Thursday, May 21, 2020

Nurse finds new perspective on injury recovery

At some point, most runners deal with injury.  Whether it sidelines you completely from running or just requires adjustments to your routine, injury can be mentally frustrating. 

As we come into the last couple weeks of training for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, meet a runner bouncing back from a debilitating injury.  Ironically, the avid runner is also a nurse practitioner specializing in treating patients at UConn Health with the same injury she experienced.

Meet Jocelyn Libros
As a nurse practitioner at UConn Health's Comprehensive Spine Center, Jocelyn Libros has seen countless patients come through with injuries that sideline them from running.  A four-time marathon finisher who has an active race schedule herself, Jocelyn has always been empathetic for injured runners and proud to work alongside orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Mallozzi in helping patients through spine surgery and recovery.

Jocelyn was about 12 years old when she started running with her dad, who was in the military and ran for his physical training.  She ran cross country and track through school and after college began racing half marathons.  She worked up to her first full marathon in 2010, training with her sister-in-law to complete 26.2 miles in Burlington, Vermont. 

As mom to two boys, ages 5 and 7, Jocelyn feels half marathon training works better for her life now. 
She ran the UConn Health Half Marathon last June after racing the half marathon in Mystic the month before.  It wasn't until after the Surftown Half Marathon and the fall running season that she started experiencing pain.

What started as mild lower back pain and pain in her legs got increasingly worse.  She consulted with her
colleagues and discovered she had a disc herniation.  After undergoing physical therapy and injections to ease the pain, Jocelyn reached the point where she could barely walk, never mind run or exercise, and faced having spine surgery herself.

In late March, as the country began shutting down to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Isaac Moss, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and a spine surgeon at UConn Health, performed discectomy surgery on Jocelyn.

The team was absolutely incredible. Being on the patient side, the care I received was amazing and I can't thank Dr. Moss and nurse practitioner Shantay Wells enough for relieving the unbearable pain I felt.

The first two weeks post-surgery were the toughest with weight restrictions and not being able to drive, but as Jocelyn improved so did her mobility and she was able to slowly start exercise, as tolerated.

Returning to work at the end of April after three weeks of recovery, Jocelyn's day to day is very different right now.   Patient care has been handled primarily through telephone visits and the clinic just opened the week of May 18; but her perspective is very different as well.
I feel like I understand my patients and what they go through so much more now having done it myself.  When they describe their symptoms, I can reassure them about how they can improve and deal with their injuries.

The UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K and 5K is Jocelyn's hometown race. She competed in the hal
f in Simsbury last year and loves the course, event set-up and how family-friendly it is for her husband and sons to cheer her on.  This year's race will feel different for Jocelyn, and not just because it'll be a virtual challenge.

I used to think that if I ever couldn’t run, I wouldn’t know what I would do.  But going through this experience, I realize I’m ok to take it easy, run for fun and do shorter races to get back out there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Finding the Right Running Shoe

One of the advantages of running and walking for fitness, is that you need just a few basics to get started, and some might already be in your closet. Unlike some sports where the list of equipment can be long and expensive, runners need just a few things – comfortable and breathable clothing, sweat-wicking socks, running shoes and optionally a watch or other means of timing your run. Of these four things, running shoes are the most important. Running with incorrectly fitting shoes may not only make your run uncomfortable but may also increase your risk of injury. 

Shoes designed for running have much more padding than regular shoes and flex in the way runners need them to flex. Running shoe models are designed for the three different foot types: neutral arch, low arch, and high arch. Running shoes provide structure and cushioning and have seamless construction to eliminate points of rubbing that can lead to blisters.

As a walker, should you wear running shoes? The answer depends on how many miles you walk at a time. Walkers need less cushioning than runners, so you can wear a lighter shoe that still provides adequate cushioning. Walkers can benefit from wearing running shoes, especially those who walk for over one hour or are looking to transition to a run/walk program.

Did you know that choosing the correct shoe starts with determining your foot type? Dr. Katherine Coyner, an orthopedic and sports medicine physician from UConn Health and team physician for the UConn Huskies, explains in her article titled “Finding the Right Running Shoe”.

As you progress in your training, you’ll learn which shoe brands and styles work best for you. With the guidance of an experienced sales person, trained in fitting shoes, you’ll not only enjoy your runs but avoid injury too. Two popular running stores in CT are Fleet Feet in West Hartford and soundRunner in Glastonbury. They are known for their experienced staff members and carry a wide variety of shoe brands, clothing, and accessories. On-line ordering, curbside fittings and pickup are currently available. Both stores plan to reopen on May 20. Check their websites or call for more details.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Running Obstetrician finds work-life balance

The continuing series celebrating UConn Health professions introduces us this week to Dr. Christopher Morosky, The Running Obstetrician.  Learn a little about what it's like to support patients and families through the momentous occasion of childbirth during these unprecedented times and how running fits in to his life.  Dr. Morosky will be running the 10K next month as part of the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K virtual race.
Meet "The Running Obstetrician"
For Dr. Christopher Morosky, OB/GYN, running has provided an ideal fitness routine that can be squeezed into the busy schedule of a doctor, teacher, researcher and father of three.  With just a pair of running shoes and a decent day, Dr. Morosky can clear his mind and bring things into focus. 

Labor and Delivery doesn't get put on hold during a pandemic. Dr. Morosky continues to see patients in the office for prenatal care, ultrasounds and non-stress tests.  Like so many others that keep the hospital running, he's performing his usual duties but also changing and adapting to meet the needs of this crisis.  He credits his colleagues with creating effective new workflows, safety procedures and modified plans for patient care to support patient needs in new ways.

