Blood, sweat, & tears

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” Isak Dinesan

The view on today’s late day run

That is one of my favorite quotes. I’ve used it before, but it really seemed appropriate today.

It’s been a full week. We got news at the doctor’s office about Gary’s surgery on Monday (it’s scheduled for Friday, October 5), Tuesday was filled with a business meeting in a semi-far off town that took all day, yesterday was filled with errands, grocery shopping, and the like, and today was all about making headway in our paperwork. I realized yesterday that September is almost over, and I hadn’t paid my bills yet. So, if I owe you money and you aren’t set up to get it electronically, the check is in the mail. Really. It’s been a rat killing kind of week. Just putting one foot in front of the other and getting it done, step by step.

All day today, I’ve had the uncomfortable sensation of tears in my throat. Ladies, you know the kind, the ones that swell your throat and threaten to spill from your eyes, but when you examine your life, you really can’t find a reason for them. Now, I’m all in favor of a good cry now and then. Sometimes, tears are justified and on those occasions, I say let them flow unchecked and you will feel much better in the aftermath. But, I’ve learned that sometimes that tearful feeling signifies something else entirely. They’re not about an emotional need, they signify a physical one. In me, they mean I need to run.

My running has been sadly neglected the last couple of weeks and my body is rebelling against that. So, after I (mostly) finished my work for the day, I slapped on my gear and headed to our local rails to trails, Long Leaf Trace. I don’t really like to run in the evening, but these days, I’ll take what I can get. I didn’t take my iPod with me, this run was about feeling it. I wanted to be completely present in this run. Sometimes, I like for my mind to wander, or to listen to music or a podcast. Sometimes, I need the diversion of a good book to get me through my run, but not today. I wanted to remember what it is that I love about running.

The first mile was easy, too easy. About 2/3 into it, I realized I wasn’t even breathing hard. So, I pushed it. I ran hard for the next two miles, feeling my heart pound in my ears, feeling the sweat sting my eyes, feeling my muscles strain and quiver. By the last half mile, my tummy was begging me to stop and threatening me with a good dose of nausea. But, I told it to shut up, we were doing this. And, we did. I finished my last mile at a pace that is pretty rare for me these days – 9:30, slow for many, but fast for me, especially when the mile previous to it was 10:01.

As I slowly cooled down, I reflected on the need for this run. I wish that I had learned many years ago that the “tearful” feeling I sometimes get isn’t about crying at all. It’s about getting out, getting my butt in gear, and slamming it to the wall. I could have saved my sweet man a lot of grief over the years. Thank God he put up with me.

The other thing this run brought to mind is how important it is that we fan the flames of our passion. My primary passion is my faith, then my family. But, running figures in the top five. And, it is vital in helping me stay connected and fresh in the other passions of my life. As I think of my man, laid up with a very serious (but healing) injury, I knew that this is what drives him to do the things he loves as well. He runs with me on occasion, but it’s mainly to keep him in shape for his true passion – riding/racing dirtbikes. Ten years ago, I didn’t understand that need, that drive. Today I do. I know that when he’s healed, he’ll most likely reach for his bike again, and go on to race many more days. At least, I hope he does.

As long as we keep our passions in their proper order (God first, family second, all others after that), they will only enhance our lives. Some are more dangerous than others, but that’s the nature of life. If you haven’t found yours, I pray that you do. Those teary days will thank you.

Yes, that’s my man on his walker looking at the bike he just ordered. It’s for sale by the way. 😉

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New normals

Wow, it’s been a long week.  All the days ran together and Gary & I kept asking each other, “What day is it?”  We are such creatures of habit that this week has been… different.  We have deeply established eating, sleeping, working, and exercise patterns that have all been thrown into chaos this week.  But, we’ve survived.  And, today, I think I can finally say that Gary is a lot better.  We actually made it to church this morning, late, but there.  If you know me at all, you know I don’t do late.  But, I’m cutting myself some slack this week, and that’s one of the things I’ve let fall by the wayside.  And, it was the train’s fault.  If you live in our area, you know the kind – the engine is in New Orleans while the caboose is in Meridian.  We also left the service early, another first for us.  We were able to stay for the entire message, but we ducked out to beat the crowd.  Crowds and wheelchairs with a leg extended were more than this old broad was ready to navigate.  Great service, though.  So glad we were able to go.  Brought some normality to our week.

