The Fuel of Progress

It is now 1 month since my surgery and today was my first 4 hour day! As I look back at those weary, uncomfortable and uncertain times, I never would have thought I’d already be back to the current state that I have found myself in now! First things first – the fund-raiser. As I outlined in my previous post, it makes me quite emotional to even think about how much generosity has been show towards me. The target of $20,000 was not just dreamt up, it was a figure that was calculated according to what would be needed to give my sporting career another chance. This may sound extreme but its the simple truth. With a massive expense accumulated, my insurer finally deciding they were not going to cover a single dollar. This combined with missing out on more than half my income for the winter along with other factors to consider, it would have been financially impossible to continue without any support. As an endurance athlete, your body is your greatest asset and mine was a complete mess to say the least. For the past few years now, I have decided to throw all my eggs into the one basket – not to juggle too much and really pursue my goals as an athlete, but all of a sudden that basket was broken. You can start to imagine just how low these early days were but thankfully now these are well and truly passed! With $18,826 raised, my health finally back on track and training progressing much better than ever expected, I feel as though I have in fact found some amazing luck in one of the most unfortunate of situations. To everyone who has donated, you have given me the opportunity to continue. This unfortunately is something that I will most likely never be able to completely repay to you all. The only way I can deal with it mentally is the hope that one day I will be able to donate the same money to someone in need – given them another chance.

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Night terrors, fevers and chest pain during the night have continued since the operation but gladly have began to ease. The medications leave you feeling pretty toxic, cloudy minded and lethargic so I have really just focused on eating healthy. To be honest, one of the most frustrating consequences of this injury has been the inability to sneeze! Spring for me is definitely the least opportunate period for this issue also, being a bit of a struggler with ‘hay fever’. Have you ever tried to hold in a sneeze because you didn’t want to make a noise or be rude?? Its incredibly unrewarding and 4.5 weeks of it has well and truly been enough. 2 days ago I had my first sneeze, and what a satisfying milestone to reach!!

Sushi night!

Sushi night!

As you can see from the above photo, Sushi was one of these healthy dinners where I managed to cook way too much rice! Making quite a lot extra just meant we had plenty for the next day too – quite a good mistake I’d say! One of the other ways to help get back to feeling human again was a day down at Mornington Peninsula. A light run on the beach and sand dunes was a great feeling, and a fresh day became even fresher when a ridiculously big wave decided to come in…

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This was then followed by a relaxing afternoon at the hot springs and this had such a relaxing-ly positive effect on my sure muscles that seemed quite upset by the re-commencement of training!

‘Eat more, train more’ is a strategy I have been working with for about a year and a half now. Primarily because I have always struggled to gain or even maintain decent weight during heavy training periods. This year with a new strength program, I had managed to finally increase my weight to 71.5kg. After the 12 days of lying in hospital, I re-weighed myself to see a depressing 66.3kg. This was definitely one of the lows, I had done a lot to build up my strength and muscle mass and to lose it all so quickly was tough to see. With a change of strategy to ‘eat more, gain more’ plus a pretty solid re-entry into a modified strength program I was shocked to see the scales now read this!

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As said earlier, because strength training is not aerobically tiring I have been able to work into a solid strength program in an attempt to regain what has been lost. This was a pretty low point too at first. When you try and squat a quarter of the weight you previously could manage and have your legs give out on the third set, it almost seems like a lost-cause! Just like normal however, my coach Mattias said something ridiculously optimistic which later became reality. Squats are already back up to 90% of what I was at my best!

Running feels great now and is right back to normal. The only thing is that as a result of the nerve damage, my upper right side of my chest is completely numb and when I run, my right pec feels like it is made of rubber. Rollerskiing is coming along so much better than expected too. I managed 1hr 45 classic today with the desire at the end to continue! Still I am taking the conservative approach though, this is the first time in my life I’m going to be smart about injury rehab! With general chest tightness after exercise and soreness when I sleep it reminds me to stick directly to the plan. This tightness has meant that my mobility has gone from horrendous to comical! For any Yoga enthusiasts, warning! You may find the following image offensive….

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Just like any athlete, progression is what fuels me and right now I’m feeling great!

Forward Steps!

