Imagine if you will…
Imagine if you will a man in his 60th year. Normally considered sane but a bit bent he agrees to take on the “Be Healthy Challenge”, a 12 week program that includes medical, dietary, and personal exercise instruction. He is joins a team, Team Quest, that will compete against other area gyms. How many teammates can reach 3 goals they set as individuals? Then, in a twist, his lovely bride Anne joins the challenge…on another team! The plot thickens. But wait. We learn the man, while having most of his marbles, doesn’t contain all his original parts. It’s not just his reputation that is scarred. We offer this for your consideration. Join us if you will as we follow the man in his journey…
Week One: Days One and Two
He rose at 5 with clothes laid out and coffee auto-brewed. The man could not eat because he was to have his medical statistics recorded and blood taken immediately afterward. He arrived at the gym prepared for the task ahead. Hungry for the experience. Hungry for reaching new goals. And just plain hungry.
The coach and trainer, Carter Hays, was experienced and the team friendly but anxious. Carter has coached several of the “Biggest Losers”. The man hoped this would not be merely ironic. An energetic but low impact workout began…
…and in the end his body did all it could to remind him he was in his sixtieth year and running with replacement parts. It reminded him he had not eaten. It reminded him he still had to go up two flights of stairs to get the parking lot. But he felt good.
On to name, rank, serial number, blood pressure, blood sample, measurements, and weigh-in. But there was a problem:
He weighed three pounds less on the medical scale than his home scale! But that can’t be right…this is a contest! Dear God when in the history of mankind had this ever happened? And it had happened to him…now. Had he not hydrated? He had consumed quarts! He asked for a recount but was denied. Despondence.
On day two he had planned a walk: just a brisk three miles in the neighborhood that he had done many times before. And as he got out of bed he was reminded of an otherwise obscure fact from high school biology:
There are over 650 named skeletal muscles in the human body. Some claim there are as many as 840. After a few steps he was certain the 840 camp was probably right. It took three times as many steps to the kitchen as normal but he was determined. If he had been nothing else in his life he had been determined.
His lovely bride Anne determined he might skip this walk this one time if he needed to for recovery. Wasn’t that reasonable, she reasoned? But Anne was on another team competing with his own! And that was reason enough for him as he trudged out the door to walk those miles. Reason be damned! He was a middle-aged man!
And those were the relevant parts of days one and two.
Week One: Day Three
Consider if you will how mistakes are made:the man, in his blog about the first workout at Quest Sports Center, referred to it as “an energetic low impact workout”.
And coach Carter Hays must have read that.
The team was greeted pleasantly, as always, and Carter stepped aside to reveal the set list: 100 push-ups, run a lap, 100 crunches, run a lap, etc. Low impact?
While the man had been physically active on and off, usually just-in-time training for an event, he soon discovered how much more of his body he really had not worked. And, on medical advice he had a smoothie earlier in the morning. Before he was even done with the first set, and there were plenty of, ah, girls’ push-ups in there, a little flutter in his gut warned him: he could vomit. Vomit. Baumit! Suddenly he flashed to junior high gym class: “Don’t vomit, Baumit!” “Baumit!”
Imagine if you will a hallucination at 6:15 in the morning…blood rushing to the head even as oxygen was not getting to his muscles. Fortunately there was no heave and he needn’t worry about the spot he might leave.
And that was the second workout.
That evening the man and his girl Anne had choir practice at church. When they got home he asked his lovely bride how her work-out went…did she experience the same misery and exhaustion as he had?
“Oh, fine! We did some barre!”
We leave you now to continue our story another day.
Week One: Days Four, Five, and Six
We rejoin our story on that first Thursday. There are no songs written for Thursday: it the day of almost Friday. Nothing more, nothing less. No three day weekends. And Thanksgiving has its own identity. Thursday is a day with no name unless you can link Thurgood to it. Then, at least, it has some good.
The man with no name had planned no exercise for this day because he had sensed no amount of willpower would overcome no energy. He was, after all, in his sixtieth year and that’s not counting the ages of his transplanted liver and kidney. He tells everyone most of him is nearly 60 because he has no knowledge of the ages of the others. He only hopes they have no expiration date.
He expected a leisurely morning of a little coffee, a little writing and a little financial news.
What he did not expect was a little pain on the instep of his right foot toward the top. He didn’t remember tweaking it the day before. Lord knows he’d had plenty of foot problems so a little pain was not unexpected. He thought nothing of it as he completed the paces of his day.
Friday morning was different. On Friday morning he stepped confidently out of bed only to gingerly step back in. Uh-oh. Same song, different verse. It could be the curse. The timing couldn’t be worse.
It was the agony of de feet.
What to do but throw on a shoe and join the team at Quest? He hobbled in and let Carter know what was going on. That day would be like boot camp for the others and would need leverage from the foot. He was sent to the weight room to reboot and wait it out.