Many precautions are being taken to keep moms, babies and staff as safe as possible.  These necessary changes have had an impact on the real-life connections that expectant families can typically make around this special time. Patients cannot bring any visitors with them to office visits, and they are limited to just one support person at the hospital for delivery (the same person can stay but not leave and return).

We understand the impact this has - the many missed special moments for family and friends.  I have seen the amazing flexibility and sacrifice of our patients to change their hopes and expectations of office, hospital and birth experiences to keep everyone as safe as possible.  We’re trying to make some accommodations, we feel it’s really important for women to have that birth support, and it’s also important for the family member or spouse to experience the birth.

Dr. Morosky feels grateful to be able to take care of these patients. Supporting them through the momentous occasion of childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic only strengthens his gratitude to do this job everyday.

UConn Health is a teaching hospital and Dr. Morosky also thrives in his roles as educator and researcher.  But just like the changes for elementary, middle and high school learning, the medical school also had to adapt its curriculum to an online format and temporarily halt medical students' clinical rotations.

No matter how good a video you produce, it's a challenge to teach how to deliver a baby without being at the bedside.  But I am confident that the modifications we are creating at the medical school will allow our students to return to the clinical environment fully prepared to jump right in.

The accomplishments of graduating medical students and residents were celebrated differently this past weekend through online ceremonies, but with the same degree of excitement and respect for their hard work and commitment.  Dr. Morosky's congratulations video sums up his well wishes to his students and his enthusiasm for UConn:

Chris is training to run for his fellow healthcare heroes in June.  He'll be running the UConn Health 10K with a few of his favorite running partners, his kids. 

It is extra special to reach the finish line with your kids. Now that they're getting a little older, they are beating me there! 

Registration in the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K virtual race June 4-7 will support the UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.  For information or to register, please visit the RACE INFO page.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Runner's meaningful 13.1 after recovering from massive stroke

The path to each race participant's start line is different.  Some have just started to feel that excitement and are new to experience how motivating a goal race can be.  Others can't get enough of the energy a goal race conjures up. 

While our start lines will be in various locations next month for the virtual UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K and 5K, we are still connected by our paths to this shared goal.  Over the next month, we'll be sharing stories of people along those various paths.  Learn a little more about those we're running "with" and help us celebrate the UConn Health professionals that we will run in honor of. 

Meet Kevin Verge
At 39 years old, Kevin Verge was doing everything right to actively manage his health. Training for his 9th marathon in fall 2019 had him feeling the fittest he'd ever been; which is saying a lot for a former captain of Columbia University's track team who started running races with his father at 7 years old.

Just two months later though, Kevin suffered a massive cerebellar stroke and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at UConn Health in Farmington.  The outlook was not positive. A blood clot had traveled to his brain and broke into three pieces, causing three simultaneous strokes.  The severity of swelling in his brain upon his admittance raised grave concern about the need for surgery. 

But that didn't end up happening.  Kevin credits his recovery on the commitment and well-coordinated team efforts of the highly effective doctors and nurses who excelled in a very time-sensitive and high stress situation. 

Dr. Mason Leeman-Markowski, Neurology, led the coordinated efforts and treatment to reduce the swelling on his brain.  Kevin's team also included Dr. David Choi, Neurosurgery, who monitored hourly neurological exams to ensure Kevin didn't experience decreases in mental capacity. Dr. Andre Kaplan, Nephrology, monitored sodium levels and kidney function, which was being severely impacted by the treatment that was required to reduce his brain swelling.

Kevin spent nine days in the ICU with his family by his side, day and night.  His team of doctors and nurses became an extension of his family, championing Kevin's recovery with thoughtful care and attention. 

"I will forever be grateful for the tremendous care I received at UConn Health.  They operated as a team and remained focused on my well being. But it's not just the doctors who went above and beyond - the ICU nurses responsible for administering medicine  kept me focused and motivated to make it to the next day and meet my next milestone."

Kevin fondly recalls his ICU nurse, Christian Tuesta, who stayed with him during procedures, always provided a positive presence and consistently made timely jokes to bring light to a dark situation.  Dr. Perez, who oversaw the ICU team, worked to keep Kevin's vitals stable, allowing the stroke treatment to be effective.

"When I walked out of the ICU, I don't know who was happier for me - my UConn Health team or my family."

With an alarming history of clotting on his father's side, Kevin was proactive about his health to be "ready to fight" if any hereditary issue came up.  Kevin had no previous issues, but his father had a pulmonary embolism at 42 years old and a pacemaker inserted at UConn Health in December 2019 by Dr. Heiko Schmitt, Cardiology.  Dr. Schmitt thoroughly evaluated Kevin and continues to closely monitor him to determine if the family history of heart conditions could have caused Kevin's stroke. 

Kevin credits the unrivaled level of expertise at UConn Health with his success, walking out of the ICU in January and supporting him back to a normal life.  He returned to his job as Vice President & Counsel for Pratt & Whitney and has since joined the Board of Directors of the Hartford Marathon Foundation.

Two years after pushing his now 4-year-old-son Liam in a stroller through Simsbury in the 10K race, Kevin will run the UConn Health Half Marathon.  His training is well underway and he even has his race route planned.
"The mission of HMF resonates with me and it has throughout my life.  I'm incredibly honored to be in a position to participate in the UConn Health Half Marathon as my first race after my stroke. It may be virtual but it's still very meaningful for me."

For details or to sign up for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K, 5K virtual race weekend, please visit