Sunday, September 23rd I’m trying to get off the drugs. The more distance I have from the surgery, the more my brain is fully functioning and aware. My body, however, has served as a chemistry lab for the last six weeks.
When I was first admitted to the ER, I was given Motrin. After three trips for x-rays, a CT scan and 10 hours of waiting on a gurney, the nurse brought me morphine tablets. Prior to being checked in to my room for the night, an IV was inserted and a saline drip was added. The following morning, I was prepped for the OR. The anesthesiologist told me I would be given a drug to calm me prior to being given a drug to knock me out completely. I only remember the calming drug going into my tube as I was wheeled into the OR before I woke up in recovery with a second IV.
Soon after I came to, there was another anesthesiologist with two assistants. He gave me a sedative through my IV and his team inserted an epidural to block the feeling in the nerves surrounding my pelvis and left leg.
Hours later, when I was sobbing because I was still in the recovery ward listening to machines beeping over and over, the doctor came back with another sedative. They never told me what it was or asked if I wanted it.
Later that evening, once I was in the room I would be calling home for the next week, I was hooked up to a morphine drip and given a button I could push every six minutes to deliver another dose. Along with the morphine, there was a bag of saline and an antibiotic drip and the epidural drip feeding into my spine.
Every few hours, the nurses came with more drugs for me to swallow…stool softeners, laxatives, anti-nausea, Tylenol…after a while I lost track or I didn’t care to ask what they were giving me. I had daily shots of a blood thinner in my stomach.
Two days after my surgery, I was left sitting in a chair and I didn’t have anyone to help me get back into bed despite several attempts to call the nurse. When they finally arrived to move me back to my bed, I was crying in pain. Had they asked, I would have told them the pain subsided once I got into bed but they didn’t ask. They gave me Fentanyl to quiet me.
Four days post-op the epidural was removed and the nurses added Gabapentin to my pill set. The following day, the morphine drip was removed and replaced with oral doses of Oxycodone.
I was discharged with perscriptions for Oxycodone for pain, Gabapentin for pain, Aspirin to prevent blood clots and Metoclopramid to combat the nausea brought on from all the drugs.
Three days after I came home, I replaced the Oxycodone with alternating doses of Tylenol and Advil…maxing out the daily allowance for each. After my adverse reaction, I dropped the Advil doses.
Near the beginning of week five, I started reducing my doses of Gabapentin from four daily to three and by the end of the week two. I stopped taking the Metoclopramid and the Tylenol. I discovered reducing the doses of Gabapentin makes me really, really dizzy. I’ve also found that taking this drug makes my brain foggy. My ability to recall is drastically diminished. I forget words and names. Sometimes I stop mid-sentence, unable to finish my thought. I feel uncomfortable conducting bakery business because I can’t connect my thoughts. It’s as if I’m a clone of myself but a couple key pieces got lost along the way. I’ve decided my sensitivity to sound can be connected to the Gabapentin too. I avoid calls from business associates, family and friends because I’m just not myself.
As of today, I am only taking one Aspirin and one dose Galbapentin daily. I’m fighting through the pain and managing the best I can with ice packs and naps. The good news is, a lot of the side effects are wearing off. However, as my brain returns to normal, I’ve been having flashbacks and nightmares about my accident and my time in the hospital. At times, I can’t shake them and I just want to forget it ever happened. I’m desperate to move on but I’m stuck.
Monday, September 24th . If I had a dollar for every time someone asks, “how do you do it all,” I probably wouldn’t have to “do it all.” The bottom line is, I don’t do it all. I have a lot of help. I try to surround myself with people who are extremely capable and who have a skill set different from my own. If I only worked with people like me, there would be gaps in productivity.
I consider myself an ideation expert. I almost put that on my business card after trying to determine my role at Montclair Bread Co. My ideas are never attempts to get rich quick. In fact, the right-brainers in my life, shut down a large portion of my ideas because they would lose too much money before they came to fruition. Now we operate in a break-even bubble with the hopes of one day turning a profit.
