Post Surgery

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My dog was happy to see us home again.

I’m finally back home from surgery and I’m doing pretty good. Overall, the operation went really well. I ended up staying in the hospital from Friday and got out Tuesday midday. Disclaimer: if you have a weak stomach, then don’t scroll to the bottom to see post op photos.

The operation was definitely a lot more involved than the surgery I had for compartment syndrome and lasted quite a bit longer. Luckily, the surgeon said that the vein they used for the bypass looked great, so hopefully that’ll hold up well over time.

The first night after surgery was pretty rough. My leg kept cramping up. I was on some pain meds including a pump I could use to administer pain medication when I needed it. The only problem was that I was so tired that I would fall asleep and then wake up in excruciating pain because I hadn’t been pressing the button. Then it’s hard to get caught up with pain management. Plus, I guess I had a reaction to the Dilaudid because I could not stop itching – mostly my face, but also my arms and neck. It was pretty strange.

I also found out that I have a DVT (blood clot) in my right popliteal vein. My doctor said he’d be surprised if I didn’t have a DVT. Apparently, they needed to do a lot of manipulation of my vein during surgery. So, that just means I’m taking blood thinners and wearing compression socks. The theory is that as long as I’m on blood thinners, the clot won’t get any worse, and over time will be broken down. Unfortunately, that means the surgery for my left leg will be delayed a bit because I can’t have surgery while still on blood thinners. Hopefully, a repeat ultrasound in a few months will show the clot is gone.

I got up out of bed the day after surgery. It’s pretty painful, but manageable. Bending and straightening it out hurts since the wound is right on a joint. I’ve just been elevating my leg a lot, icing, and working on my range of motion. Netflix and Hulu are helpful too.

Around the second day post op I started feeling nauseated. I was hoping I could tolerate the pain meds better after getting sick from the Percocet after my last surgery. I guess my body really can’t take narcotics, though. I ended up just switching to Tylenol, which has made things manageable. I’d rather be in some pain and not be nauseous than be pain-free and puking. That’s just me, though.

I was discharged on Tuesday and we made it back home on Wednesday. I started physical therapy today and am so glad to be on the road to recovery. I’d take ANY day of post op pain/nausea over the emotional pain the past 10 months have been. I have hated waiting for appointments, waiting for referrals, waiting for test results, and feeling like I was getting nowhere. I can take the painful compartment testing, but I can’t stand feeling lost. I’m just so glad to be headed in the right direction.

I received excellent medical care while at the University of Maryland. The doctors, nurses, PT’s, etc. were all fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about the care I got. I would highly suggest going to the University of Maryland for the treatment of popliteal artery entrapment syndrome.

The pictures below show the scars from surgery. They look pretty bruised up because of the blood thinners, but that’s normal.

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My leg 2 days post op

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the scar on my upper thigh where they harvested the vein to use for the bypass

The blood thinners made me bruise pretty badly from the IV’s.

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Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome

Hey blogging world! Long time no see. I’ve decided to start blogging again to document what’s going on in my life right now. You see, this past year has been absolute hell to put it nicely. I’ve gone from being a marathoner to not being able to walk without pain.

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My feet after walking less than a mile. My right foot loses color and turns a pale white.

I was diagnosed with bilateral popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. I know, it’s a long name. Basically, this means that one of the muscles behind my knee is attached abnormally and is crushing my popliteal artery (the main artery behind the knee). My right popliteal artery is completely blocked and requires bypass surgery and my left popliteal artery is partially blocked when I push off with my foot. Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is a rare problem that normally occurs in young athletes.

It’s been a very long journey getting to this point. I first noticed symptoms last December, although I now realize that I had symptoms long before that. In the matter of about a week, I went from half marathon training to not being able to run for longer than 100 meters because my right calf would cramp so badly. I’m not talking about a little bit of aching. I’m talking about the feeling of trying to run with a Charlie horse. Within a matter of minutes of stopping, though, the pain would completely disappear.

At first, I thought that it was compartment syndrome again, but after repeating that fun test my pressures were normal. There were some other pretty weird symptoms going on too. My big toe is numb and sometimes I get weird tingling sensations in my foot and lower leg. Probably the weirdest one, though, was what happens when I walk. My foot loses color and starts turning a pale white. It’s pretty creepy.

