“Paralyzed from the chest down, permanently.”
Dr. Kym Marsh was doing what I imagine was not his favorite part of his job. That’s a tough bit of information to pass on to a young man who was in very good physical shape just 5 days or so before he would turn 19 years old. However, this was a spinal cord injury that involved a slice, not just a bruise. While not severed completely, the spinal cord was permanently damaged and short of a miracle there would be no healing that would reverse the fact that this patient would not walk, or have sensation below his chest ever again. Spinal cord nerves do not regenerate.
“There is always hope.”
I had tuned him out at that point. He was an idiot. Yes I consent to the surgery, do what you have to do. But you are out of your mind if you think I’m not going to walk again. There! My toe just moved! You’re crazy. I wish I could tell you that these were just the thoughts that were running through my head, but there’s a very good chance I vocalized what I had on my mind to the good doctor. I was never very shy with opinions, and I don’t share a fear of confrontation that I see plaguing society today. This doc was nuts! He didn’t know me or what my capabilities were. He took my parents away to explain in greater detail that I had a slice in my spinal cord at the 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae. Those vertebrae had been shattered in the accident and sliced the spinal cord, leaving me paralyzed. They needed to schedule surgery right away. They would pick out all of the fragments of bone that were in me, as they could potentially cause more damage; and then take a piece of bone from my hip and wire that to my spine to replace the shattered vertebrae.
I didn’t know anything about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, or her stages of Death and Dying. I didn’t know that the same stages could be applied to suddenly and violently acquiring a physical disability. The doctors and nurses caring for me at the time didn’t have the language to describe or the theory to explain to my parents or myself that I would likely experience:
DENIAL, ANGER, BARGAINING, ACCEPTANCE and then DEPRESSION. I’m not sure how helpful this framework would have been at the time given that loved ones go through a very similar sequence. We were all probably in denial.
My intention with this section will be to give a sense of who I was before my accident. This will give a context for what, at the time, I thought I had lost. Having done that I would like to bring you into my world. A world of becoming, discovery, lessons and mistakes. I have always been a seeker. I look for a lesson in each experience, regardless of how painful it might be to look in the mirror and face who I really am.
However, the true purpose in my writing will be to make you laugh. You might cry now and again. I might accidentally inspire someone now and again. After you join me in this endeavor you will be a part of the club. You won’t wince when I use the word cripple to describe myself. It’s my ride and my journey and it’s unbelievable and hilarious. Join me if you will.