Sunday, October 21, 2012

Frankenstein’s Experimentation or Taser

As I handed the Doctor my MRI’s, he asked me if my pants were loose enough to be rolled up. I said that I have a pair of shorts. He then closed the door behind him and I got out of my dress pants to switch to the shorts that exposed my unshaven hairy legs. A couple of minutes passed and a knock came to the door. The voice asked if I was ready for the EMG (Electromyography) test.

An EMG evaluates, records and detects electrical potential medical abnormalities that are being generated by the electrical activity in the skeletal muscle cells that are being fired neurologically or electrically. I think that is what it does.

The Doctor asked me to lie face up on the table and explained what he was about to do. He began the first test by swabbing areas of my lower part of my leg with alcohol, attached a couple electrodes to my leg, and then pushed a two pronged probe into another part of the leg. Next, he pulled a trigger that shot pulses of electricity into my leg which made my leg jump and spasm that lasted about a half second. Did I mention the Doctor’s last name was Frankenstein! I swear, I heard him whisper, “It’s alive. It’s alive! It’s Alive!!!! He might have done some testing for Taser as well!

After he shocked my bum leg several times, he shocked the good leg for a base line. He removed all of all of the electrodes and readied me for the next test. Before doing the next round, I asked him what would happen if he did the test to someone’s head. “Is it like electroshock therapy?” He grinned and I thought to myself maybe I should not distract him as he stuck a needle into my leg. I flexed my legs when he asked, and the monitor started to make a clicking sound. The harder I tensed my leg, the quicker the clicks came. Then he asked me to relax and you can still hear the clicks, this signified an abnormality because the muscle was firing when the nerves told it to stay at rest.

The next day with the EMG results faxed and my MRI in my hand, I walked into the Neurosurgeon’s office. He was tapped to be the second opinion. I met with the Physicians Assistant (PA) first, who was astonished with the size of the bulge. He then started with a series of strength test and said that my right leg was 4 out of 5. I thought at least it was a passing grade. However an 80% is not good here! In fact, it’s really bad.

The PA walked out to get the Surgeon. As I waited, I looked at the walls of the exam room and noticed his diploma and certificates from Harvard. Not sure if that means he was book smart or a really good surgeon. I emailed a few friends to check into this Doctor and his outcomes.

Immediately, the Surgeon walked in and did similar strength tests. With measured words, he strongly suggested a Laminectomy / Diskectomy. A Laminectomy is the removal of the bone covering the spinal canal. The Diskectomy removes the herniated part of the disk to relieve pressure that is pushing up against the nerve. The removal of the hernia doesn’t scare me, it’s the bone removal. It would leave a section of my back exposed. The doctor explained that there is a lot of muscle to cushion any blows should someone take a bat to my lower back. However, a knife stabbing would be a different story. I am pretty sure if I got into a knife fight, I would bring my Sig Sauer to that knife fight! Well, I usually don’t find myself walking down dark alleys.

He made it sound very urgent since it involved neurology, which can go bad very quickly. So, I should do it ASAP! In any case, he assured me that after the surgery, rest, and rehab, my running should resume. That was music to my ears J.

In the back of my mind, I thought that since he is a surgeon, and he makes a living doing surgery, of course I should expect a recommendation of surgery, as my Wellness Doctor friend suggested. He normally would recommend shots or therapy for a hernia. However the muscle weakness puts my injury into a different ballpark. He said that less than 10% have my type of injury.

Prior to going under the knife, I will be getting additional opinions and start alternative medicine. My Dad insists that I go to this Chinese Doctor in Flushing. I will make an appointment soon and do other non invasive procedures.

Let’s rewind to last week, in preparation to the 2012 NYC Marathon, Irene got her 22 mile training run in by completing the Hartford Marathon. We drove up the night before to pick up our bibs in a somewhat sparse Expo. I was disappointed at the variety of vendors. I did find an interesting 0.0 magnet for my car. And, Yes OUR bibs. Since I could not defer my entry, I might as well enjoy the streets of Hartford, CT as much as possible and enjoy the goody bag that I paid for. However, I have not earned the cool long sleeved orange tech shirt, so I will probably donate it.

After enjoying a carb up dinner with some old friends in a converted movie theater turned nice Italian restaurant located in Middletown. The next morning, we walked over to the start, which happened to be a stones throw away. We were lucky to get accommodations so close to the festivities.

