I haven’t exercised regularly in more than a year.
Rather embarrassing for a personal trainer to admit, huh?
Oh, there’s a pretty good reason. But it’s also a pretty dumb reason.
You see, I’m headed for surgery.
Now, that could be a pretty good reason for not exercising in the short term. Depending on the type of surgery.
But it’s probably a pretty dumb reason if you ignore a problem long enough that it almost disables you. Especially if you’re a personal trainer. And you’re in the business of teaching and encouraging healthy habits.
I have another confession to make.
My workouts have been pretty terrible for the last five or six years.
It’s a long story. But I’ll attempt the Reader’s Digest version here.
My dad had a failing heart. Pacemaker. Diabetes. Paper-thin skin (literally, not temperamentally). Narrowing arteries. He had a nasty stroke while driving in 2011 and miraculously regained all his function.
January 2014. His heart needed help pumping blood through his veins. New technology. He was a potential candidate for an innovative surgery.
Complications arose. Several. He stared down death five times in the next three months.
The toll on the rest of us was enormous.
Daily vigils. Massive amounts of prayer. Long daily travel. Too little sleep. Drained like never before. But still trying to support each other.
May 2014. Dad was discharged after 4 and a half excruciating months in the hospital.
Life would seem at least a little more normal, right?
Twelve days later, Kathy’s mom had a stroke. More travel. More disruption to everything normal.
Less than a month later, Dorothy, my dear mother-in-law, passed away.
July 4, 2014. Mom and Dad hosted their annual party, just like normal. It was so good to be together, celebrating instead of keeping vigil.
Mid afternoon, Dad’s in serious pain. So bad, the toughest man I’ve ever known is in tears.
And so began close to two years of almost daily doctor’s appointments. Emergency room visits. Hospital stays. A tremendous toll on Mom.
I helped as much as I could. I’d put off work and writing projects when Dad was so ill, I wanted to catch up. But there are only so many hours in a day.
With 7 grandkids (at the time; now we have 9) and 5 kids, most every weekend is booked with a party, a sporting event or three, a school function, you name it. We did our best to keep life as normal as possible.
May 4, 2016. The dreaded phone call in the middle of the night. The toughest man I’ve ever known had a catastrophic cardiac event.
The process of untangling finances… even with great trust documents… and helping Mom with stuff that Dad always did was daunting. There’s only so much legal documents and written instructions can do.
And they don’t replace the person. The man who repaired the plaster wall in the bathroom. The one he knocked a hole in when he blacked out and fell into it.
The man who still handled whatever chores around the house he could handle. The man who still puttered around the yard, cared for his gorgeous orchids, kept a full work bench in the basement and garage. Played golf with two battery packs hanging from his shoulders.
The man who was Mom’s constant companion and the love of her life for more than sixty years.
Mom had never lived alone. Ever. And now, she was facing that for the first time at 79 years old. Thankfully, Martha, our daughter, lived with Mom for almost a year after Dad died. But when she moved out, I spent more and more time at the house. Just for the little things.
Life didn’t slow down. It accelerated.
And there were still only so many hours in the day. Meet clients. Maintaining our house. Family time. Especially with Mom.
This entire time, I ignored some discomfort in my left leg. And my right leg. And my hips. And my back.
I self-medicated (no, not alcohol, ibuprofen). I adjusted my increasingly pitiful exercise sessions. My buddy, Lance, a rock star physical therapist, helped me tremendously. I consulted with and ultimately refused the recommendations of a chiropractor (that’s a story for another day).
My racquetball game, which was pretty decent, disintegrated. On the basketball court, I couldn’t jump for a rebound. Even an easy jog became impossible. I modified my golf swing but was in agony by the end of a round. Squats were uncomfortable. The leg press machine was usable, except I couldn’t keep my left knee in line. It always dropped out to the left. And pressing too much weight just plain hurt.
I just knew it was some sort of back issue. So I hesitated to “lift heavy”with dead lifts and back exercises. Yeah, I could do just about any other upper body exercises. But not being able to do a full body workout… totally demotivating.
I missed the real problem.
I didn’t have the time or inclination to make doctor’s appointments, sit around their offices, blah, blah, blah… besides, I was still able to function well enough to work and do most everyday activities.
Plus, I didn’t want to be unavailable for Mom.
