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Coach Alex’s Recovery Blog
By Alex McDonald, MD
As may of you know Alex was hit by a truck while out training on his bike on Feburary 24th. He suffered two broken legs and several cracked ribs, however, all of us at FFT are extremely grateful that his injuries were not worse. Here Alex will provide a little perspective and some thoughts as he moves thru the process of recovery and return to racing.
First off, sorry for the random, twisting thoughts in this blog, but it many ways, it is my own therapy and wanted to share it with you. It has been 8 weeks since my accident and there is a huge mountain standing in my path to recovery and back to participating in the sport I love, however, we will get to that in a minute.
I distinctly remember lying in the middle of the road with my body in a heap wondering, “what if.” What if I had ridden a different route, what if I had left 30 second later, what if… However, I quickly realized that would do me no good and was able to move to acceptance relatively quickly. This was my position in life for now and I have been able to focus my energies on healing, coaching and spending time with my 8 month old daughter. Sometime when I play with her I shutter with the thought of her not growing up with her father, it terrifies me of what could have happened, but I am alive, grateful for what I do have and focused on making the most of it.
Being a type A triathlete, just like all of us, my initial reaction after the accident was to “DO SOMETHING,” however, I could not, I was mentally and physically exhausted but regardless, there was a nagging sense of guilt that I felt inside. I felt like I should be doing something to get back in shape and speed my recovery. However, a good friend of mind that went through a similar situation recently shared the perfect analogy that really helped to put my mid at ease, climbing Mt Everest. After my injury I was at base camp looking at mt. Everest, and feeling very overwhelmed, however, none of my tools had arrived yet. There is no way that I would even consider trying to climb this mountain without any tools. So I had to wait for my tools, there was nothing I could do and trying to start early could jeopardize the entire project. I simply had to wait and let my body heal enough so that I had the tools I needed to begin the rehabilitation process.
It has been 8 weeks since my accident and Mt. Everest still looms in front of me. I must climb this mountain to not only recover the ability to walk, but also the ability to race triathlon. However, I have to remember how far I have come. I know hold many of the tools I need for this journey and each day I take a step, some days it feels like a step backwards, but often there are days where I take two steps forwards and as a result my progress is slow and steady. Each day I try to get in some type of physical activity, whether is a swim, wheeling myself through the neighborhood, or the hand cycle at the gym. Along with that I have a 20-30min physical therapy routine that I do everyday, it’s not much by my usual standards, but it’s something. I occasionally over do it and my body lets me know. I also don’t feel guilty about taking a day off when I need it, if anything I am more in tune with my body and listen to it’s advice more then ever before, this is a lesson I think everyone should learn. It is amazing to me how difficult it is for me to accomplish tasks, which I completely took for granted; bathing, going to the bathroom and getting the mail were all exhausting. Not only that, but my body has under gone numerous changes over this process and I’m sure it is not done yet. Having been in bed or a wheel chair for the last 8 weeks has caused serve muscle atrophy in my legs. My quads and calves are half or less the size they use to be and lifting and holding my right leg straight while sitting causes twitches in my quad and I cannot hold it for very long.
As of right now I am much more mobile that I was, I am able to chase my baby across the room by scooting on my bottom and log rolling, but my 8 month old daughter is more advanced that I am…I can’t even crawl. However, recently I have been given the green light to bearing 25% of my weight on my right leg and as such means that standing is much easier and walking with crutches is closer than ever. I cannot even begin to describe the utter abhorrence I have for my wheel chair. I cannot wait until I not longer need it.
All that being said, I feel very good about my progress to this point and will know a lot more in a week or two after a follow up appointment with my sports med doctor. In the meantime I am trying to ride the wave accept the ups and downs and always remember how grateful I am for my wife, family and friends.