My ideas are based on needs. I often determine what would make my life better (or more fun). Every Friday night, my kids are nuts. They’ve just finished a week of school and their pent up energy is exploding. I’m exhausted but I need to find something for them to do. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place to go for dinner with adults but also have a space for the kids to move around freely? The patio at Montclair Bread Co would be the perfect spot! I can make pizzas in the bread oven and grab some beer to share with my friends. After telling potential customer number 183, the bakery is closed, this is a private gathering, I decided to open my concept to the public. I thought the ambiance could be improved if I hired local musicians to play semi-acoustic tunes. I reached out to my neighbor Alan, a local musician, to book talent. Giving Alan this responsibility also saves me the headache of telling the parents of Montclair’s musical prodigies, no. That’s how Friday Music Nights at MBCo were born.
Recipe ideas come about in much the same way, to fill a need. My grandma’s carrot cake recipe sets the standard by which I judge all other cakes. It’s just carrots & cinnamon with a cream cheese frosting…no nuts or pineapple or coconut, just plain carrot. I make it at home on special occasions and for friends’ birthdays. Little by little, word of Mombo’s Carrot Cake spread and desperate husbands started calling me to make birthday cakes for their wives who would only be satisfied with this particular cake.
I put my foot down years ago. Montclair Bread Company is NOT a cake bakery. We’re a bread bakery. Doughnuts are made with a yeasted dough so they get a pass. Cakes require an entirely different set up and skill set.
Earlier this year, I gave in and decided to add Carrot Cake to the bakery menu and sell it by the slice. Brad tells me all the time, I can’t just make one thing, I have to make 100. In staying true to my reputation, I decided to add other cakes to the rotation, five in all. There are several places in Montclair where customers can purchase beautiful custom cakes but not so many places they can purchase a delicious cake (that may not be beautiful) by the slice. I polled friends to see what flavors they consider to be staples and I added Coconut, Chocolate Mocha, Classic Birthday Cake and Red Velvet to the new cake menu.
The last time I talked to my grandma before she passed away, I told her about how much people love her cake. It had only been a couple weeks since we started making it daily. She couldn’t believe we were selling a cake a day, by the slice. She really couldn’t believe customers were calling to order whole Carrot Cakes. In her mind, carrot cake was along the same lines as a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, everyone loves them but it’s something you only make at home. Although, in fairness, I’ve purchased more than my share of pb&j sammies for the kids!
My keys to successful idea implementation:
Don’t do it for the money. I can’t scream this loud enough!
Build a team with varying skills. Don’t micromanage. Have confidence in them.
Find a gap. Fill a need.
Crowdsource. Ask & listen.
Don’t underestimate simple comforts and basic needs.
Tuesday, September 25th . I wasn’t sure what to expect at my follow-up appointment with the surgeon today. When I arrived, I was immediately sent for x-rays. This time, instead of being rolled down the hall on a gurney, or in a wheelchair, I was able to walk myself on crutches. Being in the space made me anxious. The x-ray tech was cheery and female both of which made me more at ease. I was able to position myself on the table and move from side to side as she progressed through a series of pelvic films, pain free. This alone brought a smile to my face.
My tech was training someone and offering detailed explanations of her work for him to follow along. She told him the skinny patients are the easiest to work with because you can see all their bones. I don’t think she intended it to be a compliment but I’ll take it!
After the x-rays, I met with the Dr. Adams, my surgeon. He reviewed the x-rays with me from the initial fractures to the immediate post-op to the images taken minutes before our meeting. He explained more details about my injury. The ball of my hip had actually pushed into the socket, so far, that it was extruding through the other side of my pelvis. So when the ER nurse commented on my left leg being shorter than my right and I argued that it was only because my knee was bent, she was right. I was wrong.
I wanted Dr. Adams to show me where my bones grew back over the last 6 weeks. He did not. They did not. He was looking to see if the day 1 post-op images matched the 6 week post-op images to show the hardware is still exactly where he placed it. He was also looking to see if the space between the ball and socket of my hip joints matched on my left (bad) and right (good) side. He liked what he saw.
“Can I get in the pool?”
“Can I get on a stationary bike?”
“Can I drive a car?”
The answer to all my questions was, “yes!” I tried to think of other things to ask just so I could illicit more positive responses. I’m used to putting up more of a fight to get what I want. I did not ask if I could start running before my next visit with him, 6 weeks from now. I wasn’t ready for that fight.
