Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meet Cookie: Canine Burn Survivor

The amazing thing about dogs is their ability to love unconditionally and their ability to forget horrible things that have happened in their past. Tommy and I both swore that it would be a long time before we got another dog, but then we found Cookie. (Disclaimer: some of the pictures below might be bothersome, but I promise the story has a happy ending).

(Excerpted from the Dawg Rescue site)
Cookie was found tied inside an abandoned, burning home. She was lifeless and presumed dead. The wonderful firemen took what they thought was Cookie's body outside and discovered she was alive! Cookie was rushed to an emergency vet for burns and smoke inhalation. DAWG heard about her and knew we had to help. Animal Control officers drove her to DAWG's animal hospital, where she started treatment immediately.

What looked like burns "here and there" -- especially on her head and inside the ears -- changed. Cookie's skin started to peel off, and unbelievably she lost most of her skin!

January 1, 2011

Cookie started the new year with her usual sweet playfulness, but damaged skin now covered most of her body. Cookie's wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Kim Beck, decided to look into specialized burn treatments and discovered that South Paws in Virginia offers Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) to accelerate healing in burn victims. So she took Cookie to her first treatment on January 4. Treatment was daily until Cookie showed substantial gains in her condition. Thanks to South Paws for pulling out the stops for Cookie. These are pictures of Cookie's skin as she embarked on her HBOT treatments:

Cookie didn't seem to notice, even when she started wearing a body bandage and a t-shirt. She just greeted everyone wagging her tail and giving kisses.
To see Cookie on YouTube at this stage, click here.

February 10, 2011

Cookie's back after a month of HBOT treatments at South Paws! All that's left of her burned skin is a raw area on her back, roughly the size of a hand. The rest of her burned skin is a healthy pink, with bits of fur growing (not that she'll ever have a "fur coat").

Thank you to South Paws and Cookie's many friends there, who cried as they said good-bye. There's something special about Cookie...she touches everyone she meets!

Cookie on March 20, 2011

Lovin' life and the joys of spring!
(Click here)

Cookie on March 27, 2011 (Click Here)

Cookie visiting at the April 2 Beltsville Petco adoption show.
No more bandages, just protection of her healing skin.
Note Cookie's custom-designed outfit, courtesy of her veterinarian!

Cookie meeting our son

Cookie at our house for an adoption interview last week

We can't begin to say how thankful we are for the Dawg volunteers, all of the veterinary providers, and most especially Cookie's foster Mom Kathy and her family. There were daily dressing changes, weekly visits to the vet, and immense amounts of love dispensed. I almost feel guilty that we are getting Cookie after so many others put so much effort into her survival. The most amazing part? She acts like any other 15 month-ish puppy. She needs some leash training, but sits, plays with the kids, (chews on stuffed animals...BeeBee beware), and is going to be an amazing addition to our family. Her only issue is that she has to wear a shirt when she goes outside. No biggie!

Cookie comes to us Thursday evening for good...I can't wait to take her for a walk around the lake Friday morning.

"I think her name is Lucy..."

After two months of sitting in my house (with a seat that was way too tall for me)...I took my Kestrel Airfoil pro to get a Retul Fit. Steve at Bike Doctor in Arnold, MD was awesome. All of the pros and kick-butt age groupers on Team Trakkers/Rev3 who I talked to said a Retul fit was the only way to go. Steven at Kestrel also gave some insight into the fit process. (Thanks everyone!)

It really was amazing. On top of the fact that I have a mini-bike (a 47 with 650 wheels), Steve had to cut the seat post three times to get a really good fit. (I think he couldn't believe I needed it THAT short!). Through the fit process, he could tell me that I rotate one hip forward more than the other to compensate for my sacroiliac joint arthritis. When that was corrected for, my right knee position during my pedal stroke was much more consistent. I am hoping this really solid fit helps me fend off further injuries this season. The crew at Bike Doctor finished my bike build while I was on vacation, and I picked her up yesterday.

