Just a Little Patience

It’s been a month now since my training came to a complete halt when I was in a car accident that messed up my back. I’ve definitely made progress and I’ve been feeling pretty good…for the most part. For a couple weeks, I didn’t know what to expect from day to day. Sometimes my back was sore in the morning and at night but okay the rest of the day. Other times I felt fine first thing and got sore as the day went on. I’ve had several stretches of time where I thought I felt good enough to consider exercising again, then a new pain popped up to defeat my hopes. The last month has been extremely frustrating. This is much different from the kinds of injuries I’ve dealt with in the past, and my back is not something I want to mess around with.

Pretty much all activity has been on hold. For nearly a month, there has been no running, biking, swimming, or weights. I’ve been able to go for a few walks without pain, but that’s been about it. I keep attempting little things to see how it feels. I’ve found that although I CAN do certain things, I shouldn’t and end up paying for it later. Hanging from the pull-up bar and doing just one pull-up led to pain and soreness for the next two days. I’ve tried a few free weight curls, push-ups, planks, etc. and everything has resulted in back pain the next day. It’s frustrating because it seems like these things should be no big deal. I have to accept that my body still isn’t ready and I really need to be patient. When I’ve taken a break from running in the past, at least I could swim, bike, and lift weights. I’ve come to realize that pretty much everything uses the back in one way or another. After a month off, one of the things that kills me the most is knowing that I’ll be starting from scratch with all forms of training.

As I try to reintroduce activity, it seems like walking has been the safest way to start. I’ve walked as far as four miles without any issues. I got brave enough to try three miles on the elliptical last week and was frustrated by the results. I felt my back in my two main trouble spots, then my lovely IT band problem flared up and irritated my left knee after a couple miles. I’d been making really good progress with that injury prior to the accident, but I haven’t been able to do my hip/glute rehab exercises since the accident. Most of the exercises extend my back in a way that I need to avoid for now. As a result, I think my IT band has regressed. I suspect any attempts at running could be ugly until I can get back on track with the rehab exercises.

I’ve hesitated to try biking because my back gets sore pretty quickly when I sit without back support. I figured I’d give it a shot this past Saturday and I’d quit if I got uncomfortable. I kept the resistance low and successfully rode for half an hour. Finally – something I can do! I’m still feeling some discomfort in my back every day and have to be careful about certain movements, but I’m hoping things are starting to look more promising.

In the meantime, being so busy lately has helped keep me from trying too much. I went to my primary care doctor a week after the accident just to make sure everything seemed okay. I don’t think I gained much from that visit, but at least it helped reassure me that I should be fine. The doctor also made me realize that issues I’ve had with my left ear are due to noise from the side airbag. I’ve had occasional problems with sound getting distorted if it’s too loud. I hadn’t really thought about how loud airbags are, but it’s similar to having a gun go off right next to my ear. Luckily it’s not much of a problem and hopefully it will fade with a little more time. I’ve also been busy with chiropractic appointments. I’ve been going to one chiropractor three times per week and my active release/sports rehab chiropractor one time per week. They have different techniques and while the one chiropractor concentrates mostly on spinal adjustments, the other uses active release that gets the tissues and muscles. He also helps me figure out which exercises are safe at this point. I’m thankful to have a couple of great doctors who are helping me get back on track.

Hopefully the black cloud hanging over me goes away soon because I’m having a streak of bad luck on the road lately. Since the insurance company chose to total my car, I got a new one about a week later. Unfortunately, it seems like I’ve developed a tradition of breaking in my new car by blowing out a tire. When I got my last car, I hit a pothole and destroyed a tire after one month. This time, it only took me one week. Unbelievable. It was on the same stretch of road both times, so now I really dread driving through that area. At least I was just over a mile from home and was able to pull into a parking lot. Plus, since my first flat tire experience had happened only a year ago, it was still fresh in my mind and I was much smoother at changing it myself. It’s also a good thing I was so close to home because Matt was able to come help me. After taking my tire/wheel off the car, I realized it was heavier than I thought and it wasn’t very smart to lift it with my back problem. I’m very lucky that Matt could come help and lift my trashed tire into the trunk!

Obviously the last month has been a bit more exciting than I’d like. Hopefully things settle down and the drama is over. For now, I’m going to continue to be cautious and take things slowly as I try to get back to normal. I’m still hopeful that I’ll have time to get ready for the triathlon season this year. Recovering properly is the most important thing though, so I’m going to try to be as smart and patient as possible.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

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Car Crash

I’m sure you can guess by the title of this blog that it’s not going to be a good one. On Monday afternoon, I was in my first real car accident when my car was T-boned on the passenger side.

