by fearandfartleks

In my last semester of nursing school, when I was heavily pregnant with child number five, I was assigned a CMO* patient on our very first day of clinicals.  The fact that I was given such an easy patient sounded alarm bells in my brain – what if this instructor thinks I can’t handle nursing school because I’m expecting?  What if she thinks I’m an idiot?  What if I have to drop out because of this baby?  What if I never become a nurse??? (Those of you who know me lovingly refer to this psychotic train of thought as “paranoia” or “insecurity.”  I prefer to think of it as “Type A Hypervigilance,” and, since I’m writing this blog, I make the rules, mkay?)  I was desperate to prove to my instructor that I was not a slacker – that I would not let something as minor as a human being growing in my abdomen stand in the way of providing excellent nursing care.  And so, being the earnest nursing student that I was, I informed the RN to whom I was assigned that I was going to bathe the patient.  I will never forget the look of pleading in her eyes, the unspoken, “Please don’t.  Don’t.  It’s barely 7 AM and I’m still getting report.  I haven’t even laid eyes on this patient who’s death you want to hasten by bathing her. And I don’t even want to think about the post-mortem paperwork.  So can’t you please, please, please just be a normal, lazy, tired nursing student and go eat a bagel in the break room??”  But I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  I was adamant that my instructor see that I was more than the baby bump in the white scrubs.  I had potential.  So, I gathered up my supplies, enlisted the help of a fellow student, and began bathing my poor little CMO patient.  I started with her face, as we were taught to do in semester one, then moved on to her upper extremities and torso.  In order to wash her back, we gently rolled her onto her left side*…when she promptly died.

I have been rereading some of my previous blog posts over the last few weeks, and I realized that things have been a bit heavy on the “fear” side and pretty light on the “fartleks.”  So, I thought I would update my loyal readers about my running progress.  I have had quite a few “firsts” in the last month – the Dude and I accomplished a long-standing goal of mine, which was to run 10 miles (yes, at one time).  It wasn’t a pretty run, and the final mile was downright ugly (when we got to our stop point I dramatically stumbled and half-fell/half-passed out.  I was going for the look of that female marathoner in the 1984 Olympics who trips, then falls, and finally crawls her way to the finish line.  In my case, however, there was no collective gasp followed by the thousand cheers of Olympic fans.  Just an empty Starbucks parking lot.  And the Dude.  And maybe a homeless guy.)  The next week we actually ran 11 miles, and I finished in an upright position.  The funny thing is, I thought achieving this goal would make me feel like a “real runner,” but it didn’t.  I was proud of myself, I was happy – but I still battle that constant, nagging suspicion that maybe I’m just faking it.  That one day I’ll just up and quit and never run another step.  That maybe I’ll take up the habit of lounging on my couch all day eating Pringles and watching Jeopardy re-runs.  Maybe I’ll actually grow into said couch and when that bowel obstruction I’ve been anticipating for years finally happens the paramedics will have to cut me out of the house, taking me and my Kane’s loveseat to my former place of employment for care.  Oops.  There’s that “hypervigilance” again.

Also in the last month, I had my first running injury.  I would like to say that it was something exotic and medical-sounding, like a torn ACL or busted vastus lateralis (okay, I totally made that one up), but it wasn’t.  It was a split toenail.  Boring, I know.  But I was super excited about it for two reasons:  1)  I busted my nail by running.  That means, on some level, that I ran so hard and so fast that my little nail just couldn’t take it anymore and split straight down the middle (it also means, of course, that I wore out my shoes/they were ill-fitting to begin with.  I prefer to stick with running really hard and really fast.) 2)  I got to use copious amounts of silk sports tape.  It is a little known fact about me that I love, love, love silk sports tape.  Using it makes me feel all athletic and sports-y.  A few months ago I had a blister on my heel (not from running, mind you.  From wearing high-heeled hooker shoes that were a bit too snug but totally completed my look) and I wrapped that sucker in so much silk sports tape that I looked like Lazarus.*  Everyday I lovingly wrapped and re-wrapped before I ran.  I must have gone through three rolls of tape.  And you know what?  It was worth it.  Because inside, I felt like a combination of Laila Ali and Joe Montana.  When I’m wrapping an injury in sports tape, I AM Roger Bannister.*

