Looking back to look forward
Friday, December 27, 2013 9:19 AM
Bye-bye and hello.
A cell phone photo taken the day after my accident. My friends had the good sense to know I'd want to remember how bad it was — to contrast in the future to my recovery. The video is posted at the end of this column.
Another year is ending while a bright, shining new one beckons on the horizon. It's the perfect time to take stock of the past year and set goals for the next. Of course there's a term for the latter, once-a-year planning frenzy: setting New Year's resolutions.
But first we look back. In my case, it's a bit further back.
As I was searching my computer for a specific old photo, I came across something of a surprise - a video I'd made in September of 2012, just five days after my fall of 26 feet into rocks and shallow water. (I still haven't gone back into my medical notes online to see if it was before or after my stroke in the hospital.)
It was scary to watch. I could have starred in a zombie movie with no special effects make-up required. My left eye was totally banged up. It was suffering the aftermath of hitting rocks face first with glasses and/or sunglasses on, which caused an "orbital blowout" of broken bones behind and around the eye. That later would be remedied by surgery where an incision under my left eye was used to place mesh - titanium, I believe - behind my eyeball to provide structure and prevent it from sinking in.
Today, I still have a squinty left eye. It's noticeably shut more so than it was earlier in 2013, something the fine medical staff at Mayo Clinic will be checking into right away in 2014.
Now, back to the video, it appears there are lumps sticking out of my left cheek. It was cut to the bone by the rocks and nasty river water soaked in. I certainly can recall nurses packing gauze into that cut - and pulling it out before pushing more clean gauze back in - to keep it open, so any infectious river water could drain out.
I'm sporting a black eye on the right side in the video, Apparently the glasses didn't smash back into my eye socket quite as hard on this side. Still I'm glad I had them on. I otherwise might be minus a left eye and have a seriously screwed-up right eye. (Also, the stroke left me without peripheral vision to the left in each eye. My eyes took a good hit in both incidents. I'm quite thankful I still can see.)
I can recall making the video when I see it. I'd just had a new cast put on my right hand and arm for the break in my lower thumb, closer to my wrist. With the arrival of college football season, I, of course, had to sport a cast of Iowa Hawkeye colors in Golden Gopher land.
Realizing I didn't have a camera at that point to make a video, I remembered my old laptop included one. So I guess that's what I used, aimed at me in my wheelchair in Saint Marys, to make a "selfie" video.
It shows me trying to be tough, but failing miserably. I raise my arm up to make a fist and growl, all while placing my black-and-gold cast prominently in front of the camera. Yeah, I'm a tough Hawkeye.
But I'm barely keeping my eyes open, my head nods down. Then it jerks slowly up. I try again, this time offering a weak smile. I figure I can edit out a snippet of whatever looks best, growl or smile.
I debated and then posted it on my Facebook page. It undoubtedly would be disturbing and/or funny to watch. But I want to remember how far I've come and how lucky I am.
I also thought it would be good for others to see, so they realize just how bad it was, both for me and in the case of anyone facing recovery of some type. These days the wonders of medicine provide inspirational stories of recovery each and every day. The uncomfortable, disturbingly real photos and videos are the starting point. It didn't happen to me and to others in some abstract sense. It really happened - and this is what it looked like.
I've come so far already. I need to remember that on days when so many muscles up and down my left side are clenched horribly tight or twitch and shake uncontrollably or as my left chin, jaw, cheek and corner of my eye sting. I think it is due to the range of temps in the mid- to upper 60s in my home. And that's way before any below-zero temps outside. So I don't go outside much. Let's pray for a warm-up and a short winter!
As I progressed in 2013, I moved from mostly using a wheelchair to using a walker or even a cane. I pedaled what I figured to be over 250 miles on the TerraTrike recumbent trike on area recreational trails, soaking in the healing strength of nature and drawing further from a strong community pedaling with me in its thoughts and support for recovery.
Here's to a great year in 2014!
(Um, I guess I'll save the resolutions until next week -- like working on procrastination? haha).