My poor car

My poor car

It was a sunny day with clear roads as I drove from work to the gym. I was less than a mile from the gym when it happened. I was cruising westbound on a main road around 40-45 mph when I saw the red Chevy Cruze on the neighborhood street to my right. There was just enough time for me to think, “Oh crap, he’s not going to stop.” Then BOOM, he flew into the right side of my car. I was completely conscious the whole time, but it was so fast that I couldn’t register everything that happened. I came to a stop and couldn’t see much, then I realized my side airbags were hanging down. I didn’t even know what to do. The car was stopped, so I tried to start it but it wouldn’t start. I realize now that the ignition may have shut off automatically and I probably didn’t even have the car in park. I wasn’t thinking straight then though. I was able to get out of the car and went to the side of the road. My car that had been headed westbound was now facing eastbound in the eastbound lane.

The kid who hit me (who I found out later was 21) came over to see if I was okay. I didn’t feel anything initially and it seemed like I was just rattled but otherwise fine. A nice woman stopped to make sure I was okay, and she stuck around while I called Matt and the police. I’m so thankful for smartphones because it made it easy to search for the right number to call, though it took a few minutes of me typing the wrong letters as my fingers kept shaking. After calling the police, I just stood at the side of the road. The kid said maybe I could try the car again to see if it would move. I did want to get it off of the main road where it was blocking traffic. I climbed in under the airbag and realized I still had to put it in park. Sure enough, the car started and I moved onto a side street. I called Matt again, and luckily he was able to leave work and meet me within 15 minutes or so. I knew I should take some pictures, so I snapped some of the side of my car.

The Oakland County sheriff’s deputy came pretty quickly. He asked me what happened then moved on to the kid. The kid’s mom had shown up and asked if I wanted to wait in her car. I was freezing out in the cold so I went in her car with the heat on for a minute. The deputy asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance, then told me I could wait in my car. I didn’t really want to go back in seeing as how a powdery substance comes out of the airbags and makes the car smell, but I got in anyway and cranked the heat. As I sat there, I realized the kid didn’t get to wait in HIS car – he was in the deputy’s car. The whole time we were there I never saw him get out of the car. Matt got there and I rotated on and off between crying and trying to compose myself. At some point the deputy asked if I was hurt and I said I thought my back was a little sore. He was pretty gruff and wanted a yes or no answer, so I said no. I knew that although I was a little sore at the moment, it would probably be another story by the next day. Aside from my back, my left ear felt like there was water in it or something. It didn’t feel blocked up, but there was a crackling noise. On the surface, I was totally fine. The front airbag didn’t go off, I didn’t hit the steering wheel or anything else, and the side airbags didn’t seem to do anything to me. The deputy returned my license and stuff and gave me a printout with the incident number. We had to go online to purchase the actual report. A tow truck came for my car because the airbags had deployed so I couldn’t legally drive it. We were right around the corner from the dealer, so I asked to drop the car there. I gathered some of my stuff from the car then went to Matt’s car to contact the insurance company.

Matt had an appointment with the chiropractor that afternoon and I said he should still go. He tried to convince me to come in with him, but I was still so rattled and kept crying every few minutes, so I didn’t want to go in and make a scene. He was able to get good information from his doctor and I was convinced that I should get in there as soon as possible. I’m glad we have experience with chiropractors and not only had one to turn to, but also knew the importance of getting in there after trauma like an accident. When we got home, we went to the website to get the crash report. It’s kind of annoying that I had to pay $15 for it, but I wanted more info. I was curious why I never saw the kid get out of the deputy’s car. The report said the kid had a suspended license, so that explains things. That made me even more angry. The report also showed that the kid was clearly at fault for failing to yield to a stop sign. At least there was no question about who was at fault.

I worried about my back when I went to sleep that night and made sure to lie flat on my back. I got terrible sleep. I still felt okay, but I was so worried about all of the things I’d have to deal with that I couldn’t get my mind to shut off. The next morning I was able to get a ride to work with my awesome cubemate, who was also great about taking me to a rental car place after work. I moved slowly in the morning and could tell my back was sore. I had taken some Aleve and figured it helped mask some of the pain. I was able to survive work, but I was very cautious. I take photos of cars and various parts of cars that are being tested, which often requires me to contort my body to get the shots. I really didn’t like squatting or maneuvering around things and made sure I didn’t do anything I shouldn’t. As the day went on, I couldn’t tell if my stomach was cramping or if I was feeling my ribs. In general, I was just sore and very aware of my back.

I was very fortunate that Matt’s chiropractor was willing to see me Tuesday evening. I had met the doctor before, but I had never been to him myself. Since he works with our insurance and is so close to home, I knew I should give him a try. He had me explain what happened, examined me, and gave me a gentle adjustment. He even stayed late to make sure we took care of X-rays. His initial look at the X-rays showed that my spine had twisted. We set an appointment for me to come back and analyze the X-rays more thoroughly the next day. We had plans to go to an Oakland University basketball game that night and I wanted to give it a shot. I held up pretty good, but I got pretty uncomfortable as the night went on. The game went into overtime (resulting in an OU win!) but I couldn’t handle the discomfort anymore and headed home early.

