Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wheelchair Clinic

December 18th saw me at the Wheelchair Clinic at the Lake City VAMC.

I have fought a long, hard fight to avoid a wheelchair; I fought to keep running; at some point you have to face the facts, and realize your physical well being takes precedence.

Earlier this year I was placed in a handcycle, and realized just how stressful it had been trying to run with the problems I have. i can still "run" in a lot of races, and I enjoy it just as much - if not more - than I did before during my run/walks.

Now, I have been sent to the wheelchair clinic because of my fractured foot ... or so I thought.

That was NOT the only reason (but it was a factor) - the risk of falling with an increased risk of a spinal fracture was DEFINITELY in play. The Orthopedic doctor in charge of the Wheelchair Clinic was there to see me o/O . She had some "words" with me, and said I should have been in MUCH sooner to see about a wheelchair! She had ALREADY approved a wheelchair for me! It was NOT pleasant to be on the receiving end of what was essentially someone calling me a horse's ass - even though she was right.

They did discuss a power chair, but I did resist enough - and get them to agree to - an ultralight wheelchair with Power assisted wheels.

The final product should be similar to this one:


Am I happy about moving to a wheelchair full time - hell no! Will it be for the better? In hindsight, I will probably admit that it is.

This will take the load off of my injured right arm (confirmed that it IS tendonitis along with the previous injuries) and allow me to resume racing in my handcycle at some point.

Bittersweet, but ...


December 16th, I traveled to the Gainesville VAMC to see Endocrinology.

After an extensive workup, the Fellow went to talk with the head of Endocrinology, and I had the (questionable) pleasure of having a workup by her, too.

They are concerned, and want to find the root cause of the Neuropathy and Foot Drop - possible causes mentioned in the Doctor's Notes are scary ...

1. Guillain-Barre syndrome - possibly caused by a VERY adverse reaction to a Flu Shot while on active duty;
2. Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord - oh joys.
3. Possible exposure to Agent Orange

They have also confirmed the bone density loss ... and the increased risks of spinal fractures - especially IF (when) I fall.

Lots of lab work ordered, and return in 2 - 3 months.

Tough Decisions

I had signed up for several races LONG before fracturing my foot and developing tendonitis.  Now I was faced with some tough decisions ...

I canceled my Space Coast Marathon run; I spoke with Jeff Galloway, and had the Jeff Galloway 13.1 entry changed to a Virtual Run; I cancelled out on the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic;  and toughest of all ... I deferred the 2015 Dopey until 2016.

I haven't made any registrations for any runs - and won't until I have some improvement in my right arm.

Fracture Follow-up

November 19th, I saw the VA doctor for a followup on my fractured foot - not good.

Radiology says there is "little significant change" since the X-rays in October. Even with Large doses of Calcium and Vitamin D3 and the use of the electronic Bone Growth Stimulator, "little significant change".

I'm still supposed to stay off of it unless "absolutely necessary" Non-weight bearing and mostly bed rest.

To top things off, because of the use of a walker to keep the weight off of my foot (and the last two races), I have tendonitis in my previously injured right arm.

This is starting to SUCK!

Next up - Endocrinology and Wheelchair clinic in December ... and a fracture follow-up in January.

The Whine & Drown Half

Okay ... fasten your seatbelts.

The drive down went better than expected - very light traffic and NO construction!

First stop - the Expo at WWOS. More organized than the ones in the past, but not as many runners could have been a factor in that. Even with fewer runners, it was still very crowded and having to maneuver in a wheelchair makes it even worse. Some people are very good about letting you through - others seem to have their eyes stuffed up a dark hole and are oblivious to anyone else.

Packet pickup - no problem; transportation booth - no problem (but they gave me some bad information - more about that later); pick up shirt - no problem  ... and some Pixie Dust! I run for a young boy who cannot run, and the people behind the counter must have heard me mentioning it to a friend of mine picking up his shirt, also. I was asked what size the boy wore ... and I got my shirt AS WELL AS one for him! After checking out some of the other Expo Booths, I returned to the Information Booth where two assistants came out with me to my car to pick up my racing chair. They were storing it overnight, and would have it staged for me in the start area to save a LOT of transportation issues the next night.

This trip I was staying at Shades of Green, which was a first for me. A short drive, and I was there.

The Valet service there is exceptional. Got my Wheelchair unloaded and me on my way in no time at all. Check-in was a breeze. They explained things even better than Disney Resort CM's!

I was in the Magnolia Wing ... and all the decorations reflected that. Baskets of Magnolia Blossoms, etc. Unfortunately, it was a long roll to the elevator to my room.