My biggest fear was being told that I can resume bearing my full weight on my left side although my second biggest fear was being told that I couldn’t. I’ve spent the last 6 weeks wanting to be a whole person again but I feel so fragile that I don’t know how I could possibly get to the point of normalcy again. Dr. Adams told me I’m allowed to start increasing the weight on my left side, slowly, over the course of the next 6 weeks. At 12 weeks post-op I should be at full weight bearing.
After visiting with my doctor, I went straight to PT with my walking orders. Getting on the stationary bike was a little difficult with one foot but I managed. I spent five minutes peddling slowly to ‘warm-up.’ It was one of the single greatest feelings I’ve had since the accident - at least in the top 5 most glorious moments. I went through a series of exercises similar to what I’d done last week only with a little more resistance and a few more repetitions. Leg lifts, clamshells, more leg lifts…all designed to strengthen my absent core and gain mobility in my hip joint.
Dr. C. explained that the next 6 weeks are going to be about getting to square one. At the end, I will be able to walk and conduct my day-to-day activities like a normal non-runner.
Before my PT session was over, Dr. C. asked me to walk across the office with my crutches, putting more weight on my left foot. Then, he took one of my crutches away. Although he showed me how I should use a single crutch to move forward, I was terrified. I tried to take a step and when I almost fell over, he grabbed my hand. He left me hold on for three steps before he took his hand away. I took a fourth step on my own, using only one crutch to assist me. It didn’t hurt. I was able to walk the length of the office, twice.
Dr. C. instructed me to practice using one crutch at home but continue using both crutches as a rule. In the evening, I understood why. The pain in my hip was a whole new experience. I used muscles and tendons today that hadn’t been fired in 6 weeks. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t cope. I was like a hurt dog. I barked and snapped at the kids before I finally put myself to bed at 8pm.
Wednesday, September 26th Swimming, for me, is a necessary discipline to complete a triathlon or something I do when I can’t run. When I’m was training for a race, I NEVER missed a scheduled day on the plan, except for the swimming days. I put off my swim workout because I did’t have time to fit it in on the day it was supposed to happen and then it just didn’t happen. It’s hard to fit it in when a 20 minute workout takes me 40 minutes to complete. I have to block out a good 90 minutes to be able to get to and from the pool, change, shower and complete my swim. Some days, it just doesn’t work. However, if it were a 90 minute run, I’m sure I would find the time.
I have so much anxiety about swimming. If I go to the Y before 8am, the lanes are filled with people who I’m certain were former collegiate athletes or they might currently be on a competitive swim team. They glide through the water with perfect form, barely coming up for air. I, on the other hand, have to take a breath every time I take a stroke with my right arm. I haven’t figured out how to breath on my left side without dropping to the bottom of the abyss and I’m pretty sure what I’m doing looks a lot more like flailing than swimming.
The first workout my coach gave me for my most recent triathlon training plan was 6 x 200 yds or 4 complete laps of the pool. I had to google it because I didn’t know the length of a pool or if a lap was considered from one side to the other or there and back. Asking would surely alert Trizilla, sharing the lane with me, of my ineptitude. Each pool length is 25 yds, a full lap is 50, etc.
Last year, when I learned to swim, I stuck with it long enough to complete the Jersey Girl Triathlon, accept my AG award and never look back. The ocean swim had me jostled so much that I never wanted to do it again. My 6x200 workout was the first time I’d been in the water in almost a year. After one lap, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. I was barely able to touch the wall, turn around and make it back to my starting point without drowning. It took me a minute between each 50 to recover enough energy to do it again. I stuck with it and completed the full 1200 yds as an adjusted two sets of 12x50.
As the weeks went on, the laps got easier. I still felt completely inadequate but I worked up to 600 yds before needing to rest, only stymied by my ability to keep count of my laps. Sometimes, I would lose count and swim more than required, sometimes less. My workouts totaled anywhere from 1600-2400 yds.
I’ve never been more excited or more nervous to get in a pool than I was today. My steri-strips were gone. I got clearance from the surgeon. Bring it on.
Thank you to Yana, Barbara, Jessica, Angela, Eric, Brad and everyone else who offered to be my pool buddy on my first dip back. I was terrified to go by myself which is exactly why I knew I had to. If I could conquer this, I would be so much closer to independence. In the last 6 weeks, I’ve had to ask for help to go to the bathroom, get dressed, prepare meals, get rides to PT and so on. I just wanted to have one thing I could do without asking for help.