Today was also the first day this week I was able to get in a run.  I’m a morning runner, and the weather here has been perfect for early runs.  But, every morning this week, my “I don’t do mornings” persona has raised her snarly head off the couch, checked with Gary to make sure he’s ok, thought about the neatly laid out running clothes in the bedroom, rolled her eyes, and pulled the covers back over her head.  I thought she was gone for good, but, turns out, she functions better in the mornings on a full night’s sleep,  not one that has been broken up into four hour sleep segments. Imagine that.   She also really likes sleeping in her comfy bed with her man snuggled close, and that’s just not happening right now.  I’ve been unmotivated to run in the mornings, but by late evening, I have ants in my pants and really need to get some movement in.  I seldom do late day runs. It’s usually hot as, well, you know, and I’m typically done by 5 pm and ready to get supper, bathe, and hit the sack by 8:30.  But, that isn’t my life right now, so I’m looking for a new normal.

I’m always full of advice for runners who have lost their motivation, so I decided to take my own advice, for a change.  First off, I gave myself permission to be sluggish this week.  I haven’t had to get up every four hours in a very long time.  Even when our daughter was a baby, she slept through the night most of the time, so I’m spoiled to my sleep.  Sleep that is broken up in four hour segments simply isn’t as restful, so I understand why my “I don’t do mornings” gal is back in town.  I decided I would use some of that late day energy and run today, and I have to say, it was a very good run.  I’m not worrying about pace or distance.  Just needed a mental health run, and today’s run fit the bill completely.  Yes, I have a race in late November.  And, yes, I had a pace goal for that race.  It’s a race.  I’ll run it, finish it, and be happy with whatever time it takes me. Life is about so much more than a pace in a race.  (Sounds a little like Dr. Seuss, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, we see the doctor tomorrow, and our prayer is that Gary’s leg will be ready for surgery.  We are ready to start the healing process, this waiting is hard on both of us.  I’m ready for Gary’s pain to be gone (I’m sure he is, too), but, we realistically know that it’s here for the time being.

This week has been a reminder to me that we all face life issues that deter us from our goals.  Some are temporary, like ours, others are permanent and require readjusting goals, maybe even life plans.  As much as I like our disciplined life, it’s equally important to be flexible.  To learn how to function when you’re faced with unexpected challenges.  Because life is going to throw you some curve balls.  The trick is to learn how to catch them, field them, and score one for the team.  Right now, I think we’re 1-0.

Getting by with a little help from our friends

We’ve been home from the hospital for several days now, and that’s a good thing, but it’s been harder than I anticipated.  Arriving home threw me into the role of primary caretaker, and,while that’s a role I relish, it has been a full time job.  Gary is a great patient, but his pain level has been really high.  I know that seeing someone in pain is a difficult thing for all in the medical profession, but when it’s someone you love, it is excruciating.  Hopefully, we’ll be past this part soon, and his pain level will subside.

