February 18, 2014


Post-transplant day 70. Rehab #33.  Rest.

Today I'm ten weeks out from transplant.  This has been, as my transplant twin put it, both the longest and shortest 70 days ever.  Of course, I've been thinking of my donor a lot today, whomever he or she may have been.  But I've also been thinking about the concept of rest.

Today I arrived at rehab early and was able to join the Tuesday "circuit" class, in which the floor group breaks into twos or threes and move from station to station, doing two whole circuits.  Each station involves a minute of some specialized form of exercise, with a minute of rest in between as we shift to the next station.  Circuit usually involves one station that is just ... rest.

Now, last week was an interesting beast, involving an exhausting pell-mell run to and from New York, dodging winter storms the whole way.  Then four different successive activities with colleagues and friends Wednesday night.  By the time I went to bed, I was REALLY ready for some sleep.  And, for once, slept quite well, physical exhaustion combining with tramadol and tylenol to produce oblivion.

What I didn't expect was that this rest would be extended for another 24 hours, as snow forced me to wait out a day in the city before hitting the road.  I spent the day lazing around my friend Marci's apartment, watching the Olympics and the news.  What resulted was a fantastic Friday drive, doing the entire 550 miles in one shot with less effort than the drive up.  How could it be so easy coming back, even with the wet and salty freeways and harried traffic?

Perhaps the answer lies in part of a conversation I had w/ Lynda Jensen.  As she passed me while I was finishing up on the treadmill, she asked how long the back pain lasts.  I gave her an honest appraisal of that.  Too long, at four to eight weeks, but getting incrementally better every day.  Use the heating pads at rehab, I'd previously suggested, and she said she was.  I asked if she was managing her pain well, if she had Oxycontin on hand.  She'd filled the script, but hadn't taken any, she said.  And then I became a drug pusher:

"Use it," I said.  "If pain is keeping you awake AT ALL, use the oxy.  Sleep is as important a part of recovery as any of the rest of this."

And there it is.  The keystone not only to recovery but to a well-lived life:  rest.  Real rest.  And at this stage - recovering from transplant - there's so much that gets in the way of that: hospital schedules, bad neighbors, pain, med-induced insomnia, more pain, plain old worry.  So, yes, I advocate doing what one has to to ensure a good night's sleep, most nights of the week.  Without rest, without breaks from the activities of life - physical and mental, social and spiritual, jobs, family, obligations, exercise - those activities begin to be ineffective.  In rest, our bodies and minds rebuild themselves.  BY resting, we enable the activities of our lives also to build us up.  Without rest, not only are we deprived of the unconscious rebuilding, but also the wakeful building.

From the macro to the micro, rest counts: Currently, I'm on a long rest from work, but ready to wake up.  I'm working on making my nightly rests better - higher quality, if not more quantity.  During rehab, I build in easier sections - "running rests" so I can move through my two hours efficiently.

Today, and last week, I was reminded that I, too, need rest.  That no matter my drive or work ethic, down time remains a key element of success.  And to my donor, who has allowed me to live long enough to come to this epiphany, may you also rest...in peace.  And thank you.

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