Brad dropped me off at the Y. As I walked through the sliding doors, the receptionist greeted me and expressed her heartfelt concern for my condition. I hobbled down the long hall to the locker room and I thought about all the times I was in a rush and I blew past a lady using a walker or a gentleman with a cane.
On a normal day, I would walk to the end of the room and find a locker in the very last aisle. Today, I took the first open locker. I got myself organized, locked my clothes away and headed to the showers with my pool bag. My biggest fear was losing traction with my crutches on the wet floors. I took every step slow and steady.
After I showered, there was another long hall to the pool. A man stopped to wait for me to make it to the end before he passed. I would have lost my impatient mind if I had to do the same for someone in my condition two months ago.
The pool was mostly empty except for a group of seniors in an aqua-aerobic class taking up the first two lanes. I was happy to see multiple canes resting by the steps into the pool. My crutches would soon join them. I dropped my bag by an empty lane before putting on my swim cap & goggles. I headed back to the steps and laid my crutches off to the side as I used the railings to hoist myself down one step at a time. When I made it to the bottom, the aquacisers applauded me.
The weightlessness I felt in the pool was the greatest feeling I’ve had in a very long time. I spent a few minutes walking up and down my lane as if my body was in perfect working order. Then, I placed my buoy (a floating foam block) between my legs so I wouldn’t have to kick and I swam to the other end of the pool. It turns out, tear-filled goggles are very difficult to see through. I had to stop to rinse them off before I completed 200 yds. As I lengthened my torso, I could feel the skin tightening and tugging around my incision. At first it was uncomfortable. Then it started to subside.
I paused and grabbed a kick board to see if I was capable of using my legs to propel myself forward before I tried to swim without the buoy. It felt like I wasn’t moving at all but I somehow managed to get to the other end and back. The next 200 yds I swam with fins on my feet to help my legs stay on the surface. I barely kicked at all but I was able to get a little more rotation through my hip sockets.
I wanted to stay in the pool forever but my body wasn’t ready. After another couple laps, I felt like I was going to puke. I didn’t get anywhere near the point of a cardio workout but the energy I did expend was far more than my system was used to. I retraced my steps to get out of the pool, out of the Y and back home where I enjoyed a bowl of hot soup and a two hour nap.
Thursday, September 27th During my first bread baking class in culinary school, we made wheat rolls daily. Each roll weighed 60 grams. We worked in pairs to divide 20 pounds of dough into 60 gram pieces and round them into rolls. It took what seemed like forever.
In the second week of bread class, the chef showed us a piece of equipment called a divider/rounder. This machine takes a big lump of dough and cuts it into 36 equal portions before it rounds them into rolls. What took us an hour to do by hand took this machine seconds to accomplish and with more accuracy.
Knowing the machine existed made it impossible to go back to cutting each roll individually, even though we were instructed to do so….for the sake of learning.
On Tuesday, after learning how to use one crutch to walk, it was impossible to go back to using two. I knew there was a more efficient way to get from point A to point B and I wasn’t going back.
I spent my PT appointment walking the length of the office with one crutch while Dr. Wortman made adjustments to my posture. Making minor adjustments now will prevent injuries in my ‘good’ body parts and make it easier for me to walk on my own when I can finally give up the crutches all together.
Recovery is exhausting. After PT, I came home and took a two hour nap before the kids came home from school. Then, for the first time in almost two months, I emptied the dishwasher and put the dishes away. I wiped down the counters in my kitchen and I picked up all the empty glasses in the living room. I finally have the ability to carry something and walk at the same time.
I am completely drug free. I took my last dose on Monday night. I’m fighting through a lot of muscle soreness and joint pain. I can’t always distinguish the two. I still have no feeling in my hip area. My supporting limbs are starting to ache too. My wrists and forearms are sore from the crutches. My right calf has a knot the size of a baseball.
Time and time again, on-lookers ask if I miss running. I respond, “I’ll let you know after I am able to walk.”
Friday, September 28th I was an only child for eight years. I think my dad breathed a sigh of relief when my baby brother was born. He finally had a son he could take on his hunting and fishing trips.
