When I found myself lying on the blacktop of Highway 360 in Austin on September 25, 2005, after colliding with a parked SUV while riding my bike, I knew, just knew that I was paralyzed. I could feel burning pain on the side of my face where I had struck the car and the road, but below that, nothing. I’m a physician, an orthopedic surgeon. I knew what had happened. Maybe it was one of those times when knowing too much worked against me. But the truth is, though my mind could imagine clearly what my body looked like from the inside, twisted and crumpled, and I could with confidence – at least mentally – direct my needs at the moment, there was another entire conversation winning out in my head.
This was a conversation that had nothing to do with being a physician, nothing to do with medical knowledge and competency. Instead it had everything to do with being a man. A man who knew the odds were that he had just lost everything he believed made him a man. I might never walk again, never perform surgery again. How would I make a living, support my family? I might never make love to my wife again or even be able to hold her hand. What would I have to offer her? I even felt embarrassed about my own role in the accident. In those minutes after landing on the highway, when my life changed forever, it was dread, fear, panic and a crushing sense of being sucked into a dark and unknown future that clutched my heart and overtook my mind.
A spinal cord injury can make you a stranger to your body, but it does more than that. It challenges your very sense of who you are and what makes you who you are. It introduces you to your greatest fears and even your darkest thoughts. If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury, I write this for you, because I have been there. I know the physical, mental and emotional toll just getting dressed in the morning can take on you. I also know what it looks and feels like to find the inner strength – the hope, faith and determination – to rise each day and give life the very best you’ve got – whatever that might be. I know, too, what real recovery looks like. I will share that with you on this blog. Real recovery – that which takes the body to its new potential, as well as recovery that requires an opening of heart, a deepening of courage and a turning of difficulty and challenge into a thing of grace.
Please feel welcome to add your own stories and comments to the blog, to make this a community of care, hope and knowledge.
Thank you for being here.