I tried getting a deep tissue massage, didn’t work. I tried physical therapy, didn’t work. MRI didn’t show anything wrong. Then I was referred on to a vascular doctor and a whole new round of tests was done. Ultrasound, treadmill test, an MRA, and finally an arteriogram was done.

All the while my symptoms have been getting worse and worse. It’s now at the point where it hurts just walking. Standing for long periods of time is also painful. Even pushing down on the gas pedal when I’m driving causes my calf to cramp.

Hearing the diagnosis was absolutely shocking. The worst I was expecting was that I had compartment syndrome again and needed another fasciotomy. Instead, I found out that not only do I have popliteal artery entrapment syndrome in my right leg, but my left leg (which is relatively asymptomatic) as well. This probably explains why my right leg has never been all the way better since I had compartment syndrome. That’s probably why I couldn’t get past mile 20 in a marathon without my calf completely seizing up and why I get Raynaud’s so much worse in my right foot than my left.

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My right foot with Raynaud’s syndrome after going swimming. My left foot was a totally normal color. This picture was taken over 3 years ago.

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This is what my foot looked like after trying to do some calf raises.

I’m finally scheduled to have surgery on October 13th at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I will be having a muscle release and bypass done on my right leg. Then I’ll have to wait another 2-3 months and get a muscle release done on my left leg. Even though my left leg doesn’t have many symptoms, they want to fix it earlier on to prevent needing a bypass like my right leg.

I’m looking forward to getting this surgery done so that I can get my life back. I’m a 23-year old marathoner that is in pain just walking. How wrong does that sound?! I want to get this surgery behind me and finally get on the road to recovery.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I plan to make regular updates. I hope that sharing my story will bring a little more awareness to this weird syndrome. Maybe another “Laurel” will find this blog and be able to understand a little more of what to expect.

Back to Reality

Lake Louise

Last Friday we officially made it back home from our wonderful trip. Although it’s only been a week it feels so long ago that we were cycling the west and snuggling into our sleeping bags at night.

The last time I gave an update we were in Nanaimo. From there we continued westward on Vancouver Island to check out Tofino and then spent a few days in Victoria, where we reached 2000 miles. We took a ferry back to the US to Port Angeles, took a hike on Sunset Ridge in the Olympic National Park, camped for the last time at our very first campsite (Manchester State Park) in Port Orchard, and finally went back to Seattle to catch our flight home.

my dad skipping stones on the ocean in Tofino

my dad skipping stones on the ocean in Tofino

taken at the Butchart Gardens

taken at the Butchart Gardens

more Butchart Gardens

more Butchart Gardens

over 2000 miles!

over 2000 miles!

beautiful Victoria!

beautiful Victoria!

Sunset Ridge

Sunset Ridge

This really was a trip of a lifetime and I’m so incredibly grateful that my parents and I were able to make it happen. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for bringing me along on this trip. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as happy as I was during those six weeks. It was like we were in our own little bubble of unreality where we didn’t have to think about real world problems. I’ll definitely miss the adventure of it all, that satisfying feeling at the top of a mountain pass, not knowing exactly what the next day will bring, and cracking up with my mom while secretly taking pictures of my dad sleeping … no, Dad, I won’t post the pictures. 😉 Heck, I’ll even miss getting lost from time to time.

I’m naturally a very practical person. I do the things that are expected of me in life and rarely spend my money on things outside my necessities. However, I don’t want to live my life being boring and not experiencing the things I dream of. This trip really made me realize that we only have so much time on this earth. We’re not guaranteed the next day in life so CARPE DIEM!

What’s next for me? I’m starting my senior year of college (I know, crazy!). In terms of athletics, I’m getting back into my normal running routine. I was able to keep up some mileage when I was biking and got a lot of practice running on tired biking legs. I know I’m fit right now, but biking fitness isn’t the same as running fitness. The sports use different muscles, so I’m planning on gradually building up this fall and possibly doing a couple of shorter races in October or November. My long-term focus will be on the Boston Marathon. Registration opens up in mid-September, so hopefully I’ll get a spot with my qualifying time.

at the beginning of our journey

at the beginning of our journey

Rocky Mountain High

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Fast forward a week and we’re already on Vancouver Island! Tomorrow we’ll be headed towards Tofino on the western side of the island as we hear it is absolutely gorgeous. From Lake Louise we made our way up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, Valemount, Kamloops, Pemberton, Whistler, Vancouver, and now Nanaimo.

