To my “Million” critics

~ WARNING: If you have not yet seen the movie Million Dollar Baby ~
~ SKIP OVER THIS ENTRY, AND GO WATCH IT ~
 
For those of you who have, welcome.  You just got a glimpse inside the beginning of my life as a quadriplegic.  But tell me the secrecy kept about the ending is not borderline legendary!  It seems that everyone I have talked to about the movie was completely floored by the way things wound up.  Moreover, for the people that know me, the surprise twist hit extra hard.  They could not help but picture me in her place.  It was just crazy, because no one even saw it coming… except for myself, that is. 
 
Though I just watched the movie last week, the ending was ruined for me right around the time of the Oscars.  While meandering around the Internet one day, I came across an article discussing how controversial this movie had become.  As I began reading, I was confronted with a warning similar to the one above.  Being completely ignorant to the plot (like everyone else), I continued reading.  "It’s just a movie about some boxer, with that one girl in it, right?" 
 
Not so much.  Needless to say, I was shocked.  Here I was, no more than a year out from my accident, and there was a movie about a quadriplegic!  As I kept reading, I discovered the article was in regards to the uproar about the ending.  Apparently some activist groups were incensed by the way things went down.  Line after line, the author denounced the film, citing his reason as the fact that it implied that there is no quality of life post injury.  Now, one would think I would tend to agree with such an argument.  That’s a big negative.
 
As I lay there, a quadriplegic reading this article, I could not help but think about the person who had written it.  For some reason, I pictured a snot-nosed idealist with a bleeding heart pounding away at a keyboard.  The way I see it, unless this person was dictating it as a C1-C2 quad, then they aren’t allowed an opinion.  Unless you are in the exact same situation as the girl in that movie, you can’t speak on how this movie portrays that life.  Hell, being a C3-C4 injury myself, I barely feel qualified.  I’m going to go out on a limb, and consider myself justified, however.
 
First things first.  I don’t believe that the movie is implying that there isn’t quality of life after becoming paralyzed by any means.  I think the movie should be taken at face value.  This is an honest depiction of the situation at hand, nothing more.  It’s a trip inside the psyche of a newly injured human being.  Thoughts of suicide are unavoidable.  Personally, I grew up thinking depression and suicide were for weak minded people, no situation was bad enough to cause such things.  I thought it was all about positive mindset.  Well, I was wrong.  I’m not proud to admit it, but my mind took those suicidal thoughts so far that I had devised a foolproof plan for my own demise.  Lucky for me, I had people watching over me from above, and was fortuitously put on bed rest probably days before reaching the breaking point.
 
Even to play the devils advocate for a moment, consider the phrase "quality of life," and how it applies to this situation.  Try to put yourself in her/my shoes, because in reality our lives prior to getting hurt were quite similar.  Our dreams were beginning to reach fruition.  For her, it was a chance at the title.  For me, it was a ridiculously lucrative job scheduled to start the next week, as well as being in love with who I thought was my future wife.  Stand in those shoes for a moment… your dreams virtually staring you in the face.  The next thing you know, you are lying in the ring/snow unable to move.  You awaken to a machine forcing air into your lungs.  Doctors are telling you straight to your face that you will NEVER move again.  Life as you once knew it can no longer be obtained.  You have no idea what that does to a person.  Fortunately for me, I found my way out of the darkness.  I found a life still worth living.  But some don’t, and I completely understand why.
 
But this is where the catch comes in.  I mentioned above that I am not quite qualified to speak here. Yes, I can speak on my situation, but not hers.  Our situations are terribly similar, that’s true, but not COMPLETELY the same.  Her injury occurred two vertebrae above mine.  To a lay person, that might not mean much.  But I know that two vertebrae higher, and you die within 20 minutes of the injury without immediate medical attention.  Ski patrol did not show up for over a half-hour for me.  I also know that being a C1-C2 means that there is absolutely no chance of breathing without a ventilator.  I feel most fortunate for the fact that I only had to spend two months connected to the living hell that is that machine.  Given that perspective, I know that my life is ridiculously easier than the one her character faced.  Had I been in that situation, who knows.  Thankfully, I don’t need to worry about that.
 
So, is there quality in this life?  Your answer is right here.  Me.  And although this was the most difficult movie for me to watch (and I will probably never be able to watch it again), it in no way makes me think that it implies otherwise.  Granted, the pressure sore behind the knee was a stretch.  Coming from a guy who has had nasty ones, that’s quite an unlikely spot.  That minor bit of creative licensing aside, this movie seems to be quite the accurate reflection of the mindset of a newly injured quadriplegic.  But again, that’s only my perspective, what do I know? 

Comments

  1. Unknown says:

    This is the first time that I\’ve read your blog, and I must admit, your insight is touching. May I ask a question? I know it\’s a little weird, and you of course, don\’t have to answer, but – Do people look you in the eye when you\’re out in public?