Some rowing, a few weights, an attempt on the treadmill. Rejoin the team for conversation and call it a morning. It couldn’t feel any worse.
Until it did. By the end of the workday he would need a wheelchair to get to the car. And that was day five.
Saturday he thought he had it figured out: without a doubt it was the return of gout.
And with this we apologize to Dr. Seuss, our viewers, and tell you that on the seventh day the man rested and actually looked forward to better things on Monday.
Week Two: An Opening Thought
With all that is going on in the world this week we offer this:
“If you write, fix pipes, grade papers, lay bricks or drive a taxi – do it with a sense of pride. And do it the best you know how. Be cognizant and sympathetic to the guy along side, because he wants a place in the sun, too. And always…always look past his color, his creed, his religion and the shape of his ears. Look for the whole person. Judge him as the whole person.”
― Rod Serling
Week Two: Good Friday
It had been a good week this recovery from the foot and ankle problem. If she were there the man’s granddaughter would have reminded him “Baby steps, Grandpop!” And baby steps did indeed get him through a modified workout Monday, short walk Tuesday, nearly full participation Wednesday, and nearly three miles on his own Thursday.
On April 1st he had posted a pitch for organ donation registration on fb and received
feedback that several friends either signed up or re-registered. That is gratifying as that is what he’s trying to do: Reach 1000 new donors by the time he checks out for the next place. And there is indeed a next place. He knows because on one eventful Saturday night in Nov 2011 he had witnessed it while nearly bleeding out internally and before being saved, once again, by the finest medical care in the world.
Listen if you will to his words: “If you doubt or deny an afterlife you are not entirely wrong. You’re just temporarily wrong.”
On this Good Friday he would join Team Quest once again and feel the strain with only a little pain, feel the joy of companionship in team effort, and make plans for the following week including some fellowship after work one evening. If the weather is good Saturday there will be a 5k practice, time with his lovely bride, and then rain-or-shine a beautiful Easter Vigil Mass. Life is good!
Easter and Passover 2015
In honor of Donate Life Month the man shared a letter he wrote to the family of his organ donor whom he does not know. Please join us in appreciating the tragedy and decision faced by that family.
We hope this letter reaches you and your family in good health and a blessed holiday season!
We have a life connection: your family and mine. One that caused your family the greatest hurt but gave my family and me the greatest hope. It happened five years ago…
I was dying. One of those long, slow chronic illnesses that runs in families and ours goes for the kidneys first and starts crushing them with cysts from the outside before choking them off from the inside. In my case the liver was predisposed for this, too, and it began to grow, covered with cysts the size of oranges, then softballs, and then grapefruits. In time it was going to cut off all those things the body needs to stay alive: eating, swallowing, breathing. And there was only one way to stop it…it had to be replaced.
Your son, brother, husband, father was in a horrible accident on that November day and there was nothing the doctors could do. You made the decision to try to save lives, and his liver and a kidney were given to me.
We don’t know the details and don’t need to but, with your permission, I’d like to know your loved one’s, my donor’s, name. We would like to meet you. And I wish I could tell him, and you, everything that has happened as a result of your generosity and sacrifice.
I could tell you that receiving that gift of life allowed me to live with my loved ones in a way we thought might not be possible. It allowed me to get up and get out and be a husband, a father, a grandfather longer than we had hoped.
There isn’t enough space to share all the things I’ve tried to do to show my thanks, make it right, and pay it forward. Just know that my wife and I hope our efforts and speeches, walks and donor sign-up tables, and even sports successes and personal testimony may help to make some other families know hope and receive the gift of life, too.
But nothing that I can do, until the end, can match both the sorrow you have felt and the generosity you have shown to saves the lives, like mine, that were running out of time but never hope or faith.
My family and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving and want you to know we think about you, and say thanks to you too, at every Thanksgiving we can share together now.
Thank you and God bless you.”
Week Three: Our Story Continues…
Easter and Passover are seasons for reflection and the man submitted a very personal article to local media promoting organ donation harkening back to the final days of his illness leading up to the double organ transplant and the role of faith in coping. The Home Page Media Group picked it up Monday and the Williamson Herald promised to publish it next week. Gratifying feedback continued to come in confirming newly enrolled and renewing donors as this, after all, was the point.
Back to the “Be Healthy Challenge” and back to Quest on Monday and his team gathers to work off the holiday. Lined up and waiting for them were instruments of torture and Body Mass Destruction that Carter Hays had devised in his laboratory far beneath the Earth…or at least in the lower level of the gym. The team performed its penance and the man said three Our Father’s and three Hail Mary’s on the drive home.
