Auburn & Burien TTT, Plus New Nutrition and Scoliosis Treatment

Day’s Verse:
Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
A minus that won’t add up.

Ecclesiastes 1:15

Well, gosh. Where has time gone? I can hardly believe it’s been 10 days since I last blogged. On the other hand, enough has happened that I could well believe it’s been more like a month.

Quick health-related update: I went and saw Emily Edison, a sports nutritionist, today (I now have two alliterative-name healthcare people in my life. Just sayin’). Wow, so much information to assimilate. Yet I think it may be the best $185 — the visit was definitely not covered by insurance — I’ve spent in a long time. I’m going to see her again in a couple weeks, by which time if I follow her recommendations, I will have revolutionized my eating. For some reason talking with her about food and my eating disorder made me a bit teary, which was odd.

I also am in the midst of getting an appointment with a scoliosis specialist. I found the doctor I’d seen back in high school — his name is Wally Krengel, and he now works for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Because he works for Children’s, they don’t readily make appointments for anybody over age 21, and definitely don’t see people over age 30. Dr. Morrison’s office had faxed a referral to his office, but when I called to make an appointment, they told me he didn’t work there anymore, and I needed to have it faxed elsewhere. And, last but not least, Children’s did have me in their system — as Kathleen Sullivan. I can’t get them to change my name without documentation of the name change. Ha! So that’s in the works: I have to wait until my request for an appointment is approved (hopefully!) by some high-up scheduling manager, and until Dr. Morrison’s office sends the referral that includes my maiden name to the right office. All this so I can talk to Dr. Krengel and hopefully get him to agree to weekly PT visits as palliative care for my scoliosis. If he does that, then I get to start the real fun of trying to convince the insurance company to agree to pay for it.

In happier news, I earned some money these last two weeks! I started up teaching again, albeit on a limited basis. As you may recall, I do work for two Bicycle Alliance grants: CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a broad-based anti-obesity effort) and OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a Safe Routes to School initiative aimed at getting kids walking/biking to school specifically). The OSPI teaching stalled for five months thanks to the Great Buy American Fiasco. The CPPW grant initially only scheduled two trainings, so it was always a secondary concern; it’s OSPI that has 27 school districts to train. Neither of them scheduled any trainings during the summer, partly thanks to the Buy American issue, and partly because PE teachers don’t work in the summer and contractually aren’t obligated to come to trainings during that time. That’s really a shame, because summer is still the best time to do the training. All that to say that, although I’ve been hearing rumors that the OSPI grant coordinator has hammered out some solution, my work for the last two weeks came from CPPW.

I taught August 17 and 18 in Auburn, at the same site where we did the fateful late-March monsoon training. This actually turned out to be a boon, since I already knew the area, had a road ride route scouted, and generally needed less time for setup than at a totally new site — all beneficial after almost 5 months off.

It was a difficult training, for a few reasons:

  1. I didn’t remember all the material perfectly. It’d been months since I thought about this, after all, so transitions weren’t real smooth and I repeated myself too often. I didn’t have details at my fingertips anymore, and I didn’t remember what was happening next very well. The Feet First trainer, Lisa, was also rusty on her material, and she and I have only taught together once before. That made it a bit tricky to start.
  2. We had three students, all male PE teachers, none loquacious, and one tending toward taciturn. These guys had not chosen to attend the first training, and were less enthusiastic than the first batch of CPPW trainees. Even with a higher level of enthusiasm, though, it’s just hard to get a good discussion going with only three people. One of the trainees hadn’t ridden a bike since elementary school, and he’d specifically avoided bike-related classes when doing his PE degree in college. He confessed to me at the end that he’d been dreading the training (no wonder he was late!).
  3. I co-taught with a newly-minted LCI named Mark, who volunteers for the Bicycle Alliance and gave his time for those two days for free. That was extremely generous of him, but it’s always rocky teaching with somebody for the first time. Each LCI tends to have his or her hobbyhorse, too, issue(s) that the LCI just feels MUST be covered — even if it’s not 100% relevant or necessary for that specific audience. Not having taught together, I didn’t know what Mark’s hot-button issues were, and we didn’t have the kind of rapport that would let me cut him off gracefully.

For those various reasons, I exerted a lot of energy on the training, and came home exhausted at the end of each day. Getting up at 5:00 am and commuting to/from Auburn each day probably contributed, too (I cannot BELIEVE people do that commute on a regular basis! How awful!). However, I think it was a success overall. The guys all expressed a greater level of enthusiasm about teaching the unit at the end; they gave high marks on our mostly-useless evaluation sheets; the guy who was dreading it asked how much an introductory-level bike would cost and where he could get one, and told me he felt much more confident and at ease; one of the other guys was already planning how he’d use his experience with the unicycle club in the unit. We also certified one of the teachers as passing Traffic Skills 101, and he did very well at the additional handling skills, which Mark taught par excellence.

