Stitches to Startline

My long journey back into running shoes

Month: March, 2014

Soooo Ray LaMontagne

Take this number in, because the chorus sums up how things have been feeling over the last two weeks. I will let you all marinate on the soft and super awkward Ray LaMontagne…

……..

………….

……………..

OK, Ray, time to take some uppers and let me get back to my blog post.

So, about 6 weeks ago, I had that monstrosity of a red cast put on my foot  as I mentioned in a previous post. I will give you a few seconds to scroll up and look at the pictures,

annnnd scene.

OK, so apparently sometime during surgery (I don’t remember when, I was high and asleep), my bomb-ass surgeon lengthened my achilles. I didn’t know such things were possible, but apparently it happens and it happened to yours truly. I found this fact out today, but more on that later. So, I am guessing when you F with an achilles such as cut it and lengthen it, said achilles gets pissed off and aggravated. This information should be readily available to, I don’t know, say the dude that is in charge of putting casts on people who have achilles work done. Maybe it was and homeboy wasn’t up on his reading or he thought I was lying, but the cast technician pushed me to the absolute limit before slathering on the plaster. I tried to explain that my achilles felt like it was stretched to the limit, that it was quite painful, but he said that was normal due to swelling. So, on went the cast and off went Brian out the door. It felt fine, maybe a little tight, but nothing I was worried about. That was until I went to bed, rolled over to stretch and…

Pop.

I let out a short yelp, grabbed the cast and as fast as the searing pain came on it was gone. I held my breath for a few seconds as I had heard horror stories of torn achilles, how they roll up to your calf like a window shade. Worryingly, I wiggled my toes, first slowly and then with a bit more urgency as I realized I felt no lasting pain. After checking my calf for any gruesome looking lumps and contusions, I calmed down, went to sleep and thought nothing more of it for another 5 weeks.

I was allowed to slowly start bearing weight on my foot last week, easing into an odd looking gate as I made my way up the progression scale. It definitely didn’t look pretty, but I was happy to finally be back on my own two and have some freedom of mobility. It was not long, however, before I started to notice a good amount of pain in my achilles as I tried to transition for heel strike to toe off. Thing was, I couldn’t get to my toes without feeling as if my achilles was going to tear in half. There was zero strength, and so I chalked it up to atrophy, the typical loss of strength associated with immobilization. I was hoping to feel some progression over the week as I worked my way to 100% weight bearing, or at least more comfortable walking in the boot.

Unfortunately, things just seemed to go in the opposite direction.

I got in the shower one morning (Calm yourselves DOWN. I know, I know, just the thought is almost too much to handle but contain yourselves), and when I pushed off to step in I just about about fell over. Forget about walking, I didn’t have the strength nor the ability to even push off my toes in the slightest. I sat down to investigate my foot and sure enough, I felt a defined ridge running across the back of my achilles tendon. I have had a number of friends either partially or completely tear the tendon in the past, so I sort of knew what I was looking for. So, I got out, toweled off, got myself looking fresh to death per usual, and put a call in to my surgeon.

Fast forward to this morning, sitting on the examination table, a little bit of warm jelly, and…

What? You think what? Ew, no! Get your mind out of the gutter and follow the story. Gosh…

As I was saying, I was sitting on the table and my surgeon was …lubing…up my achilles with jelly to get a clear ultrasound image. Now, I think my surgeon is the bomb, and he is world renowned for the work that he does. I mean, the dude designed a tiny portable ultrasound machine, the one that he was using on me, the very one you see in US armed forces commercials during NFL games. Yeah, he’s pretty rad. So, he’s looking at this dope little screen and things seem A-OK.

“Oh, wait…let’s back up for a sec…yeah, you see that gap there? That’s a tear. It’s not a full tear, about 50%, but it’s a tear.”

MOTHER#%@$%@$

So, there you have it folks; add to the list of injuries a partially torn achilles tendon, which I certainly didn’t have after the initial injury. That cast tech, while I feel bad, definitely has the focus of my ire at the moment. I am sure he is a nice guy, but know your ish, homeboy. My surgeon said that I do not need further surgery at the moment and that I can’t baby my foot anymore, that I need to start building strength back up. So, I am clear to start rehab even with half an achilles. As he said, “If it goes, it goes; we can always fix that.”

Awesome.

I am not sure if I should explain to my surgeon what I think happened or just let it slide. What do you all think…(if anyone reads this, that is)?

More to come later when rehab starts.

-B

 

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OOOOOOOOOH Snap!

Is that two pairs of kicks?

