Stuck in the Mud: The Injury Series 1.0

My First Big Sports Injury

Have you ever been injured? Me, too. Back in 6th Grade during gymnastics, one of my attempts at a full twist left me with a broken thumb after a bad landing. And it hurt.

(I'm in the third row far right)

With a cast and a promise of healing within six weeks (and learning to write left-handed in school), I discovered that I was ready to move on to other sports. Gymnastics was fun, but I wanted to do track and volleyball (which meant quitting gym), so the time of reflection helped firm up my decision. It's one I've never regretted.

Centralia High School Track Freshman Year
4X100 Relay (Me, Molly Parker, Sarah Hahn, April Schilt)

St. Pete High School Varsity Volleyball
Senior Year (me front and center)

I've had no major injuries since then. Little things here and there, but I've always bounced back pretty quickly. That time I ran into sliding glass door and most likely broke my nose stands out because it was really painful, and led to a lot of headaches afterward, but otherwise I've managed to avoid the need for hospital visits.

For about 14 years, I've considered myself a distance runner. Not a fast one, but a runner just the same. Four marathons, about a dozen halfs, and tons of 5Ks, 10Ks, and a few 15Ks later, no major injuries to report.

PRETENDING to be injured for the Halloween Halfathon...never again

Until now...

About three months ago, I felt a niggle in my right heel. So I did what a usually do when I notice something feeling just a little bit off while I'm running...I ignored it.

My thinking goes something like this:

Surely it will go will stop...any time now...go ahead and leave me alone...okay, it's not funny now...I'm limping a little I'll just run 10 miles and that will make my heel realize that it's fine and stop being a pain...

Heel pain is a really big pain in the butt, in every sense. My right high hamstring and lower right glute have been suffering and weakening in the midst of all this limping around.

Enter Podiatrist Brian Fullem, MD. He rules out major problems and I'm left with some possible nerve inflammation. Enter Premier Physical Therapy. They want to know my pain levels. Let's a 5 or 6, I guess. I'm not really sure how to quantify it. One visit down, seven more to go...ready to be healed!

And then I learn what a 5 or 6 level of pain really means...

Out of a dead sleep, my back spasms (thoracic spine) and I cannot move to turn left or right or to sit up. Grunting through the LEVEL 9 PAIN, I struggle out of bed wondering what the heck just happened. It's difficult to describe the fear that accompanied that moment. I couldn't take a full, deep breath. I think I now understand why people have panic attacks. It scared me how bad my back hurt.

My usual plan of action was set into motion. A few Ibuprofen*, stretching, rest, and relaxation for the day. Unfortunately I had to call in to work (which I NEVER have to do). But I expected to be back to normal after 24 hours. The next night, however, it was actually worse.

I woke up in a cold sweat. The shooting pain in my back had returned. I asked my husband to come into the bathroom to help me undress because I couldn't take my damp clothes off. Seated on the toilet, I lifted my arms as he took off my shirt and the pain spiked again. Suddenly, everything went hazy gray. I told my husband, "I can't see."

When I went unconscious in my husband's arms, I didn't have to tell him I had reached LEVEL 10 PAIN. He just knew.

I woke up on the nice, cold tile floor facing the ceiling. And I actually felt better. There was ringing in my ears, but my back didn't hurt too bad anymore. Soon I realized that I couldn't get up, and the pain was returning. My husband was on the phone for an ambulance, but when he realized I had woken up almost immediately, he told them that he would drive me.

To the ER we went. EKG, X-rays, testing, and a lot of groaning on my part. The doctors decided that I had a muscle spasm possibly due to a pinched nerve. They sent me home on Valium (yeah...) and Ibuprofen. And yes, I had actually passed out from pain (it's called vasovagal).

My Back and Heel Injuries

I've gone from rarely ever dealing with injuries to two debilitating injuries that not only prevent me from running, but that seem to be FIGHTING each other.

When I first had back pain, the heel pain vanished! It was a miracle! One that I welcomed. However, as time went on, and as my back improved, the heel pain returned. But then my back would revert, the pain would increase in my thoracic spine, and the heel pain would decrease.

This back and forth fight for pain dominance has been going on for about a month now.

I've been stuck in the mud for longer than I expected and I don't like it. Injury sucks. Physical therapy has become like a job now where I'm doing stretching and exercises morning and night just to survive. And I've simply wanted nothing more than to be done with it all.

Lessons in Patience

Psalm 40: "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

I believe in the power of prayer, and I've spent a lot of time not only praying to Jesus, but yelling at Him, too. Thankfully, He can handle it. And He's been gently teaching me as I whine and complain and sob like a child.

I also believe that God has allowed this pain in my life for a reason. I'm learning a lot about patience, about the ability to sit (or lay flat as the case may be) without distraction, devices, or even the ability to hold a book to read. Not because that's what I wanted to do, but that's what my injuries required.

Having this much down time has given me a fresh perspective on this fast-pace existence that I speed through without stopping to look around.

In this phase of learning to be more patient, I'm trying to be more attune to what other people deal with as well. Sharing my pain has led to others sharing their pain. And the pain that other people deal with puts my pain to shame.

For me, it's ONLY been a month.

That's not a very long time. But I didn't really have anyone explaining that to me. That, no, I shouldn't try to go back to my full normal activity right away, because that will cause a relapse. One step forward will become ten steps backwards.

My expectations have been extremely skewed. Only when I've commiserated with other people who also deal with back and/or heel pain have I understand that these things take TIME to heal. For some, several months. For others, years.

And for some of us, the damage is irreversible, so it will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

The MRI results have revealed bulging and protruding discs in my cervical spine (neck), which is referring pain to the thoracic area in my back.

At this point, I am improving on a very slow but steady incline of progress. Rather than two steps forward, five steps back (which has been the method of my progress until a few days ago), I'm actually taking baby steps forward without any noticeable back-peddling.

As a part-time employee at St. Pete Running Company, I've been striving to do my best while not overdoing it. At times, I need breaks, and thankfully I have very understanding employers.

I'm up to a 30-minute walk every other day with slow jogging for a few of those 30 minutes. It feels really good to get moving, even if it's nowhere near the half-marathon training plan that I would've been following had I been spared these injuries.

The truth is I MISS running.

And I'm hoping that soon, I'll be able to run for all of those 30 minutes again. For now, I'm hedging my expectations and putting everything into perspective as best as I can.

I'm able to walk, even jog slowly to an extent. That is a gift, and I won't take it for granted. My fight is not over, and I'll let you know how it's going.

*In general, I do not take medication for pain, unless the severity is great. This was one of those instances where the pain was bad enough to make me feel the need to take something.


  1. Hang in there Bria! Looking forward to running with you again when you're healed!

  2. Thanks, Hea! You keep healing up, too. I do miss our jogs.

  3. Soon, Bria!! Soon. Here's sending healing vibes your way!


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