Injured Giving Birth, Skater Blogs Way to Olympics

PHOTO Former competitive skater, Sarah Granger, who has had rare nerve damange since childbirth.Courtesy Sarah Granger
Former competitive skater, Sarah Granger, who has had rare nerve damange since childbirth, began blogging about ice skating while bedridden and is now competing to blog at the Olympics.

Sarah Granger, a blogger and former skating champion from California, knows a lot about pain and perseverance.

The 36-year-old mother from Menlo Park was bedridden for two years after she sustained pelvic nerve injuries giving birth to her now 4-year-old daughter.

"It was like my entire abdomen was on fire," said Granger. "I would stand up, feel pressure and shooting pain. I would have a timeline of X amount of seconds or minutes that I could stand or sit before it would go exponential so fast that I would have to go lie down."

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What she was able to do was blog. During the two years she remained bedridden, only able to nurse her infant daughter lying down, she began to write about her pain, politics and eventually about the sport she loved most -- figure skating.

But now, Granger -- who watched her father struggle with paralysis from polio and become a successful lawyer, -- is trying to overcome her own disability by blogging and tweeting her way to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

She has been selected as one of five semi-finalists in a contest sponsored by Microsoft to obtain official press passes to the games and access to all the Olympic skating stars.

"When I watch figure skating as a skater, I know what it feels like to do well and to fall and get up again," she told

"My muscles remember that feeling, and the live experience is just so much better," said Granger, who writes for blogher. "The Olympics is such an emotional experience for the competitors as well as the spectators, I just want to be a part of that experience."

Microsoft, in its launch of Office 2010, will send one woman and one student blogger to the 2010 Olympics with official press credentials. Granger was selected from a pool of entrants by judges, five-time speed skating medalist Bonnie Blair and CollegeHumor bloggers Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld.

Web voters will determine if she makes the final round to be announced in January.

Granger said she is doing this for her daughter Julia.

"She doesn't understand now at her age why I can't do all the things with her that both of us would like, but I'm hoping she will later, and she'll be able to read what I've written about it and know how I was feeling at the time," she said.

"It's sad to me when someone else takes her to gym class or to an amusement park or bowling for the first time because I haven't been able to do these things," said Granger.

Pain of Pudendal Neuralgia is Chronic

Granger was recently diagnosed with pudendal neuralgia, a painful condition that is caused by inflammation of the pudendal nerve, which lies in the sacral area of the pelvis.

Sometimes, the nerve gets pinched or entrapped, resulting in inflammation and irritation. Triggers can include a difficult child birth, squatting exercises or physiological abnormalities, according to the Society for Pudendal Neuralgia (SPuN).

The exact number is not known, but there may be as many as 300,000 Americans with the condition and only a "handful" of specialists who know how to treat it, according to Dr. Mark Conway, director of maternal and child health at St. Joseph's Hospital in Nashua, N.H.

Pudendal neuralgia is also known as "cyclist's syndrome" because of its association with repetitive stress from biking and was first recognized in France, where the sport is popular, said Conway.

The obstetrician has made multiple trips to France to learn surgical techniques that have shown promise in alleviating pain.

"Some things in human life we have to accept -- there is some risk in child birth," said Conway, who is vice president of SPuN. "But it's rare."

He recommends that women who have had previous pelvic pain consider a caesarean delivery, but not the "run-of-the-mill pregancy."

Pain from this condition is reported in the perineal, rectal or clitoral/penile area. Often patients cannot function sexually because of the pain. Some have even reported the sensation of having a foreign object in their vagina or rectum.

Treating the pain is challenging, according to Dr. Timothy Collins, a senior physician in the Pain and Palliative Care Clinic at Duke University Medical Center. Nerve blocks have to be used judiciously because they can affect anal sphincter tone and cause incontinence or other problems.

Analgesics, like Vicodin, are often ineffective.

"The problem is the patient perceives the pain, as in the foot or genitals, but it's actually coming from tissue damage," he told "The pain is being generated spontaneously from the nerve itself through the same pathways and you cannot ignore it because it's wired into the brain. It's hard to describe -- an electrical tingling, shooting, knotting and grinding. It's really intense pain that's hard to put words to."

Verna Granger, who took her daughter to skating practices several times a week, said Sarah's pain has been "horrendous."

"She has to endure it every day, and I don't know how she does it," her mother told "She just has the tenacity to stick with it in spite of the pain and she is determined she is going to continue this writing career, even though it's difficult."

Growing up in Shawnee Mission, Kan., Sarah Granger started skating competitively when she was 5 and continued recreationally at the University of Michigan, where she designed her own major, technology and society.

"I was never one of those skaters that had an Olympic dream," she said. "I didn't think I was talented enough to go that route. But I loved to skate and it's really what's kept me going."

But after moving to California in 1998 at the age of 25, she decided to start training again and medaled at the Adult National Championships twice. "The stars were aligned," she said.

Granger married in 2003 and her medical troubles began in her pregnancy in 2005. She was put on bed rest for bleeding during the first trimester and by the second trimester she was confined again for 10 weeks because of early contractions.

The 17-hour delivery was grueling. Julia arrived two weeks late at 8 pounds, 10 ounces.

"I am a thin frame and the doctor in delivery had his hand there on the left side of the birth canal for a significant period of time trying to get her out," said Granger. "There is a spot internally that tore or stretched where the nerves are."

Eventually other problems developed -- a fractured coccyx and pelvic prolapse.

"I couldn't drive five minutes from my house without excruciating pain," she said. "Sometimes even rough fibers on furniture felt like she was "sitting on flames."

Blogging Saved Skater's Life

In healthier days, Granger had worked on a political campaign as an online organizer and had even helped test the waters in another presidential run for Sen. Gary Hart in 2004. So she turned to writing to deal with her pain and help others, starting her first blog, Pain in the Mom.

Then she began blogging and tweeting about skating. And through parent groups she was able to locate the right doctors and joined the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

Soon she was blogging about fashion and the arts for SFBayStyle and a dozen other blogs and Web sites.

"It's been long and slow," Granger admits. "I wanted to be able to be a good, active mother for my daughter and blogging saved my sanity so I had something else to put my mind around and focus on."

Granger has a substantial following -- several thousand on Twitter -- and an equal number of readers on some of her blog articles.

"The thing that is so impressive about Sarah is how connected she is," said Natalie Lieblick, a spokesman for Microsoft. "She has a good conversational style. She has lots of different blogs and Twitter. Lots of different people are behind her."

She's even begun to slowly skate again in anticipation of the Olympics, inspired by her daughter's new interest in the sport.

"At first it was once a month and now it's once a week," said Granger. "It's very emotionally healing for me to be back on the ice with her."

"I feel very lucky in a lot of ways, particularly compared to what my father went through," said Granger. "I see homeless veterans on the streets here and I read about other mom bloggers with cancer or kids with cancer. I get frustrated sometimes with the pain, but I'd rather be in my shoes than theirs. At least I can skate -- even if it hurts."