Friday, September 16, 2011

Kidney March Day 2-One Foot in Front of the Other

Tent city (borrowed photo)
The worst best thing you can do for a sore, aching body is lie down in a small tent on the hard cold ground. I think the first night I woke up every 30 minutes with my hips and thighs feeling like I was lying on a pile of jagged boulders. I wasn't-the ground was actually grassy and not even really hard but my body wasn't up for the sleeping arrangements. Part of the problem was the cheap mat I had bought to sleep on-word of advice-that is not where you suddenly want to get cheap when shopping. It's been awhile since I've slept in a tent and I had also forgotten how cold it can get at night. I was glad I hadn't been thrifty when buying the sleeping bag. Otherwise spooning with a stranger might have been required.

Before starting off on the march I went for breakfast-again pretty impressed with the choices. No matter what kind of a breakfast eater you are, your needs were served. Eggs, bacon, yogurt, fruit, oatmeal, cereal. All there. And of course coffee. It wasn't Starbucks but it was warm and on a cold morning, it got my vote.

After breakfast I headed over to the medical tent to get the cankle wrapped up. It was amazing what a difference that made (in conjunction with putting my running shoes on). It was slightly sore but I could walk normally. One of my marching buddies had seen me in my flip flops earlier and had pronounced my gait as being "terrible" and recommended I not walk that day. A little ankle wrap was all it took for my gait to be approved by her.

We hopped a school bus and headed to the middle of nowhere-somewhere west of Elbow Falls. Beautiful middle of nowhere. We were the last bus to arrive therefore were the last herd of marchers to get out on the road. I kind of wish I had made it onto the first bus to give myself more of a head start-I think I'll make a point of that next year. I was excited to be walking with my new friends Sue and Marian. Sue had been such a great walking partner the day before and I was curious to learn more about her sister in law (Marian) as she is also a donor (and a very interesting lady). We started out into the rolling hills of K-Country, past streams and ravines. Every since I moved to Calgary almost five years ago I've wanted to see a bear or a cougar. As we were walking and I surveyed the wilderness, I realized how stupid that wish was and hoped that today wasnt going to be that day that the wish came true.

I was feeling positive, strong and like I could walk as far as I needed to. As we walked along we talked about everything from dogs to blisters to kidney donations. Marian was outraged to learn I had gotten to eat not once but 3 times (with the option of more) the day before my kidney donation-she had not been permitted to do the same. Once again-different programs-different rules and process. It was really cool to find out what she experienced vs. what I had, ans also lean more about the "recipient" side of the actual surgery from Sue. Even thought I spoke to other donors prior to surgery, our conversations had nothing on all the details and comparisons that come out over hours of marching. It was "good for the soul" kind of talking with belly laughs and even a few teary moments.

I found myself also being a bit of a tour guide, explaining some of the hiking areas we past along with the texas gates. Not bad for someone who this time 5 years ago had to Google what a texas gate was. On a related note, I do not enjoy walking over those...they scared me a little bit. The only one of the three we encountered I could walk around resulted in my also cutting my leg on barbed wire. This was right after Sue said "watch the barbed wire". I am good that way. Funny how you can cut your leg but your pants remain intact as well.

Bleeding leg and all we trudged on in the beautiful sunny weather. The day warmed with time, much like it had the day before.We stopped at every rest station and stretched and also did the odd bit of stretching and photo ops in between. This was by far the best day for scenic views. My right hip and both thighs as well as the cankle were achy but with a regular dose of Tylenol I was getting by. I was happy I was doing so well. Although lunchtime was a welcome relief.

The lunch spot was pretty in a park beside a pond. When we arrived it was pretty clear we were within the last few to get there. There was a musician serenading the thinned crowd seated at tables in a field. Nice touch. We got our lunches and were happily eating and airing our feet. One small beef I had with the march was how obvious it was you were last to certain checkpoints (like this lunch). Its hard to relax and rejuvenate when they are literally packing up tables and chairs around you. I had left my stuff on a table while I went to go see the paramedics about the barbed wire cut and the table I had been at was fully packed up, my things placed neatly on the ground to the side. One of the few elements of the march I would suggest changing because it did kick at morale a little bit.

Despite the fact that I was feeling fine (tired and hot kind of fine) a bit of a scary thing happened at lunch. One of the marchers (also a donor) ended up developing symptoms of heat stroke and was taken by ambulance to hospital. While in the end the marcher was okay, it really made me wonder if I was pushing myself too hard, so soon after surgery. And I wasn't the only one thinking that. My marching buddies were equally concerned if not more so that the heat and hills for the rest of the day would do me in as well. They kept reminding me I was only at three months post surgery. We continued on after lunch but that was weighing on my mind.