I remember sitting in a cornfield with Dad, waiting for doves to fly into the sky so he could shoot them. As he steadied his shotgun and put his finger on the trigger, I cried. I didn’t want him to shoot them. It was my first and last last dove hunting trip.
One weekend, Dad took me to his shooting range. He nailed a clay pigeon. As it shattered, a shard flew back and hit me in the eye. It was my first and last trip to the range.
Fishing was a slightly better experience than hunting. We went fishing a lot. Sometimes, he would take me out on a canoe on the Chester River. Other times, we fished off a dock on the Chesapeake Bay. I caught a lot of catfish. Dad made me throw them back into the water. I was always told they were inedible.
Dad and I finally found something we both enjoyed when we started collecting baseball cards. We spent hours in line at card shows to get autographs from ball players. We slept on the street in Baltimore one night, to secure our place in line to get Cal Ripken Jr’s signature on a baseball. I wasn’t quite a teenager yet. Hanging out with Dad was still pretty cool.
What I remember most about growing up with my father is running just to walk. He is notorious for parking in the very last space in any given lot. He says you’re going to go inside to walk around anyway. Why not walk a little more? Dad is undoubtedly the source of my life-long impatience. He walks fast and he has long legs. I’m not short but my length is in my torso, not my legs. I had to jog just to keep up with his average walking pace.
Once, I left my Garmin running while I was walking from one meeting to another in NYC. My average walking pace is a solid 15:00 mile. Being able to walk somewhat comfortably, albeit on crutches, is hindered my my inability to go slow. I never mastered the slow saunter but I’m trying to learn. Not only do I have to focus on every single step so I don’t fall, I tire so quickly that I need a nap after walking to the end of the block.
Saturday, September 29th I’ve been so focused on returning to my life as an athlete, I forgot about returning to my life as a baker. I can sit at home and plan the launch of Montclair Running Company and the 5K Doughnut Run in December. I can call 17 different campgrounds to find the perfect fit for our 2019 Fueled by Doughnuts Running Retreat. I can outline chapters for a book proposal. I recognize how much I can do given this huge setback but I can’t begin to fulfill the requirements to make it through a day at the bakery.
To complete my job as a baker, I lift 50 pound bags of flour, several times a day. I move 30 pound vats of water around and pour them into the mixer. Once the dough is mixed, I deadlift it out of the bowl in 20-30 pound chunks and pile it onto my workbench.
The dough is then divided into equal portions and placed into tubs to rise. I have to stack the 10-20 pound tubs in a tower that stretches above my head. After the sitting for 30-90 minutes, the tower is unstacked so each lump of dough can be folded over before it is re-stacked into place.
After another 30-90 minutes, the dough is cut into smaller portions, loaded onto wooden trays and slotted onto a baking rack. Each rack holds 15-30 trays which span from just above my toes to slightly over the top of my head. In order to get each tray onto the rack, I need to hold the rack cover in one hand and balance the 10-20 pound tray in the other hand while I shimmy it onto it’s resting place. This process repeats to form the smaller lumps of dough into actual loaves which may also require moving 25 pound containers of seeds/toppings around to complete the shaping process.
Once the loaves have spent a little more time on the racks, tray by tray is loaded into the oven. I have to balance a tray against my hip and use one hand to hold it into place while I use my other hand to move each loaf from the tray to the peel (that’s the giant wooden spatula that moves them in and out of the oven). I cut each loaf with a straight razor, lift the peel over my head and load the bread into the oven.
When I unload the loaves, I drop them into plastic nesting baskets we call lugs. The lugs are lifted and stacked once they’re full. Each one holds about 20 loaves of bread ranging in weight from 12-18 ounces per loaf. This process repeats 120 times or so before my baking shift is complete.
I’ll admit, I do miss running a little but I miss baking a whole lot more. Earlier this week, I helped plan the October bakery menu. Over the last several months, I was working on a new doughnut idea that never quite got off the ground. I thought the shape I made resembled a flower. Then I realized it looked even more like a pumpkin. With Carolyn’s help, we made a batch of pumpkin brioche dough and I was able to shape it into little pumpkins. They fermented overnight before Carolyn fried them, glazed them and topped them with candied pecans and spiced pumpkin seeds. It was a small contribution but shaping the dough gave me a sense of calm in knowing this situation is just temporary. I will not be useless forever.