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Saturday, August 3, 2013

What the Doctor said about my HAPE

I managed to get in to see my family physician, who I've seen for the past 8 years. He knows me pretty well, and his office is only a few minutes away from my house in Utah. I was in Utah to take care of some business and pack up a few things that needed to be in Colorado.

At the office I described my symptoms and told him about the oddities in the x-rays from Indonesia. He requested some new x-rays, saying that x-rays for broken bones are very different from x-rays for pulmonary issues. He looked at the x-rays, noted the slight shadow areas, but didn't feel like it was an issue at that time.
My x-rays smuggled out of detention in Indonesia
The girl who took my x-rays was pretty funny, helping me into the lead skirt after having me remove my shirt. The buttons would interfere with the x-ray she said. She took two views, helping me arrange my scapulae into the proper formation to extend my lungs for better viewing. She had me stand there shirtless and in the skirt while she developed the x-rays to make sure we didn't need to redo it.

Her: "This is huge! Your lung is huge!"
Me: "Which one?"
Her: "Huh? Oh, haha - no come look. This is the biggest lung I've ever seen."

So I went into the little shielded tech room and she pointed out how it filled the entire chest cavity. Who would have thought? She allowed me to put my shirt on and I went to meet with the Doctor.

After a few minutes he came in, looked at my x-rays and pondered for a minute. He said that with true HAPE it would be impossible to identify it accurately a week later at an elevation 9,000' lower. Then he said that my lung volume was probably twice his, probably twice most normal people. He suggested that I was probably not breathing fully, an autonomic response to rib damage, and that as the Doctor in Indonesia had said, the cartilage might not be fully healed for a year or maybe even more. In the meantime he wants me to practice breathing fully. All in. All out. Extend and expand.

Since he assumed I'd be running anyway, he said to run and focus on fully breathing. He also suggested Tai Chi or Yoga or stretching, anything to expand and open my rib cage. He said not to climb Rainier for three more weeks, but after that I should be good to go. I'm free to climb Elbrus in September. And of course day trips on 14'ers shouldn't be an issue.



I returned to Colorado and the next day set a PR on a trail 10k, 1k, and half mile according to Strava. Now that I know there's nothing long term or historic wrong with my lungs, I think I had a mental boost that day. Breathing deeply might have helped too. This was ultimately a 6.4 mile run with 800' of elevation up and down in 1:14.

Later that same day I visited with my Chiropractor in his Breckenridge office, and he thought it was a great prognosis. He does work for a lot of professional and extreme athletes, and understands that taking a year or two off really isn't an option. We're an odd bunch I suppose ...