Personal: Injuries and Other Tragedies

It has been quite some time, and there’s a reason for that.

For reasons I’ll get into in this post, I’m going to be using RTC as my personal blog for a bit–in other words, I’ll be posting what comes to mind, even if it isn’t bicycle related. I’ll mark the posts “personal”; feel free to ignore or unsubscribe.

Hopefully I’ll get back to cycling-related content before the end of the year. I see that the daily visitor count has fallen to 5% of the level it was at when I was posting regularly (and where are John S and Anton?).

The good news, I guess, is that I’ve gotten 17 views from Burkina Faso. I’ve heard that Burkinians have an abiding interest in the Catskills, but I didn’t believe it until just now.

First, I sustained a serious neck injury earlier this summer. I’ve had neck injuries before, but this was something truly special. The worst part was that it happened the DAY before a 2-week vacation. So I spent my vacation in serious pain, culminating in a trip to an interventionalist for a steroid injection between 2 of my cervical vertebrae. I appear to be recovering, albeit slowly, but it has been a long 10 weeks.

Now, don’t shoot me folks, but a key learning from this experience has been that physical therapy, at least how it is practiced for your average civilian, is an absolute joke. 15 minutes of e-stim and a nice backrub and some advice on exercises 3 times a week does little good.

I ended up hiring a yoga instructor. She comes to my house 3 times a week and does a world more good than that stinky physical therapist. Literally stinky.

Please note that I do not doubt the overall efficacy of physical therapy–if you’re a pro athlete or a post-stroke patient and get hours of therapy a day–but for the average person, not so helpful.

The worst thing about this experience has been the drugs. For the first time in my life, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Percocet and Ms. Gabapentin. For the first 4 weeks, I was downing the Percocet at the maximum recommended dose–4 tabs a day–just to gain marginal control of the pain. And this despite the miserable gastrointestinal side effects that you can read about in your free time.

But the worst thing about the Percocet didn’t turn out to be the drug itself…it was the problem of getting enough to actually control my pain. I’ve never had chronic pain before so I didn’t realize what pain patients go through to even get treated appropriately. They’d give me a prescription that would last 10 days, and then I’d have to go back for more–and damn do they make you feel like a drug addict for asking for more. It got to be such a mortifying, difficult thing that I attempted to massively reduce my dose of narcotic pain medications and augment with massive doses of naproxen.

Those of you who know me know that I’m a scientist and I work in the pharma industry. So I’m not naive. I know what megadoses of naproxen do to your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, if you look up the stats, you’ll see that NSAID-induced GI bleeding kills more people than…well I don’t remember the actual statistic, but it kills a lot of people. Indeed, after some time on that regimen I was burping up blood. Just a little. Good times.

In the current climate of suspicion about narcotic drug use (which, I guess, is justified) and the heavy penalties levied by the government on physicians whom they deem to be inappropriately prescribing such therapy, physicians would almost rather have a patient either a) live in severe pain or b) suffer serious injury or death from taking over-the-counter medications–because at least it won’t be their fault. I mean, seriously, NSAIDs are dangerous–if the FDA were making the decision today, they’d never have made it onto the over-the-counter market.

I just wanted to get that on record so that if I croak from a GI bleed my relatives will know who to sue šŸ™‚

In any case, I am recovering and I’m back to 8-hour workdays…no fun times yet (meaning hiking, biking, or camping).

Moving on…during this period–in fact during the initial 2 weeks of serious pain, my Rhodesian Ridgeback started acting weird. She stopped eating her food and looked a little bloated. So I had the pleasure of taking her to the emergency vet at 11:00 at night while in serious pain. Emergency vet tells me she has a giant mass in her abdomen, which I thought was weird because even 3 days prior she was running around chasing wild turkeys like a puppy. I had to wait a day to take her to the emergency surgical center–1.5 hours away in Albany, New York because I had to go in for the aforementioned steroid injection in my spine (which was a bigger deal than I thought it would be).

The day after my intervention, I took Pandora to the surgical center, where they basically had to gut her to get the mass out. There were 2 things it could have been: a hemangioma (which is benign) or a soft-tissue sarcoma (invariably fatal). The surgeon I spoke to, who was kind enough to talk to me as a fellow medical professional, told me that her impression of the mass was that it was a sarcoma.

Four or five days later, the pathology results came back, and, guess what? HEMANGIOMA! We’re now weeks out from the operation and Pandora is a new dog–even though she was out chasing turkeys only a few days before she started manifesting serious clinical signs, it is obvious in retrospect that it was affecting her for a long time. She’s also slender and sleek–having a 10-lb hemangioma removed is one way to quickly lose weight, I guess.

Finally, all of these issues have given me the opportunity to grow a truly wicked beard to complete my mountain man look. Now, I just need to figure out if I’m the JD Salinger of medical writing (because of my splendid countryside isolation and love of donuts) or the Hunter S Thompson of medical writing (because, you know, drugs and guns).

hunterthompsongun

So…that’s my news for now. Oh wait–some good professional news–I’m doing some seriously cool stuff on Zika virus! The kickoff was today.

In any case, I’ll be writing posts on general stuff that interests me for a few months. You can skip it or read it. Let me just say that during the vegetable phase of my illness I spent many hours reading about audio equipment, and you are going to see the fruits of my research right here on RTC. Bear with me and we’ll get back to bicycle and outdoors content…soon? Hopefully?

John F

8 thoughts on “Personal: Injuries and Other Tragedies

  1. AusTex

    Heal well. I wondered why I wasn’t getting any updates. The painkiller abuse issue sucks because inevitably the people in pain suffer more than the addicts. But our government only knows how to use a hammer.

    Reply
  2. Bill Schmitt

    Dear John, enjoyed your rides, hope you get well soon! Happy about your dog! Broke my collarbone on bike but just couldn’t handle the Percodan, so I used a favorite bottle of wine until I could lay on back! Read a great article in New Yorker about Zika research. Hope you and all can help! All the Best! Bill, lost in Oklahoma

    Reply
  3. John Fontaine

    I hope you feel better soon. I read your blog because I used to ride a lot. Lately not so much. I can understand the pain issue that you mention. My late wife had it after surviving a Cerebral Hemorrhage. I had it for over a decade. Partially from a slipped disk that eventually caused me to be paralyzed but am better since the operation. Still taking naproxen and gabapentin. I refuse to take any opiods. Hope to read that you are back on the road again soon. But more importantly, get well. Best wishes.

    Reply
    1. michael kreitman

      John – that explains the lack of posts from you – glad to hear you are feeling better and on the road to recovery – I had some pretty bad neck problems this past year but thankfully they have stabilized – have made some adjustments – changed my bike set-up (less aggressive posture), scaled back on the long rides, found a very good physical therapist and made some workplace modifications. Doing everything to avoid surgery – multi level fusion was recommended. In my case, no pain thankfully but some loss of muscle strength. We are heading up for our semi annual gunks ride on Saturday 9/17 – I guess an invite would be futile but hopefully you can join the NYC lads when we come back in the Spring. Feel better. Mike

      Reply
  4. Bernie Burton

    John–
    It’s great hearing from you again- I always read your amazing tales that were far beyond my ability to perform. Hope you recover quickly from your present condition. Would like to hear of your present thoughts about your English, Rene Herse, GT, and pink Weigle.
    Did you ever sell your Fizik Kurve Bull? It seems like you mentioned it just yesterday.

    Reply
  5. brengun71

    Heal well indeed. Been wondering about the blog too. Made me wish that I rode while I lived in the Hudson Valley back in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Wishing you a speedy recovery and looking forward to more epic rides for you!

    Reply

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