“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

–M. Kathleen Casey

Have you ever asked for something you ended up not wanting? With my still movable right hand, I pointed out letters on an alphabet, asking Harborview Hospital’s chief nuerosurgeon how long it would be before I could walk and drive again.

The noises coming from the hospital hallway seemed to fall silent. I held my breath. My beating heart pounded nails into my coffin as he slowly said, “You will never be able to walk or drive again.”

I panicked!

I’m a 19-year old roofer. I have to walk! I have to drive! Talk about being handed an unexpected opportunity. Frantically, I

pushed my paralyzed leg off the bed and tried to stand up. Why was the room tilted? I reached out to balance myself on the bedside

table, but I missed and fell to the floor. The doctor and two nurses put me back in bed. As soon as they turned around, I climbed back out and fell on my face again. This time they put me back and strapped me in.

As I lay there staring at the ceiling, I could see the writing on the wall (which is quite a feat). The belt strapping me to the bed was

redundant. Horror at what lay ahead kept me frozen to the mattress. I was too scared to even think about the changes I faced, but an

invisible force pulled my mind to where it had never gone.

The writing on the wall stood out clearly; instead of hanging out with friends—backpacking, parachuting, snow and water skiing,

going to rock concerts and to the beach—I’d be spending my time in therapy: physical, speech, occupational, and psychotherapy.

What kind of life was that? I never imagined it happening to me, but now it had. The impossible had happened: I was handed a life-sentence of strange new opportunities. How would I react?

Life since my motorcycle crash has been a challenge, but it’s a doable challenge, usually. Having my strong, capable body replaced by a shell of what it had been was like being plucked from a jungle of luscious, colorful fruit and thrown into a desert of heat-blasted sand. Talk about an opportunity!  I was flying well below the radar. Anything I accomplished would take everyone by surprise.

Looking back, there is no way I could have come this far if it hadn’t been for key people to guide me around pitfalls. I haven’t always 

listened to the guides, but as time and troubles passed, I’ve become more willing to heed the advice of those who have gone

before me.

Never is a Long Time

The doctor’s words echoed in my ears: “Never walk or drive again.” My future glowed on the wall where the bloodless hand had written its prediction. Like a torpedoed battleship, bubbles floated on the ocean’s surface—the ocean of my life.

All the things that had made me feel like a winner were gone! No good job, no customized Camaro, no beautiful motorcycle. I

couldn’t even get out of bed. Any possessions I owned were meaningless anyway. My once strong athletic body was a now a useless pile of muscles and bones.

My fiancée was all that remained of the life I’d enjoyed. I loved her before my accident when I was strong and independent.

Now my love changed to a devouring need unlike any I’d ever known. I clung to her like a man clinging to a rope over a tank of hungry

sharks.

Value in Perspective

The thought of losing her scared me more than never walking again? Huh? What was wrong with me? Just because I was brain

damaged didn’t mean I had to get all crazy. I better get some perspective, and quick!