Our readers may recall in earlier stories the role of the Rec Center in his initial recovery from surgery and preparation for playing basketball and field events in the US Transplant Games. And on that Tuesday morning many of those same smiling faces were there to greet him and they all caught up. A 5K on a treadmill on that rainy morning was just what the doctor ordered as the WillPower 5K was coming up Saturday in downtown Franklin.
Tuesday evening the man and his lovely bride joined others in the Challenge at 100% Fit for the nutritional coaching by Dr. Travis Owens. All 25 “Challenges” in attendance agreed they learned a great deal and that eating healthy could be a great deal as well.
The following morning the man awoke before dawn. Four hours before the dawn to be precise with that infrequent abdominal pain that had lingered, on and off, since the night in the hospital they almost lost him in a massive internal bleeding incident. This would be a long day as any more sleep was not in the cards. Still he dressed and headed to the scheduled session at Quest to check in and was only able to spend 15 minutes on the self-propelled treadmill before checking out. He would call this Dead Man Walking with only a hint of irony.
Then off to work and an evening get-together for Team Quest at the Brentwood home of Tara and family. Or was the home named Tara? They enjoyed the things they had in common, laughed at the things they did not, and enjoyed the fellowship.
And that, dear readers, was the first half of Week Three.
Join us if you will on Saturday when we’ll look back on moving forward in the “Be Healthy Challenge”.
Week Three: Saturday Down South
As promised, dear readers, we catch up to the man even as he runs down the street. This was not terribly difficult to do: The boy who could not run well became the man for whom running was hell…and yet he was, as always, determined.
But let’s begin, if you will, on that Thursday when he set out on the neighborhood course. At three miles it mimicked a 5K but with without a Greek Chorus to gape at his gait: a flat-footed thing with hammer toes and plantar woes. And add to that a strategically placed wart because, well, that was how his feet worked. Don’t even get us started on the ankles: this is a mystery not a horror story.
He muddled through because “that’s what he do” and hoped for a miracle. Because it wouldn’t have been the first.
Friday at Quest the team had met and spirits were high. It was Friday after all and the end of week three of the “Be Healthy Challenge” and the muscles ached just a little bit less and scales and belt notches were just now reporting the progress. And they called it good.
That Saturday was a beautiful day for the WillPower 5K. It was a run to support the cause of a young man for whom a spontaneous brain hemorrhage had nearly taken his life and the man could relate. One thousand had registered and nearly 900 finished in Historical Franklin: a hysterical community that was home to a very bloody Civil War battle and an economic boom where its core had not lost its soul.
The man had bumped into colleagues and friends and enjoyed the beginning but relished the end. The weather and the vibe was beautiful. And the man his sixtieth year, with replacement parts and the agony of de feet, stumbled to place 592 by the time it was through and he called it good. And a good day.
Join us next week if you will as begin Week Four of the “Be Healthy Challenge”
Week Four: Tuesday
The man had made one stop before the WillPower 5k: to pick up his race packet at 9 Fruits Smoothies. The line moved quickly and then he bellied up to the smoothie bar to place his order…and noticed there was less belly to, ah, belly up with. They had a balanced special for the “Challengers” and he paid full price because they were donating proceeds to the WillPower cause.
We have already spoken of the race, then Sunday was a lovely day, and the man returned to Quest with the team for Monday’s Fusion session. Coach Carter’s (They should make a movie with that name. Imagine if you will…) mantra for this week was “Simple”. This was appropriate as the team is pretty simple-minded before 6 AM and they launched into it with the simple single-mindedness of people simply focused on goals. Simple is as simple does and then they were done. And tired in that good way.
The man works today in the federal government which all of his life-long friends find pretty funny as apparently the background and security investigations must certainly be lacking. But he started there when he was so sick all he could do was sit at a desk and talk and so talk he did and kept his callers out of trouble as best he could. This is the week of April 15th and a great sorrowful wailing was heard throughout the land. A great screaming and gnashing of teeth. Pain, suffering, and degradation. And those were the agency’s employees.
And then there came Ruby on that Tuesday the day before tax day. There’s no time to lose he heard her say…catch your dreams before they slip away. Dying all the time. Lose your dreams and you could lose your mind. Ain’t life unkind? Tax day.
And that, dear readers, was the start of Week Four of the “Be Healthy Challenge”. Join us again soon unless all that dying all the time has made you terminal.
Week Four, Wrap Up
The weigh-in on the way in to the whey-free way out week was worth its weight in gold.
By that we mean the man would wait for more progress as the weight loss was waning. At least he wasn’t gaining.
Except in strength and stamina.
In other words: pounds didn’t go. A plateau. Happens to the best. A temporary rest.
That’s not the point of the “Be Healthy Challenge”; certainly not the main point.