  2. Darlene says:

    Hey…found your blog thanks to my pal Jen. Ironically… I spent part of my morning helping a young paraplegic become reintroduced to his home after a motorcycle accident this past spring (I do home health). I admire your attitude. And will be stopping by to see how you are…if you don\’t mind. Darlene

  3. Darlene says:

    Ok…one more thing….checked out your music list and say Jeffrey Gaines "In Your Eyes." I have never seen another soul mention his cover…I LUV it so much better than the Gabriel version….I have decided that you ROCK!

  4. Darlene says:

    Pool and a pond… Pond be good for you….;)

  5. I thought the movie was an excellent movie….and showed excellent perspective….\’cept for the pressure ulcer behind the knee…I yelled a little protest to my husband (he won\’t watch ER with me because of my "Oh Horseshit" comments) The lifestyle alteration is mind blowing…how can anyone think they would know how they would handle a situation… except those of who actually live it? Everyone is different…everyone has something different to lose….and as I said today on my blog…there are those who will give up…and those who will fight every step of the way…I am impressed and awed by your attitude…..you have shown the world titanium balls…By the way…freak-out number 2 with you…my second favorite song…let me sing a bit…."I\’m old enough to see behind me, yet young enough to feel my soul…" Did I give birth to you? 😉

  6. howdy, I can semi-identify with your thoughts here, was in an auto accident in \’75\’, fortunate to NOT be paralyzed, but my good friend alongside me is, C4C5 quad. I lived with and cared for him for 6 years subsequent to the \’wreck\’ as we call it,and we shared many, many intimate conversations, re: the meaning of and quality of life, ending and end of life. All I can say is keep on keeping on, and know that those of us in the un paralyzed state admire and respect people who are. 🙂

  7. This is not a criticism (yours is the first and only " MSN — My Space" that I\’ve not been able to just glance at or skim over the text–you won\’t have to seek an agent or a publisher as they likely will be bidding for the right to publish your book should you choose that path) but a response to something specific. You wrote," Granted, the pressure sore behind the knee was a stretch. Coming from a guy who has had nasty ones, that\’s quite an unlikely spot."My son had pressure sores behind his knees! He had been wearing "kneepads" to protect the top of his knees which were getting bruised from hitting against the underside of his lapboard attached to his wheelchair. I was horrified to see the HOLES behind his knees–one was so bad that there was no tissue around the tendon. I took him out of his residential facility to a private orthopedic surgeon who scheduled him for a "tendon lengthening" surgery, outpatient, for the next day! The outpatient surgery turned into a 5-day hospitalization when the original procedure was not possible and both tendons had to be severed. He had to be on IV antibiotics for another 3 weeks. To this day, almost 10 years later, I can still hear his screams when he was being brought out of the general anesthesia . . .I admire your spirit! Perhaps one day I will be able to read your published work? You have the talent, and I believe you certainly have the dedication and will to achieve this, if you choose.You have my respect–for what you have experienced and how you are dealing with it– as well as my gratitude–for writing about your life in a place where I was fortunate enough to see and read it.

  8. You bet there\’s quality. Thanks for writing that, my sentiments very closely at least. I\’m also a C4 quad and have been since 1982. People have always asumed I\’m \’living in Hell\’ or I\’m "dying a thousand deaths" but that\’s not true. I\’m actually fairly happy. I\’ve seen the bitter ones, and they seem like lonely people to me. So I\’ve always made it a point to try to look on the bright side – the Dark side is WAY too easy to see. It looks like you\’re doing the same thing.Thanks for writing. Maybe I should write too.Buzzkeith@troutmanweb.com

  9. I know you probably are thinking that I am a stalker but really I am not….lol…you are very handsome and face it you couldn\’t run if I did stalk you!! (please do not take that wrong I am joking & would not hurt your feelings for anything in this world)I rented this movie, made some cookies and sat down with the family to watch it……we were in awe….horrified to say the least……it is not at all what we expected…..it would be terribly difficult to live in her situation. You never know how you will react to any situation until you have lived it.I have a co-worker in her early 50\’s…..diagnosed around 12/04 with aggressive lung cancer. Not a big shock the way she smokes but I could not stand the thought of her 80lb body going through all of this….she is heavy drinker too…..by no means has she had a good life.I started asking her every question that popped into my head, mainly being how are you going to fix this? Her reply was – I am not. She said she had done everything in life that she wanted to do….everybody is different and you have to do what is right for you. She had the cancer removed and is still going through radiation but will not agree to chemo. I am amazed because I feel like at my age I have so much more than her….I have the best kids & husband. I have new cars, we own several horses, we travel….our kids wear only the best clothes and miss out on nothing and I do not want to die…..I will fight whatever obstacles come our way because in no way whatsoever am I ready to die.

