Sunday, March 22, 2015

The beginning of a new chapter

I've spent a lot of time in Prospect Park and so has Chuck Schumer, my neighbor and United States Senator.  He usually rides a bike for exercise and I'll be a running, hanging out or organizing a race. Once, just after I said "GO!" to start a race I stepped into the roadway without looking. I came within a breath of knocking Chuck Schumer off his bike. I don't think he even noticed me, but we both were a moment away from getting seriously hurt. I've often thought of what would've happened if we would've thumped and one or both of us was seriously hurt. I thought it would've made a great last paragraph to the first chapter of a good novel.  Especially because his wife is irrationally opposed to bicycle and pedestrian safety.

I was going to call this blog post The Beginning of the End. But it been over 10 months and it's not the end.  It is just a new chapter.  Everyone's life has many parts, many changes. People start college, eventually graduate, get married, have kids, change jobs etc. Hopefully, you don't have to start a new chapter without concluding the last. Knocking Chuck Schumer off his bike would've been a sudden change of chapters.. That would've been better than getting CIDP.


The last weekend in April (2014) I had a nasty stomach virus. I remember it vividly, because that Saturday I was staff at a road race where the Port-a-potties were late to be delivered. I actually jumped up on the truck to use one before it was unloaded. Then while stationed at the turnaround point for the race I had to lean over the rail and throw up into the New York harbor. I got home and didn't know which way to face when I got into the bathroom. I had 102 fever.  I emailed my boss saying I can't wake up the next morning at 4 AM do this again. I also remember that I posted my Facebook status saying, "I have called in sick before, but this is the first time I'm going to miss work."

I was five weeks out from my 30th marathon and that Monday I didn't go for a 20 mile training run. I remember putting it off for a couple of days, just figured I'd get rehydrated and then do it. That Wednesday I had some dental work done. Started to replace a crown that was disintegrating. I remember mentioning to my dentist that I just got over a stomach virus that I might have to get up and run to the bathroom. But that didn't have to happen. I left her office with a temporary crown and went home and remembered that my back was killing me. A piece of me felt that I was having another kidney stone but the pain was too centered. I put a hot water bottle behind my back and didn't go for another run.

The end of that week I remember experiencing unexplained excruciating pain in my feet and shins. I thought my plantar fasciitis was doing some weird things and causing shinsplints to come out of nowhere.  I started self-medicating with Oxycodone and Advil. It didn't help at all. So I took more. That caused more problems that I'll talk about in a more disgusting blog post later. The first weekend in May was my kids' birthday.  As a family we saw Avenue Q.  (Little did I know how much I would love there opening song. (See below)).  The pain had subsided and I was happy but I remember it was really hard to walk from the theater to the restaurant
This is what I was hoping to hear
 when I went to the doctor.
That Monday began a very busy work week. I had to drive up to Putnam County and mark a course for a 100 mile bike tour. My boss at the time saw that I couldn't walk up the stairs to his house. He took me aside and said something to me I'll never forget.  He said, "You know I'm a cancer survivor, so am telling you something important.  You need to see a doctor." I made the appointment, for the next day from his house.  When I got home I played with the Internet and googled my symptoms. I knew I hadn't injured myself and I knew that my pain and weakness wasn't muscular so I kind of thought I might have Lime Disease  or something.

In my case it was the opposite 

On Tuesday I got busy with my other job I never made it to my doctors office. The next day I had to go back to Putnam County and as soon as I got home I walked across the street and into my doctors office.

Inhale exhale inhale exhale.( I'm using Dragon, speech to text)  It is getting hard for me to continue.  I'm getting a little farklempt.

So on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, I walked to my doctor's office. I didn't even get to see the doctor. I told the nurse practitioner what you just read. I didn't told her I thought I had Lyme disease.I wanted to let the experts be the experts. Lindsay asked me to take off my shoes and make-believe her hand was the gas pedal. She had me wiggle my toes, and then we kinda arm wrestled. The whole thing took about 10 minutes. She told me to put my shoes back on and sit on the little chair in the examination room. She came back five minutes later and And did something I will never forget.  She took a knee so we were eye eye to eye, and said "I have to tell you something very important".  She said it in bold and italic.

She handed me a piece of paper and told me that I needed to get to the hospital right away. She told me I needed to take a cab from the office. The piece of paper had three things written on it

I looked at the paper and just said what floor is this doctor on, I don't want to get lost in a joint hospital? She said don't worry about it go to the emergency room, they are expecting you.

I told her I didn't want to go to the ER in a T-shirt. I've been to them before and is a long wait and I freeze to death. She told me I didn't have time to go home and change. I think she was afraid I would follow her instructions. I told her I live across the street and I need to get a sweatshirt. I told her I would call a cab from my house. And I did.. And I put on a sweatshirt, an old pair of shoes and put my cell phone charger in my pocket.

Looking back, I think Lindsay, my nurse practitioner's expertise wasn't in just diagnosing me correctly. It was getting me to follow her instructions. Which looking back was impressive. I'm not one to take advice, especially from someone half my age.

Then I Googled Guillane- Barre Syndrome.  "FUCK", I said out loud, "I was shooting for Lyme disease." 

My temporary home — at Mount Sinai Beth Israel.
In the cab on the way to the hospital I was trying to get in touch with my family and the cabbie interrupted me..  He asked me how to get to Beth Israel Hospital. I said "Work it out dude, I'm dyin'."  Lindsay was right, because I was only in triage for about 15 minutes. Two doctors came with a gurney to take me to the emergency room.  They parked me in the hallway right across from the nurses station because they wanted to keep an eye on me.   I posted the photo to the right on my Facebook. (that caused almost as much problems as the oxycodone, I'll get to that another blog post too).  Lindsay was right in my caption was wrong. By that evening I couldn't walk on my own and I stayed in Beth Israel for eight days.  It's a good thing I did what Lindsay told me to do. If I would've blown her off and taken a nap on my couch it would've been a 911 call that evening.

When I was in the step down unit with a blood pressure cuff permanently attached to my left arm and an IV going into my right arm I called my doctor's office and left a voicemail. I simply wanted to know how many other lives their nurse practitioner had saved.

For more of the story of what it was like to go from marathon ready to flat click here.

Feel free to sing along.

1 comment:

  1. It was 2 years ago my Dad fell ill with this. Such a traumatic experience for my family. We felt helpless and so useless. He is doing so much better now. I hope you are as well.


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