On Wednesday, I realized my stomach was not cramping and I was definitely feeling soreness around my ribs. Not the ribs themselves, but the muscles and/or tissues around them. The chiropractor confirmed that it was probably due to the twisting motion my body had gone through. I felt discomfort in the middle of my chest too. I still felt my back, with the lower back being the worst. I didn’t really have much pain, but I was extremely uncomfortable. I was able to do what I needed to at work, but I really didn’t want to be there. I was so uncomfortable that I felt pretty miserable. That evening I got to see my X-rays. In addition to a few other issues, my lower back had twisted pretty good and seemed to be the primary concern. I knew well enough that it meant a lot of visits to the chiropractor. We went through the options, with his recommendation being to come three times a week for the next two to three months. Of course I don’t HAVE to follow his recommendation, but that’s the best bet to make sure we really fix the problem and hope it doesn’t continue to haunt me over time.

When I got home that night, I was just mad. The night of the accident, I was shaken up and emotional. The day after, I was sore and uncomfortable. By Wednesday night I was in a really foul mood. I was pissed that this stupid kid who shouldn’t have been driving had screwed things up so bad. Now I was going to be stuck going to the chiropractor all the time. Don’t get me wrong – I think the doctor is a great guy and I really like him, but I sure don’t want to visit him all the time. I’d been on the phone and computer a ton to deal with the rental car, auto versus health insurance, whether my car might be totaled and I’d have to get a new one, etc. I knew that our hopes of taking a weekend road trip to Pittsburgh to see three of our favorite bands was not going to happen. I knew that participating in the indoor triathlon the following week was not going to be a good idea. I was pissed. I was extremely thankful that things were not worse and that I was relatively fine. A quick glance at the news was enough to give some perspective that my problems were really not that bad. Still, I was angry.

By Thursday, my mood was a little better. I felt better than I had the previous two days, but I still felt back stiffness in the car. I was moving better at work, but I was still cautious. Bending over, squatting, or rotating certain ways made me aware of my back instantly. After talking to someone at the dealership and someone from the insurance claims department on Tuesday, I knew that my car was damaged bad enough that it was going to be a close call whether they decided to repair it or total it. Everyone I talked to told me that I’d want it to be totaled. I’d have to wait at least a month for it to be repaired and would have to pay for the rental car that whole time. Even after they fixed it, I’d always wonder if they really fixed everything or if any rattle or problem that developed was from the accident. My car would certainly lose resale value. Well, I got the call that I wanted on Thursday afternoon informing me that they were going to total it. They were going to write a check for the market value of the car, and the amount they gave me was right around what I’d been hoping for.

At first glance, it seems like some damaged doors aren’t reason enough to total a car. Especially since I’d only had the car for one year! However, the damage extended into the front and rear just beyond the doors, requiring replacement of those parts. The side airbags would have to be replaced, as would the headliner that ripped when the airbags went off. With all of the parts and labor required, I guess it was more worthwhile for the insurance company to write a check and get money for all of the parts they could salvage from the car.

The damage

The damage

That door is a mess

That door is a mess

Airbags and headliner damage

Airbags and headliner damage

I headed to the dealer to get the rest of the stuff from my car and to start debating if I should try a different kind of vehicle or stick with the one I had. I test drove another one, but ultimately decided that I really liked what I had and wanted to stick with it. Full disclosure – I’m a contract worker at GM so I may be biased, but I sure was happy with how my Buick Verano handled the crash. It kept me safe and I’ve loved the vehicle for the year that I’ve had it, so I’m sticking with it. While it was fun to shop for a new car, I decided to stick with what I know I like. Hopefully everything will come through by early next week and I’ll be in a nice new car.

Though it seems like I’ve felt better the last couple days, by the evening my back is usually worse. The work week was kind of miserable simply because my back has consumed my thoughts almost constantly. I’m feeling it pretty much all of the time. Even when it’s not painful, there’s an aching and uncomfortable feeling there. The tissues and muscles around my abs and ribs are still sore at times. At this point, I’m just worried. I hope that a few months of going to the chiropractor will fix everything, but is there something else going on internally that I don’t know about? Every time I feel a twinge of anything, it makes me worry. My chest was bothering me on Friday night and it freaked me out. I have no idea if anything else could be wrong. I worry that a visit to my normal doctor wouldn’t tell me much if there’s something going on internally. Searching the internet on Friday night was probably not a good way to ease my mind. Reading about people in simple fender benders who ended up with serious health issues doesn’t make me feel good about what this pretty major side impact could have done to me.

In the meantime, my routine of swimming, biking, running, and lifting weights is on hold. I don’t want to do anything stupid, especially when my back hurts whether I’m sitting or standing. The chiropractor asked when my next race was, and he basically let me know there’s always the next one. I had been training so hard and was really excited for the indoor tri on the 15th, but I know I shouldn’t even consider it. Right now I need to make sure my body heals. This is a setback I sure wasn’t prepared for, but hopefully time and chiropractic adjustments will help and I’ll be active again soon.

If anyone out there has been through something like this before and has any advice, please feel free to share.

One more side note – I find it kind of ironic that after months of not photographing one, I’m taking photos of a side impact test at work on Monday. It figures.

– Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography