About Me

Hi there, my name is Laurel! I originally started this blog to write about my greatest passion; running. I wrote about recent races, running gear, training strategies, and of course my random adventures. I ran cross-country, track, many road races, 8 half marathons, and two full marathons.IMG_2091

unnamed

10724810_686990891396411_928805308_n

Crossing the line at Baystate! Qualified for Boston with a time of 3 hours 29 min

IMG_2256

Life was pretty great. Then in June of 2017 I was diagnosed with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome, a rare vascular problem that occurs in young athletes. I was born with my popliteal arteries in my gastrocnemius (calf) muscle. As a result of my running my calves grew in size and crushed the artery, which was in an abnormal place. My life was flipped upside down. I went from marathon training to being in pain doing the simplest of activities. Walking hurt, driving hurt (pushing on the gas pedal), even standing hurt!

IMG_3073

My feet after walking a mile. Notice any color change in my toes? That shows how bad the circulation was in my right leg.

unnamed 2

My right foot with Raynaud’s syndrome after going swimming. My left foot was a totally normal color. This picture was taken 3 years before I was diagnosed with PAES. The asymmetry between my feet was a warning sign that was missed.

After previously taking a few years off from blogging I returned to document my experience with this strange syndrome. I had bypass surgery in October 2017 and a muscle release in February 2018. The journey has had lots of ups and downs and is full of unknowns. It’s made going through compartment syndrome at 15 years old look like a piece of cake. Here’s the link to that story.

I hope to create some more awareness for popliteal artery entrapment syndrome and maybe provide some more information to somebody else going through the same thing.

IMG_5736

a few hours after surgery #1. So many tubes!!!!

IMG_6203-1

 

31 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hey Laurel!
    Looking for someone with firsthand knowledge of both PAES and CECS…….Looks like you’re the girl!! 🙂 My 15-year-old son is an elite soccer player…..Plays for a Major League Soccer Academy. He’s been having symptoms of either PAES or CECS for 5 months now and we are getting ready to travel to Boston to see a physician there for an opinion. Would SO MUCH LOVE to talk to you! I just added my email address to follow your blog……..Would it be possible to either email or speak?
    Thanks kindly!
    Tammy

  2. Hi Laurel,

    This is crazy that i’ve found this blog and my mind is blown!! I didn’t think there was other people like me out there! I was diagnosed with popliteal artery entrapment syndrome in 2017 and in total have had 7 surgeries since then to try and fix it. Just had hopefully my last one a month ago today and am trying to recover. So far this has been my easiest recovery but the resting stage is always the easiest part, as you know. Do you have any advice on recovering? I’ve been through 3 years of physical therapy and I know what to expect but I always discovered quickly when the surgery didn’t work so this time will hopefully be different because my second to last surgery seemed to make a difference but I had to get my other leg done so now I am starting my therapy all over again. I’ve never known how far to push myself because I always knew the surgery didn’t work when I was in excruciating pain after doing 10 squats. Now that I have hope that both legs will recover nicely, I am unsure how to push myself to get to a point where I can run and get back into fitness. I used to be a soccer player but I haven’t played since 2015 because of the pain. How did you get past the mental barriers created to breakthrough and get back on track? Any advice would help!! Thanks so much

    • Hi Jess, glad you found my blog! Wow, 7 surgeries. You’ve definitely been through a lot! I’m still in the process of learning how to push myself and how much is too much versus too little. It’s honestly just been a matter of experimenting. I’ve found it hard to tell what is “good” and “bad” pain anymore. My PT told me as a rule of thumb that any nerve problems that pop up (pins and needles, numbness) mean that I need to slow down or take a break from exercising. I find it difficult to tell what is just muscle fatigue and what are symptoms of bad blood flow. The cramping/weakness of bad blood flow can feel similar to normal muscle fatigue…. at least at the beginning, and then it becomes obvious that something more is going on. Sorry that probably doesn’t answer your question very well. Honestly I’m still learning how much I can push myself. What type of PAES do you have? Anatomical or Functional? Do you mind me asking what the surgeries have been so far?

  3. Hi Laurel,

    I’m so glad you created this blog! Yours has been the only useful information I’ve been able to find about Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome – so thank you!!

    I was just diagnosed officially last week with a “severe” case in both legs. I’ve had lower leg pain plaguing me for years and constantly getting in the way of my running. I’m so happy to know there’s finally a name and a real condition. I was constantly being told it’s shin splints or that I was training wrong and that maybe I’m not mean to be a runner. I’ve been referred countless times to new docs. My Ortho is now handing me off to a vascular surgeon, but no one has actually talked to me since my angiogram to tell me what the heck happens next. I have no idea yet the surgical plan or approach. I’m super nervous and I just want to get it over with. I’m a planner and type A personality, so being able to read about your experiences has been really helpful! Thanks again!

    • Hi Sara, I’m so glad that you’ve found my blog helpful. There is so little information out there about PAES since it’s so rare.

      And yes, it can be so validating to finally find out the diagnosis. For me trying to find answers was by far the worst part. Surgery and recovery was by no means fun, but I’d rather go through that than still be looking for answers. When are you meeting with your surgeon? Yeah, it can be really stressful waiting and not knowing what’s to come. Good luck with everything! You can do it! and I’d love to hear from you about how everything goes.

      • Hi Laurel,
        So I met with my surgeon finally. She’s great and made me feel comfortable about what’s to come. She has only personally seen one other case like mine. (Trying not to let that scare me). After I met her, she sent me to Ultrasound for “vein mapping” and an MRI of my knee anatomy so she knows exactly what she’s dealing with. She wanted to make sure she knew where to find a viable vein if a bypass is needed as well as what in my knee is causing the entrapment before getting in there. The ultrasound showed the exact some result as the angiogram – 100% occlusion in both legs while flexing. I’m still waiting to find out WHEN we can schedule surgery (hoping to hear from her today).This is such a long process!!

        You’ve inspired me though, to also blog about my own experiences with this. I’m a web designer, so why not?! It’s really fascinating and there’s so little info for people out there! For example, I’m in a running group that is training for a 1/2 marathon at the end of this month. We have an extremely experienced college cross country coach leading us. This is the first time she’s heard of this as well. She’s grateful to know about it now, considering how many people get diagnosed with compartment syndrome. I wonder how many people diagnosed with that might actually have this…

        I’ll give an update post surgery! Thanks again!
        -Sara

        • Hi Sara, sorry for the late reply. That’s great that you had a good appointment with your surgeon. Hopefully you can schedule the surgery soon. Awww, and that’s awesome that you are going to blog about this!!!! This syndrome is so rare, and a blog would help create more awareness for sure. Plus, blogging has kept me pretty entertained this past year.

          Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not, but there’s a facebook group for people with this syndrome. “Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome Support”. I’ve found it super helpful, and there’s a list of surgeons that people have seen and their reviews of them basically under “files” if you wanted to check it out. Do you live in the US? There’s people from all over the world in the Facebook group, which is pretty cool.

          Are you going to be making a separate blog or using your other website? I’d love a link if you’ve started. 🙂

          • I did find and join that FB group. It’s been very helpful and simultaneously, very scary! I’ve read a lot of horror stories on there and get myself really freaked out. But as someone so cleverly mentioned, the people who had successful surgeries and recoveries, aren’t really hanging around in online support groups, so it’s a bit skewed. All the more reason for me to blog about my own experience – good or bad. I’ll share the link when it goes live. It will be separate from my freelance website, so I’ll share the link when I have it ready to go.

            I’m getting a second opinion next week – and then I’ll have to make a decision on all this.

            • Oh good, glad you found that resource. It’s true, yeah, I remember getting really freaked out the first time I looked on there. Like you said, it’s important to remember how support groups can be skewed, but there still is some really helpful info on there. And yes, more reason to share your story! Good luck with the second opinion!

  4. Spent some time reading and catching up on your blog Lolo. Youre a good writer as well as runner. So nice to see all the pics of fam and friends and familiar sights in Boston. Love you!

  5. My favorite part about your About Me is “I can leave in a grump about something and come back smiling and laughing.” This is so true!! There have been so many times I leave for a run super upset about something, and come back smiling. You are awesome! Keep it up girl 🙂

    • Glad to know that someone else is like that as well! It’s amazing how a little time running/exercise can change your whole mood around. and thanks! You’re awesome too! I’m excited to follow your blog. 🙂

  6. Well Laurel, maybe your half-finished marathon was a good experience after all. Sounds like you had to dig deep and really reflect to develop such a healthy perspective about it. Triumph is so easy. Good for you!

      • Well Laurel knowing when to stop is a sign of a smart runner. It got hot fast and the hills got worse. I hit the wall at mile 21 and had to walk a few times. It was a very tough day, By the way I was the one that recognized you as we ran through Kennebunkport. What were the odds of that happening!!!

  7. You’re so lucky! I ran track and cross country in high school, but didn’t continue running competitively after that (except for an annual 5k) until I picked it back up 6 years ago. I wish I had never stopped, who knows what I could’ve accomplished. Who knows what you can accomplish!!!

    • I feel like it’s pretty common for people to stop running after high school and then pick it back up later. or not… some don’t ever pick it back up! Maybe taking some time off, though, will make you appreciate running even more and make you more motivated. who knows?

  8. Hi Laurel, thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog! I look forward to reading your blog and maybe learning about nutrition- whatever that is 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s