We kept marching, up and down short and long hills. Cars waved, trucks honked and bikers nodded in appreciation of our efforts. We made it to Bragg Creek and I'm pretty sure we were in last place. I stopped to use the washroom and came out. I was feeling the heat and the exhaustion was about to kick in. I think Marian saw it on my face because a little ways down the road, as a sweeper van approached, they flagged it down and put me in it. I didn't even put up a fight. I'm glad I complied because about 25 minutes later, safely at camp, I started to get dizzy and lightheaded. Nothing that a shower and a massage couldn't just about fix :)

To be continued.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kidney March 2011-End of Day One

Rosie and I by one of the better quote signs
The one good thing about not marching the full way on day one was that I arrived back at camp before the bulk of the marchers. This meant first dibs on a shower and a massage as well. But first I had to find my stuff and my tent in "tent city".

Tent city is a sea of red tents. Very tiny red tents. They were divided into colour coded sections (which was what I was supposed to tie to my bag so it would be put in the right area-but I had not). I limped around and finally found where the "colourless" bags were. I then went to look for my tent, "85 Pink". I quickly found it and was pretty happy knowing I had the tent to myself. They were teeny and I couldn't imagine the prospect of spooning in one with a stranger-no offense to any of the lovely marchers out there. I quickly unpacked my stuff, got the shower gear and headed off as quickly as my sore legs would allow, to the shower truck.

Having a shower after walking over 20km in 30 degree heat is about the same as having a hamburger after starving all day: in reality what you are experiencing is not best in class but it feels like the most luxurious, amazing, decadent thing ever. I've never used a shower truck before but it was very clean with decent water pressure and the right amount of heat. Before I saw what the shower solution was I had envisioned the sandy campground showers with the lukewarm water that barely got you wet-this exceeded all my expectations.

After my shower I went and put my name down for a massage. I didn't have to wait more than about 15 minutes. I was asked what was ailing me (my ankle and right leg) and she set to work on both. It was one of those "hurts so good" massages. After it was over (each session was about 15 minutes) everything was feeling better except the ankle/foot area, aka the "cankle". I realized this might require further attention from the medical tent. But first-I was hungry!

I went to the food area....they had a big dining tent set up with a separate food line where friendly crew would serve food up on your plate.  They also had a separate area for drinks. I was impressed by the section-there had to be something for almost everyone. I got my food (spaghetti and meatballs with salad) and went into the tent where I was happy to find my adopted team members Rose and Lee. We chatted about the days events and as we were wrapping up, Sue and Marian arrived-they had walked the whole way and we just getting back to camp at that point. I was humbled by how far they had gone and how they kept going, even though they must have been the last to come in. Made me feel a bit wussy 'till I stood up and the cankle reminded me part of why I had stopped.

After dinner I went to the medical tent and waiting in line with a few blistered people to get the cankle checked. I heard the first half of Kidney-oke (karaoke) starting in the dining tent-it was good entertainment while waiting to see the medical staff.. I didn't need to wait too long until I aw the nurse-she did some tests on my ankle and thought I may have sprained it (due to a weakness from an old injury) but the doctor thought it was more likely that I irritated the "sheath" in my foot. Tape and ice were the solution as long as the swelling stayed relatively low. Woot! The doctor was funny-he looked at me and then looked an my medical sheet (which indicated I was a recent donor) and then looked at me again. He said "you are one of those altruistic donors aren't you?" I nodded-he said "cool" and went back to looking at my foot. I have know idea how he knew that but it was nice to have a break from explaining (I don't mind explaining but its nice to have a break! Especially when having cankle issues!)

I was exhausted and it was starting to get dark so I headed back to my tiny red tent and got comfortable for the night. I realized that they had the whole tent city illuminated with giant spotlights-they eventually shut off every night at 9:30 but it made getting around without a flashlight pretty easy. Little things like that made for a nice stay, even in little itty bitty tents.

I don't even remember falling asleep-I was that tired. I do remember really looking forward to seeing how I would feel day two, and more importantly how much I could accomplish.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kidney March 2011-The March Starts

Well it's over. Done. Finito. What an experience. The 2011 Kidney March was what I expected and more. And there were some thing s that could have been better (as with everything in life). But the idea is great and I'd consider doing it again. Because of the enormity of the experience (beyond the 100km), I've decided to make a few posts about my ups and downs and impressions over the weekend. Here is part one:

Arriving at the baggage drop off zone at the Delta South Hotel in Calgary at 6AM felt a little like being dropped off for summer camp. I was excited, nervous and a little a lot unsure of myself. I was also feeling a little rushed as I had left much of the packing for that morning and as a result had just left the house in time to make it to the hotel. We were halfway there when I remembered I forgot to both eat breakfast and tie the "Tent City" colour coded tag to my bag (so they know where to put your luggage). This only added to my nerves-I hate not being perfectly prepared.

