I have many unique and exotic experiences that I want to accomplish on my cycling bucket list, developing external iliac artery occlusion wasn’t one of them. The symptoms started on July 4th during a three hour ride with our club. I had just returned from Sweden the day before and felt great during the first half of the ride. I spontaneously lost all power in my right leg and wasn’t able to recover for the second half of the ride, barely being able to pedal back to my van. The power meter was my base line monitor for quantifying my output based on effort. The first half of the ride I was putting out 275-300 watts with moderate effort, the second half I couldn’t put out more than 120 watts without going anaerobic. I justified the sudden loss of power with jet lag.
I came home that day, felt tired and discovered that I couldn’t walk more than fifty yards without going anaerobic, creating a limp with my right leg and I needed to stop walking until my leg recovered. Fast forward past my ten days of visiting eight specialists trying to determine the cause of my sudden weakness. The conclusion to the cause of the intermittent claudication was an occluded right external iliac artery . I needed a bypass of the artery. I vetted out Dr. Ken Cherry , vascular surgeon at UVA who has done more of these external iliac artery bypass operations than any other surgeon in the country, most likely the world. He was quick to accommodate my request to have him do the operation and we scheduled surgery August 1st.
The plan was to take the Amtrak down to UVA on Tuesday July 31st, meet the doctor and his team and get the pre-op tests Wednesday, surgery on Thursday and back home on Sunday. A nice tight schedule to get what typically is a routine operation, from the best in his field, done with time to spare for a short recovery and check over period before we headed home.
Things went sideways quickly. I won’t bore you with all of the details, and can’t remember most of them anyway because I spent the next ten days in either a drug induced state or was in so much pain my endorphins didn’t have time or detail on their priority list. I spent most of that period in what I would consider survival mode. My baseline thought was if any human being could deal with this pain, I should be able to endure it. I have many clients and friends who have gone through much worse than what I went through and was drawing strength from them. Thank you Matty Long for being run over by a bus, I thought of you often.
I proceeded to have four operations within six days. I lost 1/3 of my blood, almost lost my foot or leg and spent too much time looking up from the pre-op table at extremely concerned and worried anastesiaoloigists and surgeons. When crap is about to go down, I want my professional team to give me the look of “we got this”, not the look of “we are going to do our best to get you through this”. Lie to me, I have no control in the outcome of what is about to happen next, so a little white lie wouldn’t hurt.
Fourteen days after rolling into Charlottesville, Va, Liz and I are planning to return and start the recovery phase of this rare condition. I look at life in lessons learned and what I would do differently if the situation presented itself again. The facts are, knowing what I know now, that I would make exactly the same decisions and choices that I did the first time. Things go sideways, the world isn’t perfect and people are people.
Liz and I met a bunch of great doctors, residents, nurses, PCA’s, transport people, technicians, PT ‘s and assorted staff at UVA. We did meet a nurse, Keith, who will be getting married this fall and most likely will be joining us for our Majorca trip in 2014. It was on his bucket list and probably was the real reason why this whole ordeal happened. Life is strange, make the most of it.