I Won’t Be Beat

phrenic nerve display

I’m staring down the barrel of a 45,
I’m swimming through the ashes of another life
There’s no real reason to accept the way things have changed
Staring down the barrel of a 45

– Shinedown, “45″

Putting It Where It Needs to Go

I’m not really sure where this is going to go, but I’ve got a lot of pent up pain, frustration, anger, fear, and I gotta get it out; but in a healthy way. Lashing out at my family last night was the wrong way. Insecurity about what my future holds has me angry. Made me jealous and spiteful that here I am, all jacked up, and everyone else in the house is just going about their business like nothing is wrong.

“What’s the matter with you guys, can’t you see I can’t breathe?!”

“Can’t YOU feel how awful I feel?”

“Aren’t you completely devastated that I may never be able to perform athletics, strenuous activities, nor outdoor events in the same ways that you are used to seeing me perform?”

And of course all of this is just pathetic and selfish self-loathing weakness that continues to creep up on me just as I think I am displaying the epitome of strength during recovery.

What I want to be vs. actually putting that into action daily is still a wide chasm.

From Sickness Comes Strength

If you know me, then you probably know Arthur: the single-cell, tissue-eating parasite that did it’s best to see that I would never return to Nicaragua by shredding my liver and putting me down for well over a month.

But, I’m a fighter and I vowed to fight back, and with the help of an awesome doctor, who is fast becoming a family friend, Arthur was put to rest, and a new, more conscious Christian Griffith was developing – crushing old habits, developing new ones, regaining a focus towards training and making a strong commitment towards learning more about faith, people, friendships, sacrifice, sharing, and growing.

Headstrong, and ready. Shaken and stirred, but settling in.

Breathing Matters

I hit the streets and the treadmill and martial arts with a unwavering focus for three weeks after leaving the hospital, building up from barely able to walk, to running, as of today, 3.0 miles at 10:58 pace.

Yea, I know, slooooow, but dammit, I was coming back.

Only one small problem – I can’t breathe.

I have no internal power. I can’t sniff nor take deep breaths. In conversations, I have to pause many times just to breathe, and after awhile this causes a lot of side-stitch-like pain in my sides, shoulders and around my heart.

I can’t even begin to tell you how running feels. Its kinda like I ate a whole bunch of thick chucks of broken up driveway cement, and then it just shakes around in my gut as I trot along, stinging different areas of the abdomen with random gut-shots that I never see coming, nor can plan for or avoid them.

I really, really want to come back athletically, but of course, it takes the ability to breathe to run fast(er).

Diaphragmatic Paralysis

During my hospital follow-up visit to doc Blass, just two days ago Wednesday, May 2, I explained that all seemed well. Aside from the 1950′s, nasty-ass antibiotic, I felt good.

No, I felt GREAT!

My color tone had come back, my weight was increasing, and I was happy to be re-introducing training-type activity back into my life; but, I just had this nagging issue of still not being able to breathe, something that I had struggled with since this all began, just for different reasons. Oddly coincidental, the first time I couldn’t breathe was due to inflammation around my lungs caused by the amoebic infection.

…but now, well, keep reading…

Doc shook his head, said that wasn’t normal nor expected, called a pulmonary specialist for a consult, and sent me across the street for some chest xrays and a fluoroscopy, a sort of radiology real-time video test of the internal structures in the body.

It didn’t take long – in fact, all I had to do was try a simple little sniff test and Bam! I’m being referred to has having diaphragmatic paralysis caused by phrenic nerve damage. The right half of my diaphragm simply did not do anything during breathing, while the left side, the good side, rose and fell as expected. It was pretty unnerving to watch in real-time.

a paralyzed diaphragm

Photo: when I breathe, I only get the power from half my diaphragm. The other half does nothing. It just sat there. The Phrenic nerve, responsible for firing off this breathing functionality is damaged, squeezed or severed.

So NOW What, Freak?

Man, I don’t know.

I am currently working on half a breathe. Half a VO2 max, I guess. Half power. Half strength. Sometimes, I feel like, Half’a man.