Since last week lots has happened and thankfully it has mostly all been in the right direction! On Wednesday I went for my out-patient appointment which hopefully will be my last major visit to the hospital. During this appointment I met with my surgeon who carried out various checks, analysed new x-ray images and removed the stitched from the multiple incisions that had been made. The news was all great! Everything had held up really well post-surgery and everything was healing at a very good rate. The lung had sealed completely against the chest cavity where the hole had been and the staple line in the lung was very fine and looking as though it had healed strongly in place. For those with a medical background, here are the x-rays. The first is the pre-surgery – you can see the tube in place, however the x-ray was taken whilst off suction with the lung beginning to collapse. The second is post surgery – no tube and the lung  Through a lot of assessment, I was then given the amazing news that I would be able to start training just two weeks after surgery. All very cautiously at an extremely low intensity to begin with, however being able to work into around a 50% workload by the end of that week!!

Pre-surgery

Pre-surgery

Post-surgery

Post-surgery

This news put me in a great frame of mind – the only concern was that my system was still obviously feeling the strain from the trauma all last week. Every night I wouldn’t be able to maintain control of my body temperature at all causing quite extreme fevers which was obviously causing a lot of concern. I unfortunately had another evening in Emergency as the fever was so bad that I was concerned it must have been something more severe. With the medications I was on being very toxic and the inflammatory response being quite major from the accident and operation, the doctors have said that these can cause the fevers. I have therefore just been trying to eat really healthy and take some slow steady walks to help the system re-cooperate and fortunately by Sunday night the fevers had seemed to finally pass!

A particularly nice walk during the late evening

A particularly nice walk during the late evening

This meant that today was a pretty special day for me – It was my first day back into training since the accident. I think as athletes we become addicted to training. It becomes part of life and pushes us to become obsessively goal orientated, right down to every workout. If you have a bad session or fall short of the time, distance or number of intervals it kills you mentally as you feel like you aren’t progressing. This has been one of the harder challenges for me to face during this period, but now finally I am able to return to a schedule and begin progressing once again. I managed 30mins of running at the slowest pace I have ever managed in my life but damn it felt good. Early on my chest felt stiff, however as I went into it, I really felt everything begin to relax and work properly once again. I then visited an old friend from school, Kolby Rook who has managed to build up a very successful massage business in Bundoora (MK Massage). Like so many others, he has gone out of his way to support me while I am here in Melbourne and as part of the support has organised with the Gym that is attached to his business to allow me free entry to begin my rehab.  So a huge thanks to MK Massage and Gensis Fitness!! (http://www.genesisfitness.com.au/)

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Believe me, I will be safe about my return to training as I know just how detrimental over-doing things early on can be to a successful return to strength and health. This afternoons session was based around simple mobility and working through the motions to get the muscles moving again. As you can see, weights were all extremely minimal, but it was nice to just get the muscles working again. Tomorrow is a new day with new aims and goals – back to the life of an athlete!!

Now to the most important part of the post, a message of thanks to the hundreds who have so generously pulled me out of this amazingly unfortunate hole I have found myself in. From more than 200 donors all over the world, over $16,000 has been raised! I am lost for words and completely warmed by just how many people have shown their support. Yes, of course the money is important as it enables me to financially continue as an athlete, however its equally as important to me as the mental boost this has given me. There are some amazingly kind and generous people that are right behind me, wanting to see me come out of this and succeed. For this I can’t thank you all enough. I wish I could write a list of everyone who has contributed, however that really would turn this already wordy blog post into a Novel. But I must really mention a few:

To NSWXC and now to NSW Freestyle also – Our state community based teams are stronger than ever, but have put together some amazingly supportive fundraising schemes to help. Really even shows a different discipline will come to the aid of another in tough times and this really means a lot.  To Rottefella, a binding company who doesn’t even directly support me, their generosity was simply unexpected but shows how much they are focused on supporting athletes! To my old Geography teacher, Mr Ryrie who was always supportive at school, but has shown a kind man never changes over time. To the Weinert family who have helped so many skiers during their involvement in the sport and have helped me so much over the years achieve my own dreams. To James Bennet and the ABC for presenting a segment on my accident and situation and really raising a lot of exposure (link to the segment is: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-06/olympic-skiers-insurance-fight/5725064).  And finally to Cliff from the Sundeck Hotel – To hold a fundraising race and donate amazing amounts to our National XC Ski Team each year should be enough for most, but here is another amazingly kind man. I thank you all so much.

