January 5, 2014

Broken Ribs and False Culprits - A Memory

Fallen Soldier

I fractured my rib in February of 2010. It is a defining moment in my life, not because of the rib itself, but because of what it masked. A couple weeks prior, I had started on Depo Provera, and my health was just beginning to unravel. But this rib, and the cold I maintained for the 6-8 weeks it took to heal, long remained the culprits I pointed to when the cough began, the cough that became this illness of mine so many years later. Though it is nice to remember the passion I had back then for running. Oh, dear passion, please come back soon.

A Memory

Monday night I was recruited to pick up a game for a friend’s indoor soccer team. The last time that I had played with them, I was fasting, and I was a woozy sweaty mess by the time the game was finally over. This time, I was ready to show my, well, not my skill, but my exuberant enthusiasm. I was feeling feisty and ready for a good run around. Imaginary tail wagging wildly, I took my place on the field and got ready for a gosh-darn good run.
That is until about 20 minutes into the game. Ah, solid exhaustion, like no marathon has ever brought upon me. And with no subs for our team, we were getting whomped. When the ball went soaring back down the field toward our goal, I summoned yet another reserve of unknown strength and went flying after it. It was a race with a broad shouldered man several years younger and inches taller than myself, and I was nipping at his heels. That’s when it happened.
I don’t know how it all went down. Arms were interlocked, twisting occured, and suddenly I found myself in the fetal position on the ground cradling my head, my brain thrown into the left half of my skull and settled into permanent residence, and my right breast feeling like it had been crushed back into my chest. I couldn’t see, breathe, or speak for the first minute as I rolled around on the ground, gasping for breath and hoping against all ridiculously tough-girl hope that the tears rimming my eyes would absolutely not pool over and drip down my cheeks in front of this crouching ring of staring men. I finally managed to gasp a lie about being okay and staggered off of the field, alternately clutching my bruised breast and foggy head.
I sat on the sidelines shaking my head, trying to force my brain back in to the other half of my skull, and tried to assess the damage. Can’t breathe – may be from sprinting continuously then getting the bejeezus knocked from my lungs. Can’t see – well, just keep running and that way if it’s a concussion, I won’t fall asleep and die. My team was getting pummeled, so I sloshed my brain around again and forced my wheezing lungs to get back in the game.
Hell, I even scored.
Thing is, I hadn’t fully assessed the damage. Here I was so worried about a possible concussion that I didn’t pay attention to the shortness of breath, the pain in my chest, the inability to contract my lungs without shuddering in pain.
Then I went running.
Oh, my stupidity abounds, friends. After a few belabored miles on Tuesday and 4 painfully slow ones on Wednesday, Thursday morning I woke up to the realization that Something Is Horribly Amiss. Pain and shortness of breath was quickly becoming an inability to breathe beyond a shallow gasp, and every time I moved, I could feel an extremely unsettling grinding/crunching sound coming from underneath my right breast.
After checking off ”Heart Attack” and “Aortic Dissection” from “List of Potentially Really Horrible Things Wrong With Me”, I came to option #3: Broken rib. I certainly met the requirements: sudden blow to chest, inability to breathe without excruciating pain, scary grindy noise in rib cage. I prodded along my side until I found the singular source of pain and felt a sudden, astoundingly painful POP underneath my fingertips. Yep. That’d be a broken rib, folks, and I done just finished the job. 
Thanks to a final prognosis from my first customer Friday morning, an auspiciously placed and wonderfully patient paramedic who just happened to need some running shoes, I now know that a fractured rib can actually be broken by rapid, full expansion of the lungs (example given: running). Dang. How many times have I sat across from an injured runner, looking to me to tell them “It’s okay to run through the pain,” and sympathetically crushed them as I asserted, “Listen to your body. If you hurt, Don’t Go Out. Rest is the only path to real recovery. Then we can work on prevention.” Ah, the joys of hypocrisy. Now I am staring down the barrel of 6-8 weeks forced rest, had to drop out of the second session of soccer, and can only shallowly, painfully sigh at the irony of it all.
My fellow injured runners, secretly lacing up your shoes, sneaking out of the house to limp out a few miles before your loved ones discover your absence, compounding pain and swallowing pride, jealously staring off the porch at your non-injured, blissful running brethren, my thankfully-only-figuratively-bleeding-heart goes out to you. Come find me for some commiseration. I’ll be the one holding my side and floating around on a cloud of Motrin, keeping my running shoes in check.

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