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I had a new experience today. At 7am I had my first MRI at the Boulder Community Hospital. I was a little nervous, although I’m not entirely sure why. I was in and out in 45 minutes – it was fascinating.
I hurt my lower back about five months ago (actually, exactly on March 13th at about 1pm at my parents house in Dallas). I went for a two hour run and then took my dad to Fry’s for his birthday to buy him a new color printer. As I unloaded the printer from the car, I lifted correctly, but then twisted left and immediately knew I’d screwed myself. I rested a week and started running again in advance of a marathon in mid-April in St. Louis. I had a great three hour run in Charlotte the first week of April and thought I was ready to roll. Amy and I drove to Santa Fe the following weekend; when I got out of the car when we got back to Boulder I had enormous lower back pain. I got a massage the next day (big mistake) and when I woke up Tuesday morning in a hotel room in Seattle I couldn’t get up off the toilet, nor could I completely straighten up. Four weeks of rest and three months of intermittent running with regular recurrence of back pain in the same spot after a few days caused me to finally decide that I’m hurt and need to figure out what’s going on.
Boulder is fortunate that it has a great community hospital system. There are plenty of new facilities and the people are very nice. I checked in and got my paperwork. It was already completed via my doctor’s referral. The charge for the MRI was $3,696, my insurance plan allowed $1,078, and there was $0 co-pay or money owed by me. I was completely stunned by this – I expected to at least have to pay a $20 co-pay. The entire billing / checkin thing took about as long as it takes to checkin on FourSquare. I pondered where the difference between the $3,696 and the $1,078 was coming from, or whether it simply vanished into the ether.
I went to the Imaging Center with my Dark Side of the Moon CD, ready to chill out in a tube. I changed into hospital scrubs and was escorted to the MRI machine by a lovely nurse who talked me through everything. The machine I was in didn’t have a CD (it had an MP3 player) but my head was in a cradle that wouldn’t fit the earphones so I punted on the music. I got a little “panic thing” to squeeze if I freaked out and then went into the tube.
I basically had a noisy 20 minute shivasana. They did six scans, most between three and five minutes. The noise was loud, but rhythmic. I had earplugs so it was more like a weird electronica thing. I did my share of isolation tanks in college (I went through an isolation tank phase) – this was much shorter, much more comfortable, but much noisier. As is my practice with shivasana, I dozed off near the end.
They pulled me out, I walked down the hall, and picked up a CD with my scan on it. The software is pretty ancient, doesn’t run on my Mac, but worked fine on a PC. I have no idea what I’m looking at – well – other than my lower back and pelvis region with all the ensuing pieces – but it’s pretty amazing to look at and ponder.
It’s fun to be a human, even when you are hurt.
In addition to missing the sun up here in Homer today, I miss my dogs.
I guess I need to get them on a Skype call later today, kind of like what Todd Vernon did with me earlier today.
Last year I did an obsessive experiment. Every morning, as one of the tabs in my browser (then Firefox, now Chrome) during my daily information routine, I opened up a clever application called Daytum. In it, I tracked four things: the number of miles I ran, the number of books I read, the number of segments I flew on which airline, and where I slept. Following is the summary and some commentary.
I had a disappointing running year. I usually cover over 1,000 miles / year. I lost about four months this year to either injuries (silly ones) or a cold (I had a multi-month bacterial infection that took a while to figure out and nail.) Also, I didn’t run any marathons which, while a bummer, was something I expected would happen sometime on my question for 50 marathons by the time I’m 50 years old. So – 2009 will be known henceforth as “the lost year for Feld Running.” My goal in 2010 is six marathons and 1500 miles. And I’ll be tracking it obsessively with other software.
I typically read one or two books a week so 78 seems about the amount for a typical year. I always find the categories interesting – I read less SciFi this year than normal (I’d expect it to be on par with Mental Floss). The business books read are higher because I’m getting so many in the mail as “pre-release” or “review” copies so I’m trying to at least read some of them. No different goals for 2010 – just “read what’s in front of me that looks interesting from my infinite pile of books.”
Airplane travel in 2009 was totally fubared. I eventually decided to try to stop flying United and shift as much travel as I could to Southwest. I expect the ratios to be very different in 2010. I also took way too many short trips in 2009 and have decided to completely change my travel rhythm in 2010. Specifically, I’m only going to travel every other week – my goal in 2010 is to spend every other week in Boulder. Now, I know there will be exceptions, but I’ve already scheduled out my weeks in Boulder for the year so all I have to do now is be disciplined about scheduling.
I was fascinated to see the distribution of “where I slept in 2009.” I expected Eldorado Springs (my main house) to be at the top, but I also expected Keystone (my mountain house) to be ahead of Boulder (my city condo). The business travel is as expected – San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle, and LA. Vacations and weeks off the grid were San Diego (tennis), Mexico and Nassau (beach), and Santa Fe. The balance are short trips for specific things. The one think that I will not do in 2010 is “30,000 Feet” – I’m completely done with redeyes. And – no Alaska in 2009 – I expect I’ll spend 31 days there in 2010.
In 2010, I’m going to track an entirely different set of data – namely, all of my health and fitness data as part of my exploration around the idea of “human instrumentation.” I’m currently using a Zeo, Withings Scale, BodyMedia BodyBug, a Fitbit, and a Garmin 305. Look for more on this soon. And – if you make a device that tracks anything about the human being, drop me a line – I’m interested in talking to you.
Speaking of brilliant photographs, my mom sent me two yesterday. The first one is her dressed in PJ’s reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to her kindergarten class. I remember having to sing Christmas Carols as a kid but I stopped in seventh grade when I started declaring to my teachers “I’m Jewish – I don’t have to do this.” But kindergarten was probably fair game.
The second was her class picture from kindergarten.
I love looking at these old photographs, especially in digital form. In addition to being photogenic, my mother has integrated photography into her art. Regularly readers of this blog probably know that my mom is an artist (see a nice collection of her work on line at Studio 7310) but you might not know that she is a master with a camera and Photoshop. If you are into photography, take a look at two of her exhibitions: Faces and Places (4/5/08 – 5/3/08 at the Mesquite Art Center) and Near and Far (9/4/04 – 10/1/04 at 416westgallery).