"I need help," she posted.
As you might suspect, I get a lot of e-mail traffic with various musculoskeletal and medical questions for which athletes seek an independent opinion. “I broke my collar bone on a recent ride, they’re saying I should have surgery, what do you think?” Or, “It’s been a couple weeks since my complex knee surgery, when do you think I can run again?” Like most Sundays, there was one waiting for me recently. It was from a woman in NC named Georgia, a veteran of many marathons and triathlons, who, very unfortunately, had suffered a small cerebral hemorrhage. This is a type of stroke that occurs when a tiny artery inside the brain bursts leading to the death of some surrounding brain tissue. They comprise about 10% of strokes. In those with significant bleeding, permanent injury or even loss of life can result.
Fortunately for Georgia, she had a complete recovery. That’s the good news. The bad news is that an underlying reason for the hemorrhage was never determined and her doctor “refuses to clear me for competitions.”
What she was seeking in her e-mail to me was a doc familiar with endurance athletics who could approach her as an athlete, not just the next stroke victim waiting in line. “But the trouble I am running into is that most non-endurance athletes believe that triathlon and certainly Ironman are grueling competitions where all athletes crawl across the finish line on death’s door. As an athlete yourself, I am sure you can appreciate that I did not enjoy hearing that.” I’ll bet many of you reading this now understand her emotion 100%.
What she needed was someone who understood both Neurology and triathlon so she contacted me. While I’m not that person, I know how to find that right person. The triathlon web site. Sensing her urgency and bewilderment, I made it my priority for the day. I put up a “Neurologist needed” thread on the forum, and it didn’t take 2 hours to get a response. Wow! We’d found a doc in WI. And then shortly thereafter one in CT who were ready to take her on. I e-mailed the good news and she was excited.
But wait, there’s more. In another two hours, a doc from her part of NC chimed in ready to offer assistance. Georgia was ecstatic. “Dr. Post, you are a champion. Thank you thank you thank you!!!” Here in the space of 4 hours, she’d gone from adrift in triathlon, not sure if she’d ever race again, to having someone in her own neighborhood offering to be of assistance.
I thought we were done….until…in another two hours the cherry arrived. The cherry on top of the ice cream Sunday that is. The following note arrived, “Hey John, I am a neurosurgeon in Long Island, NY. This stuff is my “bread and butter” so to speak.” Does life get any better? Nope, not if you’re Georgia.
When I passed this last morsel on, it went something like this. “Are you sitting down? It gets better,” she answered immediately. “Woo hoo!!!!! I am from Long Island!!! We have a winner!” It turns out that this gent even knew the NC coaches she trains within NC and plans to speak to them.
What a day; my what a day.
Even the support team needs help sometimes.
So what are triathletes for? To help other triathletes of course. That’s what Georgia would say if you asked her. Why not do that when she’s setting up her transition area next to you at an upcoming event. She’ll be easy to recognize, the one with the permanent grin on her face.