Smith Kids MSU Tailgate

Smith Kids MSU Tailgate
Dominica, Veronica, Rebel and Miranda

Friday, December 31, 2010

Brain Background-Running for a Reason

Running For A Reason  Written Spring 2008

There will never be an article written about how fast I am or an article reporting me as a winner in a 5K race.  I am not fast; and by most people’s standards I am not a winner.  But what I lack in speed, I make up for with passion!  I love to run and while I never manage to cross the finish line first, I always cross it without having stopped or walked.  For me, each time I do this is a victory.  I think there are others who probably share my sentiments and fall into this same category; we are runners, but we are not racers.  Our goal is not to finish first, but rather to finish and to improve over time.

However, this past year I have faced an unusual medical condition that proved to be my greatest challenge ever; It has been far more difficult than even the most challenging 5K route. I had hydrocephalus and as a result had to have brain surgery in January 2007.  I know it sounds like a bad episode on a soap opera, but for me this is reality; it is my life.  On January 12, 2007 I sat quietly, and as calmly as possible, while a neurosurgeon drilled a hole in my head to release the pressure caused by the hydrocephalus.  Hydrocephalus, for those of you who do not know (which was the category I fell into before this happened to me), is a condition where too much cerebral spinal fluid builds up in someone’s brain and as a result the intracranial pressure within the person’s head increases to dangerous levels. It is usually caused by a brain tumor, head trauma or infections of the brain, such as meningitis or encephalitis.  The bizarre twist in my case was that I had experienced none of these. To date, the doctors still have no explanation as to why I got so sick.  I woke up on January 11th feeling normal, went to work, and developed a terrible headache which only worsened as the day went on despite my consumption of more than the recommended dosage of Excedrin. By that night I found myself at the emergency room getting a CAT scan.  Because of the rarity of my case, I was not diagnosed and treated until the following evening when I found myself with the surgeon and the drill. The drill procedure was only a temporary fix and on January 15th I underwent a second surgery that placed a permanent ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt within my body. The VP shunt works as a bypass, rerouting the fluid from my brain to my abdominal cavity where my body naturally reabsorbs the excess fluid.  The recovery from this has been far more difficult than any race I have ever completed.  I won’t get into too many details other than to say that I went from a confident, active, individual who ran or walked almost every day to an individual who struggled to get out of a bed by herself and had to call on her family to help with even the most simple of tasks. 

I will skip past the details of the tough in between months where I was feeling better, but not anywhere near normal.  These were the times when I would over do it and find myself in terrible pain.  I will skip past these times and move on to my victory!  My win.  On June 30th after over 5 months of recovery and just 6 weeks of training, I ran the Reeds Lake 5K run in East Grand Rapids, Michigan!  I remember thinking to myself that morning, “Am I ready?” “What if I don’t finish?” I was so unsure of myself going into the race.  Just as before my surgery, I didn’t win and I was not fast compared to many of the other runners, but I finished and I didn’t stop or walk.  A victory for me!  Not only did I finish my first 5K since the surgery, but I finished with a respectable time of 27:44 which was a personal record at the time!  I was ecstatic and so happy that I cried later that day when I realized what I had accomplished and just how far I had come. 

Looking back on 2007, I reminisce about the tough times and the challenges, I celebrate each victory, no matter how small, and I find that still have the passion to run. Any extra passion and energy that I have these days goes toward fund raising efforts for STARS-kids, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that works to financially support research into hydrocephalus and VP shunt technology! I have already raised over $12,500. If anyone is interesting in more information about any of my events such as the upcoming 1st Annual West Michigan STARS-kids Walkathon October 25 at 9AM at the Grand River Sailing Clubhouse at 219 North Harbor Drive Grand Haven, MI or donating to the cause please contact me at 616-837-6242 today!   

No comments:

Post a Comment