How I Got This Body: Back from back surgery

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2013 - 4:08 PM

Jan Clymer walked around Lake of the Isles with her dog, Murphy.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Jan Clymer, 63, Minneapolis, retired fund-raising consultant, walker

 

NEVER AFRAID TO SWEAT “I definitely would have been a jock, but I was pre-Title IX. I graduated from college in ’71. In those days people didn’t think girls should run or jump. But I grew up on a farm — I was out there baling hay. I loved sweating.”

 

DOGS LEAD THE WAY “When I moved to an apartment near Lake of the Isles, I was young and healthy enough to think ‘Well, I’ll just run.’ It was the early ’80s; it was just a popular thing. And I did, until I blew out my PCL [posterior cruciate ligament] in 2005-06. I’m not a skinny-minnie; I ran very slow and I did it because I wanted to sweat. And I’ve had very spunky dogs.”

 

DIAGNOSIS “My back pain started last March; I had to file an extension on my taxes because I couldn’t tolerate sitting. On April 18th, I woke up and I couldn’t stand up. I called a friend to take my dog, Murphy, outside and then I slithered down the stairs. I managed to get to the basement for the ambulance. I had an MRI at the hospital and they told me I had sciatica. I also had spinal stenosis. They gave me spinal injections and told me to go to physical therapy. I started PT [physical therapy] at Live Well on May 8. By May 11 the pain was agonizing. [A spinal specialist] told me to cease all exercise to see if the pain would die down.”

 

WITH A LITTLE HELP “After May 11, I would drive down to Lake of the Isles and walk a bit and sit on a bench so Murphy could get out. On May 15, during the short walk, I spun into muscle spasms. I lay on the bench in extreme pain with my friends passing by and very concerned. Not that I’m a tough broad, but I don’t cry. I couldn’t get up from the bench; three friends helped get me to the car, and I called the nurse, sobbing.”

 

STEP BY STEP “I had surgery on June 20th. Once it heals, my spine will be stronger. I’m still light years away from where I was, but I have not had a flicker of pain since the hospital. The first day after surgery they were willing to give me a break from physical therapy, but I said, ‘No, let’s go!’ There was a bench outside the door of my hospital room, not 15 feet away, and they said, ‘Let’s see if we can go to the bench.’ It took four people to help me wobble while hanging onto a walker with belts around me — but I made it. I was exhausted and it was humiliating and sad, but I said, ‘As much as you guys will take me, I will walk.’ Before I knew it I was walking around the floor. The Sister Kenny PTs were gentle and encouraging, and it was healing.”

 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE “After 10 days, I came home with a walker. Neighbors and my Lake of the Isles walking friends did my grocery shopping and cleaned the house and did the laundry; I can’t believe how kind everyone was. The next door neighbor walked the dog every day.”

 

30 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP “By Labor Day weekend, I took Murphy myself. I was scared he would yank me, but he didn’t. And we have been walking little by little around the lake. The first day I was exhausted after four minutes, but I added a minute every day. Everyone on the lake has seen me progress. I believe in my heart the reason [I’m recovering] is the support I get every single day from the 30 years of friendship. I’m up to 2 miles on the lake, and 16 minutes each on the treadmill and elliptical three times a week.”

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