Is that two pairs of kicks?

Hell. Yes. Those would be matching shoes. Now ya’ll might not have been as excited about the concept since you were in kindergarten, but this is a big news event for Brian Hetzel. These two haven’t been reunited for 2 months, and while it still feels like I have a bruised pork chop dangling from my leg, at least it looks proper now.

I know I am a long way from running, or at least running while not looking like I just stepped on a piece of glass, I can’t help but day dream about getting back out there. It is taking everything in me not to head over to the local running store (oh hey, Fleet Feet West Hartford ) and start buying the place out.

“Oh, I need those poom poom running shorts in a large. In every color.”

“Sir, you are still on crutches and are wearing a walking boot.”

“And? I am only 4 months from running, I need to get ready. Large please, and  include the ones that look like they are meant for middle school modified XC teams, thanks. As much knuckle as possible, that’s what I say.”

Well, that got inappropriate…

Anyway, I will not be running anytime soon, even if I tried. Most of that is due to the fact that Mother Nature is being a huge B and is clearly pissed off at the whole your-killing-my-polar-bear-homies thing. Yes, I agree, the situation is FUBAR, Mother Nature, but cool it with the polar vortex nonsense. I mean, really? -24 degrees? Stop playin’, that’s not even funny. What can you do in that weather other than literally freeze? Exactly. So go ahead, talk to Al Gore, work something out, and bring us Spring. Oh and talk to China, too. That pollution nonsense is redic, surgical masks are not a good look.

Ever.

Ok, maybe during surgery but nowhere else.

Anyway, I am hobbling a little closer every day to the start line in 2015. I know it may seem like a long way off, but…ok…yes…that is a long way off. Still, progress.

Have a splendid one.

-B

BTW, this is how I feel now being able to wear two matching shoes. Get your Cartlon on, ya’ll.

Animated Gifs

A short letter

Dear right calf,

Please come back, I miss you.IMG_5319

Your pal,

Brian

Goodbye cast, hello Dee Brown boot

Image

That doesn’t look quite right….

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The red beast

Finally, the monster on my leg is gone. I have been in some sort of cast for the last 6 weeks, and let me tell you it has been a party. There is nothing quite like going from completely independent, driving around like a maniac from place to place on a whim, to being confined to the couch or other objects where one can rest a busted stump. I know, I have had this surgery twice before but for some reason my collective memory just likes to delete the bad things. You know, like trying to take a shower while half your dominant leg has to remain dry.

What? You try and be 6’4″, balance on one foot, while washing your glorious body with your leg sticking out under the curtain. It is very hard to do.

Yeah, that photo above is kind of nasty looking. Mind you, I would have been alarmed had I not been high off my ass on pain killers and 18 hours deep into a nerve block. Those things are on the same level as unicorns and rainbows, just magical. Apparently there was too large of a gap between two of the sutures leading to a large amount of blood draining out onto the dressing. Looks pretty rad, though.

Yes, I still say rad, get over it.

The doc put me into a regular plaster cast after about two weeks, which allowed the swelling to go down. I have to admit I was thinking the worst when he told me it would be another 4 weeks before my leg was free, as I am not one that sits still well. I was that kid who turned into a hyper hypo after ingesting any form of caffeine. I am still that way, just a bit taller now. I really think they should start a reality TV show called “Brian on Caffeine” which would basically be me downing various forms of the substance while on camera. Think Robin Williams on a 3 day bender minus the hard drugs.

I get distracted easily, too, as you can see.

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6 week old embedded stitches felt good coming out…nope.

My point is that being confined to hopping on one foot and using crutches in the dead of winter while having the energy of 7 humans after a Starbucks run is not a whoooole lot of fun. Add in Mother Nature being entirely bipolar and off her Lithium this winter and you have a very cagey Brian.

As with everything, the 6 weeks finally ended and I got to go back to the surgeons office to have said plaster bastard cut off my leg. Now, I don’t care what anyone says or how many times the technician shows me that the plaster saw can’t cut skin, my brain still thinks it is going to cut my entire leg off. I am a grown ass man and I should know by now, but I still jumped like the man was using a table saw he just picked up from Home Depot.

Shut up. Don’t judge me.

Once that sucker was off, Cruella and her tweezers descended on my wounds to remove the last of the sutures. Now, I am not a doctor, but I have had enough stitches in my life to know that 6 weeks is a hell of a long time to leave those bad boys in. Sure enough, a lot of digging and pulling had to be done to get those evil things out. Not going to lie, I was a little bitch about it. And I didn’t even get a damn lollipop at the end.

