"Only those who risk failing greatly can ever succeed greatly." –RFK
Sunday, September 21, 2008
"Bummer" only because I don't want to swear on my blog.
Tim, Glenn, Allison and I went for a nice 5 mile run this morning on the coastline in Athens.
It felt great to be up and running, and I felt like I was getting over the jet lag. On the way back, however, I was running along on the sidewalk and for one second I looked out to the sea and BAM! my foot landed on a ridge and my ankle rolled over...all the way over. I'm talking like 90 degrees over. I screamed out and swore and could not put my foot down because of the pain. Several witnesses on the beach came over and Tim and some man helped me over to a bench where I proceded to break down into tears.
I have sprained my ankle 10 million times. I have had surgery and 2 years of rehab on it. I have sprained it several times since then. But I have never - even when I ruptured the ligaments at Western States 2005 - had so much pain from rolling it. Another good soul gave Tim and I a ride back to the hotel. I knew I did some serious damage as it immediately swelled to a balloon over where the ligament was anchored during surgery. I was - and am - devastated.
As stubborn as I am, I went to the ER. I needed an X-ray. My whole crew insisted on coming with me, and they stayed with me the entire time. Gosh, I am so lucky to have such awesome friends!
This was my first-hand introduction to socialized medicine. In brief, I was very impressed. The process was quick and efficient. There were no thrills, no expensive fees, no paperwork to fill out, no defensive medicine, no discrimination among patients. I wasn't even asked if I had insurance in the ER. I took a number. The lines were short and quick.
I was very lucky that Dr. Yiannis Nickolopoulos, an orthopedic surgeon, evaluated me. He was kind, efficient, thorough, compassionate. I was so afraid of what my bill was going to be. Tim came back to me after delivering the X-ray paperwork and said that he had to pay for the X-ray in advance. Oh my God, I thought, it's going to be so expensive. "What's the damage?" I asked. He smiled, "3 Euro." "300 Euro?" "No, 3 Euro." That's like $4.50!
I read the X-ray myself. No fracture that I could see. Dr. Nickolopoulos read the X-ray more carefully. "There's no sign of fracture," he said (Yes, he spoke English). He examined the ankle, even examined for a high ankle sprain, which is often overlooked. I was impressed. Then he said he recommended a cast and no weight-bearing for 2 weeks. My superficial cheeriness was quickly shrouded in despair. "I'm supposed to run the Spartathlon," I said. "You? The Spartathlon?" Yes. "When is it?" he asked. "5 days," I cried. "No, I'm sorry, you cannot run the Spartathlon," he replied compassionately.
I refused the cast. He warned me gently that I was refusing "proper treatment." I understand, I said. He offered an air cast, reminding me for the fourth time that I was refusing proper treatment. I jumped at the air cast; I knew I needed it. I asked for a crutch but they didn't have any. I would have to see if I could purchase one at the pharmacy tomorrow. Glenn and Tim helped me to another room filled with stretchers. It was a "private room" that Dr. Nickolopoulos said we could wait in for delivery of the air cast. "Can you wait 45 minutes for the cast? That's the soonest we can get it here." Of course. I waited with my crew and we told stories and laughed, but I think everyone understand my underlying deep despair.
The air cast was delivered and I paid 115 Euro for that. A private company. "Why so expensive?" I asked the air cast rep. "It's a good cast; not made in China," he assured me. We left the ER and drove back to the hotel. The rest of our day was spent pool-side instead of sight-seeing and shopping. My crew, free to go on their own at my insistence, spent the day with me.
Now, it's bed-time. My foot is up in the air cast. I am icing it constantly, taking ibuprofen and tylenol. Despite no crutches, I have not put weight on the foot. Don't tell the good doctor Nickolopoulos but I will test the weight-bearing tomorrow. I expect the worse, wish for the best. We've come a long way. I have trained very hard. My heart and mind and soul are wrapped around this race. I am devastated but tomorrow I will decide if there is yet a glimmer of hope.
I am an ultra runner, physician and have been medical director of some of the toughest ultras. I tend to be a mover and a shaker and louder than my size suggests. However, my Gemini twin is gentler and contemplative, an artist, a writer, and a poet. I am a dog lover, a believer in souls, and have a special affinity for those who struggle because I have been there.
This is my crazy lovable huggable Weimaraner, Steely Dan. I call him Steely. He left us in January of this year at only 6 years from lymphoma that did not respond to chemotherapy treatments. Steely was a total goof. He loved trail running, road running, treadmill running, new experiences, making eye contact, sleeping on his back, me, kids, and liver treats. He was Zappa's best friend. We miss him dearly.
This is Stella. A rescue from the shelter. She's about 6 months old and a Border Collie. She is a joyous bundle of energy and curiosity and now also Zappa best friend. She will make a nice running partner when she grows up.
This is the now the big brother of my family - a rescued Greyhound. His name is Frank Zappa. I call him Zappa. He's 7 years old and has learned all about life beyond the track and crate from Steely when he was with us. It was very rewarding to watch his personality bloom as he settled into the family. And yes, he runs like the wind!
This is Natasha, my dearest friend. She was with me through college, medical school, residency, and she moved with me from Chicago to Spokane several years ago. She was my best running partner for 10 years. My sweet Natasha died from bone cancer in 2006. I miss her still. I hung a windchimes over the deck outside. When it chimes, I smile and think she has finally -- wherever she is now -- caught a squirrel!