Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sigh of Relief

My whole family was able to breathe a sigh of relief yesterday. My mom has been dealing with progressively deteriorating back problems for about a year and a half now. That’s when her symptoms really started to affect her anyways, but I suspect this has been there for years, causing her pain and slowly making everything more difficult.

She’d been through the whole regimen of conservative treatments and was finally ready to turn to surgery for some relief. I was really happy when she decided to speak with a neurosurgeon. Surgery is definitely a big deal and not something to just jump into, but being as involved in orthopedics as I am at work I fairly pro-surgery granted conservative methods are exhausted first.

Yesterday morning she went in to Troy Beaumont Hospital for a Laminectomy. We were all a bit anxious about the surgery. While we certainly wanted her to get it, her last surgery didn’t go so well. Almost 3 years ago she went in for an outpatient gallbladder removal. Things appeared to be going fine, then while in recovery she went into cardiac arrest and her heart stopped. They administered CPR, revived her and rushed her into the cardiac cath lab, but didn’t find any problems. At the time they diagnosed her as having “broken heart syndrome”, but since then we’ve heard opinions from multiple people (including her cardiologist and my wife, a cardiac nurse) that it was her congestive heart failure most likely to blame. It was a really scary situation, especially since I was in California on business when it happened. I remember rushing to the airport, grabbing the next flight home, wondering if I would get to see my mom. Luckily it all worked out fine.

So, back to present day, we made the trip over to the hospital, not taking any chances this time of being too far away. The hospital took extra precautions as well, with the anesthesiologists watching her closely and her cardiologist checking in during surgery. Everything ended up going great and she is recovering very well. They removed a lot of bone to decompression L3, L4, L5 and S1, plus removed a large bone spur that was digging into her spinal column. After that they ground up some of the removed bone, mixed it with some synthetic bone grafting material to create semi-rigid connections between the vertebrae. This is done in place of rods or plates.

I definitely have to give my mom some credit for toughing it out with some intense pain. When the surgeon discussed the case with us he mentioned it was in the top 10 percent of cases he had done in terms of severity. He also mentioned that when he decompressed everything the spinal column nearly tripled in size, meaning there was some major compression going on. It’s great to have her doing better and recovering.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My First 5K

This morning was my first ever 5K running race, the Leprechaun Loop put on by the Blue Water YMCA. It was an out and back run along the St Clair River in downtown Port Huron. I've never been much of a runner, but have been doing a lot more of it lately with all of my traveling. Running is easy to do anytime, anywhere. Plus with the dark nights and bad weather, running has been easier at home as well.

My buddy Chris came up for the race as well and stayed at our house last night. We got up this morning, had a light breakfast, then head up town around 8am. When we got there a group of Team Sandbag members had already gathered. We hung out for a bit, trying to stay warm, and before we knew it they were calling everyone over to the start. It was maybe 30 degrees out, probably in the upper 20's, but the sun was out and I knew I would warm up once we got moving. We had a good turn out from the team, Todd, John, Lee, Ben, Paul, Brian and myself.

I lined up with Chris and Lee, knowing we would set a slower pace. My typical pace is about a 10 minute mile so I figured about 30 minutes. The three of us ran together for the first half, passing some people, getting passed by others. Ben was way out in front, with John and Todd behind him a bit, then Paul and Brian, then us. Brian ran the 10K so he kept going, while the rest of us turned around and headed back.

Shortly after turning around Chris said he needed to pick up the pace to stretch out his stride a bit. I felt pretty comfortable so I told him to set the pace and I would try to stick with him. My tendency is to set into a slow plodding pace when running, but I would really like to develop a more fluid, longer stride. I was able to keep his pace all the way back, though I was feeling pretty tired about 2 miles in. Towards the end my second wind showed up a bit. As we approached the finish Todd and Ben were there cheering us on. Todd was running along side us telling us to sprint the finish so I picked the pace up. I felt surprisingly good so I held a pretty good pace for the last couple hundred yards. Not a sprint by any means, but good for me. As I passed the clock I read 28:10 so I'm pretty happy with that. Two minutes faster than I had anticipated. Makes me want to keep running and do another one.

Everyone else did great as well. Chris rolled in right behind me so that was great to run the whole thing together. Ben grabbed 1st in our age group, with a time of 19 something. Todd and John both placed 2nd in their groups with 21 somethings. Paul rolled in around 25 minutes and Lee crossed the line around 30 minutes, not bad for a guy who can't remember the last time he actually ran.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Back in Michigan for a bit

Feels good to be home. I just finished back to back weeks of travel for work, both for big, high profile tradeshows for us. First was Las Vegas for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. This is a huge meeting, with around 15,000 orthopedic surgeons and another 10,000 to 15,000 industry representatives in attendance. This was my second time in Las Vegas. My first trip was about 13 years ago and I got the stomach flu the second day there so most of my trip was spent in the hotel room. Unfortunately these tradeshows are super busy so I don't get much time to look around, but just being there really made me want to come back for a vacation with Jackie. Neither of us are gamblers, but there's just so much to do there and in the surrounding area.

I flew home from Vegas Saturday afternoon, had Sunday and Monday at home, then left for Washington DC on Tuesday for another meeting. We stayed in a new development south of DC right on the Potomac called National Harbor at the Gaylord National Resort. This is a massive hotel with a huge atrium in the middle, a big convention center, and a bunch of restaurants. We were supposed to be there until Sunday morning, but came up with a plan to get out early if everything went well.

For a while I thought that I might have screwed up our chances as I pissed off the union steward at the exhibit hall. Union rules vary all across the country, sometimes we are required to use union workers and sometimes we can do our own work to set up our exhibit. Well, apparently I didn't read the fine print right. We set up our entire booth ourselves, then the union steward stopped by to tell me I wasn't supposed to and needed to order laborers for the teardown at the end of the show. Okay, no problem, went over and ordered that. But we're in a hurry to get out of there so the show ends and we start taking our stuff apart. Again the union steward comes by and asks me what we're doing. Somehow they lost our order for labor and didn't send someone over. So now they're probably thinking I'm trying to steal their union jobs. All I want to do is get packed up fast so I can go home. They told us we had to stop working on our booth and let the laborers they were sending do all the work. The guys they sent were great though, hard workers and seemed to know what they were doing.

We ended up finishing up in about an hour, then headed to the airport and were able to get on a flight that night. Now I need to get my butt in gear and get back onto a regular exercise schedule. My activity has been a haphazard collection of short workouts over the past few weeks, whatever I had time to fit in. Its rainy out today, but the weather is starting to warm up and with daylight savings there will be time after work now to get outside.