My lack of rest caught up with me yesterday.  Gary has only been able to sleep in our double recliner, and I had been trying to sleep there with him, both to be able to monitor his needs, and for the comfort of his presence.  But, I wasn’t sleeping well, with trying to make sure I didn’t bump him unnecessarily and trying to get comfortable myself, it was a losing battle.  I didn’t realize how much the lack of sleep was affecting me until yesterday, when I saw a glass of orange juice on my kitchen counter and burst into tears.  Now, I’m not one who cries in times of crises.  I’ve been known to shed a tear or two when Bambi’s mother dies, but in real life, I’m pretty stoic.  And, a glass of orange juice has never really offended me before.  So, when the tears burst forth, I knew it was from sheer physical and mental exhaustion, rather than true distress.  So, I did what I always do when I’m scraping the bottom of the emotional barrel, I lifted a prayer to my precious Father, I sent out an SOS text to my prayer girls, I kissed Gary on the forehead & made sure he had everything he needed, I lit my lavender candle in my bathroom, then I submerged myself in a long, hot bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil.  I also made it a point to go to my yoga class last night.  I haven’t been able to run, sheer exhaustion is not conducive to a mind clearing run, so I haven’t even tried.  With the great weather that rolled in last night, though, I’m hoping to be able to sleep well enough tonight that I can run in the morning.  I slept on our sofa last night, near enough to be able to awaken if Gary needed something, but much more restful with being able to stretch out and not worry about bumping him.

I am in awe of the medical personnel who have helped us so far, and, indeed, to all who have surrendered their lives to the call of nursing/paramedics/doctoring.  I cleaned and changed my first fasciotomy dressing on Sunday, and I’m not ashamed to admit there was a large glass of wine waiting for me when I finished.  That. Was. Tough.  However, I’m happy to report that after watching the doctor change it on Monday, yesterday’s & today’s dressings were much easier for me. So far, his wounds look good.  If you have a strong stomach, I’ve included a pic here for you.  It includes one set of the pins on the external fixator.  The other set are on his upper thigh, and he has an incision slightly longer than this one on the outer part of his calf.

A little boo boo

And, that brings us to the doctor question.  We saw our regular orthopedic surgeon (how weird is it that we have a regular bone doctor and not a regular general doctor?) on Monday.  He referred us to one of his younger associates who is skilled in trauma surgery, and we were very comfortable with him.  They looked at Gary’s scans, then dressed his wounds.  We will return to him on Monday, and we are hoping that he will be able to schedule the surgery by mid-week next week.  We are more than ready to mend these bones and begin the healing process.  At this time, we have decided that Gary’s surgery will be done locally at Southern Bone and Joint.

God’s hand has been in every move we’ve made.  I know that it always is, but it just becomes crystal clear in times of crisis.  The people He has brought to us, from the race staff, all the way to the emergency room personnel, the pilot who brought us home, and precious friends who take the time to pray for us and bring us delicious meals (Thanks, Sandy!).  I even got a text yesterday from the paramedic who worked on Gary at the race site, just checking on us to see how we are doing.  How cool is that?  This young man, who sees thousands of people, took time out of his day to check on us.  I’m completely humbled.  I think we’re more than getting by with a little help from our friends.

Today brought clarity after a somewhat more restful night.  I was actually able to get a little work done, as well as go to the grocery store, and I didn’t wander around in circles trying to remember exactly what it was I was supposed to be doing, as I have every day since we’ve been home.  That’s progress.  The bags are unpacked, the laundry is clean, some of my work is done, and, for now, Gary’s pain is bearable.  I think, for tonight, that’s enough.

I’m thankful that God is holding my rope, and that He’s given me so many people to help me tie a knot in it when I think I’m going to fall.

Finally home

I’m completely humbled by God’s graciousness. I awoke in St. Louis, MO, this morning, and I’ll lay my head down in my bed tonight.

We arose bright and early to the SLU ortho team, as has been the case each morning this week. They are a team of doctors, residents and interns who make the rounds of their cases each morning, then get on with their day elsewhere in the bowels of the hospital. Very Gray’s Anatomy, but not as much fun on this side of the tube.

This morning, they took the dressing off Gary’s leg & looked at his wounds to make sure they are not showing signs of infection. They, then, showed me how to clean and dress the pin sites, as well as the wound incisions, and gave me instructions about signs of infection and what to do if I see those. After they signed off, it was just a matter of time until we could head out.

