Test for Music

February 10, 2013

taking another stab at it

August 18, 2011

It’s been all quiet on the knee front this past month. Actually, I’m sure those closest to me will beg to differ. The pain I’ve had in the last six weeks has been the worst I’ve endured since the initial days post surgery. And I think I’ve been pretty vocal about it! After an aggressive acupuncture session gone wrong and a slight misstep on a stair, things took a turn for the worst. I was back to LOL status in a matter of days.

I figured that the first pain-evoking acupuncture visit was probably an anomaly. After some reassurance from the acupuncturist that a different tactic would be used, I decided to give it another go. But after four sessions and only nominal and short-lived relief, I knew it was time to set aside the needles and try something else.

And then something magical happened. One suggestion from the acupuncturist was to try alternating ice and heat on the area. The heat could be applied with something as simple as a hairdryer! I have to admit that I am slightly embarrassed that as a physical therapist I did not think of this, nor have I ever tried it. I was ecstatically surprised that after four 5-minute ice/2-minute heat intervals, the pain magically disappeared! It was the most glorious five minutes of the last year! And then I climbed some stairs, and the stabbing, sharp pain returned. Since then, the ice/heat combination has not been as effective. I guess the novelty wore out.

This led me to my next move: a second opinion. I made an appointment with the surgeon who operated on my left knee 10 years ago. A quintessential Texan who wears cowboy boots with his scrubs and speaks with the most endearing, rock-you-to-sleep southern accent, he walked into the examination room and immediately gave me a hug. I have consulted him on a number of ultimate injuries in the last 10 years, including the blow-out last September that resulted in the surgery in October, so he is very familiar with my extensive knee history! He fired question after question, performed multiple tests, and probed and palpated my knee. He was actually able to reproduce the exact pain with a pinpoint touch, something that no one had been able to do so far. His verdict: a focal defect on the underside of my knee cap. How this defect came about is unknown, and the solution is just as evasive. However, doc suggested another round of physical therapy to target specific muscle groups and to use manual therapy to increase the normal alignment and mobility in my knee. Round 2 of PT begins today!

Although this route cannot guarantee a pain-free existence, it gives me a sense of hope that I haven’t felt in a while. Some of the mystery has been exposed, and despite my skepticism, the future looks somewhat promising.

the waiting room

June 27, 2011

We’ve all been there. You arrive at your doctor’s office 10 minutes before your appointment to check in and update insurance and address information. You sit down in the waiting room. You patiently read a magazine, play Words With Friends on your phone, or update your Facebook status. Five minutes go by, 15 minutes, and soon you’ve been waiting for half an hour! You think, “What the heck?” So you walk up to the counter to make sure they haven’t forgotten about you. And, of course, they tell you it’ll just be a few more minutes.

We’ve definitely all been there before. We wait and we wait, and we know we’re eventually going get what we came for, but how long is too long? How long do you have to wait before you are fed up and make a scene?

Well, I’m fed up, and this is my scene. I have been waiting and waiting (over 8 months) for my knee to be back to normal. I wait patiently and do my physical therapy, go the gym and lift, get on the bike and the elliptical, and swim precisely in my lane. I wait patiently and listen to my friends talk about the upcoming ultimate season and the fun tournaments they’re attending, walk to pick up the frisbee I couldn’t jump for to catch, and change my vacation plans to accommodate my bum knee. But to no avail. My progress has plateaued, and my patience is deteriorating.

I had been so hopeful last month about the gains I was making. I wholeheartedly wanted to believe that the pain that was standing in my way was finally on its way out. However, it’s decided to overstay its welcome, and I, unfortunately, am making accommodations.

The surgeon has offered a few suggestions that could alleviate this pain: 1. a cortisone shot, 2. surgically taking a look inside the knee to see what’s going on, and 3. wait it out. It has also been suggested to me, not by the surgeon of course, to 4. get a second opinion. A fresh set of eyes and hands might be able to determine what exactly is causing the pain. Nothing but #3 has happened yet, but I’m seriously considering the first and last options.

I’ve also decided to stagger my physical therapy sessions from once every week to once every other week. Because my progress is slowing down, the return on investment is going into the red. So, while I’m saving my bank account a few extra dollars each month, I’m also hoping that this will force me to be more diligent and accountable with my workouts. I figure that even if I’m not moving forward, at least I won’t be losing ground.

So here I am, still in the waiting room. I should know that my name will be called any moment to go see the doctor. But I still have this nagging feeling that I’ve been forgotten.

