As many of you know I had a horrible illness over last summer. On July 1st I went to my Olympic lifting training in the morning and felt fine. Around noon my right shoulder blade began to hurt as if I had maybe pulled a muscle. By the 6:30pm class I was barely able to bend over to pick up a pencil off the floor.
When I finally went to the hospital they thought it was an infected gall bladder and took me to a room to prepare for gall bladder surgery. Once I got to the room I started feeling very weird… my arms and legs were numb and I started shaking and my teeth started chattering uncontrollably. They insisted I was having a panic attack, but I told them I didn’t think that could be right. It felt like something was pushing on my spine and causing strange reactions.
They went ahead and removed my gall bladder, but I still felt numb in my arms and legs so they took an MRI, which showed an epidural abscess – an infection on my spine which was pinching the spine and about to paralyze me. I went into immediate emergency surgery where they cut through the muscle, drilled a hole in my spine and sucked out the bacteria. Then they did a culture on the bacteria and gave me an IV infused super-antibiotic. I was in the hospital for a total of 2 weeks and after that I had a picc line IV which ran from my right arm directly to my heart. I had to attach an IV once a day and lie down and give myself my antibiotics for about an hour. This lasted for another 6 weeks after the hospital.
During my recovery time I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavy at all and I wasn’t allowed to sweat. However, while I was in the hospital I noticed that movement made me feel much better, so I got up and did some slow, steady squats while holding onto my bed. My doctors and nurses approved, so over time I started adding lunges. By the time I left the hospital I was doing lunges down the hospital corridors. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt with that little bit of movement. Once I got back to the gym I continued to do squats and lunges and slowly added simple yoga, slow GHD back extensions and GHD situps to parallel (I couldn’t lie on my back), and slow box step-ups holding onto a rail. When I went back to see my spine surgeon he said I was recovering at twice the pace of his normal patients. He also said that the reason they caught the infection as quickly as they did (before the infection paralyzed me) was because I knew my body so well and I was in such good health.
After the 6 weeks ended and the IV was removed I started gradually back into regular CrossFit workouts. My legs felt like lead and there was a slight disconnect between my brain and my legs which made the top of my body slightly ahead of my lower body to the point that I almost fell down a few times. Running was difficult and box jumps were out of the question. Strangely enough, however, double-unders were incredibly easy and I PRed them at 80 reps a couple of weeks after I got back. My Olympic lifts all felt great, too and I have PRed almost all of them since getting back. Step by step everything has come full circle and I feel great in what is really a very short amount of time.
So what is the point to all of this? Well, two things. For one thing, I am seeing a whole new side to gratitude in my life and what I am learning is that gratitude is entirely a choice. It would be really easy for me to say that I have had a really long string of bad luck – nasty divorce, having to move me and my 3 kids into my mom’s house, getting horribly sick and then pounded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills (not to mention not being able to workout for such a long time and gaining weight because of it – cherry on top).
But I can also say that I feel like one of the luckiest people alive. I mean, I am out of an unhappy marriage, living with my awesome mom in an environment where my kids have so many people around them to love them. We are back in Dallas surrounded by family and friends. My kids have great schools and great friends. I opened a business that I LOVE and that allows me the comfort of spending time with my kids in a positive, happy environment. My business partner is one of my best friends and now the 6th fittest man on Earth – and he is training me! My strength and good health helped me to identify and fight this crazy infection off. My illness forced me to get a ton of rest, which in the long run made me stronger. I had incredible doctors who cared for me even though they knew I didn’t have the money to pay them what they were worth. The doctors and medical companies are all working with me and letting me make payments and some of them have even written off my debt.
Don’t get me wrong… Some days I feel like the pulling the covers over my head and hiding from everything that is out there in the world. It can be a very scary place! But I have a choice as to whether I want to view it as a scary place full of bad things that could happen or as an amazing place full of amazing people and places and things to do.
That brings me to the other point to all of this – that I have learned how truly important good health really is. I not only believe it helped me identify and rapidly heal from this infection, but I adamantly believe that living a healthy life is the one thing that ALLOWS me to be grateful more than anything else.
Recovering from a serious illness can wreak havoc on your body and your mind and can send you spiraling into horrible depression. Of course, depression can also come from many other places – I experienced it a lot when I was younger. Once you are in that depressed place it can be really difficult to climb out. Getting yourself some exercise can be just the magic you need. There is something that happens when you get the blood flowing in your body and your mood elevates and you can see more clearly and you are able to get a few things done and then you have the sense of accomplishment that leaves you feeling awesome and ready to conquer the world. The same can be said for a healthy diet. When I nourish myself with food that makes me stronger and healthier it elevates my mood and gives me the strength to see the world as an amazing place and not that scary place that I dread.
The problem with most of us is in getting yourself to get up and get to the gym in the first place. We all have excuses – not enough time or too embarrassed or too out of shape or don’t have the right clothes or a broken foot or a stubbed toe or a pulled muscle or a picc line IV. Whatever your excuse is, you are almost always able to do something. Slow walking, leg lifts while lying in bed, standing up and sitting down, moving your arms… something.
We have a saying at CrossFit Odyssey… Dead Last beats Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start.
All you have to do is start. Do something. Make the choice to find the amazing in the world. Get past the scary and find the gratitude for all that life has to offer you.
We can help.
Ellie Bishop McKenzie CrossFit Odyssey and Odyssey Martial Arts 6162 Sherry Lane Dallas, TX 75225 214-234-0299 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.crossfit-odyssey.com