Trying To Maintain Sanity During A Month on the Couch

FasterSkierFebruary 18, 2004

Last time, I introduced you to the plotline: While training
for the upcoming ski season, I took a bad fall and shattered my
collarbone. So now, instead of documenting my training routine,
I am documenting my attempted recovery. For more details, as well
as photos and X-rays, click on the link in the right-hand column.
Now, back to our story…

I tried to mentally prepare myself for the next few weeks. This
would give me a chance to catch up on work. I could sleep all I
wanted and not worry about being lazy. I tried to rationalize, but
I couldn't really convince myself. I knew this was going to be a
tough few weeks, but I had no idea how tough it was going to be.
Here is a timeline:

October 17
At the surgery, the doctor gave me
two weeks worth of very powerful pain killers, but I stopped taking
them yesterday. I hated the feeling of being drugged up. I would
rather have pain than feel half-conscious and unable to think straight.

Today I went back to see doctor for follow-up
post-op visit. He said the x-ray looked good and that it was a smart
decision to have surgery because while operating they found lots
of small bone fragments floating around which needed to be removed.
He told me that in a week I could start walking. But I should not do
anything that might jar the bones at all, such as running.

October 19
At this point I became revolted
by my own smell. Because of the bandages on my shoulder I could
not shower. I did my best to clean myself, but since I couldn't
lift my left arm, my armpit was very foul. Whatever it was that
they rubbed all over me in preparation for surgery seemed to be
fermenting in my armpit and killing all life within a three foot
radius with its odor. (You just let me know when I have shared too
much information)

October 20
It had been a week and I was officially
going stir-crazy. I was very tired. My body was putting all of its
energy into healing the clavicle. I could handle a few hours of
work on the computer but then I would need a nap. I was spending
about 20 hours a day on our living room couch. I was miserable laying
on the couch, staring longingly out the window, but it was the only place I could get semi-comfortable.

On the rare occasion I would leave the house
for a trip in the car, I was so excited to see the outside world.
Just riding down the street as Linda, my soon-to-be-wife, drove
the car was an adventure. All the lights! All the new scenery! Strip
malls have never seemed so inviting! I was like a dog. If I could
have rolled down the window and stuck my head out, tongue wagging
in the wind, I probably would have. It was quite sad, really.

But the excitement was fleeting and soon
enough it was back to the couch.

I have had some pretty bad fractures before,
such as a compound fracture of my right forearm. I had thought that
a collarbone fracture would be less intrusive to everyday life than
an arm fracture. After all, with my arm I had a big cast on for
two months and had to write left-handed. With the collarbone there
wasn't even a cast, how bad could it be?

But with a cast on my arm, I could still
move around, even exercise a little. With a busted collarbone, as
I was learning, my mobility was severely limited. Even walking was
tough. That was incredible frustrating.

October 23
Linda said she had never seen me
look as sad as I did when I took off the bandages and first saw
my new scar, which runs the entire length of the collarbone. But
on the plus side, taking off the bandages meant that I got my first
real shower in two weeks!!! I let the hot water rinse over me for
an hour or so. You know the first shower you take after a long camping
trip? This was ten times better than that. So wonderful.

I tried sleeping in a bed that night but
it was too painful, so I went back to the couch, propped up by pillows.

October 30
I started to walk occasionally.
Getting outside was like being reborn. I felt human again. As soon as I started my walking
routine, the athlete in me was awakened from his slumber and I had the urge to
do more exercise than just walking. I went to the gym and rode the
stationary bike once. But I was so bored after 20 minutes that I
had to give up and go home. Staring at a brick wall while my legs
went in circles was not my idea of exercise. I also finally slept a
full night in my bed. I was making progress.

November 1
At this point it had been about
three weeks since the accident. I was feeling better and itching
to get back out there and exercise. I mean REALLY exercise.

Immediately after the accident, a number
of good friends gave me some good advice: be patient. Nothing
good could come from pushing myself too hard, too soon. My high
school ski coach wrote me the following:

I have a matching pair of once-broken clavicles but it sounds
like you reached another level. A word to the wise… I rushed
back my left collarbone…..actually skied 10K w/o poles two days
later. There was a cost. It healed with a slightly larger bone
callous that knicked away at my rotator every time I served in
tennis or threw a ball…which in three years led to a ruptured
It's more than just gutting through the pain… pay attention
to HOW it is healing.

At first it was easy to restrain myself. I was in pain, and any
movement would make it worse. But now it was getting harder to be
patient. My walks had become more lively. On a couple of occasions
I found myself ski-walking – almost bounding – up the hills.

This is the gray area. When could
I start to pick up the activity? Was it still too early? I felt
fine when I pushed it a little bit, but if I did too much and strained
it (or worse yet, fell) I would have set myself back another month.

I thought about trying to workout other parts of my body. Doing
sit-ups, leg presses, or something like that. But I don't enjoy
those things. I hate strength workouts, probably for the same reason I hate treadmills and stationary bikes. I did strength in a gym for years because
I had to, but it was always the most-dreaded part of my training.
So now, given the choice between a walk in the woods or doing strength
exercises in the gym, I chose the walks.

November 3
I'll be honest – I was in no hurry for the snow to arrive.
If there was snow on the ground and I wasn't allowed to go skiing,
it just might kill me. Everyone else out skiing while I sit at home?
I went into a fury just thinking about it.

I felt I was beginning to come around. My ability to get up and out of the house was brightening my spirits. I was becoming encouraged by my progress. But if it snowed, I could no longer go outside and walk the trails. I would be driven back inside until I was given the okay to ski. So while everyone else
fretted about when winter would start, I could say that for the
first time in my life, I was in no hurry for the snow to fall.

Next time: The snow arrives. Doctor still says no skiing,
but could I resist?

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