Saturday was going to be a long day.

There was a Team AllEars Alumni meet up that I debated over, and decided to attend. It was being held at Boardwalk Bakery, I needed to be parked in the handicapped parking at EPCOT after the race that night, so I drove to EPCOT. First up - exchange my renewal certificate for my new AP. WTFort! there were several HUNDRED people in the Will Call lines! The regular lines to purchase tickets were backed up almost to the bag check area! Guest Relations outside EPCOT had a 2 HOUR wait time ... all this at 10:30 in the morning! Once I made it through that nightmare, It was off to Boardwalk ...

After the meet, I headed back to EPCOT, and spent most of the afternoon riding a few rides and grazing at the Food & Wine Kiosks.

After that, I slowly cruised around people watching until it was time to head out to the car to get my racing gear.

After changing shirts and dropping my pants in the parking lot ( I DID have my racing pants on under the shorts I wore, so no flashing involved :rofl2: ), I headed back toward EPCOT. The people there, directed me toward the regular bus stop area - which confirmed the BAD information I received the day before at the transportation booth! There was a small group of us there, and no luck spotting a race transportation person or vehicle.  We made our way back past EPCOT and ALL the way past the Race Finish area before there were any buses in sight! That added a couple of miles ...

Once at the transportation area, they quickly arranged my wheelchair van to pick me up, take me to WWOS, and drop me off at the wrong location a LONG way from where I needed to be. Once at the actual pre-race area, I needed to get to the Information booth to swap to my racing chair ... by rolling across a sandy, grassy field! Finally I made it there, and my racing chair was waiting.

We got staged for the Start; we are just a few minutes out; it starts misting rain!

By the time we started, the rain was picking up a little.

By the time we got to AK, there were puddles forming, the rain was really starting to come down ... and I was having to REALLY watch out for the faster runners. Wet brakes and face fulls of spray do NOT make for a safe way to move at higher speeds in a racing chair. The weather was starting to take it's toll on my shoulder, also. The Marine Corps Marathon two weeks previously had put a LOT of stress on it due to some outrageous hills, and it hadn't had time to really get over that, yet. Near the end of the loop through AK (around the 5 mile point), I stopped at one of the Medical Tents to get a large helping of BioFreeze rubbed into my upper arm and shoulder. That helped, but I knew it was just covering up the problem and I would pay for it later.

The trip from AK to DHS was a nightmare of puddles and even harder rain. I had a bike escorting me, and I told him to just ease along and clear my path and I would follow his lights ... because I couldn't see very far in front of me even with an excellent light. The Studios - major puddles; Osborne lights that were just glaring glows of color through the downpour ... and one hill runDisney had assigned a helper to - because it was so slick NONE of the racing chairs could get enough traction to climb it.

The walkway from DHS to Boardwalk - it's narrow. Did I mention poor braking; poor vision ... and some runners that didn't seem to understand that. One runner literally stepped in front of me and slowed down. Luckily another runner snatched her out of the way, because I was skidding toward her. The Boardwalk itself ... have you ever been on the Boardwalk when it was wet? Greased Goose Fat is sticky compared to it. When it's still raining, it's even worse. NO ONE ran there - it was walk carefully ... or else!

Into EPCOT next to The Land; across by SSE and out backstage to a CM Parking lot ... and the finish.

I had people that met me at the finish; helped me to my wheelchair; helped me transfer back to the wheelchair; and then pushed me around to collect the swag and take me and the racing chair out to my car. They got everything loaded and me on my way ... because I was NOT going to stay for the party by that time. I was really beginning to feel the effects of the weather, etc on my shoulder ... and another part of my wet body that had been sitting on a wet cushion for 13.1 miles+ was NOT happy either.

Back to SoG - and the Valet (24 hours service at SoG) was waiting for me right up front. Got me and my wheelchair unloaded and I headed to my room and a warm soak in the tub!

It didn't take long to fall asleep once I made it out of the tub.

No one can control the weather ... especially in Florida. It was unusual weather for the run, but stuff happens. It lessened the Disney run experience - few characters; little music; a lot less energy and enthusiasm than normal; the volunteers were troopers - they maintained a positive attitude and cheered people on in spite of being drenched, themselves. runDisney did all they could given the bad weather, but it was really beyond anything they could have planned for. At the time, a lot of people were disappointed, but now most of us are joking about it.

Keep swimming, keep swimming; t-shirts with funny comments about surviving; I've started calling it the Whine and Drown Half Marathon; ... Runners are so easily amused (and forgetful, I guess). 