The masses gathered by the start line and waited. The race announcer, tried to motivate the crowd and we interjected accordingly with cheers when appropriate. It was so great to see many hands raised when he asked who was about to do their first marathon. I am so glad I made NYC my first race, because if Hartford was my first, I might not be running right now and probably blown my back out a lot sooner or have a heart attack!

A minute before the starting shot popped, I kissed Irene and moved to the side so that I would not impede anyone’s stride that was behind me. A sense of disappointment came over me as the shot rang out. Everyone lurched forward with a slow walk, then a jog across the start line. With a sigh, I shuffled my feet as more and more runners past me by.

By the half mile mark, I looked back and noticed that I was probably the last person, or at least if felt like that. About a mile into the course, the racers must decide if they will go straight for another 25.2 miles or take a right and run another 12.1 miles.

There was no way I can go any further, so I looked for the first race official and made a gesture with my hand, motioning the fingers just below my chin signifying I am done. She said to make a right to go back to the park. The second race official noticed my orange bib and looked in horror thinking that I was on the wrong course. I assured her that I was going in the right direction by heading back to the park. She nodded and said, “Ok.”

I headed back to the finish line to let them know that I am out, and the medical tent personnel ask if I was hurt. I said no and they said ok. The least they could have acted a little more supportive. I swapped out my singlet pinned bib and put on my jacket to become a spectator. No longer am I a participant. Now, time to cheer on the runners.

It would be a while before I see Irene, so I headed back to the room. The hotel television provided great race coverage, and I watched the winners break the finish line. As soon as the credits scrolled on the screen, I headed back outside to eventually cheer Irene on and catch her near the finish. With plenty of time, I walked the last part of the course and waited for her to arrive at Mile 25 checkpoint. I actually limped my way to mile 23.5 as I held out my phone to take some snaps. She was surprised to see me out one the course and was happy!

Irene pauses for a moment then continues on to complete the race, and off she went raising her arms across the finish line. Again, I am so proud of her!

Next stop in 2 weeks is the finish line at Central Park. While I will not be raising my arms this year, I asked Team for Kids for a volunteer position by the finish line so I can still be part of the action. I am so excited to see those who achieve PR’s and especially excited to be part of someone’s first marathon experience.

There is something special about achieving your first marathon medallion, and to be part of someone’s achievement is going to be an amazing experience. 5 years ago, you would not have caught me leaving my air conditioned home. Now I have 9 marathons under my belt and looking forward to many more.

By supporting Team for Kids, many more may experience the thrill of doing a marathon. While Team for Kids has deferred my race entry to 2013, you can still support me and Team for Kids by visiting

Thank you for everyone’s thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery. I look forward to having full strength in my legs and running with you all!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

She Passes me at Mile 4, the MRI and Possibly My Last Run

Around 6:30am, we arrived at the Springs School in East Hampton, NY early enough to park about 1000 yards from the marathon festivities. Surprisingly, the road was not closed off yet, so I made a u-turn and grabbed the next spot on the side of the road leaving a car length behind a minivan and the puddle. Irene said to pull up, and my chivalry act was shot down. Let the next person step in the puddle instead of my wife, I told Irene! Of course she shook her head in amazement. Actually, it was more like “how in the world did I marry this man in the first place” kind of amazing head shake, not the good amazing.

You have to love the feel of a small town race organization doing their best to accommodate 1650 runners, many of whom are strangers to these parts. Even people who live on Long Island are considered foreigners, called Up-Islanders. The fall –winter-spring season brings a sense of normalcy and calmness to the neighborhood, unlike when the town swells to the hundreds of thousands fighting for a parking spot on the side roads from Main Street. I guess if we lived out there, you would become accustomed to the changes that occur on the first weekend of Memorial Day. We have not ventured out east during the summer time knowing that the traffic would greatly impact our Hamptons enjoyment.

I struggled up the short flight of stairs into the gym (read further down if you want to find out about the struggling), where there were 3 table sections for the 5k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon races. With a spring in her step, Irene arrived at the table few seconds ahead of me and already told the volunteer our names. As I reached the table and searched for my driver’s license, the cheerful person slid the number 1814 imprinted on the light blue bib. We thanked the person on the other side of the folding table, and she replied with “Have a great race!”