Waiting for a ride

After a consultation with our pilot, it was decided that the weather looked better for today than tomorrow, so we started getting ready to leave. I can’t thank the trauma team, nurses, social services, and aides at Mercy Hospital enough for all their help getting things lined up to get Gary to the airport. Too many people to thank, just let me say that God’s fingerprints have been all over every move, every decision, each hand, and each new relationship that has been formed this week. Our beautiful nurse today, Kristina, asked to lead us in a prayer before we embarked, and her sweet, personal, heart felt prayer was the first time this week that I cried. I’m so thankful for the people God has brought across our path this week, from the paramedics at the race site to the talented doctors and staff at Mercy Hospital, all the way to the ambulance team who took Gary to the airport, the pilot He provided, and precious friends who met us at the airport and got us safely home. God. Is. Good. Don’t ever doubt it.

They let us board here, even though we don’t really qualify 🙂


Getting loaded into the plane


Papaw (Gary’s dad) flew up with the pilot to drive Dexter home


Trying to get comfy on board


Goodbye St. Louis!

The flight went smoothly, and the relief I felt as the ground beneath us got greener and the sights became more familiar is only surpassed by the anticipation I feel about being able to sleep in my bed with its very high thread count sheets and my own pillows beneath my head. My wonderful brother in law brought me a bottle of my favorite pinot noir, so I’m also looking forward to a nice hot bath in my tub with a glass of wine close by. Big Bang is on the TV, and the comfort of our surroundings is enhanced by my love of Sheldon & company.

Help deplaning from old friend, Jim Griffith and new friend, pilot Tommy Wade


Tough old dude walking across the tarmac to the car


Our chariot home – great flight! Thanks, Tommy!

Gary did really well. I’ve always known he is strong and tough as old shoe leather, but his ability to endure excrutiating pain with stoicism has completely surpassed anything I thought possible. He is asleep in his chair, with his blanket drawn up to his chest right now. His belly is full of food that I prepared in my own kitchen, which brought me a lot of comfort as well. There is a lot to be said for the familiarity of routine.

Monday will find us at the clinic with our own doctor. There is a lot of comfort in that, too. Having a doctor that you know and trust is vital in situations like this, and it will be good to see Dr. Rouse and get his views on all this. We will be making the decision about who will do Gary’s surgery after we see Dr. Rouse, so your prayers for our wisdom and discernment are solicited.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

A three pot kind of day

Whew! It’s been a long, but productive day. It started really early, as it has each morning, with the SLU trauma team before 6 am, and didn’t settle down until very late in the day.  I was in what Kaitlyn (our youngest daughter) calls full on “crazy lady” mode until well after lunch.  Gary and I have been at our computers, on the phone, and meeting with hospital personnel to help coordinate our efforts to return home.  In between phone calls, we had an army of doctors come through, as well as physical and occupational therapists, who are working with Gary to ensure a relatively smooth transition as he leaves their care.

We had some visitors who gave us a tremendous boost around lunch.   Kaitlyn, along with my beautiful niece, Lindsey, and my great nephew, Gatlin (the coolest kid ever) were “in the neighborhood” and dropped in to see us.  I was able to have a nice lunch with them, then they headed off on the final leg of their long planned road trip to see my oldest sister, Libby & her youngest son’s family to help celebrate my sweet great nephew, Mycaiah’s, birthday.  Nice to see faces from home & hear that great southern drawl. They talk really fast up here! I was excited to get Gatlin kisses.  They’re the best!  One of the coolest things about Gatlin is his absolute delight in all things new.  He has a zest for life and heads into it full tilt.  He loved everything about the hospital, including Gary’s acrobat bar on his bed.  Uncle Gary demonstrated how much fun he is having by swinging back and forth on it like a monkey.  Gatlin had his own brush with disaster the same day Gary did;  he ran into a moving car.  Yes, I did say that he ran into the car (while it was in motion), not the other way around.  His face bears the wounds, but, at least the car is okay, I think.  We’re a strange bunch.

After a crazy, overly full morning that involved way too much coffee, Gary made me a nest on his bed beside him & I was able to get the first quality rest I’ve had since this happened. Much needed comfort time with my man.

