Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fashion Over Function?

Ever since having my transplant and developing diabetes, various people have been encouraging me to wear some sort of medical alert device. I agree that would be prudent, but I’m 29-years-old. I don’t want to rock some weird old lady bracelet all the time. I don’t want to be automatically stigmatized as “sick” upon meeting new people. The medical alert jewelry industry has developed quite a bit, some of the options are relatively attractive, but they all prominently display the medic alert symbol. I just can’t get on board with that. I almost always prioritize function over fashion, but I just can't do it here.

So I tried writing the critical information on the inside of my green “Donate Life” bracelet that I wear every day, but even the permanent marker I used did not stay on for long. Instead it left my wrist appearing to have a Sanskrit tattoo or something equally bizarre.

It occurred to me that I virtually always have one of two things with me – my keys and my work id tag. So today I researched personalized key chains and id tags to attach to both things. I found a solution in Road ID. The company was founded to provide runners with critical personal information to be used in case of an accident and now sells a variety of identifiers. I chose one I could affix to my key chain and to my work id. It features the date of my transplant, the fact that I am diabetic and emergency contact information.

I would encourage all of you runners, hikers, cyclists, diabetics, transplant recipients, asthmatics, etc. to check out The story of how the company got started is pretty compelling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2 + 3 + 3 = EIGHT

You know those cars that can go from zero to sixty in like three seconds? For that to happen, the car engine obviously has to react as soon as the gas pedal is depressed. Well, that’s essentially how most people’s hearts work. Your body tells your heart it needs to hustle as soon as you exert yourself, which provides you with the proper physiological support. A transplant recipient’s heart operates more like a little four-cylinder vehicle, which works fine once it’s warm but needs some time to catch up after the gas pedal is pushed. Because some nerves are cut during transplantation, it takes time for my heart to figure out that my body needs it to pick up the pace.

So while most gym-goers hop right on the treadmill or elliptical and pump it up to full speed, I need to start out very slowly and work my way up. I begin walking at a leisurely pace, then increase the speed and introduce increasing amounts of incline to get my heart moving. Because I’m only able to get my heart rate up to about 120 walking (resting is 105), my first episode of jogging is really quite miserable. However, once my heart is beating at between 140 and 155 beats per minute, jogging becomes worlds easier. The trick is to insert the right amount of walking between each jogging spurt so that I get a bit of a rest but maintain the high heart rate.

So what in the world does 2 + 3 + 3 = EIGHT mean? That’s the number of minutes I jogged on Sunday as a part of my most intense post-transplant workout yet! I felt like Rocky afterwards. I slowed my pace a little from earlier jogging efforts per my dad’s sage advice and felt much better and was able to run longer, both in terms of time and distance. I spent 35 minutes on the treadmill with eight total minutes of jogging (two minutes, then three minutes, then another three minutes). My new pace is 12 minutes/mile or 5 mph. Not exactly breaking records, but making progress!

I completed the same amount of time on the treadmill tonight, again with the 2 + 3 + 3 jogging format. However, tonight’s experience was pretty brutal. I know everyone has tough workouts sometimes, but it’s frustrating to have ONE good workout and then a bad one. It’s hard to get myself back into the gym after feeling bad, but I’ll try to keep Sunday’s Rocky workout in my brain instead of today’s crappy one. I know my workouts will become more pleasant as my body gets more and more accustomed to being pushed. It’s just sometimes difficult to transition knowing something into actually doing it.

I have a new goal, which will help keep me motivated. Donate Life New Jersey is holding a 5k run/walk on June 12, and I intend to participate. I intend to RUN. Don’t get too excited, I won’t be ready to run the whole thing by then, but my goal is to run at least a mile straight. Who’s coming with me?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

When I went to the gym this morning (and by “this morning” I mean at 1pm), I expected it to be mobbed with eager exercisers whose new year’s resolutions were to lose weight. That’s a familiar resolution for me, though I don’t believe I ever stuck with my various plans for more than a month or two.

This year I made my new year’s resolution about five months early. My new year celebration began on July 21 (well, really a few days later when I finally started to believe I’d survive). My previous year had been consumed by illness and fear, and I knew that while the next twelve months would still be difficult, they would be filled with progress and new hope. So I resolved to honor my donor by taking great care of the extraordinary gift I’d received.

A couple of months ago, I adjusted the resolution a bit. When I heard on tv that a Chilean miner named Edison Pena had been running while trapped underground and intended to complete the New York City marathon, my ears perked up. What he said next really resonated with me. He said, “I was running to be an active participant in my own salvation.”

So my revised 2011 New Year’s resolution is this: to be an active participant in my own salvation. In this way, I will honor my donor, become the person I want to be for my family and friends, and live a long, healthy life.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2011 and success with whatever your resolutions may be!