Monday, September 12, 2022

Engagement, Surgery, and World Games - Oh, My! (Surgery and its Impact on The World Games)

So... the busy-ness hasn't stopped. I'm writing this much later than planned but I feel it's important to share.

Today is September 7, 2022 and I'm writing this while in the waiting room as my dad is having a stint put in his heart. It's 25 days until the wedding. As of this point, I'm surviving. However, this post is about my surgeries and how they impacted The World Games - as well as how my ongoing issues affected it.

First - my carpal tunnel surgery...

As I mentioned in the last post, it took a lot longer to heal than I thought it would. When I scheduled the surgery, I knew that I would still be weight restricted (lifting no more than 5 pounds). I got home that day and immediately looked up how much my cameras weigh. 

I wasn't surprised that my camera with the long lens is over the weight limit. It was about 5 lbs, 4 oz total weight. I thought about how I hold my camera and assumed, without testing it, that the bulk of the weight was on my right (dominant) hand.

Mistake! Even though I pick up my camera with my right hand, I rest it on my left hand when I shoot.

Okay... so now let's talk about my regular mental health issues and invisible illnesses/other health issues - and how they impacted The Games.

I hate crowds (part of my social anxiety disorder). In most instances, this wasn't a big deal because the photographers could be on the floor for most events... and there weren't many photographers attending.

However, it was different the times I had to ride the buses from the parking areas to the venues. Not only did I not want to be in the middle of the very full vehicles, but I had a lot of equipment to carry (with one hand) in addition. Between my size, my social anxiety, and my equipment, I almost panicked each time I started to get on and saw that it was full.

It just so happened that each time, I was able to sit in the front, either because of nice people moving for me or luck. But it didn't help the ongoing anxiety... because what if the next time it didn't work out that way?

Of course, neurotypical people would simply be thankful for the seat they got and wouldn't immediately be concerned for the next time. My brain doesn't work that way. 

Heat intolerance... It was hot. I mean, HOT! One time I had to walk a few blocks to get from the shuttle to the venue and after I got inside, I looked at my phone to see the temperature. The heat index was 110. 

It was one of those times that I literally had to take one step at a time to get to the venue. I made it, but my core temp had increased and so it took a while to cool down.

In addition, I walked into a completely crowded room - full of media and full of spectators. 

THAT was a difficult day, but I made it.

Another problem was that the media was told that there would be snacks and drinks in all of the media centers. Sometimes that was true... sometimes not. Because I was already carrying a lot of equipment and I wasn't 100% due to my recovery, I couldn't add snacks and drinks to my already-very-heavy load. 

Sometimes I would find something somewhere; other times I had to wait until I got back to my car and I could get to a fast-food place. Again, I always made it but there were times I would get weak or start to feel sick because of this issue.

The noise was one more difficulty. At times I can be very sensitive to loud noises. Some of the venues were really loud. However, I carry earplugs with me all the time for those events. Those earplugs saved me more than once during The Games.

Now... back to my recovery from the surgery. The first time I realized that I was holding my camera with my left hand, the anxiety started. Shooting The World Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone like me and I wasn't going to quit...

(Busy-to-the-point-of-going-crazy Tracy inserting that at his point in the post, my dad got out of surgery. Now it's five days later and I'm just now getting back to this. Sigh...)

...but I still had to deal with the anxiety about what I was doing. Would this negate the benefits of the surgery I had? Would I be able to get good shots if I had to worry about holding the weight of my camera in my right hand? Should I take more breaks from shooting, knowing that I wouldn't have another chance to do this big of an event?

What I decided to do was to compromise. I looked at my schedule of events and decided to try to get as many different events in - but only to shoot once at each event. It would have been nice to shoot the same event for qualifiers and finals and I know if I had done so, my images would have been better after "practicing" during the qualifier. 

But I also knew that it wasn't worth the long-term risk of hurting my wrist. 

I ended up with ten straight days of shooting (though one day was an assignment for the paper) and over 10,000 photos taken. I took that incredible number of photos even though I drastically held back from what I had originally planned to do! 

And I survived. 

Was it fun? Yes, most of the time, especially when I was shooting. Would I do it again? Maybe. Would I do it again right after carpal tunnel surgery? Not a chance.

Like so many things in life, it was hard but it was worth it. 

If you find yourself in the middle of something hard, remember...

- take care of yourself,

 - pace yourself,

- and it's not a failure to not accomplish all you wanted but instead focused on what you needed.

To see some of my favorites of those many images I took, go to https://novelphotos.instaproofs.com/gallery/#events/1900477. 



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