Anyway, I’ll be brief on the update, as nothing is completely firmed up.  At this point we’ll be heading home on Sunday by charter plane, then we’ll meet with Dr. Rouse at Southern Bone & Joint on Monday to figure out when/where/who will be doing Gary’s bone repair surgery.  We’re hoping for a clean wound pronouncement tomorrow, so that we can be discharged early Sunday.  Gary is still in a great deal of pain & will be wearing the external fixator that’s keeping his bones stable until they are able to fix his leg.  However, they are able to manage his pain so far, and we will leave here with the ability to keep it managed until he sees Dr. Rouse.

The external fixator – quite a contraption

Prayer request for the next few days: Manageable pain, travel plans will flow smoothly and that Gary will have a pain free trip home, I’ll stay out of “crazy lady” mode (that crazy lady spins her wheels and doesn’t get enough accomplished)

I do hope that I don’t get a cut of any kind before we get home. It would be kind of embarrassing to bleed coffee.

God is good. All the time.

First obstacle overcome!  Gary’s surgery went well today, they were able to close both of the fasciotomy wounds.  We had been cautioned that the first try was not always successful, especially with the amount of swelling that Gary had.  There was even the possibility of a skin graft in the event a second try was also unsuccessful.  Never, never, never underestimate the power of prayer!  I have had a lot of peace about all of this, and that truly doesn’t come from me.   That comes from God’s laying his hand on my heart and breathing His calming sigh into my soul.  And, as my words and prayers have been difficult to articulate, I depended on my prayer warriors to voice them and lift us high, as you did!   Thank you, friends!  Don’t stop now.

We’ll be making some decisions in the next few days, and hopefully will be headed south by early next week (maybe Monday).  The next step will be equally difficult, and of course Gary is facing a long recovery.  But, his doctor told me today that his overall health and fitness are one of the main reasons his surgery today went well and why she’s very optimistic about his speedy recovery.  His nurses will be sad to see him go, he is much more mobile and able to get around than their usual patients.  And, his post op nurse thought he was the funniest man she had ever met.  Favorite patient ever.  Yes, our Gary.  The life of the party.  Those of you who know him well know just how funny that is.

We got him back to the room and he was his usual grouchy self again.  At least until supper came.  Chocolate chip cookies!  His pain level is manageable, and we’ll know by Saturday when we can go home.  And no wound vac!  Yay!

Camera shy, as usual

I put my running clothes on this morning, partly out of habit, partly because they’re comfy, and partly because, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I was hoping for a run in my day. And, behold, God provided even that! In our post op consult, Dr. Cannada asked me if I had found a good spot to run and I told her no. I got a run in earlier this week, but I wouldn’t say it was a great place. She told me a couple of nice runs in walking distance, so when I got Gary settled and he was doing so well, I headed out. I was actually just going to walk, but I had my running gear on, and my body said, “Go!” So, I went. It was a short one, but definitely a much needed soul soother. The air was cool, the path was clear, and my man is going to be okay.

Life is good.

Learning patience

I’ve never been a fan of the idea that you shouldn’t pray for patience.  The reasoning behind that is that you won’t like what God sends you.  Does the same go for wisdom, then?  Or strength?  When I asked for wisdom, He sent me a teenager.  When I asked for strength, He had me train for and run a marathon.  Did I like those things?   No comment.

So, although I didn’t specifically ask for patience, it seems God feels that I need some schooling in it.  And, here I am.  Sitting in a hospital room 500 miles from home, watching my favorite man be miserable, relatively helpless to do anything to relieve him.  And waiting.  Waiting for his surgery tomorrow, praying for the successful closure of his wounds so that we can prepare for the next phase of this thing.  Dealing with the minutiae of an extended hospital stay and all the little aggravations that are built into that.  Learning to be patient and kind, even when I’m tired and cranky.

