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Ironman Training: Continuing the Journey

At the end of last week, I was in a state of limbo about whether or not I could continue training for the Ironman.  I had an MRI on Friday for lingering right shoulder pain. The doctor was questioning if I had a labral tear, which would put an end to it for this year.

I have learned so many lessons from this accident and having my first MRI was one of them.  I have taken care of a number of patients over the years and just did not understand why some of them were so anxious and afraid of having an MRI.  I didn’t even give it much thought when I went in for mine. Of course, that changed when they strapped me on the table and slid the top half of my body into the tube. I became anxious immediately as it was such a confined space. The tech picked up on that and turned a fan on to get some air circulating. I also had headphones on and she turned on some music, which helped me relax. Over the next 35 minutes, they took all of the images of my shoulder. I stayed still as a rock, because I did not want to spend any more time than necessary in the machine that felt like a coffin. It was so loud and awkward, as if someone was directly underneath the table jack hammering or doing some form of heavy construction. Needless  to say, I will be much more empathetic when someone tells me that MRI’s make them anxious.
I finished around 3 pm and at 4:30 I got a call from the Doctor’s office.  It was his Medical Assistant and she asked me if I had a sling at home? I told her “No” and she told me I should buy one and wear it until I see the doctor Monday. I was suprised at the directions without any other information.  So I asked if they found a tear in my shoulder? She said “No, but there is something else that the doctor will review with you at your appointment.” At this point, I was a bit aggrevated and said “can you please just tell me what it is,  I’m an RN and would like to know.” I’m not one to give people a hard time, but I wanted some resolution. I was not going to wear a sling if I did not know why I needed it.. She was reluctant, but told me I had a fracture of my humeral head. I was really shocked! This was not in the algorithm I had created of outcomes and how I would handle them.  
My first assumption was that I would be out and need surgery. The doctor treating me was out of town, but is a good friend and colleague of my husband. So my husband sent him a text with the news. He called immediately and said that I should take it easy this weekend, but not worry based on the exam he did the day before. He would be back Sunday and review the MRI and give us a call.  So, I was back on the roller coaster, I was down needing to wear a sling, then up that it may still be ok!

I want to point out here that I am incredibly grateful that he took time out of his vacation to call us and then, go in on a weekend to review my MRI. I am also extremely thankful for several friends in the medical community that have squeezed me in to their schedules and helped connect me to the appropriate people to expedite my care. I will chalk this up to lessons learned!  There are many wonderful people in the world ready to help, sometimes you just need to ask!

Over the next 24 hours, I thought about the plan and decided that whatever I was told on Sunday was it. I was sick of the roller coaster ride and starting to get annoyed with myself about the indecision.  If there was any remote chance of further damage, then I would wait until next year…period. However, if I could continue to train in a modified way, then I would go for it.

He called Sunday morning after reviewing the MRI. Yes, I do have an impact fracture of the head of the humerus, lots of swelling, and perhaps a small tear.  However, there is no treatment and basically it is “activity as tolerated” while everything heals. Of course, the activity I’m doing is not average and we discussed that a bit. His opinion was that if I held off on swimming for the next 2 to 3 weeks that I most likely will have healed enough to swim comfortably. I will not create any further damage. “The biking and running should be fine to continue now.”  So, I asked him 3 more times if he really thought it was ok, and the answer was yes…if I felt good!

So that was it, I have decided to go for it!  I texted my coach to let her know and she started to create my training plan for the 4 weeks.  Of course, no swimming until the week before the event. I think I can pull off the swim with minimal training at this point. I did order a sleeveless wetsuit so that I could modify my stroke a bit to keep the pressure on my shoulder to a minimum. At the end of the day, this will still be an 11th hour decision about the event. I am going to bike on my trainer (again to keep shoulder impact low) and run as planned and tolerated. I am hoping that 3 weeks from now, I can hop in the water and my shoulder will feel good swimming!  Time will tell, but for now, I will “Proceed as if Success is Inevitable.”