The other week, a friend asked if she could use my crutches for her upcoming knee surgery. I told her that I didn’t own any (that’s funny), but that I could probably procure some from the same place where I “borrowed” mine. She’s about my height, so I grabbed the shorter set from the equipment room. As I was walking to my car, I noticed that I was reunited with the same set of crutches that I used for my surgery. My buddies! Although I was happy that the reunion with these crutchies was brief, and that I wasn’t taking them home for my use, I still felt a sense of nostalgia from their company. I took a moment to reflect on the last few months and realized that even though I’m not where I want to be at this time, I’ve come a long way from where I was.

When you’re in the moment, it’s so hard to see the forest for the trees. I’ve essentially been expecting a 100% recovery in the blink of an eye. After my first two surgeries, I was back to playing my respective sport in five and a half months. It’s been over six months, and I’m nowhere close to returning to long runs, sprints, cuts, jumps, and dives. The difference is two-fold: a more intensive surgery and 10 years! I’m no spring chicken, and unfortunately, the combination makes for an unfair disadvantage. It is in this situation that I must start to look past the details and out to the big picture. I’ve made tons of progress over the past six months, and it’s time I gave a shit.

So, here’s a chronological list of naz-o-accomplishments since surgery:

  • reaching 90 degrees on the CPM
  • becoming a master on my crutches
  • making a full revolution on a bike
  • bearing weight on my surgery leg and saying goodbye to the crutches
  • getting rid of the stool in the shower
  • climbing stairs the normal way
  • going down stairs the normal way
  • driving
  • kneeling
  • squats and lunges
  • double-leg jumps
  • going back to work
  • getting into child’s pose
  • going back to yoga
  • running with a harness on a treadmill
  • running without a harness on a treadmill
  • single-leg jumps
  • backward lunges

And now, drum-roll, please: plyometrics! My colleagues have witnessed me doing high knees, butt kicks, high skips, back pedaling, and cone shuttles forward, backward, and sideways in our hallways during my PT sessions. Aside from the fact that it was slightly embarrassing, I was sore for four days, and it hurt like hell to get up from the toilet, I couldn’t be happier to finally do something dynamic and familiar, and having my knee get on the same page and cooperate!

It’s true, I’m not on the field again throwing hucks and stepping around the mark for a nice backhand break, but at least I’m headed in that general direction. I am making progress, and that is a big deal. 🙂

golf, anyone?

March 28, 2011

Now that I’m “retired” from ultimate, I’ve been trying my hand at a few physical activities to find a replacement. I don’t think I could ever fully replace playing frisbee – the community, the culture, the skills, traveling – but I need something to do that’s knee-friendly! The pickings are slim as this activity must be non-impact with as few cutting movements as possible, but there are a couple that are making the cut so far.

Yoga has been on the list for a while, and it’s a great outlet for me. It’s more than just stretching – there are aspects of strength and balance incorporated as well. What a lot of people don’t realize is, it’s a damn good workout! When you leave the studio with your shirt drenched, you know you’ve accomplished something. I don’t feel the wear and tear on my body after a yoga session as I would after playing ultimate. But it’s not completely free of its injuries – a slight mishap during a headstand a couple of weeks ago led to a pulled muscle in my neck and subsequent muscle spasms. Oi! Regardless, since I’ve been back to practicing yoga, I’ve been able to jump right back to doing what I was doing before surgery. Well, everything except for the headstands.

I attempted swimming a couple of months ago at the gym. You know, real, stay-in-your-own-lane swimming, with goggles and a Speedo bathing suit and all. The last time I tried swimming in a straight line across the pool, I ended up hitting the wall … on the side of the pool. So, swimming between ropes with a person on each side of me was pretty challenging. Adding another level of stress, a woman asked if she could share the lane with me! I replied, “Yes, but at your own risk. I’m really new to swimming.” She said she had been swimming for only three months. I was too embarrassed to tell her I had only been swimming for three minutes! The line on the floor of the pool was the only thing that kept me from freestyling into the other swimmers. It’s been a while since I’ve gone back, but once I find a pool with less traffic than I-35, I might give it another try.

This past weekend I went out to hit some golf balls. I had been wanting to go for a while, and the opportunity was finally presented to me. The technique and precision of the golf swing is very similar to the intricacies of throwing a frisbee, so I was quickly immersed in a ton of details, and I loved it! I was practicing with a pitching wedge (“p” is for pitching wedge, not putter), and I hit a few pretty shots. Unfortunately though, I came home with a stiff neck and the return of muscle spasms. I blame it on being 30.