I initially had a name picked out for the bike, but then decided she needs a theme song to go with her name (inspired by teammate Laura). Having grown up listening to the Beastie Boys, somehow the song "She's Crafty" stuck in my head. Of course this is a song about a "loose" woman who steals things, but the chorus works:

"She's crafty - she's gets around
She's crafty - she's always down
She's crafty - she's got a gripe
She's crafty - and she's just my type
She's crafty"
(You can hear the rest here)

Perhaps a bit non-traditional, but it works for me! (No, my bike is not a hussy, but I hope she seriously gets around at some races later this season).

I got to ride her on the trainer yesterday, as this is my first time riding aero. I can't wait to get out on the road!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

35 and Giving Thanks

I turn 35 tomorrow. When you take care of people in their 90s every day, age is relative. I'm not bothered by my age. The only bummer is I "age up" in the sport of triathlon to the 35-39 age group. Those are some seriously fast women!

I had a bit of a pity party the other day(s), as the bummer things that happened in the past 10 months or so caught up with me. I am a Polyanna ("someone with an optimistic outlook"). I try to see the best in every situation ("It could always be worse"). I hate feeling "blah". Tommy knows immediately when I'm feeling down because I get quiet. (That NEVER happens). So as I sat feeling down, I thought that I have so much to be thankful for, and I need to recognize those positives. A couple of days later, I am out of the funk and am going to say thanks.

I am thankful for.....

I have known Tommy since I was 16....19 years this December. I've known him more than half of my life. He knows me better than just about anyone, and he GETS me. He knows how to motivate me (and on rare occasion how to push my buttons). The most amazing thing...he has never told me I can't accomplish something. He just stands by and supports me. Triathlon? Go for it! Grad school? Go for it! Going to volunteer in a field hospital after Hurricane Katrina (and leave him with the 2 1/2 year old for a week)? Go for it! He is so encouraging. Of course we have our moments (and he allegedly snores), but he is the best partner in parenting and the best friend I could ever ask for. He has been with me for a lot this year, and we've come through even stronger. What more could a girl ask for? (Not just saying this because he gave me the most awesome bday present ever).

Our Kids
The two munchkins who can make me smile and scream in the span of 5 minutes. I am amazed by their love, their capacity to learn, their enthusiasm.... I am so fortunate to have these amazing offspring. Watching my daughter in her first season of swim team, and my son learn and grow is truly a blessing.

Spanner and Spridel
Almost fourteen years with these two amazing pups. They were wonderful to us and our children. Every day I think of the little things I miss, but I also give thanks for having them in our lives.

My Family
Who comes to the ER at a moment's notice when you call? Who takes your kids when you need help at the last minute? Who laughs and cries with you? and argue about centerpieces and seating arrangements the day before the wedding? Who supports your hobbies and dreams even if they don't understand them? I have amazing family!

Incredible Friends
I know I've mentioned in past blogs that I was not a popular kid. I got along with people, but never had a "group" that I fit in. I had great neighborhood friends, but it wasn't until college and beyond that I made more lifelong friends. These ladies make me laugh, are there when I cry, and are such an important part of my life. I'm leaving out names because I will forget someone important. I have to call out the Hidden Garden Book Club. These ladies can rally to deal with a crisis, or plan a wedding in 3 weeks.

My Triathlon Friends and Team Trakkers Family
So I don't feel like much of an athlete these days (ignore the bike set up on the trainer in my living room), but I'm getting back there. I would never have imagined myself as a "Sponsored Triathlete". I think they could have scripted a reality show about our Team Trakkers "casting". Carole and Charlie did an amazing job putting together a team of grounded, dedicated, truly kind people. I had known them only months when stuff hit the fan for me medically. The support was amazing. These people have become a family to me, and seeing them at recent events has really been rejuvenating for me. Just being able to volunteer at recent Rev3 events has been so rewarding. I have made so many longtime friends through this team. I have met so many wonderful people through this sport, including some awesome people in the Mid Maryland Tri Club.

I Love My Job
I love what I do. I love taking care of patients, explaining their illness and treatment, teaching new nurses. It wears me out some days, but I couldn't imagine what else I would do. I work with great people, at the "Cheers" of hospitals. Everybody knows your name (but there isn't any beer).

