After five weeks in a hospital bed, five surgeries and countless feverish nights I have lost more than ten pounds. I also haven’t walked for a month so my leg is extremely atrophied but I haven’t really noticed yet. Because the lower part of the leg is swollen due to the trauma, I didn’t notice how much muscle mass I had been gradually losing. Some nights I feel my abnormally thin thigh muscles when I rub them to divert the pain from the lower affected area of the leg. But when it’s daylight I forget about it. Even thought I knew on some level that my thigh had lost a lot of it’s muscle mass, I didn’t expect to see what I saw when I observed my whole leg a week before I checked out of the hospital.
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It’s a Tuesday morning and my doctors tell me I’m going home in a few days. Once they leave the room I have a good look at my leg while as I’m trying to change my shorts. What I see shocks me. I look down and realize that my thigh is actually thinner then my knee. How is this possible? I was in top condition a month ago. Sprinting on the beach, dead lifting in the gym, muscle striations and veins popping from my athletic legs… it now seems as if my left thigh belongs to someone dying of starvation. You see, our legs might have the strongest and biggest muscles in the whole body, but these muscles are also the ones that atrophy the fastest once you stop bearing weight on them. A few weeks of no walking were enough for what felt like maybe even 70% of my leg’s muscle mass to disappear.
A nurse enters the room, “tomorrow you’ll be allowed to stand up again,” she tells me. “What do you mean,” I ask, while feeling disoriented from my previous realization. “Well, you’ll get started on learning how to move around with crutches on your healthy leg” she explains. I nod, open my laptop and put in a DVD with old Friends episodes a buddy of mine had brought earlier that day. I try to forget what I had just seen and maybe divert my attention enough to get a laugh or two. On the bright side, I had family and friends every day who also cheered me up a bit, or at least tried to… It’s funny how in times like these people you think will be by your side vanish while others you least expect end up showing up every day.
Like my buddy Kostas for example. We had met 6 months ago, me being his Canoe Coach at the Nautical Club where I used to train and also work part-time during my studies. He was a hard worker and that’s something I always appreciated as a coach in my athletes but also in people generally. We got along well but I didn’t expect him to visit me every single day – for 5 whole weeks! He would try to cheer me up and also distract me from this whole mess I was in. Not too long ago, I was bossing him around the Nautical Club to do pull ups and work on his rowing technique but now our roles had switched. My doctors had me doing some toe extensions and flexions to keep the nerves in the leg active. I didn’t really have the mood for it… So Kostas made sure I didn’t slack off and motivated me to try even harder.
On the other hand, some lifelong friends didn’t even appear. That’s ok, I never kept hard feelings on account of that. I myself was a very different and shallow person back then, before all this.