Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Journey of a 1000 Miles (APIWATWOL #4)

#4 in the "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or Less" series. (For a description of how this series works, see installment #1)

The photo I chose at random for this installment of my new blog series, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or Less, was taken by Jeff in April of 2000, while my newborn baby girl was living 400 miles away with my brother’s family and I was on my sixth week in the hospital after a fairly significant childbirth-gone-bad experience.

That odd thing wrapped around my waist—the one that looks, ironically, like a baby sling—is holding four plastic containers attached to tubes inserted into my midsection for the purpose of collecting drainage from my third surgery that month. An extra hospital gown is tied around my neck like my very own Superwoman cape (and trust me, I did feel like Superwoman in that moment)—my nurse's attempt at preserving my dignity. As if I had any left at that point. 

You'll see that I am smiling—a Pavlovian response to the word cheese offered by Jeff as he snapped the photo. In actuality, I recall feeling mildly annoyed by the simple request of a photo, not out of vanity but because I felt I was going to puke any moment, the vertigo created by lying inert for five weeks rather overwhelming. I had set my goal at making it to the nurse's station about twelve meters from my hospital room, and pausing for even five seconds and raising my eyes the slightest bit to meet the camera lens felt like both a monumental burden and needless imposition. 

Beside me is Amy, my physical therapist, more upbeat than usual because it was the first time she’d managed to get me beyond the confines of my room. When I first met Amy, she asked me to lift my right leg off the mattress. No matter how much I willed my leg to rise, it lay there like a recalcitrant cinderblock. Same with the left leg. 

The next time Amy came to visit, I feigned sleep. She left without a word.

By my third Oscar-worthy slumber performance, Amy was on to me. I could no longer put her off. And so the real work of my recovery began, the work that involved greater reserves of tenacity than I had heretofore known existed within me. At that point in my life, I had completed six marathons. Not one had come close to the challenge afforded by learning to walk again.

My physical therapy sessions were grueling, both physically and mentally. Many days, I would’ve preferred to curl up in a ball and slip away to The Great Unknown, the way animals that know they're mortally wounded do. But our human ability to think is, as they say, what sets us apart. And my mind was full of thoughts of a baby I had yet to meet but for one brief visit when my brother and sister-in-law flew in for the day with Clare. Many times I thought my little girl was better off with them, hell, with anyone but me.

But every so often, such as the afternoon this photo was taken, I managed to muster up the old Lauren, the Lauren whose grit and stubborn optimism could overcome any challenge Life threw in her path. Like the task of making it all the way to the nurse’s station before pivoting and returning to the comfort of my bed and another dose of morphine. These were the moments that, I believe, helped me beat the medical odds of my illness. That allowed me to run one more marathon a year-and-a-half later just to prove to myself that I could.


  1. (((((((((((((((((((((LAUREN)))))))))))))))

  2. Hi Lauren! Someone brought your post to my attention today, and I just had to write to say hello. (This is Amy, your PT in the picture). You were one of those patients I never forgot. I hope you and your family are doing well!

    1. Holy shit! AMY! I am so glad you wrote! And what an unexpected and awesome surprise to hear from you! Yes, the whole family is well and living in Boulder (moved six months after my "train wreck" because, you know, life is short, so Carpe Diem! Would love to chat more offline. My email is And I'm on Facebook too. Wow. Thrilled that you took the time to comment. And thanks again for forcing my sorry ass out of that hospital bed. xo