I know I am missing important people and things in my life, but I just had to say thanks. Call me Polyanna, but I will take it. Come on 35....lets kick some butt!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rev3 Quassy Part 2: Pit Stop

When Trakkers Mama Bear Carole asked me to help with the TriSlide Pit Stop in Knoxville, I had to say yes. I love TriSlide! I spray my ankles, wrist, neck, feet, and any other hot spots. It helps get my TYR Cat 5 wetsuit on and off, and prevents chaffing. I also use it to protect my feet when going sockless by spraying my feet before the swim and spraying the inside of my shoes.

The goal of the "Pit Stop" was to spray people down before the race (if they so chose). It wasa great chance for them to try the product, and my Trakkers teammates and I had a blast. Of course we had to repeat the event in Quassy. I was designated as the unofficial "Tri Slide Crier" (perhaps my big mouth), so I did lots of yelling. I'm sure some people were annoyed, but if you catch people as they are going into transition, they are likely to stop by the pit on the way out.
"Stop by on your way out of transition to get your TriSlide! Spray your ankles and wrists to get your wetsuit on and off more easily, and your neck and anywhere else you chafe!"
The word "chafe" got old, so it changed to "anywhere else you irritated", and my eloquent teammate Kelly evolved the phrase to "any other hot spots".

In Knoxville, Laura and I learned that you shouldn't spray TriSlide anywhere near the transition area, as it can make the ground/mats a bit slippery. In Quassy, we got smarter. The TriSlide Pit Stop was right next to the porta potty line (across from transition). People got sprayed while waiting for their turn in the porta potty, or on their way to the beach. We also wiped down goggles with Foggle (another awesome SBR Sports product).

Big thanks to Susanna, Kacie, Joshua and his awesome Mom Samantha, and Kelly! You guys are the best.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rev3 Quassy Part I: Volunteering for the Revolution

It was't until last week that I made the final decision to travel to Rev3 Quassy. As my teammate (and friend) Kati mentioned, going to Rev3 events is like going to see your second family. I have gotten to know my Rev3/Trakkers teammates well, and with each event I get to know the Rev3 staff a little better. I look forward to seeing LJ smiling in the volunteer tent, Charlie and Eric in three places at once around the venue, and of course our Mama Bear Carole. The Rev3 crew is great. Despite little sleep in the days surrounding the race, their attitudes are resoundingly positive. You know that feeling you have when you see a family member or dear friend who lives far away? That is how I feel about my Rev3 family.

Of course these weekend trips to races wouldn't be possible without my first family. Tommy never complains, never balks when I ask to go to a race. As long as the kids are covered when he works, he is beyond supportive. I am so very fortunate in that respect.

I road-tripped to Quassy with my tri club friend Robin. Of course I was eager to get to the venue, and reunited with my teammates. I saw some of them a few weeks ago in Knoxville, but there were also teammates I hadn't met before. Meredith T. has become a great friend this year, and I finally got to meet her and her adorable son Soren. One of the great things about our team is the support of one another. My kids were home, well taken care of by Tommy, so it was easy for me to offer to watch Soren for a bit while Mer got her bike fixed and got settled. We had a team dinner (minus several of our teammates who were still working at the venue), which was a great chance to get to know some of our newer teammates and hang with good friends. What could be better than a team dinner? A team slumber party of course! Laura was still working at the park when 6 of us showed up at her house to "check in" for the weekend. Thankfully they have a huge basement with lots of sleeping space, and her husband Tom was a gracious host despite just returning from a trip to China. Thank you, Laura and Tom!

Hanging with Soren pre-race
This weekend I graduated from JV to Varsity in the triathlon volunteering arena. Laura was coordinating volunteers with LJ, and still needed someone to drive sweep for both races. (This essentially means going behind the last cyclist/runner and picking up anyone who won't make the time cutoff or is broken down. It also means releasing all of the volunteers/police on the course and thanking them profusely for their help). I have to drive slowly, smile, and say thank you a lot. Seems right up my alley. I was excited but a bit freaked about driving the Rev3 Suburban. (I did not want to wreck Charlie's car). It was interesting perspective to be in transition until the very last athlete was out.