Amazing Support and Some Progress

I firstly need to send out a huge thanks to everyone who has so kindly assisted in helping me get back on my feet. When National Team Coach Finn Marsland helped set up the ‘Help Reubuild Callum Watson’ page, he showed a lot of confidence in the possibilities and so far he has been right! This is only possible due to the huge number of generous supporters from all over the world and to you all I am so thankful! Cross Country Skiing really is such a supportive community to be part of and its been quite overwhelming just how generous everyone has been so far already. With everyone’s help, just over $7500 has already been raised! The insurance company will not budge an inch, I will explain the whole story in a later post about the exact situation once I know the complete outcome, however with this amazing support I feel confident that the target can be reached and I can make it through in the long run. Here is the link again: http://www.gofundme.com/djob50 

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I am very happy to be writing now from a very comfortable bed at a friends house in Melbourne. After just over 12 full days in hospital, I was finally given the all clear to leave which couldn’t have come soon enough, but actually came as a real shock!

The doctors actually came in straight after I posted my last blog update and had some really good news. The X-rays finally gave a good enough result which showed that I was able to go off suction to really test how the surgery went. as soon as the suction was taken away I became extremely nervous and feared to even move! I was so scared of that very familiar bubbling and cracking feeling across my sternum, along with the fierce pain as air would begin to enter my chest cavity. After 15 minutes, I felt nothing. 30 minutes later, I could still not feel anything and I finally dared to start moving around a bit more before standing up. I then got even more confident and went for the short walk to the bathroom and what an amazing feeling that was. For 12 whole days, I hadn’t been able to walk anywhere except for the small steps around my bed. Finally I was no longer attached to a machine and could walk!! Well I had honestly forgotten how to walk properly so progress was slow but to my drowsy eyes it felt SO fast!! I will never forget that feeling.

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4 hours later and I was still feeling great, meaning I had complete confidence it has worked! The X-rays taken confirmed my optimistic approach and a couple of hours later the doctors came in and said I could walk outside. That was another feeling which hit me really hard and will always stay with me. After 12 days under fluorescent hospital lights, everything seemed to bright, colourful and fresh. The other thing I noticed very quickly was just how much I could smell! Spring had seemed to decide to show itself in my time locked away and it smelt so sweet. As you can see, I definitely went a little crazy in there…

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When I finally went back inside it was around 6pm and the final X-ray for that day was done with results that made my spirits lift to a new high – I was allowed to be discharged from the hospital that night!! From being stuck to a machine to being discharged – what a day! Having that tube removed was quite a gut wrenching feeling as no additional drugs or anaesthetics were used. It felt like a part of me was being pulled out of from deep inside my chest and every time I reflect on it, it makes me shiver…

The past few days have been very slow however I try and do slightly more each day. Just to be able to cook good meals and have my own space is something that surely helps the recovery phase. The hospital ward I was in seemed slightly more crazy than I had ever anticipated and I think towards the end of it, I was growing very tired of it all. Looking back, there are a few funny experiences, particularly when one older lady confused Teresa as a Nurse. Teresa was being amazingly kind to that lady and was helping her if she dropped something, but she was never really that appreciative. I think that explained why she was so bitter all the time, here she was probably thinking I was just receiving special attention all the time from ‘nurse Teresa’!

Receiving some 'special treatment' from 'nurse Teresa'

Receiving some ‘special treatment’ from ‘nurse Teresa’

Another lady beside me was in a really bad way but would make matters worse for everyone by not using her nurse buzzer and instead just screaming to get their attention at any time of the day or night. This did become incredibly difficult to handle at times, however I soon learnt that she had a very sad story I felt particularly guilty to feel these frustrations. She received no visitors the entire time I was there and the reason was, her entire family had passed away including her two sons. Many times she would be just screaming at the nurses for a banana! The catering service never gave bananas and this was a regular disappointment to her. My Dad can be amazingly kind and generous and on my last day brought her up a big stack of bananas! It was incredibly rewarding to see her reaction, and even more generously he came back the next day even after I had left to give her a card. This made me realise just how much a small amount of thoughtfulness can go. The actual financial value of those gifts was very low, however to her, the level of thought was what really counted and was worth so much. That is just something small I have learnt from this experience.

Tomorrow I return to hospital for my main check up appointment with various scans and tests to monitor how I have progressed so far. After seeing the results, I will be able to discuss more clearly with the doctors the actual recovery time and when I will be able to return to light exercise. It is exciting, however I am just hoping the news is good, so fingers crossed! I will be sure to let you all know how it goes.