The Rockies were incredible and my parents and I agree that it was our favorite part of the trip so far. The ride from Lake Louise to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway was incredible. It was just miles and miles of amazing views.

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my dad and I trying to wade into the glacial water. We made it up to our knees!

my dad and I trying to wade into the glacial water. We made it up to our knees!

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It was also interesting for me to see a mountain that would be impossible to climb up unless you were an experienced rock climber. I probably should’ve realized that earlier when I was researching about the Canadian Rockies, but it’s just so foreign to me. All the mountains in Vermont and even the bigger ones in New Hampshire might have a few tricky spots, but are definitely climbable. Those are little dinky hills compared to the massive mountains out here, though!

the icefields in Jasper

the icefields in Jasper

Taking pics. Don't want to drop your phone off that ledge!

Taking pics. Don’t want to drop your phone off that ledge!

We did a short hike to Lake Kinney

We did a short hike to Lake Kinney

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We didn’t even know it, but British Columbia actually has some desert. It seems like after only a few short days after leaving the Rockies we found ourselves surrounded by dry desert and then canyons. None of us were really expecting that and found ourselves a bit surprised… especially after finding out that one of the campsites we were supposed to stay at was in the middle of an industrial park in the desert. Needless to say we decided to skip through that one and go ahead to the next one. It’s funny how some of the most expensive campgrounds we’ve stayed at have actually been the worst while we’ve actually had some really nice $10 ones.

the desert

the desert

more desertville

more desertville

The beautiful weather at the beginning of our trip definitely spoiled us and we’ve now had a few odd weather days. In Pemberton, BC we were really looking forward to a nice hike the next day, but that just wasn’t an option when we woke up in the morning. The valley was all hazy with smoke from a few wildfires surrounding the area. Now we’ve had a few days filled with rain off and on, but we still are having a lot of fun. We went to a little local fair today as well as a wildlife recovery center, which was really interesting.

the slugs seemed to all emerge during the rain when we were in Whistler

some giant slugs seemed to emerge during the rain when we were in Whistler

One thing I’m looking forward to when I get back? Reliable wifi. I accidentally published the last post as a page instead of a post and didn’t realize it until just now. I apologize to anyone whose comments got deleted! I’ve got things figured out and that won’t happen again. I definitely am not in any rush to get back home, but a decent Internet connection is something I am really looking forward to. In some ways it’s been kind of nice because I’ve barely been online and it feels good not to be plugged in all the time. On the other hand, I know I’m going to have a bunch of real-world stuff to deal with when I get back to school.

Wildlife spotting! We had the amazing opportunity to see a wild black bear in its natural environment the other day. It was pawing through some nettles to reach the abundant blackberries growing in Squamish.  The only odd thing was that it had on a bike helmet as well as bike gloves…

my dad, the rare black bear

my dad, the rare black bear

Okay, but in all honesty we have seen three black bears so far; two adolescent bears crossed the road a ways away when my dad and I were biking and then we spotted a pretty big one eating some berries on the side of the road when we were driving. We also saw a caribou just chilling and munching on some grass.

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It’s hard to believe that our trip comes to a close in less than a week. I remember us wondering if 6 weeks was too long for a trip, but we’ve been having the time of our lives. We’ve never done anything like this before and we’ve been making some amazing memories. That’s all for now. Happy trails!

Grizzly Country

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We have now biked safely away from the wildfire in St. Mary’s and are now in the exact opposite weather; cold and wet. From St. Mary’s we traveled into Canada to Pincher Creek, Fernie, Fairmont Hot Springs, and now Lake Louise. Nights have been getting down into the 30’s and it’s rained almost every day since we left Montana. It definitely hasn’t been pleasant biking weather. I’ve been sleeping with 2 layers on bottom, 4 on top, thick smart wool socks, and a hat. Is it really summer?

the praries in Alberta

the praries in Alberta

our humble abode as we call it

our humble abode as we call it

Despite the nasty weather we still have been having a great time and can’t believe the sites we’ve seen. Alberta and British Columbia sure are beautiful, eh? We spent part of yesterday and today exploring Banff. The mountains are gorgeous and the color of the lakes and rivers isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a cloudy turquoise that almost looks fake. We are also now REALLY in bear area. You know you’re in grizzly country when your campground is surrounded by an electric fence…

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

 

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met a little friend while hiking today

met a little friend while hiking today

My dad and I also passed another milestone in terms of mileage. We’re now over 1500 miles and are hoping to make it to 2000, possibly 2500 but we’ll see. We crossed over the continental divide as well; 5382 feet above sea level! We also had our biggest day so far at 115 miles in one day. It’s a good thing that we’re farther north and it stays lighter for longer or else we might not have made it. I have to admit that it’s a little strange going to bed sometimes when it’s not dark yet. A 9:30 sunset sure is different.

