Thursday, July 1, 2010

Head Games

First things first. In general, I feel better. I've been on blood thinners for almost a week now, and am told the risk of a further clot forming is extremely low.

That space between my ears, however, is messed up. I know it's normal, but that doesn't make it easier. I've become a hypochondriac, sensing every little sensation, wondering if something is going to go wrong. When I walked out of the hospital on Sunday, I felt like a ticking time bomb. Since then, I've begun to educate myself on what happened. Most clots come from the legs, and can first present themselves as tight or swollen calf muscles. What's that twinge in my calf? Is a clot about to dislodge, travel to my lungs and plant itself on top of my 85% blocked artery and kill me? I've learned that getting a massage, a perfectly normal solution, can help release them. Why is my chest tight? Airplane rides right after a race can also increase the chances of a problem. Why do my ribs hurt? I feel fine, I'd love to go for a run. I hope I don't drop dead. I can't wait to get back in the pool. I'm told this is much like post-traumatic stress disorder and is normal. Which in a strange way, is comforting.

I'm discovering that there are enough endurance athletes out there that have clotting issues and PEs that some work is being done on the topic. It's incredible how with several "life challenges/tragedies" we find they are more common than we ever imagined. I've made contact with two other triathletes- a 59 yr old male in VT who is still on coumadin but is back competing, and a 29 year old woman in CA who is currently in the hospital. Marit just had a few great workouts, went to the doctor, and landed in the ER with PEs and DVTs (deep venous thrombosis, or clots in the legs). Misery loves company. And given the lack of knowledge among many doctors, more awareness of the issues is a good thing.

A few seemingly small lifestyle changes serve as reminders of what happened and how things will be different. Two days ago I ordered medical alert bracelets. If I'm in some sort of accident, medics need to know I'm on coumadin. I'm not who I (thought I) was. Yesterday I walked to CVS to buy an electric razor. While a small cut won't be life treatening, it likely won't stop easily. I'm not who I (thought I) was. I can't ride a bike on the road as long as I'm on coumadin. A fall could either be life threatening (head) or a major problem (an other internal bruising or bleeding). I'm not who I (thought I) was. I need to really think twice before I go sailing, and certainly racing. Cuts and bruises can certainly occur, and it might not be easy to get to shore. I'm not who I (thought I) was.

Without a doubt, all of this has certainly helped put things in perspective. Family is number one. At the height of the crisis, I thought I might never be with Christine again or that I would see my kids again. Those are terrifying thoughts. Last night I acted, in a small way, on this new perspective. We went to a Winterkids fundraiser that had a silent auction and one item in the live auction- two hours of snowboarding with 2-time gold medalist Seth Wescott at Sugarloaf, followed by diner at his restaurant. It made zero economic sense, but I bought/won it with friends. Telling Nick he was going to ride with Seth and seeing his expression was worth every nickle. This will be an experience he will never forget.

As for workouts, I've walked about 2 miles every day. I can't go harder because my lungs can't absorb oxygen, and therefore my organs can't get the oxygen they need. As the clots start to dissolve, I'll be able to do more. I don't know how long it will take, but it will get better.

As for Budapest, the race is off. In fact, as I said, I can't take my bike out on the road for a while- at least until I get off of the coumadin. While crashes are very rare, they do happen. We've all seen them or been part of one. It became a very easy decision to make when I understood the risks. I don't have to like it, but it was easy. I worked damn hard to make the team, and badly wanted to wear the uniform and compete at that level. But living is more important.

Finally, I'd like to share with you something that I hear at 4:00 most days. I never get tired of it. Our head of operations on the floor of the NYSE, who talks to us every two hours (if we listen in), is a great man. He has had several family tragedies in his life, losing his wife and daughter. 9/11 also hit him very hard. Since then, he closes each day with the following. I suggest you take his suggestion:

"And you know the rules- keep yourslf safe, put a little joy into your life and those around you who you think may merit it, and never ever- that's never ever- pass up an opportunity to kiss someone you love."


  1. You should have labelled your post "Perspective" because I think you have it. I admire your ability to figure this all out, break it down, accept it and begin moving forward - all in stride. You're a class act and I look forward to chasing you again when you get this behind you. Keep movin'.....

  2. tears.....

    thanks for that quote Steve.

    Nick will love that day w/ Seth. Great move. ( I met Seth a few months ago btw..he's incredible.)

    I admire you Steve.

  3. Wow! So much we take for granted; I think this is a life lesson for all of us.

    I hope you get back to your old self soon.

    Good luck.

  4. Thank you nicely stated, all of it.

  5. This post made me both deeply sad and happy. Hugs to you and your family. Glad you are okay. xo

  6. Just read your story... I am a blogger friend of Marit and Ange (met them both in Kona last year)... I am so sorry to read about your story. Glad you're ok of course but oh how freaky to be blindsided like that. Take care of yourself.

  7. Hey Steve! Are you on Facebook? If so, look up Brett Phillips. he's the swimmer/sailor I told Marit about. (And find me too- Michelle Simmons).
    Brett's email is tell him I sent you. :)