I have written about it a handful of times, and each time, I’ve found that my relationship with the anniversary of my accident has evolved. The first few years, I didn’t need a reminder because I’d been counting the days, breaths, and heartbeats that I’d survived along the way. At five years, I couldn’t find the words. When the decade came, it was time to exorcise some demons and celebrate. Now here we are at 14 years and, as always seems to be the case, it’s hard to wrap my head around just how far I’ve come.
I look back at pictures of the early days and remember just how disoriented I was in the months and years after my accident. For a long time I couldn’t leave my room, let alone my house, or even the block we lived on. This life just did not make sense. I never could’ve imagined that six years later, the cute nurse from rehab would wander back into my world and show me how to “do life.” And when the mosaic we built during our two-year whirlwind relationship came crashing down and I found myself at the lowest point of my life, I clung to one question like a life preserver: Where will I be six years from now?
And now here I am, living a healthy, productive, and meaningful life on a level I could not have fathomed back then. I’ve got a semi-regular gig writing for one of the leading disability magazines, my little pet project has gained traction and is building a critical mass up here in the Pacific Northwest, and, oh yeah, I’m on the verge of marrying a woman who has played an integral part in helping me get here by standing by my side as I’ve pushed past comfort zones of all kinds.. It’s a level of productivity and motivation I’ve always wanted, but never truly thought I would find post-injury.
On the one hand, it’s a testament to all the work I have done on myself, especially in the last six years, on my mental, spiritual, and emotional fitness. On the flipside, I know none of it would have been possible without the hordes of people who have been there to catch me every time I fell and helped carry me until I figured out how to make this life make sense, especially my mom, my dad, my sister, and Kristen. I know there’s no proper way to thank each and every one of you except to continue pushing forward to help others as you have helped me.
The only question now is where will we all be six years from now? If the last 14 years have taught me anything, it’ll be a mixed bag of the sour and the sweet, but we will get there together.
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Love it Kenny, especially the sour and sweet..lol, ROCH, let’s have another adventure with the three of us.
As Pa would says, “Keep smiling!” It is a life saver. Love you Kenny. Uncle Johnny and the Macs
Fourteen years ago I was in a sales job that I hated. I happened to find an article you put on social media…the format was very different back then. I don’t even know how I happened upon your story….but I did. I was mesmerized by this handsome young man who was an extreme athlete who loved his family with all his heart and suffered a terrible and unfair happening in his life. Seven years ago I graduated with an A.S. in Respiratory and I specialize in working with Quadrapalegic patients who are ill and have trouble with airway management. Some are vented and some are not. I know the monumental task that you face each day and the real struggle you have to maintain the level of health others take for granted. You are a courageous young man who has come a long way and no doubt will continue to persevere. As a fully functioning adult who takes things for granted on a daily basis I just want to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me to count my blessings and to stop taking things for granted. God bless and may you continue to live a happy and healthy life. Carpe diem!
Hey Kenny! Still following you even after Microsoft Spaces shut down. Remember that?
Love your words. I love you, man. Joel from NYC here.
Well said — thank you for sharing.
“it’s a testament to all of the work I have done on myself, especially in the last six years, on my mental, spiritual, and emotional fitness.”
Never discount this statement. You had others’ encouragement but it was all the work you did on your attitude that’s brought you this far. My mom died Jan. 1, 2017 at the age of 85. She had been a quad for 14 years. Her anger, depression, bitterness, “hate being stuck in this body”, unwillingness to try adaptable and accessible options all attributed to her death mentally and physically.
People who experience such traumatic events have to understand how much their attitude influences their recovery and future life. They may have a tremendous system of family and friend support, great insurance, amazing medical and rehab available, all the access to adaptable equipment they need to navigate their altered world, unlimited financial resources but they won’t have success at positive recovery if they have a guilty, depressed, negative mental response to their view of life.
My mom was a problem solver, the person everyone sought out for counsel, compassion, encouragement. She was the one who kept things organized, we had a house full of neighborhood kids who loved her because they “could talk to her about everything and she made them feel like they could accomplish whatever they wanted in their lives and do anything they dreamed.” After her accident at the age of 71, her answer to every option we suggested was, “No, that won’t work.” “No, no, no.”
She hated her situation, being dependent on anyone, watching others do everything and not the way she would have done it, the loss of control over everything. She took control over strange things like time, the thermostat and the blanket she had draped over her every day (blanket up, blanket down, blanket up, blanket down, up, down, up, down – we threatened to get her a blanket money).
The night before she died of pneumonia/sepsis she said about the treatment with antibiotics, “This is stupid.” I understood. She’d been waiting for this time for 14 years since she realized what the outcome of her C-3,4,5 incomplete break really meant for her future – someone else feeding her, picking her nose, urinary catheter, bowel program, never feeling someone touching her again. I was 3,000 miles away talking to an ICU nurse on the phone, my dad in the ER after a fall due to illness and dehydration, sisters more than 3 hours drive away. Mom said, “Stop the medications and the nasal breathing assistance and suctioning. This is stupid.” I told the nurse that sounded like my mom. They had her DNR/Living Will orders. New Year’s Day around 10am she transitioned to a life where she could walk and do whatever she wanted again. Through all the phone calls I knew that if she had believed that living was more important to her than dying she would have recovered from this episode, her first real health fight post-injury. But she didn’t want to stay here in the body that made her “feel like she was encased in a block of concrete.” And I appreciated that thought and told her I understood and would miss her but could let her go if she was ready because we would be ok here together. We are because I don’t miss the person she had become, I do really miss the mom she was before her accident.
Be an amazing person. Be someone who is all the great parts of you before your paralysis, but so much better because of the experiences, empathy, knowledge, compassion you have learned since the event and your willingness to share with others so that their navigation of what you already know is so much easier.
Keep moving forward.
Congratulations on embracing life and love! I am so happy for you! Always in my thoughts and prayers.
Happy for youvKenny
Happy for you Kenny. I know life has its ups and downs, it helps to have mentors showing the way through your nonprofit set up to help others with varying degrees of injuries. These gatherings seem to show me, no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who has it worse off you. I seem to remember you sharing that very thout regarding the quad squad.
We never know for sure where you path will lead, but if you do not try you won’t go anywhere!
Thanks for positive thoughts in a world full of uncertainties.
Kenny, its amazing how far you’ve come without a partner like Claire in your life. I was lucky enough to have a GREAT partner in Jane and, thanks to her love and positive spirit, have avoided many of the downs throughout my recovery. Having spent time with Claire at Stafford, I know you too have a GREAT partner!! May your lives continue to flourish! Greg