Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Marathon Brain and Two Shots in the Arm

A couple of years ago I got sent out of work. I had passed out. My wife had to come get me and take me to the ER. The doctor I saw asked what was wrong, and I explained. He listened to my lungs and told me my airway had closed up. I was so sick, I didn't even really know I couldn't breathe until I passed out. They had to put me on a nebulizer and a prescription steroid to handle the swelling.

The doctor was... a smart ass about it. But in a way that I found really endearing. My wife told him I never listen to her. He told me I should listen to her. He wrote me a note out of work for two days. When I protested that I wanted to go back the following day, he left the note as it was and gave me a look as if to say, "You'll see. Just wait."

The next day I had cramps in both thighs so big that I couldn't walk. I freaked out and called a friend who is a pharmacist. She asked which steroids I'd been put on, and then told me that leg cramping was a side-effect of those steroids in that kind of volume. "You'll see," indeed.

But I felt better really fast. Got a lot of rest, and I was in much better shape after. Coupled with the endearing snarkiness I knew I wanted this doctor to be my primary care. That is, provided that he wasn't going to tell me not to run. I made a deal with my wife: I'd make the appointment after my 30th birthday.

If they told me not to run, I'd stop running. I'd hate it. But I would give it up.

I just hoped I wouldn't have to.


My job has been stressful lately. My job is always stressful, and there is a certain amount of it I accept. Lately it has been quite a bit more stressful than usual. I've been working longer hours to try and prepare things for the event that I'm out for some unknown amount of time. I'm sure it will be OK. I have coworkers who really look out for one another. But the uncertainty of leaving things still worries me.

Recently, after work, I went to the doctor. Being a young adult at the start of the economic depression, I have a depression-era thinking on a lot of things. I still ask my wife if we have enough in the checking to put gas in my car. I usually put stuff back before checking out at the store, being used to thinking that we can only afford necessities. In many ways that is a good thing -- it can help you save money and spend a bit more in other areas. But it is problematic when the thing you're telling yourself not to buy is a carton of eggs, for example.

So, I went to the doctor. Prior to this, I haven't had a primary care person since I was 17. I didn't have healthcare during college, having gained only a year on my parent's insurance when Obamacare took effect. I am used to paying out of pocket, and going to emergency rooms when things are really bad.

For about three years, we have had good healthcare. I put off getting a primary care because of the running, actually. I made that deal with my wife, though, and I don't play around with that. I am honest with her to a fault. I'm 30 now. I made the appointment.

My family has a medical history that includes lots of heart attacks, arrhythmia, and other cardiac issues. I was really scared that a doctor would tell me to stop running. Running gets a really mixed review in much of the medical community. I've had ER docs tell me to stop running. I usually take that with a grain of salt. Especially if they're not in great shape themselves, and especially if I'm dehydrated and need the sodium (does anyone get that joke?)

So I went to the appointment, got the vaccinations that one really needs to be around a newborn person. The shots didn't hurt at all. The night of I bossed out a seven miler. My arms were sore for a few days afterwards, which complicated my sleeping (I'm a side-sleeper) but all set on the shots now.

Before I left, I told the doc that I was a runner. I told him about the deal with my wife, and how I didn't want someone to tell me to stop running marathons. I told him about the time I fainted in Leadville. His response floored me.

"No, actually, I think running is what is going to prevent you from having these problems. You're in very good shape. Better than average. I think that is probably due to the fact that you run as much as you do."

He suggested the fainting may have been from dehydration (something I suspected about the incident in Leadville, or possibly altitude sickness) I know the science is somewhat dicey on that, but I feel confident knowing I have a doctor who has my back in this.

After the appointment I came home to my wife, had some left-over pizza for dinner, and we went to the hospital for our hospital tour.

It is an odd thing, going on a tour in a group like that. No one really knows how to act. Do you introduce yourself to the other people? But, you probably won't see them again. So that doesn't make much sense. Are you supposed to talk in full voice in the waiting room? I don't know. Everyone was library-whispering. I found that off-putting. I really wanted to tell a joke, or try and lighten the mood. But I didn't know those people, and they seemed very reserved.

We got shown through the foyer (which we'd seen) and were shown some of the different areas around it. The gift shops. The family room.

Before we knew it, we were walking through triage, where they explained how arrival night would go. They go to a really great effort to limit the amount of time parents have to be separated during the birth, and I thought that was really great. We'll see how it actually works, of course, but the idea that it is thought of is nice.

We went and looked through an empty delivery room, and I was really impressed with how mellow those rooms are. They aren't huge, of course, but the colors are very contemporary, and soothing. The lights dim and the rooms are temp controlled. The hospital also offers an "alternative birthing room" which you can only use if you have a midwife and refuse an epidural. Those rooms seemed nice, but I know my wife and she wants the pain management. The delivery rooms are vacated two hours or so after delivery, so we'll be in our private room fairly soon after that, anyway.

We were also shown one of the private rooms. They aren't huge, but they are private, and very nice. The same mellow vibe with a bed for the mom, and a sleeper chair for the dad or birthing partner. The baby stays in the room the whole time, and has a lo-jack on them so no one steals them.

The hospital tour made this thing feel more real to me. In a couple of weeks I'll be in that room with my wife and our daughter. We'll sing to her, and we'll talk to her, and we'll be a family in one place. My wife will sleep, I can't imagine that I will except out of sheer exhaustion. I can't imagine sleeping at all in that scenario. The marathon runner in me looks at the labor room and thinks "You've gone eight hours without peeing before. You won't use the bathroom ever again after she goes into labor!"

The marathon brain is a bit nuts, though. I mean that guy runs 26.2 for fun sometimes.

In any event I know it's built up in my head more than it should be, but hopefully that will set me up to be comfortable and un-surprised by whatever happens. This is the same feeling I get before the plane takes off. Before the roller-coaster roars to life.

Before I run 26.2.

It is a feeling of uncertainty and terror. Of joy in experience. It is so hard to visualize this particular thing.

But I'm getting ready for it.

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