Gary is doing okay.  Neither of us slept well last night, although I slept better than him, I’m sure.  So, we were both a little off kilter this morning.  I woke up when the trauma team came in at 5:30 am, although I’m usually up by that time.  After they left, I slapped on my running gear, got him situated as comfortably as possible, then headed out for some much needed run time.  It wasn’t fabulous or fast, my legs were grouchy and snarled at me a few times, but I got a couple of soul soothing miles in.  I haven’t been eating well, the offerings here at the hospital are tasty, but a little heavier on the carb side than I like to eat.  So, the result was a draggy, slow run.  But, what’s new?  They’re all slow these days.  And, what’s with the hills, Missouri?  Good grief!

They put poor Gary through the wringer today.  All necessary, but he was exhausted by lunch.  The tech weighed him today, and unless he’s gained 200 lbs since Sunday, that’s how much the apparatus weighs that they have on his leg.  And, he doesn’t look like he’s gained that much to me.  He’s strong and able to help move himself much more than the typical patient is, but it wears him out doing it.  All in all, he’s doing well.  He’s awake and working some right now.

Dexter (the creepy white van) and I have become best buds.  I had to venture out today on a couple of errands, the first of which was to find the closest Starbucks.  He & I found one nearby and I whipped him in and out of the parking lot like I’ve been driving him for years.  For those of you who don’t know what my usual car is, it’s a convertible Mustang.  So.  I’m not crazy about Dexter’s friend TomTom (the GPS), and had a few choice things to say to him as he navigated me through some areas that I felt were out of our way.  TomTom wisely listened to my wrath without comment, and eventually began to see things my way.  I had coffee for lunch, and I knew the offerings that are available at the hospital, so I was looking for a good organic market from which I could pick up a few things.  With no help from TomTom, I found a Trader Joe’s.  (I’m officially starting a petition for a Trader Joe’s to open in Hattiesburg, by the way.  Let me know if you want to help campaign.)  Got my things, headed back to the hospital and saw a store like the one TomTom had driven me across town to find much closer to the hospital (less than 10 minutes away).  After another tirade at poor Tom, I let it go.  Patience.  Stopped to get a bag of ice for the cooler, got in the express lane (carrying a 22 lb bag of ice because I didn’t need a buggy) and got in line behind the only 93 year old woman in America who still writes a check for her groceries.  She slowly wrote each letter of each word, then signed her name at the bottom in a process that took at least 8 and a half minutes.  No lie.  Patience.  I took several deep breaths, shifted the ice to the other hip, and smiled at the sweet, beautiful old lady.  She handed the clerk her check (which thankfully did not require approval), he handed her some cash back from it, along with some change, and she promptly dropped it all on the floor.  Patience.  I put the ice (melting into a puddle by now) on the floor, got down on my hands and knees, and gathered her change up off the ground for her.  She looked at me, then at the ice, and she said, “You aren’t in a hurry are you,dear?”  I just smiled and said, “No, ma’am, I’m fine.” Patience. I spent a long time laughing when I got back to Dexter.  Really, God cracks me up.

You know what?  When I got back to the room, I felt better and had a much sunnier outlook on life.  I’ve been reflecting on all the wonders and blessings He’s given me, and I’m full to overflowing.  I’m putting something in my veins besides caffeine (delicious Trader Joe’s gazpacho!), and have a small stash of good things to eat to tide me over a few more days.  And my man looked a little better when I got back, too.  I think he was able to rest some while I was gone.

Prayer requests:  Tomorrow afternoon they take Gary back to surgery to make the first (and hopefully, only) attempt to repair the fasciotomy wounds.  Pray for him to rest well tonight and for his body to be ready to accept the repair of those wounds.  Also, pray that we’ll have a little clearer vision of what our next step needs to be.  We’re not stressing out about it, but being the planners (some might say control freaks) that we are, we will rest a little easier when those decisions have been made.

And, finally, pray for patience.  God will provide you with all that you need.

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1: 2-4

Perfect and complete, needing nothing.  I like the sound of that.