Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back to the NAC and an Anniversary

Today I have regained much confidence and excitement for my thru-hike. Yesterday marked one week since my surgery, and I'm feeling remarkably well. After a week of feeling bloated and sore, it was nice to be back at my gym - the Newtown Athletic Club, or NAC. Although I must say that I felt a little silly walking on the treadmill and at a leisurely 1.5 mph.  Nevertheless, it was nice to see all my gym friends and to be active once again. I seemed to regain much confidence and excitement for my thru-hike.

The plan is to take it easy for a few weeks, for I don't want to push myself too hard before my follow-up visit with my doc in one week. I have but one chance to recover properly and I don't want to blow it by overexerting myself early on. Even though I didn't sweat even a little bit, my one hour walk was effective in loosening up stiff muscles and scar tissue.

Today I was further excited to learn that the Appalachian Trail will celebrate its 75th anniversary on August 14th. According to my master plan, I should be in Maine, just about to finish when the milestone is reached.  (Incidentally, the National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016.  I hope I'm done with my thru by then!)

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Surgical Recovery - Phase I

I am three days out from my bilateral hernia surgery on Monday, and as all the doctors predicted, I'm feeling much better. Every hour I feel better than the one before.

It turns out I did, in fact, have two hernias.  According to my nurses, Dr. Choi was a wizard in the O.R. and the surgery went perfectly. Because I had it done laparoscopically, I was sedated with general anesthesia, and to make room for the instruments they inflated my gut with carbon dioxide gas, greatly swelling my abdomen - a condition known as pneumoperitoneum. I looked like I did two years ago before losing 60 pounds!  The only issues the first two days after surgery was dealing with the post-operative nausea (due to anesthesia) and the pain caused by the injected CO2 floating toward the highest point in my gut, which varied every time I shifted or moved. Much of the gas has been absorbed now and the only discomfort I feel now if from my incision sites.  (Despite these issues with laparoscopic surgery, I should heal more quickly and experience less pain during recovery than folks who had it done using the open procedure.)

I am surprised how well I feel and how much I can already do. Walking is not an issue if I do it slowly, and I can lift and move light objects without any discomfort whatsoever. Coughing and laughing can be painful, but I've been careful to do little of either.

The biggest surprise, however, is how difficult it is for me to talk. The first couple of days I could speak barely over a whisper and today I able to only communicate at a low volume. I assume this is due to the carbon dioxide gas pushing against my diaphram, causing some shortness in breath.  Tomorrow I'll head back to the classroom and try to restrain my penchant for animation, gesticulation, and volume!

I find it difficult to imagine that in only 54 days I'll be fit enough to begin my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Two months to go and surgery on Monday

In exactly two months I will bid a temporary farewell to Kathleen and the kids and begin my thru-hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail. In exactly two days I undergo hernia surgery.

On March 13, I will be shuttled to Springer Mountain, Georgia - the Trail's southern terminus - by the the nice folks of the Hiker Hostel. My wife and kids will continue to motor southward to Legoland in Florida.

Until then, I could sure use a pause button for I still have menus to plan, schedules to make, classes to teach, letters to write, kids to cuddle with, and a surgery to undergo and recover from. Oddly enough I feel quite optimistic that I'll hit the Trail at full strength. I've been training like a fiend for two and a half years for this hike and feel that this is just one more hurdle to jump over on my way to Springer.

Despite the fact my surgery is so close to my departure date, I am as confident that I will complete the 2,183-mile journey as I have ever been. However, I will say that I am anxious to be able to train once again at 100%, for I've almost forgotten what that's like.

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One problem down

For the past three or four months I've been experiencing a deep, dull pain in my right hip. (As my thru-hike nears my medical issues seem to multiply!) At times the pain became acute, becoming most noticeable when I would sit for long periods, lay on that side, or touch it even lightly. I could hike on it and work out without too much issue, but as my departure for the AT was only two months away, I was anxious to be as close to 100% as possible.

I have a great primary physician in Dr. William McElmoyle and he diagnosed it as bursitis, injected the site with cortisone, and sent me on my merry way - after informing me that I had two abdominal hernias that required surgery.

The good news is two days after the steroid injection my bursitis is gone, and Dr. McElmoyle was able to get me a surgical consult for my hernias only 36 hours after the initial diagnosis. Despite the bad news, I'm happy and fortunate that I am able to take care of it in such a timely manner by capable doctors!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Going Under the Knife

I had my surgical consult today with Dr. Garvey Choi. He confirmed that I definitely have one (and possibly two) hernias. Garvey was great. he was personable, answered all my questions, and alleviated my concerns about laproscopic surgery. This kind of surgery will reduce my recovery time, and because the mesh is inserted between the small intestine and facia, the repair will be super strong.

Additionally, his office staff was exceedingly helpful, friendly and supportive. They were able to schedule my abdominal surgery for this coming Monday. While there is never a good time to be operated on, I am pleased that I will have eight weeks to recover, and will have time to exercise at 100% capacity a few weeks prior to my AT adventure.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Medical Setback

I've just returned from my doctor who has informed me that the pain I've been experiencing in my right hip is bursitis and the discomfort in my lower abdomen and groin is due to two ingunial hernias. My wonderful doc gave me a steroid shot in the hip to help deal with bursitis, and he made me an appointment with a surgeon the day after tomorrow to discuss options for my hernias.

For a couple of weeks I knew a hernia was a possible diagnosis, so I had some time to wrap my head around the situation. Oddly, I am relieved to know what I am dealing with, and lucky that I still have time to deal with the hernias, even if surgery is in my future. I am bummed that my training and exercise regimen will have to slow down a bit, and I am anxious to hear what the surgeon advises on Wednesday. However, I am feeling positive about my prognosis and more than ever am looking forward to the start of my hike in 64 days.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bald Pate hike with the Stephensons and Lemmos

Had a great time with Molly, Brad, Nancy and John on an 7.9-mile training hike to Bald Pate near Lambertville, NJ. The trip was organized by Molly and Brad's bicycle club. Molly and I carried fully loaded packs in preparation for our upcoming long-distance thru-hikes. I became more enamored with my Droid Razr and learned more about the phone's GPS unit and awesome My Tracks app. I enjoyed meeting the folks in the club who were all friendly and interesting. Had lots of fun talking with Kathy, who spent three and a half months on the Trail in 2004.

See more images here.

View 1/8/12 11:27 AM Bald Pate Wrong Way in a larger map

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