That time I broke my back – Part 1: The Injury

Friends, I think it’s time for me to tell you a story…  the story of me, 3 years ago, experiencing my first serious injury, my journey through rehab, and how the experience has made me a better runner.  I’ve seen a few blog posts over the last little while that explore the topic of injury, and one of the major themes I see in each of these posts is the feeling of isolation that is brought on by being injured.  I thought it might be nice to add my story to the mix, mainly just to put it out there.  It turns out, injuries happen to runners all the time, and rehab can be frustrating.  I hope my story has some stuff in it that you can all relate to, and maybe help you feel a little less isolated if you’re dealing with an injury too.

The Injury

I suffered my first major injury in the winter of 2012, pretty much exactly 3 years ago.  At the time, I was a consistent runner, but I wasn’t tackling very long distances.  I was running multiple times a week, at distances between 5-8k.  Considering it was January in Montreal, I was spending a lot of time at the gym cross training, and getting my running in on the treadmill.  During 2010-2011, I’d been living with a roommate who was, to put it gently, wildly inconsiderate and terribly selfish, and I absolutely hated being at home, so I developed the habit of spending all of my free time away from my dysfunctional apartment, often going for a run outside, or hitting the gym.  Fast forward to 2011-2012, and even though my roommate situation had drastically improved, my exercise habits from the previous year had stuck.  Needless to say, in the months leading up to my injury, I was in pretty awesome shape!

Then it happened…  And this is the embarrassing part.  I’d like to tell you that I got injured while exercising, but if I’m being honest, my injury was actually more party-related than exercise-related.  It’s hard to explain exactly how it went down.  One weekend in January, I was attending a mid-winter outdoor rave called Igloofest (yes, that is how we do things here in Montreal in the middle of winter) when I somehow got caught up in a fake-dance-fight-competition with one of my friends…  Hard to explain the exact mechanics of my injury, but suffice to say, I ended up being hauled out of Igloofest in an ambulance (terrible) and spending the night in the Emergency Department of my local hospital (terrible), completely unable to walk (meaning I couldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom…  terrible!)  Yes, this is a true story.  No, the Emergency Room doctor didn’t believe me at first…  thank goodness I have a bunch of friends who happen to work in said Emergency Department who were able to vouch for me.  No, her boyfriend doesn’t beat her. Seriously, I’m sure she really did get into a fake-dance-fight-competition related accident, that actually sounds very much like her.  And thank goodness for my best friend who stayed with me through the entire night, sitting in a chair next to my stretcher, calling the nurse to beg for pain meds and a bed pan…  Yes, a bed pan.  That is a real friend, and it’s no surprise that she was the friend who ended up being my maid of honour a couple of years later…  when I married one of our other friends who works as a doctor in said Emergency Department.  (See, it all comes full circle.)

igloo

A photo of me (far left) with some of my friends at Igloofest on that fateful night in 2012

So the first 24 hours after my injury (let’s call the injury Igloo-gate from now on…) were pretty awful.  I’m a nurse, and I actually feel pretty comfortable in hospitals.  The smells and sounds and sights don’t bother me at all, and most of the people working in the hospitals in Montreal are either my friends or friends of my husband…  But lying on a stretcher in my snowsuit for 18 hours in the middle of an Emergency Department hallway on a Saturday night, needing to pee, but unable to get out of bed to do so, was not the type of hospital experience I was used to.  (I will admit, this experience has given me so much sympathy for my patients and their families…)  I wanted to get out of there so bad, I tried to get up and leave on multiple occasions, only to be met with the type of extreme pain that I have never before, nor since, experienced.  I was, to put it bluntly, completely stuck.  I was powerless, totally helpless.  This was not the Saturday night I had imagined when I agreed to go to Igloofest with my friends.

It wasn’t until almost a day, and a few doses of Dilaudid, later that I was finally able to shuffle out of the hospital, and slowly and painfully get myself into my mom’s car…  Tears were streaming down my face the entire time, but the Dilaudid they were giving me for pain control made me so dizzy that I refused to take any more of it.  I was clinging to my mother’s arm for support and shaking from the pain of walking…  I remember that walk across the parking lot to this day in excruciating detail.

So there it is, the story of Igloo-gate.  Embarrassing though it may be, it was actually pretty serious.  I ended up missing a month of work, and starting my first ever stint at physio.  My injury was to my lower back/hip area, where my Sciatic nerve was being compressed due to the swelling caused by my accident.  I was completely unable to walk for the first week or so, unable to bend over to put my pants on, unable to go from standing to sitting without having serious pain shooting all the way down my leg.  I was forced to move home with my parents for weeks (horror!!), and I even almost missed my own 26th Birthday party (again, horror!)  The next few weeks would be mentally and physically tough, even socially tough.  But I learned lessons from that experience that I didn’t even know I needed to learn.

To Come: Dealing with injury:  Learning to be tough, going to physio, and taking control.

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