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I think you forgot something in there, Doc.

Finally, I got to move around the office a bit on my crutches with nothing but my own two feet. Well, I would say one and a half feet at this point because my right ankle felt like a raw pork chop dangling from my leg. Off to the x-ray room I went, where they took a few films of what I thought were going to be films of a normal looking foot. You know, because I just had surgery for that very purpose. When Doc came by to show me his handiwork, I almost rolled off the table. Check out the size of that screw! Now, I knew he was going to do a calcaneal osteotomy, but I didn’t think that involved firing a railroad tie into the bottom of my foot. Hot damn, that is some hardware.

If you look closely at the x-ray, you can see the actual osteotomy, where part of the bone was removed. The long, dark thin line near the middle of the screw that looks like it hurts like an SOB because it does?

Yeah, that one.

Yeesh, this might be a longer healing process then I initially thought. Doc did say that I will never feel anything, that the screw is embedded deep into the bone. I hope he is right, as part of this surgery was removing hardware that malfunctioned from the last procedure.

Anyway, this is all progress in the direction of getting back into running shoes and back onto the trails. I am now in a gigantic walking boot that Dee Brown would be proud of – this bad boy comes with a pump.

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My boot is high tech, which just means it was expensive

Say whaaaaat?

Don’t be mad because I had the original Reebok pumpS back in the day. Those jammies were dope…although I may have worn them with tapered jeans and French rolls…aaaaaaand scene.

I am not allowed to walk or drive just yet, which is a bummer. i thought I was going to be leaving the Doc’s office on my own two feet, but alas, that didn’t happen. I have another two weeks on the pegs, with 50% weight bearing starting next week and onto full weight bearing the following week. After having been laid up for as long as I have so far, two more weeks shouldn’t be all that bad. Unless I start pounding Jolt Cola, which will land me on CNN as a nutjob crutching down the center of the Mass pike waving at the cars going by. I’ll stick to water.

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That is a serious cankle

Well, that is about all I have for now. I will post more as I progress through the weeks. I will leave ya’ll with a last cankle shot. Having only had the sutures totally removed a few days ago, it doesn’t look so bad. But that is some serious edema, on the real…

Have a great weekend and good luck to all of you bundling up and heading out on Sunday for those Boston Marathon long runs – I can’t wait to join ya!

-B

A long way back

1 year, 6 months, 14 days; 80 weeks; 563 days; 13,512 hours; 810, 720 minutes; 48, 643, 200 seconds; which ever way you look at it, I haven’t taken a single step in running shoes for a very long time. The story is a long one, dating back several decades if I am being completely honest. You see, I was one of those kids who fiend for Jolt Cola because the energy bursting out of my skin would last me for what seemed to be an eternity. It didn’t matter what I did, how far I ran, what glass door I crashed through (true story), I still kept going.

What’s that? Yes, I did jump off the roof of a Jewish temple during a Bat Mitzvah when I was 12 out of sheer boredom only to tear every ligament in my right ankle. I mean, who doesn’t? And yes, I did score the winning goal in the MA state cup semifinal the next day. Smart, I know.

Anyway, I have never been one to sit still for very long. I mean, my mother took me out of public school in the 3rd grade and placed me in a small Catholic school for no other reason than…recess. Yes, the school had recess and I needed it.

Badly.

When the bell would ring after lunch I would rip out the door, bound down the stairs, make fun of the priests, and then hit the courtyard with reckless abandon. It was glorious. Climbing all over the Jesus statue on the little green might not have been allowed, but neither was sprinting in between desk chairs during class and I figured the latter was worse. So, sorry bronze Jesus but you know what was up.

As you can see…after almost telling my life story to get to one simple point…I don’t sit still well, even when banged up, so I have had more than my share of injuries over the years. That still holds true today, and has led me to my current predicament.

What? What’s wrong? Oh, that. It’s not that bad, come on. It just looks like I dangled my foot off the side of a boat during a shark feeding frenzy. Hungry?

I know, I know, it is pretty graphic. I would have been surprised and shocked had this been the first time I’d seen my foot look this way. Unfortunately, what you see in the video is the result of a reparative surgery I had done around 5 weeks ago. The surgery was not to fix an injury, per say, but to fix a botched surgery that was done in December 2012. That one looked a little something li…What? A warning?

Fine. Here. A warning:

WARNING, ANOTHER GNARLY/AWESOME PHOTO THAT YOU SECRETLY LIKE LOOKING AT

Looks like this doc was down with being clean

Looks like this doc was down with being clean

See? Not that bad, right?