The Continental Divide! My dad is in British Columbia and I am in Alberta

The Continental Divide! My dad is in British Columbia and I am in Alberta

Now we’re headed off to Jasper where the weather forecast actually looks sunny and warm for a few days. Hopefully it’s the truth! I’ll update again soon.

Glaciers and Wildfires

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The last few days have definitely been eventful. We are currently staying in St. Mary, Montana near Glacier National Park. If you haven’t heard, there’s been a large wildfire that started a few days ago on the eastern side of the park. We planned to bike up and over Logan Pass two mornings ago, but unfortunately the wildfire started the afternoon before. It began as only a few acres of fire, but quickly grew to 1000 acres by morning and has now quadrupled in size. The fire isn’t predicted to die down anytime soon, so we ended up detouring around and are staying in a hotel tonight. The air quality on the eastern side is pretty terrible and we didn’t feel comfortable camping and possibly damaging our respiratory systems. It would kind of defeat the purpose of biking all day, right? There’s no need to worry, though, as we are a safe distance from the fire and will be heading out of dodge early tomorrow.

views of the wildfire on the eastern side of Glacier National Park

views of the wildfire on the eastern side of Glacier National Park

Luckily, we were still able to bike up very close to the top of the Going to the Sun Road as the western side where we stayed for a few days was not affected. The route was absolutely breathtaking and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The jagged mountain ranges jutted up from the earth with deposits of snow nestled in their crevices. We made it roughly two miles from Logan Pass to where the road was closed. Are we disappointed we didn’t make it all the way to the top? Of course. However, we definitely understand that safety comes first. We feel way worse about the wildlife that’s being destroyed in the fire and are very thankful for the brave men and women risking their lives to keep us safe. We saw a little fox dart across the highway today in the opposite direction of all the smoke and it breaks my heart to think about all of the creatures suffering right now. Our little bit of disappointment at not reaching our biking goal is insignificant in comparison to the bigger problem that is going on. After all, it just gives me an excuse to come back and bike all the way to the top. I’d love to spend a week or two here exploring all of the hiking trails. We feel as if we only scratched the surface for what Glacier National Park has to offer.

skipping rocks on Lake McDonald

skipping rocks on Lake McDonald

more skipping rocks

more skipping rocks

exploring the hiking trails

exploring the hiking trails

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Had a very nice neighbor at our campground in West Glacier named Bobby

Had a very nice neighbor at our campground in West Glacier named Bobby

catching the sunrise on The Road to the Sun. Bikers aren't allowed on certain sections of the road between 11-4, so we had to wake up really early.

Catching the sunrise on The Road to the Sun. Cyclists aren’t allowed on certain sections of the road between 11-4, so we had to wake up really early.

met some other cyclists from California near the top

We met some other cyclists from California at the highest point we could go. They closed the road the “Big Bend” roughly 2 miles from the top.

Heaven's Peak

Heaven’s Peak

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more amazing views!

saw a few marmots on our climb up the road

saw a few marmots on our climb up the road

Anyways, the last time I gave an update we were in Baker City, Oregon. As I talked about previously, we made the decision to drive through Idaho over to Missoula. That ended up to be a very smart decision on our part because the biking route was very treacherous! The majority of the route was through Hell’s Canyon with a very windy road and little to no shoulder. DEFINITELY not good biking conditions. We spent 8+ hours driving in a canyon and only opened up when we got to Missoula. Between my fear of heights and getting a little car sick with the windy road I was extremely thankful to get out of there and see some sky. We then biked onwards to Big Fork, West Glacier, and are now in St. Mary’s. We will pass into Canada tomorrow and can’t wait to get to Banff and Jasper where I’m determined to see a mountain goat or mountain sheep!

