The 11th of February marked the 17th anniversary of the snow skiing accident that flipped my world upside down and set my life on a completely new trajectory. I’ve spent much of the month reflecting on the morphine-fogged memories of my first few weeks in the ICU at Harborview Medical Center; waking up each morning to the sporadic beeps of monitors tracking my vitals, the steady kssshhhht-chooooo of a ventilator regulating my breathing, and the jarring realization that the hellish scene on the mountain was not just a nightmare like I had desperately hoped.
There were tubes in my arms, up my nose, and down my throat, and a neck brace stabilizing my freshly fused cervical spine. I was numb from the neck down, everything I could feel was on fire, and the future was as unclear as the whereabouts of my limbs. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would wake up 17 years later to the giggles, coos, and grunts of an almost five-month-old little girl, the latest (and, by far, greatest) in a string of miracles that have made up this wild second act of my story.
I found a quote recently by English novelist and poet, George Meredith, that says, “There is nothing the body suffers the soul may not profit by.” With all my body has endured – the broken neck, two fractured thoracic vertebrae, one snapped femur, a burst appendix, four different stage IV pressure sores, close to a dozen kidney stone surgeries, countless urinary tract infections, and a near-death experience from sepsis – it was probably inevitable that I started seeing things through a far more spiritual lens.
I’ve been blessed with a whole tribe of support who never backed down in their fight for me until I could fight for myself, the financial freedom to bypass many of the maddening barriers of a flawed system that so many of my peers struggle to overcome, and the relative stability of my injury where, unlike other progressively paralyzing neurological diagnoses like Parkinson’s, MS, and ALS, my levels of sensation and function have stayed consistent. I’ve needed every second of these last two decades to find manageable solutions to so many of the physical aspects of this lifestyle, but none of it could have happened without the rude awakening that came with a losing battle with the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.
For it was that tragedy that led me to a very practical form of spirituality, a loving source of help expressed as a collective Wisdom Greater Than My Own and comes in the form of each and every person that happens to cross my path, as long as I am in the right mindset to look for the similarities that connect us rather than the differences that divide us. By surrounding myself with a merry band of medical misfits and societal castoffs trying their best to recover from the effects of all sorts of addictions, injuries, and other diseases, I’m in the healthiest and happiest place of my life. It all adds up to an embarrassment of riches which I hope I’m living up to every single day.
I’ve never been one of those people to go so far as to say that they wouldn’t change a thing about the day they were injured, but looking at this beautiful little girl, it’s hard to imagine getting to this place any other way. It’s given me a much deeper appreciation of these early weeks and months, witnessing her rapid development of so many things I once took for granted and spent years coming to terms with losing. Just like the scar on her incredible mama’s belly marks the way she entered this world; I now look at the one on my neck as part of her path.
And while it’s not quite a book, this little corner of cyberspace of mine captures much of the broad strokes of an incredible story that needs to be filled in. And whether that’s directly through a book, series articles, a podcast, speaking engagements, individual anecdotes shared between myself and the various folks I come across in my recovery, or rambling stories that bore this little girl stiff over dinner, it’s just going to keep building for as long as this atrophied bag of bones continues to keep me afloat.
Huge thanks to those who have helped me get this far.