Click the picture for the story of Calypso, the Three Legged Green Sea Turtle, and why she's my symbol

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Five Memories I Will Remember When the **** Hits the Fan

If you saw the post "The Importance of Memories," I shared a few memories that pushed me forward when things got hard. I advised people to think of 5 memories for when time get bad and promised a list of my own. Here they are in no particular order; these memories simply made me happy.

5. Going to see Avatar in 3-D. I hadn't seen a movie in 2 and half months (the last was The Princess and the Frog back in December) You can have your own opinion of the plot but when seen in 3D the effects were breathtaking; I really badly wanted to go to live on Pandora (the beautiful world where the story takes place). My favorite part of going to the movie was before the previews even started. My mom had gone to get the popcorn and I was sitting at the edge of the row in my wheelchair. Having always hated sitting on the end, I transferred over to one seat and then two (not a simple task, since the armrests were in the way. I felt up to the challenge). It was worth it to see the puzzled expression on my mom's face when my wheelchair was empty and I was in the center of the row.

4. Chatting with my friends over webcam. I am forever grateful to my parents for the gift of my laptop. It's an HP and along with many other great features it has a decent quality internal webcam. This means I don't have to rely on my phone as my only line of communication with my all my friends! It was one of the best experiences of that beginning time when I was able to wish my friend Happy Birthday at her birthday party. I've been able to shoot the breeze with my former roommates, keep my family updated face to face, and talk about absolutely nothing when I've had too much going on in my life.

3. Swimming in the therapy pool for the first time.
Once the strength in my leg had returned to the point where they thought it would be worth my time to begin gait-training (the precursor to walking), they tried putting me in a the Litegait. A harness that was meant to be used over a treadmill, this ended up being one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. I found out afterwords that most guys who have had the pleasure of being in this contraption refers to it as "The Man-Crusher" (if you can't understand this reference you're probably not old enough to read this blog). So after several attempts they decided that the therapy pool was a much better fit for me. The therapy pool is amazing instrument, with a floor that you can wheel up to. After you are on it descends into the water, kept at a comfortably warm temp. There are cameras built into the wall so you can watch your feet without looking down (it can skrew up your posture looking down, and that's one of the things I was working on). The hour session was grueling, with lots of work on walking, posture, and leg strength. It was only in the last two minutes that I was allowed to swim. I went underwater, swimming fairly gracefully back and forth. I made faces for the cameras (my mom made me do this again so she could get a picture). Lastly I tried to stay on the bottom (managing it pretty well)... and then on my last return to the surface I hit my head on the parallel bars I had been using the whole session! I was okay, but not the most graceful end to a day in the water. Oh well. Place a turtle back in the water, he'll do a good job but he might slip up just once or twice.

2. Shooting a firearm for the first time. When I went to visit my aunts/uncles/cousins for the first time, my uncle mentioned that he goes to an indoor shooting range with a couple of lanes that were wheelchair accessible. He offered to take me the next weekend to go shoot off some rounds; taking him up on his offer was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I fired off a 7mm pistol and a cool retro rifle that my uncle had just acquired. To describe the experience I have just two words: THE POWER! You can feel how much damage one of these could do. I took a couple of rounds to do a couple head shots; my aim was slightly off so I ended up taking out the target's jaw instead but I'll take it. When I was done I felt so loose and relaxed, having taken out much of my unvented aggression on the defenseless target.I still have that first target and I'll be keeping that for a while.

1. Moving my toe for the first time. It was an experience of pure joy and relief that I've never had the equal of in my life. It had been a month since the accident and in all that time no trace of movement had shown itself. Even thinking about the word paraplegic was something I didn't want to do. But as time continued on, it looked more and more like that was going to be a reality. I went through the stages of loss and grief. At first I simply didn't think about it. I didn't even try and deny it, I just went on and thought about other things. Then I got pissed off. I hated these damn legs, the fact that they were holding me back. I had loved them and used them for great things and they repaid me by laying there like two overly heavy paperweights. Then I hit depression. That lasted a while (not all the time, but often enough). Though I put on a brave face, I missed my legs. I had enjoyed them, for running, walking, biking, jumping, simply standing. I missed them and I didn't want to let them go. I cried more than a few tears as time went on. I felt useless and weak. I was slowly moving toward acceptance (I'm too honest to say that I was actually there) as time progressed. When I went to see my spinal surgeon, he said that statistically speaking after that much time I was unlikely to walk again. I wasn't really surprised but it was something else hearing from a professional. I had come to terms with the fact that I'd be in wheelchair for the rest of my life. It was only a few a days after that I proved him wrong. My mom was helping me put lotion on my dry feet (this happens if you don't use your feet regularly) when she said as she had so many times before just "Just try moving your foot." I gave it a try and then I realized my mom had gone suddenly still. Then, "HOLY CRAP! It's moving!" We got a nurse in to make sure we had another witness. The leg eventually started waking up, with the foot moving within the next two weeks. And by the third week, other muscles in my leg starting working. Now I'm walking and standing on that leg, though the other stays essentially the same (one toe is moving, so I'll see what happens). I hope you really understand what I mean when I have never been more excited to see a toe wiggling! It was as if I suddenly got my legs back from the dead!

These are my list of things I will always remember. Even when things were at their worst, I still had plenty to be happy about and look back on.

Please post any memories you'd remember when you need them. Whether or not anyone posts anything, I encourage everyone to think about this now, when things are good. It'll make any troubles you run into a little less dark.

1 comment:

  1. Peter,

    I think I am the only one that replies to your posts. I am so happy that you share these things and that we are able to get updates with you, even if it is this way. Here are 5 from me:

    5. When the bandages came off of my finger and I was able to use my right hand again. I had never imagined changing my habits and ways so that I would have to use my non-dominate hand. The fact that they were able to sew my finger back together and keep it looking almost normal was a small miracle. Considering half the skin had came off and the bone was sticking out all crushed and mutilated.

    4. The summers that I spent riding my bike to my best friend’s house, which was a little over three miles away from my parent’s house. I would ride there every day and hang out with her and her family. I did this at least two summers in a row, if not three. It was good to feel accepted and share time with someone. I really enjoyed all the time we spent hanging out together.

    3. My Grandpa’s cooking. I always loved the food that he made and if he thought that I were ever hungry, food would be put on a plate so fast. Who knew cheeze whiz could be made into so many things. His cooking also reminded me that I was spending the weekend with them (which was almost every weekend) and I loved spending weekends with them. I would play in the shed and yard, go shopping, walking, and sometimes help my Grandma as her teacher’s assistant.

    2. Some of my teaching jobs and the students I have worked with. I went into teaching to make sure that all students have the opportunity to learn and that every student’s voice is heard. It is the little things that make me smile every day, knowing that I am doing something so important with my life. There are days when I return to schools and I hear kids’ voices become excited because I came back, the pictures, thank you notes, and hugs that I receive every day from my students, and most importantly, that look on their face when they understand something for the first time. Nothing can beat being a teacher when things like this happens.

    1. The night me and Joe told one-another that we were in love. Corny as this may sound, meeting him and marrying him were important, but not as moving. To really allow your feelings to come out, that was really awesome moment. Love is powerful.