As previously blogged, Achilles International invited me to race on the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans in the Marine Corps Marathon. This is the result - long delayed because of other issues:

Friday, October 24th, I flew out of ECP on my way to Washington, D.C. - Delta Airlines got off to a bad start.

6 weeks previously, I had called and let Delta know that I was flying with a wheelchair and a racing chair. It was all set - help would be available and the chairs fly free.

No help was available at ECP; at first they said the racing chair was too large to fly - even though the same chair flies on the same class airplane all the time; the cargo supervisor came.in, took one look and said, "no problem"; then they tried to say I would have to pay $150 to fly the chair on each leg - $300 to D.C.; when I said it was supposed to fly free, they got snooty; they said there was no information about the fee being waived - I pointed out they said it flew free, so there was no fee to waive; it started to go downhill, until I insisted they contact the CRO at Delta's headquarters; suddenly, they said they would do me a favor and waive the fees.

They convinced me to check my own wheelchair ... unfortunately. More on this later.

The Delta supervisor came to my loading gate, and told me he had upgraded my seat. I guess he had a guilty conscious, because he had stood nearby while the whole brewup over the racing chair went on and said nothing.

Boarded with no problems, and it was a nice seat - aisle and nothing in front of me, so I could stretch out my booted foot.

ATL is a quick flight, but you lose an hour because of the time zone change.

The Delta wheelchairs in ATL SMB! They have no padding and hard cushions. On top of that, I got the bum's rush from one arrival gate to my departure gate ... Then they left me. It was a layover of a couple of hours. It would have been nice to be able to get around by myself so I could grab a bite to eat. I eventually got a push down to T.G.I. Friday's and got a nice lunch, but ... SMB Delta.

Lunch and a little pood forn.

I started off with Pretzel Bread and Craft Beer Cheese Dip

 Then on to a Jack Daniels glazed Sirloin with Spinach and Sweet Potato Fries

I then had to head back to the loading gate - it was getting close to flight time.

No luck getting a better seat, but they did move me closer to the door. An uneventful flight to Reagan National ... and the wheelchair waiting for me was better than the ones at ATL - but not by much.

Achilles was to meet me at Reagan, but no one was in sight. A quick phone call, and I found out they were at Reagan loading another Veteran, and would be over momentarily to pick me up.

Lots of help getting me and my chairs loaded, then off to the Holiday Inn Rosslyn - my home for the next 3+ days.

The room was fantastic!
Achilles was to meet me at Reagan, but no one was in site. A quick phone call, and I found out they were at Reagan loading another Veteran, and would be over momentarily to pick me up.

Lots of help getting me and my chairs loaded, then off to the Holiday Inn Rosslyn - my home for the next 3+ days.

The room was fantastic!
Achilles was to meet me at Reagan, but no one was in site. A quick phone call, and I found out they were at Reagan loading another Veteran, and would be over momentarily to pick me up.

Lots of help getting me and my chairs loaded, then off to the Holiday Inn Rosslyn - my home for the next 3+ days.

The room was fantastic and there was A little swag from Achilles waiting for me ...

 and some relief after a long day ...

 Pizza Party for dinner  ... and a good nights rest, because ...

Zero Dark:30 the next morning ...

 At the Starting Line ... along with 139 other racing chairs!

 The course has a lot of hills - not bad hills, but MUCH worse than any I can train on in relatively flat Florida. My right are was REALLY complaining by the time I hit the finish line!

And a shot with a Marine after I finished - finished FIRST in my age group in the handcycle division!

It's all about the Bling!

Up early the next morning to catch my flight home ...

Achilles had phoned ahead, and each of us had a personal escort through check-in and TSA! None of the SMB like I had at ECP! Not even a question about the racing chair flying free - of course it does ... that's your mobility! I did NOT check my personal wheelchair this time - ATL had taught me that lesson. TSA was a breeze. A couple of swabs, and off we went to the loading gate - where I had a bit of a wait, but a LOT of people were impressed with the Marine Corps Marathon shirt and that I had 'ran' it in a racing chair.

Nice flight to ATL. They shuffled me to my next gate in MY comfy cushioned wheelchair, and I could get myself around to grab a snack before my next flight.

Flight to ECP was no problem and they took me and my racing chair out to my car and got everything loaded. Maybe someone had had some words with ECP ...

The drive home was uneventful, and as much as I hate bed rest, I was glad to see my own bed!

Worth repeating - A little hindsight - the hills were VERY rough on me. Not that they are that high, but they are steeper than any around here. I had to put a lot more stress on my arms and shoulders than normal.