Trading places in the operating room and beyond

By Christopher Cudworth

Sue Astra competes in the Ironman Half 70.2 in Racine.

Sue Astra competes in the Ironman Half 70.2 in Racine.

Last summer while riding with my significant gal friend we took a trail through a beautiful section of forest preserve about 10 miles from home. The trail follows a ridge of glacial kame through a woods with a meandering creek.

On a road bike, that trail is safe and easy to ride.

On a tri-bike? Not so much.

Yet I failed to understand that distinction as we headed west through the scenic section of woods. Then the canopy closed over us and the vegetation on the trail was still wet. And slippery. And down she went.


For some reason I happened to be glancing back to check on her as the front wheel went left and her right shoulder came crashing to the ground. In a second I’d hit the brakes and come to a stop. She rolled over on her side and sat up. Holding her shoulder.

It was obvious she was hurt. Possibly very hurt. And I was hurt at the thought that I might have caused this accident going too fast on a trail with wet junk on the asphalt.

We got up and walked. Gingerly she held her arm. Then we sat back down and nursed the shock of the moment. I had my hand on her back and went to pat her on the butt a bit when I felt the slick wet sensation of what I took to be blood. Fright.

But leaning back to look at her there was no red blood. Just a giant wet patch in the back of her jersey. I reached into the pocket and felt a giant wad of goo in there. When I pulled my hand out it was covered with liquified banana. Seriously, you could not have turned that banana into a more gelatinous form if you had thrown it in the blender.

Showing her the hand, she lamented. “That sucks. That was a good banana too.”


I called me daughter to come haul us home. Bikes in the back. Me with them.

And from there she tried to make the best of it. All summer the strength built back up in her arm but something still didn’t feel right in the shoulder. She ran a few races but by October it became clear the shoulder needed surgery. She met with a triathlon friend who is also an orthopedic surgeon and then got an MRI. It showed a tear of the rotator cuff.


Yesterday, she had the surgery. It takes about an hour and a half to do the work. We traveled to the hospital and went through the registration process. That’s when I started feeling a bit queasy. I had not eaten breakfast so the dizziness might have been dehydration or even a reaction to some meds. But no luck. I was getting the flu.

As she lay there in the prep room for surgery the nausea increased and I made several trips to the bathroom in case the Big Event, be it barfing or the other end was about to commence. But it held off and I made it back to the room as the nurses were doing more prep.

“I might have to go home,” I told her. “I’m really sick.”

Well, no one likes to be left alone during surgery. I called her brother and sat back down to hold court until he arrived. But the look in her eyes broke my heart. Again, I’ve been through a few surgeries myself, one just a month ago. And who was there to help me through? You guessed it. She was.

So in essence I owed her my presence. She’s a great person and we both have gone through a few things in life, especially of late. So we try to support each other every way we can. And here I was failing her at a critical moment. The tears came.

Keeping on

She’s a tough, tough gal. Did a 70.2 triathlon this past summer in Racine. I watched her work through those 13 miles of running when it clearly hurt. So this is no wimp woman.

Perhaps you know someone like her. Or a guy who is similarly tough. Yet we’re all human. We need support. It’s not an allegorical proposition. At some point, the going gets tough and we like to have someone there.

So it went. The minutes went by and an hour passed. Her brother arrived just as I was emerging from half and hour of close-eyed concentration bordering on sleep. You want to sleep when you’re sick. Yet the nausea warns you: this may not last long.

By the time she rolled off to surgery things were getting better. I was weak but could make it through. Two hours later her brother and I greeted her in the recovery room. “Now remember,” I told her. “Your body is going to feel like you just finished a tough race.”

She chuckled and smiled. We both knew what that meant. Take it easy. Yet that’s the hardest thing for the toughest people to do. Take it easy.

Just take it easy. And let someone help you.



About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at, and at Online portfolio:
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