One of the cool things about Rev3 races? They designate a last place finisher. Someone volunteers to finish the swim, bike, and run last. That way, no one who is out there fighting to finish the race has the stigma of being last. For the Olympic, Pastor John from Multisport Ministries was the last place finisher for the race. He stuck with slow swimmers in the water, and showed immense patience on the bike (the last biker was really struggling). The challenging thing about being the sweep is deciding when to pull people off the course. You want to give them the benefit of getting a shot at things, but also don't want to hold course marshals and police out on the course for two people who aren't going to make the cutoff. I ended up pulling two people off the course, and driving Pastor John to catch up with the last place runner. I hate upsetting people, so I was worried about telling anyone their race was done. Thankfully the two ladies were very nice, and just happy for what they had accomplished to that point. Awesome attitudes! Pastor John was so patient and he ran the last two miles with the last runner. I only pulled one runner off the course, and she was amazingly positive. This made up for the woman in transition who came back in after a few minutes off the bike.
Athlete: "I got a flat"
Person who shall remain nameless: "You know you can fix that"
Athlete: "But if I'm not going to win, why race?"
Hmmm...because you should finish what you start...because it is a good training event...because sometimes maybe not winning is better for you than winning...because you are a BIG OLD SPOILSPORT! (rant.over.)

In the end, I didn't wreck the Suburban, I figured out (after 5 minutes and asking the gas station attendant) how to open the gas door to put gas in the car, and I "swept" the course successfully. When I say I graduated from JV to Varsity, I was getting calls from Eric the race director and being trusted to pull athletes at the appropriate time, etc.

I got to spend some time hanging in the Recovery Pump tent, and helped with odd jobs around the venue. After another team dinner, I crashed HARD.

Team Trakkers (Mark, Kelly, and Kel) hanging in the Recovery Pump tent.
Another early wake-up, and time to work the Tri Slide Pit Stop. (I've got another blog post cooking on that experience). There were more racers for the 70.3 than the Oly, and I watched the bikes slowly thin out in transition. Pastor John was again the last place swimmer, and Stephanie (Charlie's wife) was to be the last place biker and runner. Sweeping was definitely more challenging in a longer race. This bike course is HARD. Stephanie hooked up with one of the last cyclists and rode with her. I did pick up an athlete who blew out two tubular tires (on 650 wheels so few options for replacement). The volunteers at the water stop and along the course were awesome. One of the motorcycle state troopers was kind enough to help with the sweeping. When we got to mile 40, it was apparent that several athletes wouldn't make the cutoff. It was harder to give the news on this day. Unfortunately the athlete riding with Stephanie went off course a bit and eventually had to be pulled off. She was really bummed, and we both felt badly for her. Our last cyclist on the course didn't make the cutoff, but he pushed hard. He was one of the last out of the swim, so he was at a disadvantage on the bike.

I did get yelled at by a Connecticut trooper on the bike course for being on the phone...when I explained it was to pick up a stranded racer he lightened up on me. (It was much better to have the Rev3 Suburban when sweeping the course- no one questioned my purpose, but it was needed to lead the pro race). The funny part? Several of the calls I got while driving were from the police Command Post. So it is illegal to talk on the phone while driving, but you are going to call me when I'm driving to ask me questions...funny. In the end it all worked out. I misjudged the ability of a few racers to finish in time, but got them off the course before it closed. It was an amazing experience, and new perspective on all that it takes to put on a race.

The Rev3 crew is AMAZING. It was an awesome weekend with my teammates, with so many great moments that I can't fit into this post. I feel privileged to know such a great group of people, and to be affiliated with these incredible events. If you you are a triathlete and have never volunteered, you should. You get a chance to give back and get new perspective on the course. If you aren't a triathlete, but have a friend or family member who competes in triathlon, it is a great way to pass the time.

You can see a great video review of the event here, including the pro race.