We shuffled off to the side to get our goodies! First came the simple and plain white tech shirts which were embossed on the front vertically “Hamptons Marathon and Half 2012” on the front and on the back came the sponsors, Equinox and JetBlue. We slid over to the right to the table with a bunch of teens manning a pile of really nice canvas duffle bags. The bags would look good enough to carry your stuff to the famous East Hampton Beaches. Well the teens look frazzled as more and more people started to swarm them. So I pointed to the navy blue towel, and they stuffed our bags with them. I pointed to the JetBlue sweat bands, and they placed them into our bags. A young lady at the end of the table asked if we wanted some scented candles, and I said, “Of Course.”

We pinned our bibs on our shirts, and walked back to the truck to drop off the goody bags. On the way back, I was still concerned that my leg still felt asleep, so I made a simple agreement with Irene. If I was keeled over on my hands and knees crying, she would continue on without me and finish strong. She and I knew the NYC Marathon was around the corner and these runs were important. I don’t think she acknowledge my request, so I said, “You must go and I will find someone to bring me back to the finish line for my DNF (Did Not Finish) status.”

Well, the numbness to my right leg started on Tuesday night before the Half. It was a busy day at the office so I decided to do some P90X2 Plyocide instead of running. Half way through, my back started to feel funny. My brain and will was still thinking “Bring it!” As I was about to do my first Burpee Frog Hop, a pain stabbed the lower back and left me screaming. Lying on the ground, I looked up at the ceiling thinking I wonder if I can run in the Hamptons Half, Hartford Marathon in 2 weeks and the NYC Marathon in a month.

And I wonder why my friend, Rich called me “overzealous.” I dragged my leg to the start line hoping a normal sensation would return to my leg. I figured the run would loosen my muscles. As we started our stride past the start line, we gave each other a peck and off we went to keep up with the masses.

Ignoring my leg was a step behind, my pace dropped around mile 3. At mile 4, I felt a slap on my behind, and Irene caught up to me and asked if I was ok. She knew something was really wrong, if she was able to catch me. I told her to keep going and as promised she pulled further and further away. The pink shirt disappeared in the crowd in front of me.

This past Monday, I saw my primary care physician and he sent me to a neurologist. He ordered me to get an MRI. With a few moments of clicking and clacking inside a gigantic magnet, I hobbled out to my car with a huge envelope with 5 sheets of images printed on large plastic sheets. While I am not a doctor and I did not sleep in a Holiday Inn Express, the blob shadow next to my spine should not be there.

A couple days later, the neurologist called and asked me to come in. He looked at my images, and even called his colleague to look at the pathology. He explained that the hernia was probably there for a long time, and a simple movement pushed it over the edge. When I weighed 245, my back would feel horrible everyday. As I dropped the weight the pain went away, however the injury was always there. Maybe it was from the college Judo, climbing Mount Everest or was sparing with Bruce Lee, not a simple leaning over.

The whole time he was explaining the hernia, degenerative disease, medicines and possible surgery to my spine, I kept on trying to figure out how I can keep running. I still have 44 more States to go! The doctor alluded to the fact that I will have to adjust my lifestyle, not sure what that really means. He was careful not to say that I could not run anymore, however I could hear it in his tonality with this carefully rehearse bedside manners. Running was going to be on hiatus for the indefinite time. Eventually, I will make a final decision must after a few more opinions.

This weekend, I will be cheering my boys in their cross country races and a friend that is doing her first and hopefully not last half marathon. I believe she will catch the running bug as I did!

With 7 more days until the Hartford Marathon, I am waiting for some reduced swelling to maybe walk the course instead of dragging my leg all over Hartford. We will see. If not, I will still cheer on the 15,000 runners including my wife.

Unfortunately, the 3:50 time that I predicted and posted on my bathroom mirror for the 2012 New York City Marathon will need to be postponed. I felt really disappointed to let the kids down over at Team for Kids. Instead of running, I requested to volunteer at the finish line to drape medallions of the finishers.

I am really grateful for the gift that running has given me, my family and friends. I’ve met so many incredible people that I would not have meet before. While this pause is quite an inconvenience, I will try to figure out what I will be doing to keep my sanity and blood pressure down that has less impact on my spine. As soon as I get clearance, I will probably modify P90X (less jumping), tune up the bike, and find a place to swim.

This bulge will not stop my support of Team for Kids. They are the ones that got me to start running and healthy lifestyle. I will continue to invite you to support our efforts to give all kids a running head start to health and wellness by visiting

Stay tuned for the next adventure! Please email me with suggestions. All I want is something with a shiny metal objects when I finish the race J

Enjoy the journey and the recovery!