Funny story: I also learned a very tough lesson the other day regarding Montana’s insects. Our biking route took us over a few miles of dirt the other day and my dad ended up getting a flat tire right at the end. As we sat down on the side of the road to fix it I noticed a caterpillar a few feet away and remarked on how cute it looked, but as we got to work fixing his tire I quickly forgot about it. Sure enough, about ten minutes later I felt a prickly something on my leg. I looked down to find the caterpillar curled into a ball on my sock/ankle. What the heck?! As a reflex I quickly brushed it away. Moments later my leg and finger that touched the caterpillar started burning!!!!! I jumped up and told my dad that the caterpillar stung me to which he replied, “Caterpillars don’t sting.” Well, apparently there are poisonous caterpillars in Montana. Buckmoth caterpillars are no joke. It left me with a few welts on my leg and finger. Lesson learned; stay away from caterpillars!

the evil Buckmoth Caterpillar that stung me

the evil Buckmoth Caterpillar that stung me

Not in Kansas Anymore

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We’ve officially made it into Eastern Oregon. Since Eugene we’ve been traveling East to Prineville, Sisters, Ochoco National Forest, Dayville, Bates, and finally Baker City. The scenery has changed so much and we’re amazed that all these different landscapes are in just one state. The coast had huge cliffs into the ocean with long stretches of beach, then lots of rolling hills and greenery, which actually reminded me a bit of Vermont, and the Eastern part is more desert-like with huge mountains, buttes, and sage. It’s called a high desert and my parents and I agreed that we’ve never seen anything like it. The painted hills were incredible and we felt as if we should be riding horses instead of bikes and wearing cowboy hats, not helmets.

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We passed our first 1000 miles today! Woot! We had our first big climbs, which put any hill I’ve biked up before look like a piece of cake. The Cascades are no joke. We’ve climbed up the Ochoco Divide, Keys Crest, Dixie Pass at the tallest 5277 ft, Tipton Pass, and Sumpter Pass. We’re biking mountains! As long as we take it slow and take breaks when we need to we can make it to the top. The Road to the Sun might be a different story, but we’re going to give it our best shot!

There have been a variety of other bikers that we’ve met along the way. Yesterday we passed by Mike from Junea, Alaska who was traveling in the opposite direction. It’s interesting to exchange stories with people and give/get tips for what’s to come on our adventures.

Mike from Juneau

Mike from Juneau

There also hasn’t been much cell phone service on this leg of our journey. It’s been a little unnerving seeing “no service” on my screen all day, but I’m glad we’re traveling together. My mom has been sticking more closely to us because we just can’t contact each other by phone otherwise. It’s been a huge help having her as our support person for this trip. Yes, people bike tour without a support vehicle, but we wouldn’t be able to go as far because we’d be carrying so much more stuff and we wouldn’t have a dry car to hop into when it starts pouring rain. Most importantly, is that she watches out for our safety. We used other touring maps to help plan our route, but some of our route isn’t on those maps and there’s no way of knowing what the roads will be like. Sometimes there are huge shoulders with smooth pavement, but once in a while it’ll be winding roads with no shoulder and huge logging trucks going by. When things get too hairy we can load our bikes onto the car and be driven until it is safer. Other cyclists don’t have that luxury, and for that we are extremely thankful. Thanks, mom! Plus, it’s been fun having a running buddy with me at the end of the day.

We made the decision to skip ahead by car for a few days of our trip in Idaho. That way we can really explore Vancouver Island and maybe see a little bit more of Seattle. We’re more interested in those parts of our trip versus what we would see in Idaho (no offense, Idaho, I’m sure you’re great, but we only have 6 weeks). This way we’ll feel less stressed about getting to the end and will really have the time to explore what we want.

Also, a very important announcement is that my dad and I finally came up with names for our bikes. His is Silver and mine is Brawn. That way he can say “High Ho Silver!” and I can say, “Come on, Brawn!” Your mind goes to some weird places when you’re on your bike for hours on end each day.

A Funny Story: In case you wanted to get your laugh in for the day, I’ll let you in on a stupid story that happened to us the other morning. In the Eastern part of Oregon apparently it’s popular to water your lawns, which is foreign to us in Vermont because our grass is almost always green. I don’t really understand it as green lawns look so out of place in a desert, but whatever floats your boat I guess. The other morning my mom and I were awoken to something hitting the side of our tent. Suddenly, she yelled, “the sprinklers!!!” My mom turned to panic mode and I of course just started laughing. Our tent wasn’t even on the grass, but on the dirt part of our tent site. We hadn’t been warned about the sprinklers and they got our fire pit, picnic table, and tent a sopping wet mess. It was a great morning.

That’s all for now. Happy Trails!