Osborn is back in training following a serious accident and
In the summer of
2010, Erika Osborn should have been in the thick of training for her
third World Duathlon Championships, this time in Scotland. Instead,
she was recuperating from a fracture in her back, in pain and
pondering whether to undergo surgery.
Osborn had been
struck by a car while running on a road outside Delavan that May. She
suffered a gash in the back of her head, a concussion, and "a lot
of road rash." She spent five days at Froedtert Hospital. Months
of rehabilitation followed, including three to four months of wearing
a rigid brace to support her back.
testament to her toughness that she decided she would try to get
treatment for this without surgery," says Dr. Raj Rao, who
eventually operated on her last November.
three-hour surgery, Osborn was able to resume running ó even
training for the ZOOMA Great Lakes Womenís Half Marathon in Lake
Geneva in October.
"I was kind
of hoping to be a little further on the pain scale, but I also have
high expectations for my level of performance," says Osborne, now
31, a married mother who works as business manager at West Wood Health
& Fitness Center in Pewaukee.
surgery has been used for traumatic injuries of the spine for about
the past 10 to 15 years. In Osbornís case, it involved removing one
of her ribs, so Rao could access the L1 and T12 vertebrae at the
junction of her mid- and lower back. He inserted a bone graft, screws
and a rod, all intended to reduce the workload of pain-producing
damaged ligaments and irritated nerves.
purpose is to allow the fracture to heal in as straight a position as
possible and prevent the bones from slip-sliding on each other any
further," he explains.
Years ago, such
procedures involved fusing as many as six vertebrae, resulting in a
longer recovery and more stiffness. Going back further, spinal
fractures were treated with extended bed rest, according to Rao, an
orthopedic surgeon at Froedtert & the Medical College of
Osborn was no
typical patient. A former two-sport athlete at Mukwonago High School
and Waukesha Express club swimmer, she had played rugby in college and
completed two Ironman triathlons before qualifying for her first world
duathlon in 2008. She suffered sports injuries and two previous knee
"I was 20
years old then, and I had the nothingís-going-to-stop-me attitude,
so I probably jumped back in too soon," she recalls. "This
time, I was religious about what the doctor said. I thought of him as
being my coach."
general fitness allowed her to start the rehab process in a much more
aggressive way than the average patient might have tolerated, Rao
About six weeks
after her surgery, Osborn was permitted to resume running ó twice a
week for just 10 minutes per workout. Now, she does yoga, nonimpact
pilates, walks and uses an elliptical machine. She upped her running
mileage 10 percent per week, but limits herself to trails or a
absolutely will not run on the roads, because a harder surface is
going to be hard on my back," says Osborn, adding that she also
feels frightened about training on roads again.
Osborn has been
unable to resume cycling or swimming without pain, so for now a
duathlon or triathlon is out of the question. Still, she knows it
could have been far worse.
when I was laying on the road, the first thing I did was check for
paralyzation. When I could gently wiggle my fingers and toes, that was
amazing," she says. "Iím alive and able to be a mom ó I
didnít have that taken away from me."