Wrong, and you will watch your mouth. It was terrible, actually, I just didn’t know it at the time. I should have, though, as my surgeon had a perm.

Yep, a perm.

You should never trust a man with a perm, especially if he has a scalpel and a vat of anesthesia. Take it from me, it ends up poorly.Yep, a perm.

Anywho, this fist round of surgery involved a piece of bone being removed from the front of my foot (osteotomy) and secured by a big-ass plate and screws. The lateral ligaments were “repaired” after bone spurs were cleaned out of the talus joint. There were no osteochondral lesions on the talus, allegedly, even though they showed up on an MRI. Also, no need to repair that peroneal tear that lit up on the same scan, as Dr. Perm said he checked and the ligament was intact.

Lies.

Turns out that it was in fact torn, as my most recent doc, who we will call Dr. You Better Have Done a Good Job or I will Break Out The Spin Kicks aka Doc, found out when he opened me up. He also found that my lateral ligaments were still torn, there were lesions on my talus, the plate in the front of my foot was all kinds of jacked up causing a screw to stick up into the skin like so:

what happened when I wore anything but sneakers

Happened when I wore anything but sneakers

Yep, that screw doesn't look normal

Yep, that screw doesn’t look normal

Soooooo, I basically had the first surgery for no other reason than a bit of practice on crutches and mind altering medications.

And a lot of Downton Abbey binging.

What? Don’t judge, you know you would be PUMPED if Mr. Carson was cruising through your place and being all kinds of proper while doling out delicious treats. Poor Edith, though, she can go ahead and stop whining.

Ok, so back to my long winded story that you will continue to read because you know what is good for you. I ended up this way, needing surgery in the first place, due to my old injuries in the past (said Baht Mitzvah jumps) and one spectacular one during the 2012 TransRockies Run.

If you don’t know the race, I highly recommend checking their site out here. You and a partner run a 6-day, 120 mile stage race from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, covering roughly 20,000 feet of elevation change. There are lung-busting climbs up to Hope Pass at 12,500ft and amazing down hill bombs like the one on Vail. There are also a lot of sections that you have to pay close attention to, say a flowing stream of mountain run off full of loose rocks. If you don’t pay attention and you are running angry because your partner got hurt 4 miles back, your foot might get lodged between two of those big rocks. 

Snap, crackle and pop.

Yep, that is what happened to me and Spencer, my running partner. He tore his quad coming down stage 4 and had to be carted off the mountain. Angry with the running gods, I started bombing down a 40 degree pitch at about 6 minute pace only to blow out my ankle with 3 miles left on the day. I shuffled the rest of the way in, hopped up on the training table and took off my shoe only to see bruising on the right side of my foot. I knew I was screwed, so I did what any normal person would do.

I threw a $%@#$^ tantrum, felt bad for myself, and moped around in tight spandex.

Back in the med tent at base camp, I found a very angry Spencer who was on his way to the hospital. I went with him, where the scans showed slight tears to his quad. Like a boss, he chose to stick around and volunteer at various aid stations through out the race. As for me, I was in a bit better shape than Spence, as at least I could bend my knees without screaming. My foot hurt like a SOB, but not to the point where I wanted to back out. So, against better judgement and concerns from the staff, I decided to tape up and give the rest of the race a go. After all, I was out there running for a dear friend and a great cause, the Petit Family Foundation (more on the cause in my next post), so there was no way I was going to stop.

2 days and forty seven miles of walking and running later, I arrived in Beaver Creek to the sounds of cheers and my own laughter as I crossed the finish line. This is how I got there on a busted foot:

Lots-o-tape

Lots-o-tape

It took a lot of tape, patient medical staff, and an unhealthy amount of ibuprofen, but I eventually finished the race and got my belt buckle. It was certainly not the way I intended to finish, but I got there nonetheless. Unfortunately, that was the last day I was able to run at all.

1 year, 6 months, 14 days later, here I am, in another cast, hoping the repairs will allow me to get back into running shoes again. And that is the point of this blog.

Spencer and I have some unfinished business to take care of out in Colorado. We started as a team, we always were a team, and we will finish as a team. So, I will be posting about my progress as it comes, hopefully a bit more rapid this time around. We plan on entering the 2015 race, as I will not be healed nor fit enough by August.

Check back here from time to time for updates and other hilarity. If you want a taste for what it is like to read one of my running adventures, check out my first crack at a marathon here. I promise, you will laugh, mostly at my expense.

Best – Brian