathways, and that I’ve had to adapt to some cognitive changes, I’m okay here. 

Cognitive therapies have felt pretty unsettling.  Brains are complicated beasts, and we do not really maintain granular baselines for ourselves and our capabilities in "normal" life.  Even when you’re in perfect health, doing cognitive assessment is a very sophisticated science.  Following a Traumatic Brain Injury, much focus is placed on assessing the patient’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  When you’re the subject being examined, it’s normal to feel apprehension about what the therapists are finding out about you.  Even as I was being told that I was able to function at a pretty high-level cognitively, I remained concerned that something would surface that would be difficult to overcome or adapt to. 

So – although physically and cognitively I have done well, emotionally I’m still processing what happened.  A therapist described my situation (as well as the family’s) as possibly being a bit "post-traumatic".  I’d not really thought of myself in those terms, but it’s worth some consideration.

There are times when I am surprised at my emotional responses.  Sometimes when I try to talk about how grateful I feel for all of the love and support I’ve benefited from, I choke up.  On several occasions, when encouraging my kids to try things they don’t feel confident about, it has brought tears to my eyes.  The surprising part to me is how quickly these emotional responses can overtake me.

Related to this, I’ve had apprehensions about whether or not I’ll be able to do things at work, run as fast as I did before, or deal with parts of life that prove challenging.  I’ve had to test my own confidence a bunch, and it isn’t easy.  To some degree we should always push out from our ordinary comfort zones.  This is how we grow.  The complicating factor for me is how little time I’ve been able to spend in my comfort zone since the accident.  It’s not been ordinary life life by any measure, for me or for my family.   

More than anything else I want to prove to myself and everyone else that I can still do anything I set out to do.  Sometimes this surfaces as impatience or stubborn-ness, with myself or others.  This is a side-effect of determination, but it’s important to remember to give yourself and others room to breathe.

My family is still processing all of this too.  I’m not going to speak for them, other than to say that Kris and the kids show this in different ways.  It can be difficult to recognize this in the moment.  That’s not intended as a complaint.  It’s just where we are right now.  We’re still trying to work through all that’s happened.

So the answer seems to be that true recovery takes a long time.  It’s important to remember that recovery encompasses the emotional side of things too.


an unintentionally long run

This morning I ran nearly 28 miles.  I’d planned to do 24, but got lost on the home stretch, so I got to firmly establish my capability to run marathon distance.  Aside from getting a bit turned around in the woods, it felt great.

I’ve been trying to ramp for perhaps doing the Yakima River Canyon Marathon in three weeks.  It’s a fun event and a beautiful course, so I thought that if my training went well, I’d give it a try.  In order to make things work, I needed to compress my long runs a little, climbing from 21 miles up to 24 in the space of two weeks (usually I try to give myself three weeks between runs over 20).

Last weekend I did an up-tempo 14 miler with friends.  My legs were sore until Wednesday.  Doing some speedwork on Tuesday didn’t help me feel better.  So this morning when I woke up, I didn’t feel great about going long today.  I’d opted to run solo in the Redmond Watershed, rather than run with friends today, because I wasn’t confident about keeping up with them.  This turned out to be a good call, until about the 21 mile mark when I got lost.

Although I felt some fatigue in my legs in the early miles, I felt good most of the way.  The plan was to follow the Redmond Watershed 8 mile loop from the Everyday Athlete site, tacking on a 4 mile out and back on the Redmond Ridge trail for two loops.  I went counter-clockwise for the first loop.  It’s a bit harder, especially coming in on the Trillium Trail for the final two miles.  Emotionally, the first loop took longer than I wanted it to, although according to the clock, it was about 1:53 – not bad.  I went out clockwise for the second loop, and felt great.  I felt myself getting tired, but expected that I would after running over 20 miles.

I felt so good in fact that I missed a turn over in Redmond Ridge when I had just about 3 miles to go.  I recognized it at the time, but decided to press on, and get to know the other trails a bit.  This turned out to be a mistake.  It’s easy to get turned around in the woods, and impossible to orient oneself without the sun.  I couldn’t even pick up any road noise to clue me in as to where I might be.  After about 20 minutes of running over big rocks, and through knee-deep puddles (not an exaggeration), I finally turned around.  It was good that I’d kept a mostly straight path, as that made it easy to navigate back.

Weird!  I’ve run hundreds of miles out there, but have never gotten lost like that.   On the plus side I’m pretty sure I can cover 26.2 now.  In a way, this was a happy accident.