Starting the Kick

Back in my youth, when I ran on the high school cross-country team, I spent a lot of time in each race thinking about “the kick.” Race strategy dictated that one reserve a last bit of energy for the very end of the race, when one would pick up the pace, and pour on speed toward the finish. Some runners had a natural kick, but others like myself struggled throughout the race to judge the cruising pace well enough so that there would be enough left over for a good kick at the end. The trick of the kick was to not start too soon, which might cause you to burn out before the finish, but to start soon enough, and strong enough, to outpace other runners with whom you’d been pacing over the preceding miles. For some, the kick took the form of an all-out sprint when the finish line was in view. For others, it meant gradually picking up the pace across the last mile of the race, taking a psychological toll on the opponent, by seeming to get stronger as they felt tireder.

The idea of a “kick” came to mind this morning, as I was thinking about wanting to finish the year strong, wanting to pick up the pace and productivity in my life. The end of the year makes a good psychological “finish line,” and the three months between now and then is a good amount of time for gradual projects like an exercise routine to have made a difference by then.

There have been many prompts toward these thoughts. In Seattle, the seasons have definitely changed; days are cooler, leaves are changing, dawn comes late. Kimberly had her birthday yesterday, which means mine is days away. For a celebration, we spent the weekend in Portland, where the mirrors on two walls of the bathroom allowed, well, a frank assessment of one’s physical assets. And, perhaps fertilizing the ground, Labor Day weekend saw us at Deep Springs for an alumni reunion, with much opportunity for reflection on potentials old and new.

All of which is throat-clearing by way of considering my desire to close 2005 with a “kick.” Today it is my intention to gradually pick up the engagement, creativity, and productivity in my life, in a variety of ways. The goal is to make some substantive changes for the better, that will continue to pay off in 2006. What those changes are will be the subject of later posts. Among them, obviously, more work on building my physical fitness, for while I was able to walk all over Portland’s Pearl District on Saturday, I’m still feeling it this morning. (But my stiff and aching muscles didn’t stop me from getting packed up and out walking to do errands this morning, and making it to the cafe for a bit of wireless blogging. In true Seattle style, I’m one of 8 laptop users here, vs. 1 guy who’s just reading the physical newspaper.)

Paul Two-Navels No More

On September 7, I was back at UWMC getting cut by Dr. Futran. Amazingly, I actually requested this, and went under my own power.

When they removed my feeding tube back in December, it was a fairly simple process. Essentially, they grabbed the tube and pulled it out. However, since the tube had been in there for months, the skin had grown around it, so that when it got yanked out, I was left with a dimple in my belly. For the last 10 months I’ve had two navels; the one from my umbilical cord, and the one left by my feeding tube.

Happy as I was to be eating again, and no longer dependent on the tube, the extra dimple really annoyed me. I wanted it gone. But I didn’t really want to get cut anymore, and I figured it would change over time, and maybe become less annoying to me. But, by the last time I saw Dr. Futran, it was still there, and still annoying, so I asked him what would be involved in “fixing” it.

He said that it would be a simple procedure to “revise” that, that he could do in the office, and he’d be happy to do it. So we scheduled a longer appointment, and that was Sept. 7.

First, he injected my skin with a local anesthetic, one vial below the dimple, and another above. His technique betrayed that he’d been a dentist before otolaryngology, and had taken the course about tips and tricks for injecting without pain.

Half an hour later, I was lying flat in a reclined procedure chair, sterilized and draped, and he went to work with the scapel. For me the hardest part of the procedure was that lying back that way gave me a dry, ticklish spot in my throat, and I kept coughing. Well, that and the moment during prep when they’d stuck the cold and jelly-fish-like sticky grounding pad for the electro-cautery machine to my side. (Brrr.)

Being conscious for electrocautery was a new addition to my medical experiences. There is a sizzling sound, and there can be smoke and a smell. I suppose others might find it fairly disturbing, but I was amused by the idea that my belly was being arc-welded, like a piece of farm machinery out at the ranch.

Two layers of stitching followed, one deep to take the bulk of the strain, and the other to bind the top of the skin and make it heal smoothly, and I was done. Antiseptic ointment, a bit of gauze, and back in ten days to have the top stitches out. Voila!

By shortly after dinner, the local anesthetic was wearing off. Acetaminophen was able to keep the pain to a mild level, though I did get a scrip for vicodin. I also had a round of antibiotics. That night, I changed the bandage, and looked at the handiwork in the mirror. It seemed like it would heal to a short, curved, and most importantly, flat scar, not even the most dramatic on my torso, much less my whole body.

I’m pretty happy about it.

The stitches came out today. I’m posting three photos, before, with stitches, and with the stitches out. (The scar in the upper right is from surgery I had back in California, to drain fluid that was building up around my heart. In the middle photo, you can just see the long scar on my forearm from my squamous surgery. As I say, the new one is not so dramatic.)