  10. O.k., I finally watched it. This was the only one of your blogs that I had not read because of that.I agree with you. I don\’t think I will ever watch that movie again.I like Clint Eastwood but I wasn\’t that excited about seeing this movie. I guess I didn\’t know what to expect. All I knew was that it was about a female boxer and Hillary Swank got the most amazingly toned back out of it. I had heard the excellent reviews though.So I finally rented it the other day. I again kept putting off watching it. I have blockbuster online now so there was no hurry. I put it on when a friend came over (my ex actually because he was distraught and needed some company) but because of everything going on with him and because it was morning and we were both hungry I found myself cooking breakfast through it and he was too emotional for it to hold his attention either.I put it in again Sunday night but ended up giving the T.V. up to my son and his friend to play video games. I\’d only gotten half-way through it. She had just hit the chair. Then my phone rang.So last night I came home exhausted, my sugar was up I guess (I\’m a diabetic if you remember) and fell almost immediately asleep. It was only 9:30. I kept saying it was just going to be for 30 minutes and then I\’ll get up and clean the kitchen and cook for tomorrow. I woke up at 3:30. I couldn\’t get back to sleep so I decided to finish the movie. I went back through a few scenes to get myself back into the movie until I finally picked up where I left off. I remembered the sound of her neck snapping when she hit the chair so I covered my eyes and ears. I was of course saddened by what happened to her but I continued to watch assuming and waiting for the triumphant return. I knew she may not ever walk again, but I thought she would end up overcoming more than they ever thought she would and it would end up being one of those triumph over personal tradgedy stories.I could barely controll myself, the pain I was feeling inside with her and for her when her "family" finally came to visit her. I was willing her not to sign those papers. And so glad when she didn\’t. But it continued to hit me how badly she had been treated by life. As she said she\’s had to fight for everything and still life had given her very little. A year and a half of glory and two great friends. And yet she was such a generous person. When she tried to kill herself, I thought I was going to be sick with what I was feeling inside. Watching Frank himself try and deal with it and his own pain was another added layer. He was such a good man, no matter what he\’d done. He didn\’t deserve to be treated like that.I wanted to hold both of them.I finished watching it and I tried to put it aside. I felt like if I didn\’t try and distance myself from the emotions it stirred that I would have a meltdown. I tried to think about anything else, but I couldn\’t and the tears came, and they came, and they came. For a while I wasn\’t sure I\’d be able to stop. I kept repeating to myself it was just a movie. Part of it I guess was because even though I\’m not paralyzed I could identify with how life had treated her and what she must have been thinking.I can understand why she asked that of him. But I\’m glad that you have been able to find the good in life again. Even though, I know some days its still hard.I\’m glad that you\’ve allowed us the opportunity to know you. It was a powerful film.

  11. ____###########________________________ __###############______________________ __################_____________________ _##################_________######______ __##################_____###########___ __##################___##############__ ___##################_###############_ ____#################################_ ______##########KENNY################__ _______##############################__ ________##########################____ __________########################_____ ___________######################______ ____________######PAMELA########________ _____________################__________ _______________#############___________ ________________##########_____________ ________________#########______________ __________________######_______________ ___________________####________________ ____________________###________________ _____________________#_________________ HI KENNY I LEAVE THIS TWO HEARTS HERE JUST TO LETS YOU KNOW THAT YOU GOT ANOTHER FRIEND….LOL I GUESS YOU HAVE MANY ALREADY,BUT NEVER MIND,I WANT TO BE NEAR ALSO…..BIG KISS TO YOU BOY!!!!PAMELA (BANGKOK/THAILAND)

  12. ____###########________________________ __###############______________________ __################_____________________ _##################_________######______ __##################_____###########___ __##################___##############__ ___##################_###############_ ____#################################_ ______##########KENNY#################__ _______##############################__ ________###########################____ __________########################_____ ___________######################______ ____________######PAMELA########________ _____________################__________ _______________#############___________ ________________##########_____________ ________________#########______________ __________________######_______________ ___________________####________________ ____________________###________________ _____________________#_________________ UFFFFFF JUST ONE HEART COMES OUT………WELL I SAY TWO SO HERE IS THE SECOND HEHEHEHE…..AND THAT GIVE ME THE CHANCE TO SAY……COME AND VISIT MY SPACE TOO,COZE NO ONE COME TO MY CORNER BOOOOOOOOOOO 😦 ……..EMMMM OK, OK I GO NOW AND I LEAVE YOU A SPANISH BESITOSSSSSSSSSS (KISSES) MUAWWWWWWW…..

  13. I loved that movie. The ending I didn\’t find all that unpredictable though. I think the huge difference between you and her character is not in your injury its your situations. You have an enormous group of people supporting you, from close friends and family to strangers all over the globe. This girl had only herself and her coach. She didn\’t really have any friends and her family was too selfish to care for her. Although she was a very strong willed person I can definately see her wanting to end her life, knowing that she would have to spend endless days in a hospital bed on a respirator alone. Everyone contributes to their own quality of life, but I think it\’s also the people in our lives that make lives worth living.

  14. Lauren Henderson says:

    I first started reading your blog about 8 years ago… I was captivated and spent a year following your writing at that time. Today 8 years later you just popped into my head …. and I’m so glad to have found you again and be able to catch up on everything you have been up to since then. I’m blown away and I love the photos.

    -Lauren

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