I’m just now coming out of the shock. What I thought was going to be a routine, pat-on-the-ass, “you look great, now go away” doctor visit, turned into a new challenge requiring a whole new set of fancy neurologists and pulmonary specialists, doing such fancy things as CT scans, brain and spine MRIs, and breathing tests; and of course all this directed under the supervision of my good buddy doc Blass.

Damn man.

Seriously. It just sucks.

I’m ready to get on with it already. And worse, what if this is permanent?

What if the nerves somehow were severed or damaged during the insertion of the drainage tube?

What if the only option is surgery?

I won’t do surgery. God, or whomever, gave me this body and these strengths (and weaknesses) and I intend to work with what I got. My goal is to continue to fight. Fight like a crazed freak.

I will get back, it’s just now going to be an even longer, harder fight with very little certainty today in what the end result(s) will look like.

So be it.

I’ll be the best that I can be. Anything less, and I’d truly rather be dead.

If you would, help me be strong – in whatever form that might take.

Pretty sure I can’t get through all this alone.






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You won’t believe this, Christian, but my name is Christian as well. I’m a military veteran and was a prime athlete in my youth.

Last September I had a Shingles flare up and it has (apparently, permanently) damage my phrenic nerve. I am suffering the same problem as you. No one understands what its like to not be able to breathe. Everytime I lay down, walk up stairs or talk with too much enthusiasm, I lose my breath.

I have also resigned to just “dealing with it.” I will increase lung capacity the old fashioned way. But, still I wonder, how can I push myself in exercise if I have to keep stopping to catch my breath.

If you have any advice, I could use it, as I haven’t seen as many doctors as you. Maybe we can exchange some wisdom on the matter?


Christian Muckler

I came across this blog while looking for some training tips on the internet.

I am floored by your inner strength. By your determination, by your will to live and live WELL.

I don’t know you, and I can’t imagine what you’re going thru, but your blog is a testament to the greatness of human spirit and its existence in you. From what I see in all the posts, Iread that there are a lot of options for you to consider, and I wish you the best.

Whatever it takes Kid! Patience and Perserverance. You got this. Much Love and Respect!

Hey Christian – hang in there. You’ve been a great inspiration to me and I’m sure your work here as an ultra-runner is not done. :)


Keep speaking your mind and your heart — we want to know… We missed you at the Jim. There will be frustrations, but you have to get back up every time. Good thoughts to you, Babette, Austin.

Good Luck Christian! All my prayers… For your fullest recovery


We are with you dude. Please keep pouring your emotions out to us via your writing. I pray for you and I wish you the best…I know you are a fighter, but I know physical limitations put on a physical person is extrememly frustrating (to say the least). I am cheering your return.

Sending good vibes your way,
DeWayne Satterfield

I know you said “no surgery” but my next door neighbor, a cyclist not a runner, did a staggering amount of research before deciding to have his phrenic nerve repaired. Here’s a link to a blog post about his experience. http://amillionbetterthings.com/2012/02/08/how-to-hack-your-health/

that said, i cant imagine what you’re going through and wish you all the hope, success and love you need to get through this one.

Scoured around on the ‘net and found the church web site. looks a fun church, dude. Thanks for the invite

If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout my athletic career it is this: performance, be it good or bad, has a distinct ebb and flow. One day you’re great, the next you’re second-string. However, with this change comes the understanding that one is not necessarily defined by their performance. As I have quietly followed your Facebook and blog entries, I have been amazed at the support and love that has been so fervently provided to you; be it from those close to you, or others from a distance. It is clear to me that you are not defined by running, but by the impact you’ve had on so many people. I am certain you are enveloped by prayer, love, and well-wishes; I am also certain that each person that offers such concern will admire and love you regardless of your ability to run. This is what I see as your defining character.

I don’t know you on a personal level; most of my interaction with you is from far behind in a race, or following your blog and Facebook posts. I would, however, like to offer an invitation for you and Babette to join me and my family at Brown’s Bridge Church in Atlanta. Consider this an open invitation, and a chance to see what God has planned for this situation.

My prayers for you are continuos, as are those from people you have never met. Your current plight stretches farther than you can imagine, inspiring so many.