The frontrunner in this contest to find my new hobby is riding my new, sleek road bike (built by Handy Andy). I don’t really want to be a competitive cyclist cause let’s face it, hills suck. But I’ve always loved the freedom of riding and the feeling of being environmentally responsible when riding my bike around town. I’m definitely a more functional cyclist than a hardcore speedster, but I do feel quite accomplished after a good 20-minute bike ride to work. I’m slowly feeling more and more comfortable with speeding down a hill, and in turn, my brakes are getting a break from me!

So the jury is still out. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying experimenting with new activities, which is something I haven’t really done in about a decade. Retirement is a beautiful thing!

shootin’ up

March 6, 2011

Most people would be impressed with what I’ve been doing in physical therapy the past few weeks: double- and single-leg squats, lunges, double-leg jumps onto 8-inch steps, ladder drills (eat your heart out, Showdown ladies ;)), running on the treadmill with only 15% of my body weight supported, and even some agility drills that have a faint resemblance to my days as an athlete. But, even with all of this progress, I still feel stuck. No matter how much or how little I do, how thoroughly I warm up, what time of day it is, whether I’m having a good or bad hair-day, or what I ate for breakfast, I still have a nagging pain in my knee that won’t seem to go away. This pain haunts me even in normal daily activities, including climbing stairs, reaching to pick something off the floor, squatting to tie my shoe, and speed-walking to catch the bus, to name a few. Yes, I do have some good days where the pain is minimal or disappears for a few hours. But then it comes back, and it’s not kidding around.

In preparation for my most recent visit with the surgeon, my PT and I sat down and made a list of questions to ask him. The first and most important question was, “What is up with this pain?” And the follow-up: “When will it go away?” I was pretty much spot-on with his response: “It’s probably the arthritis in your knee. Did you see how bad it was in there?” Basically, the damage to my cartilage is “traumatic” arthritis. (I really am a little old lady!) He said it’s possible that the synthetic plugs he used to patch up the cartilage are still healing, and the pain could subside in six months to a year. There’s also the possibility that it won’t go away at all. His solution: either wait it out and see if it gets better or try my hand at injections.

Don’t worry, I’m not trading in my salads and workout clothes for needles and track marks! And fortunately, he wasn’t talking about cortisone injections, which can relieve the pain but can also damage the internal structures in the joint. He was referring to hyaluronic acid injections, which essentially add more cushioning to the knee. The really great thing about this substance is that it won’t damage the joint. The worst it could do is cause some pain at the injection site, which usually dissipates in a few days. And the best it would do is get rid of the pain completely! Um, sign me up!

This substance is usually administered in a series of three injections over three weeks. Hopefully I’ll be shot-up in the next week or two, and after a brief period of required inactivity, I hope to be back on the hard-core road to recovery.

dear jello legs

March 2, 2011

Dear Jello Legs,

I really don’t like it when you follow me to work. You know I’m on my feet all day, and it doesn’t help when you’re tagging along. I know it’s technically not your fault – 120 lunges with five-pound weights followed by two 1-minute sets of forward and backward jumps would imply that you are welcome. But come on! You didn’t completely buckle on me, thankfully, but you’re not exactly what I would call “supportive.” I know I should probably change my PT appointments to after work, and maybe I shouldn’t workout two days in a row, but I didn’t think I would have to jump to that. I admit your company makes me feel accomplished, Jello Legs, but there is an appropriate time and place to stick your jello-y foot in the door. My next PT appointment is Friday morning. Please plan accordingly.

Yours truly,

Nazish

Cirque de Nazish

February 8, 2011

Around three months post-op, my surgeon cleared me to run. You know, so I’m prepared when I need to “catch the bus.” It’s been about a month, and I haven’t written about this experience yet because the running hadn’t happened … until now! Well, it’s not exactly real running quite yet, but it’s getting pretty close. My PT clinic has a body-weight support system in which you can be strapped into a harness and walk or run over a treadmill with only a percentage of your body weight. Because of the difficulty I have had with single-leg activities (jumping in particular), my PT thought this would be a good option for me so that I could finally start running and feel like somewhat of an athlete again!

Super Woman pose

So, they strapped me up into the harness, hooked me up to the system, lifted about 55% of my body weight (I won’t specify the actual poundage) and pressed the “start” button on the treadmill.

Running!

It was amazing! Although it wasn’t “real” running, this was still a very encouraging experience. My body went right back into the fluid motion of running, as if I hadn’t missed a step. The harness did impede my movement a bit, so it felt a little odd not being able to take a full stride, but at least I was moving faster than a mall-walk pace!

I ran for about 15 minutes on the first trial, and I didn’t even break a sweat! Normally I would be about ready for a rest break around that time, which made me think, “A marathon would be no big deal in this thing!”