She was worried sick about me. She didn’t tell me. Well, she alluded to it. But she confided her deep concerns with my aunts and uncles and her friends. Not me.
July 19, 2019. Friday, 6 AM. Mom wasn’t feeling well. We talked all day long. What should she do? Did she want me to come over? Should she go to the ER?
She made some phone calls. I made some phone calls. Her cardiologist gave her instructions. I had a busy work schedule and kept going, ready to head over at a moment’s notice. Kathy and I were going to visit Martha in Iowa the next morning, so Ihad that on my mind, too.
Friday evening. What time did Mom call? 7 PM? 8 PM? She’d dozed off in the recliner on the porch. Didn’t feel right when she woke up.
“Nancy is taking me to the hospital.”
They decided 911 was a better option. I met her at Lutheran General Hospital, emergency room. Doctors said they needed to normalize her heart rate before they could discharge her. Everything else looked okay.
Mom kept insisting I get some sleep, so I drove the 40 miles home.
She was admitted overnight. Cardiac ICU. Her heart refused to cooperate.
Iowa plans were put on hold. I still held out hope we could get out there for a while (that’s also a story for another day). Back at the hospital after a handful of hours of sleep.
July 20, 2019. Exactly 50 years since they walked on the moon. 50 years since our dog, Tuffy, was born. 50 years since one of the most enjoyable days of my life: a party at Aunt Bernie and Uncle Stan’s house when Dad was in Poland with Babcia (his mom, my grandma).
Mom’s heart rate was still elevated. The cardiologist on duty discussed performing a cardio version to flip the heart rhythm with the hope of getting the heart to beat at a normal rate. It’s a fairly routine procedure, as much as heart stuff can be “routine.”
1:00 PM. Mom coded. She never regained consciousness.
July 24, 2019. Mom’s funeral. Two days before my birthday. Less than a month after Uncle Stan, Dad’s brother, passed away, peacefully, at home, with his loving family all around him.
More stories in all of that for another day too.
Three weeks after Mom’s funeral, my 49-year-old brother-in-law, Jeff, had a stroke.
Three weeks after that, Kathy had a TIA, a mini-stroke.
More hospital visits. More anxiety. Not only that, we were struggling with other personal and health issues throughout 2019. Some I can share. Some not.
We moved Martha back from Iowa the first weekend of January. I fell down a couple stairs carrying a heavy piece of furniture. My left leg crumbled underneath the weight.
I promised my family… finally… I’d go to the doctor.
Three days later, walk-in orthopaedic clinic. X-rays. Exam. Evaluation.
A week later, MRI. Days later, orthopaedic surgeon.
I need a new left hip.
More appointments. Dentist. Doctors. Read this. Watch this video. More x-rays. Further confirmation. A new hip?!?
Years of pounding. Decades of pretty decent racquetball. Outdoor basketball. Tackle football…yeah… we played even in our 50s. I know… I know… it’s too late now.
Surgery is scheduled for February 17. I have to tell you, I’m not looking forward to it.
Despite the almost constant pain.
Despite not being able to exercise, especially no racquetball.
Despite not being able to walk through the grocery store like a normal human being.
Logically, it makes all the sense in the world.
Emotionally, I’m still a wreck.
They’re gonna stick that thing in me?
But I am still an enthusiastic personal trainer. I enjoy helping people. I enjoy teaching, coaching, instructing, explaining… whatever you want to call it.
In the late 1980s, before my epiphany and transition to personal trainer, I was a representative with A. L. Williams, a financial services firm now known as Primerica. A family oriented company.
One of our slogans was “I help people get what they want.”
That’s how I’ve attempted to conduct my entire professional life.
- Preparing tax returns.
- Designing financial plans.
- Bailing people out of desperate financial situations.
- Sharing faith insights to encourage you with yours.
- Or helping you get in the best shape of your life, even if you hate to exercise and love to eat.
I still enjoy all of it. I feel best when I’m helping people get what they want.
So if you’re interested, I’m going to let you follow me through the entire process. From final pre-op preparation to day of surgery to recovery and rehab.
Interested? Click that follow button next to my name. Or get on my e-mail list at davekwiecinski.com and I’ll send my latest escapade direct to your inbox.
So much for the Reader’s Digest version. Thanks for reading.