When I graduated from college in 2009, the economy was not so hot. Many people I know stayed in school and immediately started working on their respective master’s degrees since that option was much more appealing than going back to the minimum wage work day. I, on the other hand, left the country and moved to Taiwan to teach English and do ministry.
In Taiwan, I kept up my running. I was getting plugged into a community that cared about personal fitness, so motivation and encouragement were not hard to come by. My new lifestyle also included a nearby riverside trail, which made outdoor walking, running, and biking totally accessible and convenient.
From time to time, I would ice my right knee, which was something I was used due to post-surgery soreness. Then one day, only 2 months after moving to a foreign country, the soreness didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse, exponentially worse with every step I took. An excruciating commute to work led me to the floor of my classroom, where I realized I was not going to be able to teach that day. I couldn’t move my leg without an awful pain shooting through what felt like my whole body, not to mention my knee had swollen to the size of a softball.
Soon, I was in a taxi, initially on my way home until I heeded the advice of the very thoughtful, English-speaking taxi driver, who drove me to the nearest hospital, which happened to be one of the biggest and best hospitals in the area.
There, in a foreign country, I submitted myself to the emergency room, waited hours for blood tests and an MRI, then finally saw a doctor who used a syringe to extract this greenish-yellowish goop from my knee. It was an infection, and I was to report back on Monday for a follow-up appointment with another doctor.
That weekend, I kept movement to a minimum but felt a lot better with all that infected goop out of my knee. On Monday, I returned to the hospital and was instructed by the doctor to return immediately if I had a fever or chills, as these were symptoms of an infection in my blood that needed to be removed, which is exactly what I did on Thursday. I spent Thursday night in a hospital; and on Friday, the doctor surgically removed the infected tissue from my knee, as well as the screws that were in there from my ACL operation. (I got the screws and pictures and everything as souvenirs!) Then I was put in a hospital room where I remained until the infection index in my blood went down to .0009 or something like that. It ended up being 12 days. (They gave me an option to stay longer. So nice of them.)
My right knee was not getting a break. Hospital life, however, ended up being a surprisingly refreshing “break” from everything else.
I was so happy and thankful to be home from the hospital free from that awful infection (which likely was a result of an abrupt environmental and/or lifestyle change, also known as moving to a foreign country where you walk everywhere instead of drive). Perhaps I should have done some professional pt sessions to jumpstart my recovery, but I didn’t. Been there, done that, was my conclusion on the matter.
Restoring range of motion and strength were now entirely up to me. Thanks to living in the city, I walked everywhere, but it was quite a few months before I got my run back on and even regained full strength. I stayed relatively active, even travelled a lot, but was not necessarily fit.
I had a running friend and roommate who ran pretty regularly. I tried to keep up with her, but I wasn’t prioritizing it enough. Her will-power and consistency was inspiring. A group of us traveled to a place called Taroko Gorge, where she was running the Taroko Half Marathon. Witnessing all these people running made me realize that I wanted – needed – to do something like this, too. It was time to commit. And running a marathon was on my bucket list.