I said my goodbyes to "Charlie" and wandered into the hotel lobby. It seemed like there were people everywhere-inside and out and I didn't recognize anyone. After a few minutes we were all instructed to head out to the buses. On my bus, the only seat that didn't have anyone in it yet was the one right behind the bus driver. I of course picked that one. Keener. Eventually a man came along and asked if he could sit there. He quickly was greeted by others around us as "Doc" so I assumed he was a doctor. Turns out he is indeed and is a paediatric nephrologist at Children's Hospital here in Calgary. We chatted briefly about kidneys and why we were marching. I learned that due to advances in the last 10 years or so in diet, monitoring and medication, they  can often prevent most kids living with kidney disease from needing a transplant at least into adulthood. Research (and funding for research) does indeed pay off. Very important, especially when you are dealing with kids.

The other three in Lee's crew!
We arrived at the kick off location (Millarville Race track). They had a good selection of fruits and yogurt (phew-the no breakfast issue was overcome). People milled around and made their way to the stage area. I still was feeling very "by myself" but that didn't last long. Lee Ferreira, my very first Kidney March sponsor, found me and introduced me to her three team mates, Marian, Sue and Rosie. When they moved, they made sure I came along with them. People took photos of their teams on the stage and there was a quick opening ceremony and a warm up. Then we were off!

And somehow I was by myself again but in the beginning everyone was so bunched up it didn't matter. I just wasn't talking the way everyone around me was. The energy was high and there were a lot of smiles around me. We started trekking towards the main road. It was pretty impressive to see all the marchers in their "Failure is not an option" shirts moving along the roadway. Despite being surrounded by people though it would have been cool for those first few kilometers to have had "team mates" around me. Next year right? I fought off the urge to sing "All by myself" as I walked. Nobody likes a martyr. One of the crew/cheer people I passed asked me where my marching buddy was. I told her I didn't have one. She said she might come walk with me a bit later in the march.

We walked a few kilometers and ta da-our first rest stop. I have to applaud the event organizers on this feature of the march-the rest stops were almost always perfectly spaced and had everything (usually) from water to Gatorade to Oreos and port-o-potties. You could enjoy any or all of the features for as long as you needed and in any order that suited you.

About two or three stops in I caught up to Lee and crew and had marching buddies again. Time and space go by much faster if you have people to talk or listen to. Or even just to experience the scenery with! The Kidney March organizers had these great quotes along the roadway too which were motivating at least the first few times you saw them :)

By late morning it was getting pretty hot out. My energy was holding up but I knew the sun would start to get to me. I was kind of worried about a repeat of golf day where I overdid it in the sun and lost the whole next day. As much as I am feeling great 99% of the time these days, rumour has it that donating a kidney is major surgery and that was only 12 weeks ago.The more we trekked on, the more tired I got. We finally arrived at the lunch station and I felt like every muscle in my legs was on fire. I stretched and stretched and stretched which seemed to help some but not others. We were towards the rear of the "pack" of marchers and as such we seemed to catch the tail end of lunch. We quickly ate, feeling pressure to keep going.

After lunch, our team had split up a bit and I was walking with Sue. She is a fantastic lady. Without getting into great detail about her story, she is a kidney recipient (from her sister in law) as of about a year and a half ago. It was so interesting to talk to her and hear about her experiences with dialysis, waiting to see if  she had a donor match in an extended family member or friend. It was hugely helpful to me and it helped me better understand what life with Kidney disease is like.

At about one stop after lunch I knew my energy was dwindling and there were a lot of sunny, brutal hills ahead. My muscles were fine and I was blister free but I had no energy left. As much as it totally made me feel defeated, I climbed into a sweeper van (vans for people who need a ride for as much of the course they want). There were a few people with me in the van and everyone was pretty quiet (in pain and/or a bit deflated). The cheer-crew lady who had promised to walk with me was in the passenger seat of the van. She tried to keep our spirits up and got everyone talking about why they were marching. There was a range of answers from family members/friends affected or lost to kidney disease, people who worked in the renal field etc. I was the only donor (in the van) and there were a few questions about that. It was good to listen/talk as it kept my mind off feeling badly for "quitting" for a little while.

After a bit of touring around we started to make our way back to camp. I was very excited about the prospect of a shower. And a massage.

To be continued...