Sunday, July 3, 2011

Compartment Syndrome and Arthritis

In 2006, two bad things would happen to me. I developed compartment syndrome in my lower legs and Andy came down with arthritis. After Andy moved in with me full-time, I felt bad leaving him alone so long and for him not having a yard to run in. He was still a puppy at heart (he was 7 at the time) with boundless energy. To compensate for the lack of a yard, I thought it was a good idea to take a few sprints with Andy in the park. He absolutely loved it. But a few days later, my calves became tight, hard as a rock. I could barely run a ¼ of a mile until my legs would harden. Several things can bring about compartment syndrome such as an increase in intensity in activity. Taking sprints with ones dog counts as an increase in intensity of activity. The compartment syndrome threw me for a loop. I fell out of shape and gained weight since I was no longer able to work-out and had a hard time adjusting my diet accordingly. I should have had surgery (fasciotomy) but I was too chicken and worried that I would be punished at work for taking short term disability. Had I known I would get laid off 2 years later, I would have done it.

Later that year, Andy was over at my mom’s when I got a tearful phone call from my mom. Andy was limping badly. My mom worried about Andy possibly having a broken leg. The suddenness of Andy’s hobbling led me to believe he had injured himself. I didn’t even think of the possibility that he had arthritis. I took Andy to the vet the next day. He had no fractures, but he did have arthritis. Before that day, he had shown no signs of that dreadful disease that afflicts more than its fair share of Labradors. Did Andy have pain before then but masked it well? I don’t know. Now, he was showing his first sign of aging.

He was no longer a baby. He was a middle aged man and had to take it easy. My biggest problem initially was stopping him from running. He was capable of running but later he would pay the price by hobbling around for the rest of the day and the next. We could no longer play games of fetch outside like we used to. His spirit was so willing and he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t sling the toys out front like I used to. I would compromise by tossing under-handed a toy 5-10ft. It satisfied Andy’s craving to chase and retrieve.

This was the first time I thought of Andy’s mortality. Before then he was a lively, energetic baby boy bouncing off the walls. I would look at how strong he was , how fast he was and couldn’t believe the stats about Labs’ lifespans. Labs have an average life span of 12 years. Before that day, he didn’t look like he had only 4 years left. I thought he’d live forever.

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