Since my accident back in January of 2011 I’ve gone through a series of ups and downs until I’ve reached the mindset that I am in now. Before my accident even happened I was already in the process of writing a book. I had 150 pages of material already written. But the mindset was completely different than it is now. In those pages I wrote about my experience leading up to the psych ward and what I had to do to get myself back on my feet again. I’ll share much of that material with you later but for now I want to start on September 30, 2011 when I 1st wrote about the crash.
When I woke up in the hospital I was already thinking about writing. The only problem was that my right hand was completely swollen and curled up from the spinal cord injury. It literally felt like I punched a brick wall. Maybe I punched the street because both of my hands were up in the air out of my sunroof flicking off the police when I lost control and flipped my car at 120 mph. I’ll explain this later but just remember that was not in my right mind. My left elbow was severely dislocated from the crash and I had to have a fixator drilled into my arm to hold it at a 90° angle. I thought in 6 weeks I would have my arm back and I would be able to start writing again.
In the hospital in Indianapolis I tried to write with my right hand to make notes about what I wanted to write about. I wish I had been able to write during those few weeks that I was in Indianapolis because I was going through a manic episode and you could not believe what I was thinking. It took months of occupational therapy on my right hand until I was able to easily write like I did before the accident. But even to this day my handwriting is still shaky compared to my perfect handwriting (which some say was girly) I had before the accident. I cannot type really because my left hand is still jacked up.
Anyways, I did not start writing until I bought a copy of Dragon so that I could speak to my computer and it could type for me. I started writing as soon as I got Dragon and I 1st wrote about the crash. Thank God for Dragon because without it I would not be writing this book or blog.
Since September I’ve written a series of Facebook notes. Some of you may have read them. Over the coming weeks I want to post these notes on my blog so that you can see how my attitude has changed over the year. Here is the 1st entry that I wrote about the crash but it has been edited and some things have been added.
…written September 30, 2011
January 22, 2011 was the day that everything changed. It is been a little over 8 months since that day. A few of you have heard the entire story. I lost control of my car while driving recklessly at 120 miles per hour. I’m not going to explain why I was driving my car that fast quite yet. Anyways I flipped 5 times front over front through a field in Rushville, Indiana. Luckily for me, the wide open field kept me clear of trees. My car landed upside down in the snow.
The last thing I remember was looking in my rearview mirror. I could see police lights back in the distance. The fact that they were right behind me meant that help was already on the way. They pulled me from the car through one of the broken out windows and got me into the ambulance. The medical records say that I had no pulse at the scene of the accident. Fortunately, they were able to resuscitate me. I was brought to the nearby Rushville hospital where they treated my collapsed lungs with chest tubes. Soon I was life-flighted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
The doctors in Indianapolis found that I had fractured my C6 and C7 vertebrae in my neck and they were pressing into my spinal cord. My left elbow was also severely dislocated. To stabilize my neck, multiple screws and rods were put into place. Then a fixator was drilled into my left arm to hold my elbow in place.
I awoke the next day in the intensive care unit surrounded by my family. The 1st thing I noticed was that I could not move my legs. I tried to talk but could not say a word because there was a tube down my throat to give me air. I lifted the only limb I could, my right arm, and motioned to my mom that I wanted to write something. My family looked around for something to write on. They found a pad of paper and a pen. I shakily wrote the word hug on the paper with my swollen right hand. This hug from my mom was the only thing that could comfort me at the time. I then wrote, “did I hurt anyone?” To my relief they all shook their heads no.
I spent 5 days in the intensive care unit. Once they removed the breathing tube I wanted to know if I cut my spinal cord. When my dad was 32 years old he got in a bad car accident and had a spinal cord injury. He was paralyzed from the neck down. It took him a year but because his spinal cord was not cut, and only bruised, he got everything back. They did not have an answer to this question quite yet. A few days later they tested me to see if my spinal cord was severed. They pricked me with pins and then at the end the doctor stuck a finger up my butt. Something her finger felt meant that it was not cut. When she told me this I cried knowing that I would one day walk again.
I was stuck in Indianapolis for the next 3 weeks. I will go into the details of these 3 weeks later. After 3 weeks I was transferred to Cleveland Metro Health Hospital for rehabilitation. I spent the next 2 1/2 months in Cleveland. The entire time I was in Cleveland I was optimistic that everything would come back. It would only be a year and I would be back on my feet. Not only because my dad got back on his feet but also because I thought I was Jesus Christ. I thought I would walk out of there on Easter just how Jesus rose from the dead.
Every day I tried to move something and every day I failed. This became very discouraging especially since my dad told me that his legs came back after 2 weeks. All I wanted was a sign that everything was going to be okay. One night, about 2 months in, the nurse came in and gave me my bed bath. Afterwards, she asked me if I could move my toes. I looked down hesitant that they would not move but they did. Immediately I started to cry. Everything was going to be okay.
The next hour or so was spent calling family and friends spreading the news. My mom, dad, aunt, brother, and cousins were all at my house. They all started to cry when they heard the news. My dad went and bought 3 cases of beer. Everyone was so excited to hear the news. I posted on Facebook that I had just moved my toes. Over 70 people liked the news.
Moving my toes gave me a newfound confidence. Now it was time to move a foot. I spent every night trying to move my feet. After about a month, I was once again discouraged. I started to question whether or not I would get better. There were many people that I met with spinal cord injuries who could move their toes and slightly move their legs but they were still in wheelchairs many years later. I started to think that I was going to be one of those people. I fell into a very deep depression.
As it got closer to my move out date I became more and more stressed out rather than happy to go home. When the day finally came on April 27, 2011 I was happy but very disappointed that I was not walking out of there. When I got home things were completely different. I could not just jump on the couch, get into bed, go downstairs or even take a shower. No longer was I independent. I relied on my family for everything. They were now my nurses.
As the months passed, I became more and more depressed. Waterski season was beginning and I would have to sit out the entire season. When I saw my ski in the garage I cried. Everything around me only made me more depressed. From kids riding by on bikes, to looking at my longboard all I wanted to do was cry.
When people think of being paralyzed they think that only their legs do not work. It is much more complex than that. Since my injury was higher up on my spinal cord I am paralyzed from the chest down. This means that nothing works below that level. My abdominal and core is extremely weak and I cannot sit up. My left hand has only slight finger movement and is hardly functional. Luckily my right hand was spared. I should not have either. The bowels and my bladder no longer work. In order to go to the bathroom I need to use catheters every 4 hours. In order to take a poop I need to get an enema every 2 days from my nurse and wait over a toilet for a half hour. My legs do not move. I can only slightly kick them out. Even my coughing muscles are paralyzed. I can hardly cough. My sneezes are also very weak. I also can no longer throw up. The sensation from my chest down is severely messed up. I cannot feel hot or cold or even pain. The only thing that I can feel is touch but even that feeling is far from normal. Another problem is that I can get pressure sores from sitting on something hard. There is a special cushion on my wheelchair that I sit on to avoid pressure sores. I always have to wear my shoes. My bed also has a special gel top pad.
Everyone constantly tells me to focus on what I can do and not what I can’t do. This is something I have a lot of trouble with because there is so much that I cannot do now. I dream about skiing and long boarding, walking, running, and even just driving my car. I miss the freedom of my old life. I was on top of the world with everything going for me. Now everything is a struggle and I mean everything. They say that the 1st year is the hardest. That is what I am experiencing right now.