Running pose

We have a system similar to this one in the therapy gym at work, and I use it often with my stroke patients. Last week, one patient said to me that she wishes she could walk with one of these machines wherever she went. Just imagine a LOL walking down Red River with one of these large harness-thingys on wheels! And me strapped up in mine running past her and yelling, “How much body weight is that thing supporting?”

big week. HUGE!

February 3, 2011

January 17-21 was a week of “firsts” for me, either the first time doing something since surgery or the first time ever. It was a big, huge week!

My first day back to work was January 17. It had been 16 weeks since my last day at work in September and 10 weeks since my last paycheck in November. The excitement of going back to work was instigated by the promise of some money in the bank as well as a regular schedule of things to do during the day. However, the thought of having to go back to work after such a long break was daunting. I had become accustomed to leisurely days without any reason for rushing. What other schedule could allow you to get over 10 hours of sleep per night, defrost your freezer with a hair dryer for four hours, or make a chicken pot pie from scratch in three? This “stay-cation” really helped me slow down (literally) and appreciate life in the slow lane, but once I got back to work, I could really feel the stress building. I had lost my endurance to an eight-hour workday, and I had lost my thick skin to the intensity of the work I do on a daily basis. It was a huge adjustment, and I still find myself trying to get back to how it was before.

In order to ease my way back into work, I was scheduled to see patients in the pool for the first couple of weeks. Aside from a two-hour lab in PT school, this was the first experience I had as an aquatic therapist. Yes, I was a physical therapist in aquatic therapy the first six weeks after surgery, but at that time, I was the patient and was told what to do. This time, I had to be the “expert.” I was actually expecting about a day or so to observe another therapist and learn some new treatment ideas. Instead, I got a 10-minute explanation of the documentation procedures and a list of six patients that I would be treating that day. I was thrown in the water without a life jacket! But, I made it through, at first having my patients do pretty much everything I did in the pool as a patient, and then advancing to more creative treatments. There are some huge perks to being an aquatic therapist, but the biggest one for me was getting to do my own therapy at the same time!

Speaking of my own physical therapy, I had another “first” that week – jumping! I started with double-leg jumps forward, backward, side-to-side, and up/down steps. It reminded me of my days in off-season volleyball when we focused on landing softly on the blocks during plyometrics workouts. It was so encouraging to finally be doing something that was more than just “functional.” I attempted single-leg jumps to simulate running, but after my knee buckled and I braced myself on the mat so I wouldn’t bust ass, we decided to hold off on that fancy move for a little while.

The last and possibly my most favorite “first” of that week was going back to yoga. I am by no means a yogi, someone who practices yoga regularly and is good at it – I used to go about once a week, and I’m decent at it. But, it is one form of exercise that I have come to respect and look forward to doing. I had missed it these past few months and was extremely giddy about trying to get back to it. A few of us went to a free Friday night class, also known as “the hottest happy hour in town,” and I was relieved that I didn’t pass out from the heat or topple over on top of Andy. (He said he thought he was going to have to catch me a couple of times during the class!) There are a few poses that I opted out of because of the strain on my knee or because I don’t have the last few degrees of range of motion yet, but it was great nonetheless.

These “firsts” made for a chaotic, stressful, adventuresome week, and they represent the progress my knee and I are continually making. Here’s to more big, huge weeks to come!

nice shoes: ski trip part 2

January 23, 2011

These are snow shoes:

These are snow shoes on my feet:

And this is me in action:

I conquered the one-mile snow-shoe hike … twice! Although it was not as exciting as, say, skiing or snowboarding, snow-shoeing did allow me to accomplish a few things on this trip: increase my heart rate, experience a winter wonderland, stay occupied for two hours, and catch up with the LOLs. The snow-shoe guides on each tour were at least 30 years my senior, and there were plenty of older individuals on the tour to put me at ease. (One of them actually asked if I had had my knee replaced when I mentioned I recently had knee surgery. Really?!?) Although my work-out was frequently interrupted by their requests to stop and rest, I was secretly grateful to have a chance to catch my breath – the altitude totally exacerbated my out-of-shapeness! Aside from that and the fact that I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes, my knee held up pretty well during both hikes!

The rest of the trip was action-packed. I hit the gym in the condo one day followed by a dip in the hot tub, played board games, ate tons of delicious food, ransacked Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, made S’mores at the outdoor fire pit, watched some ice-dancing on the outdoor skating rink (courtesy of Sailor Jerry), toured a couple of Denver breweries, and went to a Nuggets game. Not bad! Luckily, I managed to avoid any spills on the ice and snow, but I wasn’t fast enough to dodge a snowball or two!