You hear the word "surgery" as your consciousness begins to fade. Just before going, you catch yourself wondering if the sign above the door read Emergency Room, or Torture Chamber. Most of the next week or so is blurred by a morphine haze. Everything flashes in one minute intervals. Intubation tubes down your throat making you gag. Your entire college wrestling team in your hospital room, cheering you on as you fight to get off the ventilator, and ultimately fail. Your best friend from elementary school, and his wife you had never met. A teammate from high school. You only remember a few people, but they later tell you that more than 350 people came to see you, something the hospital officials had never seen before.
You fully regain consciousness in a neck brace, and find your self unable to feel ANYTHING below your armpits. Every muscle in your neck and shoulders is on fire with pain. There are tubes coming out of your neck, and you are breathing disturbingly regularly. There is a tube up each nostril leading to your stomach, and over a dozen intravenous lines coming from your arms. You can’t move, and you don’t know why. Is this a dream? Is this really happening? It can’t be. In an instant, the memories flood back. A ski jump. A sled ride. "Call Hallie." A helicopter. "I’m sorry Dad." A hospital visitor plays with your hair, and brushes over a thick scab. Your mind flashes back to the torture chamber. Shortness of breath. A clamp screwed into your skull. A doctor trying to "realign" your spine unsuccessfully. Nothing but pain and confusion. You recall too many things that will haunt your dreams forever.
You sleep only one night in eighteen in the hospital. The countless monitors which you are attached to sound off relentlessly throughout the night. The nursing staff tells you that if it beeps three times, it’s you… twice, it’s someone in another room, because the monitors are all networked together. This does nothing to quell your anxiety. You hear an alarm, and you wonder, "was that the second beep, or the third?" Doctors come in and inform you and your family that you will NEVER move again, and there is a rather good chance you will never breathe again on your own. Just tears. You refuse to give up hope, regardless of what they tell you.
Because you are on a ventilator, you have no voice. You communicate by mouthing words, most of which people cannot decipher. You find yourself spelling words to friends and loved ones. Your nights in the hospital are horrifying because of this problem. You are left alone for merely minutes at a time, but it feels like hours. Your anxiety ramps up, and you know you need some drugs to alleviate it. The only problem, is that you have no way to call for help. You stare out the door and watch your nurse pass by numerous times. You just need help, but your cries can not be heard. Completely helpless, all you can do is cry.
While she is out of the room, you cry to your parents because you know your girlfriend will eventually leave you because of this. Though six months later you would be correct, she sits in your hospital room and plays "By Your Side," by Sade on repeat. It calms your fears temporarily. She is a pillar of strength for both your family and friends throughout your stay in the hospital. You convince her that she needs to go back to school, and not drop out. Just before she leaves, you mouth the words "These tubes may have kept me breathing, but YOU are what kept me alive." You both cry. Little do you know, it’s closer to the truth than you realize. They later tell you that just hearing her voice in the room had the power to make all of your vital signs stabilize.
Teams of doctors invade your room with SWAT like efficiency throughout the day. You are never referred to by name, just by your injury; C3-C4 complete quadriplegic. You can’t help but think of Patch Adams. They rarely spend more than a minute barking orders back and forth, making a diagnosis within seconds. When they walk out the door, neither you nor your nurse have any clue as to what just transpired. One day, they come in and wrongly inform you that they are sending you home, because there is absolutely nothing left for them to do. Two days later, they tell you they are sending you to a rehab facility two hours away from your home, another inaccurate statement.
After 2 1/2 weeks which seem like an eternity in hell… you finally are transferred to a rehabilitation center. All you will remember from intensive care is being intensely scared.