Over the course of the last few months, I have been running one morning a week with a woman about a decade older than me and about five minutes faster.  I’ll call her the “Flying J.”  Yes, I know this is also the name of a popular truck stop joint, but it was the best I could do on short notice.  Anyway, the Flying J has been running since, well, her conception and, although I was pretty intimidated to join her, I find that I now look forward to our morning runs.  I have actually learned alot about running – and about myself – from her.  I’ve learned that you can’t underestimate the importance of being well hydrated, especially before a long run.  I’ve learned that those packets of energy gel that I used to think were only for complete tools actually do give you a little boost around mile 8. I’ve learned not to fear inclines, but to attack them, to give them all you’ve got so you don’t feel defeated even before you’ve begun.  I’ve learned that running isn’t just about the run – it’s about exploring your neighborhood, enjoying the wonderful surprises that being alone on a trail/rode/sidewalk can provide.  Until the last few months, I had a few set routes that I always used, depending on how far I wanted to go.  I never varied from them, afraid that if I did deviate from my course it would somehow affect my mileage or my pace.  Lately, though, I have just been taking off running – usually with only a vague notion of where I might go.  I have stumbled onto fantastic sunrises on the Clearwater gulf, long, lonely piers just begging to be run on, wooden trails tucked away in small public parks, and beautiful neighborhoods I would otherwise never have seen.

The biggest lesson I have learned, though, isn’t truly a lesson – it’s more of a revelation, a private admission to myself that surely comes as no surprise to those who know me well: I don’t like to be pushed.  There have been several times over the last few weeks when the Flying J and I ran on some overpasses (okay, she ran, I just tried to keep moving and hold back my hot, angry tears) when I literally felt furious inside.  At her, at me, at this stupid activity where you just don’t stop moving but you’re not actually going anywhere.  And I realized that I am not used to being pushed, because, for the most part, I don’t require it.  All of my favorite (and most effective) teachers/mentors/preceptors seemed to know that I am my own slave-driver.  If it’s something I care deeply about (or just don’t want to look ridiculous at) I don’t require the rod and the whip.  I am my own harshest critic, my own time-keeper, task-master, disciplinarian.  The first paragraph of this post is a perfect example.  I could have taken the easy way out, could have eaten that “everything” bagel with six packs of real butter and two tubes of cream cheese that I so desperately wanted (oops, I mean, the baby so desperately wanted.  And yes, I did put all that crap on it.  Don’t judge), but I didn’t.  I forced myself to bathe that patient, to show my instructor that I was up to the challenge.  So what if I inadvertently accelerated my patient’s voyage across the River Styx in the process?  She was headed there anyway.   What I have learned is that, while my “Type A Hypervigilance” might be frustrating to others, it is what got my through that final semester of nursing school, it is what helped me pass my NCLEX, it is what led to my split toe nail, and it is why, even through my pissed-off tears, I will continue to run.


*CMO – “Comfort Measures Only.”  The designation given to patients who are end-of-life and require only palliative care.  This would include, but is not limited to, supplemental oxygen, pain management, repositioning, and, of course, baths.


*left side – Where the all-important left ventricle of the heart is located.  Basically I squished her heart’s biggest and best pumping mechanism by rolling her onto her left side, dramatically reducing the amount of blood pumped to her brain and body.  Whoops.


*Lazarus – Um, the main character from a story in a really popular book.  It’s in the “B” section of your local card catalog.


*Roger Bannister – the first man to run the mile in under four minutes.  Okay, so I’m still at the 9:45 mark on a good day.  But, with sports tape on, I feel really fast.