Christian, by now you have probably learned that there is an option called diahragmatic pacing; a pacer to stimulate the paralyzed side of your diaphragm. While I understand and respect your decision to not have surgery, I wanted to make sure you were aware just in case. As a critcal care nurse, I work with CT surgeons day in and day out. There is one in particular here in Chattanooga that is Mayo-trained and would be “the man”. I am sure you are not hurting for talented people in the ATL area either. I sincerely hope you make a full recovery without surgery of any kind. Aside from encouragement, this (information) is what I have to offer you to add to your arsenal. Though I barely know you from seeing you at a few races, I know you are a good guy and wish you the very best in your continued recovery. Maybe your body will make some kind of strange adaption/mutation and turn you into some sort of superman freak of nature that makes Dean Karnazes look like he deserves one of those blue parking spaces up front. Hammer on. Press forward.

Christian, your dogged determination that has made you into who you are is not the least bit sick, and I fully believe that this is one of those little detours that life gives us to focus us on priorities. “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.” Just remember that. You WILL be back.

Hang in there, man. It’s just like an ultra….you feel good, you feel bad, you want to quit…..but you get to the finish line. Your running friends are with you!

no worries. incidentally, I was thinking about your predicament with the phrenic nerve injury. As a vote of reassurance, even if this is permanent, I’m fairly comfortable that you’ll still be doing the ultras. (only caveat being I haven’t actually seen your charts) What would change would be your speed, which, although frustrating wouldn’t kill the joy of being able to get out there. But anyways, my rationale – first, you’re not losing 50%. You still have the muscles in your chest (intercostals, between the ribs) that allow expansion of the chest wall. Similarly, you will get some right sided diaphragmatic movement from the pull of your left diaphragm. Not a lot, but some. You’ll also get some inflation of the right lung just from the vacuum created in your chest during breathing. So instead of you functioning at 50%, I’m guessing it’ll actually be more like 60%. Not great, but significant. Second, if your right diaphragm is gone, your body will adapt. Over time, your left lung will probably inflate more, taking up some of the room the right lung did. Blood will get shunted to the left and you’ll oxygenate more efficiently than you do now. You’ll also likely develop new capillary beds, making you more efficient on the left. Again, these are small gains, but it’s something.

In the end, you won’t be able to transport oxygen to your muscles as efficiently as you did 2 months ago, but the strength and endurance of the muscles themselves will still be there, as long as you train your ass off. Thus, if you slow down and reduce the oxygen demand, you’ll still be huffin’ down the trail. Just maybe closer to the back with the rest of us slugs.

Finally, there’s also the chance that your phrenic nerve will recover. It’s still early.


I just sent you an email. I have the same thing. You have my cell number.

Take a minute to watch one or some of these. You may find encouragement in these testimonies:


Christian. Nobody survives alone. Center your self in the love and support of your family and blisters.
Tootle image esophageal hiatus for a look at the anatomy of your beautiful diaphragm.
Buy a used copy of. Long Life Good Health through Tail Chi Chuan by Simone Kuo my Master. This unique Text contains 6 warm up exercises prior to the study of the 64 move set of Tail Chi.
I’m a two time cancer/chemotherapy/terminal diagnosis survivor and I have never stopped my Tail Chi practice.
Warm up exercise #1 is all you need to recover your ventilatory musculature. Used book on Amazon $1.25 +shipping

it honestly makes me mad at God (who I do believe in) to allow this pain on you when so many other people are just content to never challenge or better themselves. I can’t imagine how it begins to make you feel. I wish I had a great answer to the problem. I still believe that prayer and the medical treatement is the answer and you’re obviously getting a lot of them both.

I’ve been praying for you since the first doctor visit. For you to be back running & working quickly without any long term issues. I will keep it up.

I’m glad that your spirit still wants to fight. I think that says a lot about who you are as a person.

Hang in there, Christian. Your Superior Sawtooth buddies up here in flat Minnesota are pulling for you!

Anything you need from me, you’ve got it. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but my prayers are still coming your way.

we’ll always be here with you and go through this with you. you are not alone. God is watching over you too. What you are going through is going to help so many more people in the future. and you have improved greatly. we need to pray on it. and be diligent with dr. appts. you are whole man, not half. nothing can change that.

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