Thursday, June 21, 2012

The most Ironman I know

When summer break started this past Friday, I was so excited to dig in and get into the thick of training for Ironman. It's time to start pushing every workout and making sure to go long and hard at least once a week in each discipline.

Being my first official day off, I slept in a little on Friday, went on a 45 minute run, and chilled out the rest of the day. I did do some painting around the house, but ditched the swim workout that I planned for the day thinking I'd rather do it Saturday when Hains point (the outdoor 50m pool) was open.

I had big plans for the weekend, a two hour run, a 3000 meter swim, and a 70 mile bike ride with a 40 minute run. Training was about to boost to the highest level and I was ready for it.

As I was planning out my workout that afternoon, I got a call from my mom that really shook me. I answered the phone and she told me my dad was in the hospital. This is never an easy call, but since I've lived in Washington, it's one I constantly worried I might get. My dad's got every single risk factor possible for a heart attack. He's overweight, doesn't exercise much, smoked for 30 some years (he finally quit this year!), works and stresses about work constantly... You catch my drift. So as much as I had tried to prepare myself, this was a much different conversation. My dad was in the hospital for a blood infection which was a complication from a recent biopsy to screen for prostate cancer.

At first, things didn't seem so bad. I was actually able to call him in the hospital. Although he seemed a little shaky, he was still talking and joking. I figured they had caught the bug in time and that he would have to heal just like anyone from a really nasty flu.

I woke up the next day and decided to skip my long run so I could call my mom a little earlier to check up on him. I figured I could get it in on Monday-- no big deal. I wanted to just reassure myself that everything was fine back home.

Unfortunately, when I called my mom she said that the hospital called her at 2 AM because his fever had spiked to 106.2 degrees. They put him on a cooling mat (the mat was set on 40 degrees!) and packed his arm pits with ice packs to get his body at a reasonable temperature. They finally cooled him down to a somewhat healthier 102 degrees around 5am. Again, I was worried but hopeful that the worst was over.

I got a second phone call just minutes after I updated Brian with the news. My dad's temperature had spiked again and this time he was having such a hard time breathing that they decided to sedate him and put him on a ventilator. Scary stuff. Things were happening a little too fast for me. My mom was trying her hardest not to worry my older sister and me (it didn't work that well), so when we asked if we should come home she said "wait an hour--then we'll decide."

I was pretty sure I needed to go home, but I did wait the hour. I'm sure I pretty much bit Brian's head off trying to figure out the best way to get home. He thought it would be best for me to fly so I could get home a little sooner, but I insisted that I drive and he comes too so I have him there to lean on. At this point, I had gotten so much bad news it was hard to be optimistic.

We rushed to pack, threw franklin in the car and rushed home. I actually hoped to not get any updates on the way home, assuming they'd be bad. We finally got to the hospital around 8:45 pm on Saturday. My dad was in the ICU totally knocked out and with tubes down his throat.

My dad is one bear of a man-- both in looks and personality. He's a big guy,, but on top of that, he's tough, he's sometimes intimidation (ask Brian, this guy can give the look of death), he's strong. To those of us who know him well, he's also a big giant teddy bear-- not only does he give out the best hugs, but he also does anything to protect his loved ones. To see him so sick was really tough on me. There he was, my rock, hooked up to monitors, cords, bags, and tubes down his throat. When I got there Saturday night his fever had come down earlier but was beginning to rise slowly but surely (in an hour it went from 99.9 to 101.5) and his body was starting to shake again. I was so scared that as I watched him shake I actually passed out for the first time in my life--luckily my older sister caught me before I hit the floor!
My dad and I on my wedding day

I've never slept worse than I did on Saturday night. I must've woke up a million times. We got a phone call to the house at 1AM and I about jumped to the roof. Luckily, it was my dad's work. Someone hadn't gotten the news that he was sick and they called about a problem.

On Sunday morning, we got to the hospital around 10 and to my relief,not much had happened. We did have some good news to hold on to-- my dad's fever had stayed lower than 102.5 all night, and they had determined that it was an E.coli infection. Infections are much easier to fight when you know what they are. The day was spent with family visitors at the hospital. In the waiting room or in my dad's room. I was breathing a little easier knowing that the doctors felt confident that his body was fighting the infection pretty well and that his vitals were all looking promising.

I slept a little more soundly knowing that there had been more stability the day before. I was, following the lead of the doctors and being "cautiously optimistic." I woke up extremely early Monday to take Brian to his flight. I wanted to go straight to the hospital to seek out more good news, but visiting hours didn't start until 10AM. I calmed myself enough to take a 50 minute swim at the nearby pool (with so many senior citizens, you'd think i'd be the fastest one there... Nope). I finished my workout, went home to grab my little sister (who just couldn't wake up any earlier), and went to the hospital.

When we got there, we found out that my dad's temperature had been decent all night and that they were trying to use less sedation medicine and were thinking about trying to take him off the ventilator. It was difficult to watch him struggle while they reduced the medication, but after a while the doctors decided to take the ventilator out. The moments waiting for them to do that was excrutiating--I wanted him off so bad, but I was worried about how he'd do when he came off.

To our satisfaction, he slowly woke up and started talking to us. In fact, within minutes he started teasing people even through his exhaustion.

It's been three days now that my dad has been out of the ICU. He's in a regular room and even walking around a little bit. Unbelievable. He's still recovering, but much faster than expected.

I've heard quite a few stories in the past few days of other people who had similar complications after a prostrate biopsy. Most stories had either an unhappy ending or a very long struggle. Several people were in the ICU for weeks and in the hospital for months. Scary stuff!

I feel so blessed to have my dad here with me today. I've always known that my dad was strong, but I just can't believe what an ironman he has been with this. In the words of my uncle, " "you can f*** him up, but you can't kill him!".

Needless to say, my workouts have been less than ideal this late in the training program, but who wants to train when you can visit your dad and see him getting stronger by the minute. I know he wouldn't mind if I skipped out for a while for a swim or a spin class (I didn't even think about bringing my bike), but it's just so hard leaving after all he's been through.

I'll be leaving Columbus on Saturday to go back home to DC. I hate to leave without seeing my dad fully recovered, but I'm inspired by how great he's done. I think once I'm home I'll train better knowing that my dad is well on his way to getting back to his "Ironman" self. I know that when he comes to watch me in August, he'll be pretty impressed with the race, but I'm not sure anything I do can match the strength I've always seen in him.

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