He and his lovely bride Anne are into a groove of carefully eating for fuel, challenging work-outs 4-5 times a week, and learning more, along with their teams, about lifestyle changes they can carry well into the future. A determined group of eighty willing souls receiving guidance and coaching not otherwise available outside of very comprehensive programs. This challenge is twelve weeks in total and not just a week at a fat farm.
This would be a good time for another shout-out to their sponsors.
Also: Elements Massage of Franklin, Mountain High Outfitters, 9 Fruits Smoothies, Home Page Media Group, and Shots Etc.
They are very grateful for your support!
Week Five: Mid-Week
The man has had a busy week so far this week and yet there is more to come.
It started with another pleasant Franklin Sunday and then volunteering at the major event of the year for the American Liver Foundation Nashville Chapter for which he serves on the Board Directors. It was a success by all measures:
Then, while working during his job’s busiest time of the year he made his work-outs with the “Be Healthy Challenge” and joined his lovely bride at the Challenge’s food education event hosted by Dr. Travis Owens: Eat For Success.
Yes, you are what you eat. This explains both zombies and Sofia Vergara. The biggest takeaways were:
1 In the produce section darker in color is almost always better
2 If you can’t pronounce the ingredient additive it’s probably not good for you, and
3 Frozen beats canned and if you don’t understand Frozen just ask any girl under 10.
As a person active in his community the man joined his friend Dr. Ken Moore at the Factory at Franklin to hear his State of the Cityaddress. As usual the good doctor knocked it out of the park in both his creative presentation and, the easy part, sharing all the great news, recognition, and positive statistics for the finest little city in the South:
(Dr. Moore hates that the man is so much taller than he. Note the “Donate Life” cap)
But wait! There’s Moore, I mean, more!
And coming up yet this week more time with Team Quest and the St Jude Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon!
Week Five: We Plead the Fifth
Consider a week busier than even this man might anticipate. With all that is going on he still sleeps next to the prettiest girl he has ever seen and must answer the alarm twice a day to take his life sustaining immuno-suppressants. Because his is not his alone. Long story.
We know about the “Be Healthy Challenge”, its goals and support, and the competition between Team Quest and the team of his lovely bride: 100% Fit. But why run?
The man was not born to run. His brother was not born to run. Heaven knows his father was not born to run. We know about the agony of de feet. And so on. And so why does he insist on running?
Because it is hard. It is especially hard for him. He was not constructed for this: his is a family of plow horses not race horses. And so it feels hard, it hurts, it does not come easy for him like so many other things in life. Because it is hard it feels alive.
And so there you go.
2015 Team Quest in the “Be Healthy Challenge”
In addition to his work with Team Quest he reserves time for a little ‘nother challenge. A little penance. A chance to reflect on his roots, and illness, and donor, and the love he receives. A stretch in a life that has been easy but for his illness and his own inner demons.
He has completed two Half Marathons but his legs and ankles, his agony of de feet, keep him to the shorter distances where a little discomfort goes a short ways. A first place finish in a small Tennessee Senior Olympics 10K race was a fluke: a convenient time where it was inconvenient for the best competitors.
So he’s learned to sign up, show up, and simply not give up and let the chips fall where they may. That’s all a guy can do.
And so this “Old Fart With New Parts” signed up, showed up, and finished up a modest 12th place out of 31 “runners” (And we use the term loosely…maybe four were truly respectable) in his age group in Nashville’s biggest 5K race of each year surrounded by over 30,000 mostly intent on the longer distances. Not a Marathon Man, not even a Half Marathon Man these days, he feels tired and comfortable with just a 5K. And should sleep well.
He would like to thank this week’s sponsors: Tylenol and Ace Bandages.
And the beer at the finish tasted really, really good.
Week Seven: Imagine If You Will…
…One of the biggest takeaways from the Be Healthy Challenge: Long-term changes in eating habits and nutrition and the benefits thereof.
“But we DO eat healthier than we used to!” Americans almost universally exclaim.
Yet the man observed over the years the Great American Schizophrenic Diet existed even in his own home; he having been Mr. Food in a previous life only ten short years ago.
He and his lovely bride are now committed to staying with this real food good/fat not always bad/calories are overrated path they are on. Sure, they’ll spend a little more and make more frequent trips to supermarkets and farmer’s markets. They’ll continue to track what they eat not to record calories alone but to make certain that they are in balance.
But the best part is not only are they doing this but they will continue to do this together which is still the single best decision they ever made ‘lo those many years ago (although there are some who still call her decision into question occasionally)
The man wishes to thank his sponsor A-1 Appliance and thinks it a remarkable, and perhaps fateful, coincidence that they became his sponsor just as the need to replace their 25-year-old stove top and oven become apparent. How they came on board as this focus on cooking more meals from fresh, high quality ingredients is a bit eerie even for those of us here at….. “The Twilight Zone”.
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