Saturday, November 30, 2013

This Train Must Always Leave the Station!

"Arriving on track number...," we've all heard that over the speaker at some train station at one time or another. It's here. The train is here with, presumably, one or more people who we've come to meet. These are great moments resulting in that expression beeing bent and extended to "having arrived."

To have arrived infers success. The struggling actress finally gets a lead roll and the press announces that she "has arrived." Touchdown. Score. Goal achieved. That's great, but the more important question, at least for me, is what next? So, one has arrived, scored, gained success and achieved a goal. Time to feel good, celebrate a bit, maybe even brag. They've earned it. But the time comes when it is time to move on. Every train, no matter how important its occupants and its arrival, eventually must leave the station. It must move on. It must leave that place of joy and celebration and do what is next...what ever it is that needs to be done. Otherwise, it ceases to have value as a train.

So, when people ask me why I continue to train in the ACA school of kayak instruction, I am a bit perplexed by the question. Apparently having become a level 3 and then level 4 coastal open water certified instructor indicates to some that I had arrived. Well, yes, I did. And I took great joy in it (and still do. After all, teaching is my passion). Once that glow had peaked, however, I started working on being a better paddler and a better instructor, even if there were no more stripes to add to my sleeve (heck, pfd's don't even have sleeves). I continued to practice strokes and to paddle with my mentors and to ask questions and to watch other instructors and to steal other good teaching ideas.  I loved it and it, in turn, fed me.

There came a time, however, when I got that nagging-restless feeling; and I was time for this train to leave the station. Stagnation was not a viable choice. Improve, move on or rust in the station. I became an Instructor Trainer student. I have been doing that for two years and cannot tell you how much my mentor (Sam Crowley) has taught me. I am not just working on kayaking or even teaching kayaking. I am working on learning theory, teaching to teach and (heaven knows I hate it) organizing things in advance. Some of the latter is tough for a mind like mine. Organizing two things is harder for me than any course in medical school. But I am working at it. It is a challenge and it is clear that I have left the station I was in a short time ago.

So, someone asks, when will I arrive at the next station. The answer is simple: Don't know, doesn't matter. I am on the journey, and as long as I am moving forward and growing, I am content. I am too busy to worry about arrival times. I am driving my own train and it is enough that I am staying on the tracks and making good time. Welcome aboard.

Paddle safe...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Silbs Survives Singultus

It began on a Friday, a usually benign and self limited condition; and I thought little of it. That is, until it persisted, on and off, through Saturday, Sunday and all day Monday. I started to worry about then. Home remedies had failed to control the disease, so I started reading up on the literature and the differential diagnoses. What I learned was not reassuring.

Brain tumors, acid reflux, cancers irritating the abdomen and many others. It was time, I told my wife (at 10 pm) to go to the emergency room. Off we went where I registered, got on the infamous gown, was hooked up to various wires and seen by a nurse and then a physician's assistant. The PA told me it would be a while until the doctor saw me as he was looking up the literature on my problem. I told her that I had already did that and that he (the doc) was likely to be depressed (as was I) by the possibilities.

As we waited, I gently warned my wife not to worry if they had to sedate me, paralyze me and intubate me as I was beginning to have short spells of breath control. In came the ER doc. A nice guy with a good and practical manner and approach. I had already had (and read on my own) a normal chest X-ray and EKG and we agreed on several blood tests including a serum calcium level (I had recently had parathyroid surgery). They all came back within normal limits. 

We started a protocol which essentially is trying a little of this drug and then another and then another until the patient is cured or....well, hopefully a cured. Somewhere around 2:30 am I feel asleep from exhaustion and, when I woke...I WAS CURED!

They watched me for a while to be sure, then sent me home. During that reprieve I started to relax as I had expected the worst (remember, I am a doc myself) and had accepted the fact that I likely had a fatal condition. Interestingly, the thought made me sad (that I would not see more of my children's and grand children's lives) but not fearful. Life had been good to me. I had no complaints and no regrets. It would, I thought, be nice to get in one more paddle.

Well, I got that paddle (and, hopefully many more to come) yesterday. To date, the symptoms have not recurred, and I have the joy one only know after surviving singultus.

Paddle safe...

Monday, November 18, 2013

It was the Grand Canyon...and I wept.
I think this comes up for me now because I am the same age as was my Dad when he unexpectedly died from a post op infection. He was a kind and gentle man and a wonderful model of honesty and integrity. I miss him to this day. 

More to the point: Dad did not have a great deal of education. He worked hard and did eventually retire. His travel was extremely limited, but he always alluded to things he would do..."one day". It was like the bucket list folks talk about today. Jump ahead (about 25 years back from today) and we find my wife, two little daughters and myself going to Colorado. We rent a car and make the hot drive upward and stay overnight in a motel. The next day we will see the Grand Canyon.

We drive into the Park's parking lot, and I look around. "There's no canyon around here," I tell my wife. She, the all knowing, just smiles. We go into the little rangers building, look at maps and brochures and then follow a sign with an arrow and the promise, "This way to the canyon." Out the screen door we go. I am disappointed by both the flat view and the crummy pine trees that greet me. Maybe, I suggest, we are on the wrong path. My wife nods for me to go on. I don't realize it but she and the girls are holding back. I walk among the scrawny trees with no idea of what is ahead. Then the trees stop, I see it and my knees buckle. Suddenly, my face is covered in tears.

In front of me is one of the wonders of the world, an awesome sight of depth, color and magnitude. I stand there weeping as the vast expanse of the canyon. I am looking at one of the things my Dad was going to day...and never did. So, I seeing it for him.

I do not know how many more years (or days) I have left. No matter. I just want you to know that you have my permission to remind me of this story should I ever put you off with "one day".

Paddle safe...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Am I too Old? (he asked)
Recently, after I announced our May, 2014 IDW, I received an e mail from a gentlemen inquiring about the event. He had many excellent questions and, among them he asked if he was too old to take the training (to become an instructor). It turned out that he was 52 years old. I assured him that he was not too old and that I had not yet even been in a kayak when I was his age.

This reminded me of the famous Nuns' study in which a group of cloistered nuns agreed to have their brains autopsied after they died (well, duh). It seems that some of their brains showed advanced degenerative physical changes compatible with significant Alzheimer's Disease even though most of them were vibrant, socially active and mentally sharp at the time of their deaths. What could explain this dichotomy of findings?

It seems that these exceptional women were socially active and mentally occupied right up until their last days. I am guessing that their brains found new pathways and re-wired themselves to meet the demands these women created when they refused to sit and await the end. Instead, they kept diaries, were involved in day to day activities and stayed in conversation with their peers.

When I was in practice I did a lot of cardiac stress tests. In the lab was chart that predicted a patient's maximum heart rate based on age (which gets lower as we get older). I invariably found that patients achieved a maximum heart rate consistent with their apparent age (as predicted by the nurse and myself) rather than their actual chronological age...a finding similar to the Nuns' study.

So, if you are 52, or even 62 or more, and you want to be a sea kayak instructor; come to our IDW. Even if you are a nun.

Paddle safe...