A couple days after the class finished, I talked over my experiences with Mom, and we came up with some alternative ways of covering some of the material that I felt went less than smoothly.

On August 23 and 24, I taught for CPPW again, this time in Burien. I’d already gone down to the site, Cedarhurst Elementary School, the previous week to scout out the roads. The downside of teaching at the school was that it didn’t open until a bit later than I’d like, so I felt frazzled for time as we set up. The room, however, was perfect, and we were ready when the participants started showing up.

We had three participants schedule for that training, too, so I was ready with some modifications to how I taught for very small classes. Good thing, because only two people showed up. The third guy, who’d missed the previous week’s training, managed to also miss this week’s training (food poisoning one week, car trouble the next; I expect to hear he has to wash his hair or something next time). John, the Bicycle Alliance CPPW coordinator who has attended every one of his trainings so far, got a flat tire on his way there and had to replace all four car tires, making him 3 hours late. Fortunately, I didn’t actually need John there, so we just went on without him.

This training went more smoothly. It helped that I’d just gone over the material. I also taught with Jen from Feet First, and she and I have taught together often enough to do it smoothly. I didn’t have a co-LCI (what’s the point, with only two students?), so I could do whatever worked for me without negotiating. BWAHAHAH. Anyway — The students were also more familiar with bicycling. Both had done STP at some point, even if it had been many years in the past, and were familiar with traffic principles and bicycling principles in general. Both were women, although only one was a PE teacher, and it was actually really great to have all women in the training. I’d like to do more all-women classes.

So the Burien CPPW training went better. We finished early on both days; the first day, I did additional Traffic Skills 101 material with the one student who wanted to do certification in the extra time. She passed with flying colors. The second day, I left at 12:30, a record, and I felt anxious that I’d left out something important because it was so early. Anyway, it went well, and by the end, the PE teacher (who just dropped her daughter off in Pullman for her freshman year as a Coug) was calling me “dear.” Success?

Now I have a few weeks until the next training. Nothing is scheduled, but CPPW needs one more training, and OSPI should be starting up mid-September. I had forgotten how good I feel when I can leave knowing I’ve had an impact on how people ride, getting non-riders to think about bicycling… And how many hundreds of students are impacted? It’s amazing to think about, really. In the meantime, I have a PT appointment, I meet with Emily again, and I will be riding my bike plenty. Most of all, I need to reconnect with some friends I haven’t seen for most of August.

Scoliosis: Update

Day’s Verse:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

My Spine!So you know how when you get a test done at the doctor’s, they almost always send you a form letter that says, “Blood tests normal” and that’s it? The letter I got with my spine X-ray CD, which I shared the other day, basically followed that paradigm. I figured that’s all I’d hear about it. But today I received a letter in the mail from Virginia Mason, and it was a first: Clearly typed by my actual doctor (a very nice gal, by the way, but like all doctors apparently busy enough for 3 people), not an item from a drop-down menu. The letter, in its entirety, said:

Significant scoliosis — continue physical therapy, if any interest in surgical options we can discuss at next appointment or just give the clinic a call!

Huh. To some extent that answers some of my earlier questions (about severity, for example), but mostly it just raises more questions.

…Back surgery? Really?

I need more data. Pros, cons. When’s it worth it, when’s it not. Well. That’s something to think about.

Scoliosis X-Ray

Day’s Verse:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14

Technology is SO COOL! Yesterday I got an X-ray of my back; today, I have a CD with digital files of the X-rays (not pictures; some medical file thing. I took a screen shot and flipped the image. You can see the backwards R in the corner). Neat!
My Spine!
A little bit less neat is the report that came with the CD. It said:

Frontal view of the thoracic and lumbar spine shows an S-shaped thoracolumbar scoliosis. The upper curve extends from T4 through T11, is convex to the right and measures 48 degrees. The lower cure extends from T11 through L4, is convex to the left and measures 37 degrees.

One of the interesting thing about this type of report is it’s so very factual. Just reporting the facts, right? Somehow a 48 degree curve sounds like an awful lot, but what do I know? What I do know is where my back hurts, and it’s right where my back curves. Funny how that works.

A report like this really just raises more questions than it answers. Where does this fall in the scoliosis range? At what point does this start to become a real problem? Is back surgery in my future? I imagine not, since I’m not growing any more so it shouldn’t be curving any more, right? I’m already seeking palliative care to deal with mild back pain. Should I worry about getting pregnant and the impact of carrying a baby around in my stomach (and then in my arms)?

Really, though, this doesn’t change my everyday life. Yesterday I didn’t have the report or pictures. Today I do. Does that mean I’ll change how I live — avoiding picking up heavy stuff, or giving up backpacking, or switching to a less aggressive position on my bike, or anything else? Nope. What this boils down to is a very cool exercise in technology. In less than 24 hours, I was X-rayed and received the results on a CD, and am now posting the pictures here. The future is now! Now, where’s my flying car?

Self Portrait - March 2011