Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dear God

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

T minus 3 days...

I'm told that Friday September 30th will be my discharge date from Mary Free Bed. While I should have nothing but pure excitement running through my head, I also have apprehension and fear. Apprehension and fear about going home? I know your saying... That's crazy right? The fact is I've had trouble sleeping every night since learning of my discharge date as my mind runs through the transition. At the heart of this is the fact that I've been away from home for nearly 5 months. It's almost like the mental transition that a kidnapped person goes through as they are freed from their confines. Everything that they have become accustomed to is changing. (Maybe not the best analogy, but you know what I mean)

I am more than capable of being 100% independent here at the rehab hospital, but what about in a "non controlled" environment like home. Will I be able to get out of a normal bed, one that's not designed for ease of movement? Can I function in my home as I have done here in the rehab hospital? Will I remember to get up at my scheduled hours and perform the critical tasks? Have I learned enough in 5 weeks to make me independent?

My family has proven through the last 5 months that they are more than capable of daily life without me. My wife and mother-in-law have truly risen to the occasion. (I don't think everybody knows this, but my mother-in-law, Darlene moved into our house and voluntarily took on the role of mother and father to the kids while Angie and I dealt with the accident. For 5 months she put her life on hold for us. Pretty amazing huh? Thanks Mom.) I know that things will not magically return to the way they were before the accident... Am I and are we as a family prepared for those changes? What changes will there be?

My goal is to return home as independent as possible and return to my duties as a father and a husband. I also hope to relieve my wife and mother-in-law of the responsibility that they have assumed through the last 5 months.

Even with all of these unknowns, I know that everything will work out because my wife, my family and my friends are 100% behind me. Thank you everyone for your support.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Stairs

One hurdle of accessibility in the house was going to be the stairs to the basement. We recognized the problem when Grandpa moved in with us. It was very difficult and took a few people to get him upstairs. We would roll him up the back hill, around to the front of the house, and lift him up the 3 stairs into the main level. This worked OK until it was raining or there was snow on the ground. (Eric and I slipped in the mud once and almost lost him down the back hill one night)

Last Friday, my therapists took me home and did my home evaluation. As expected, they confirmed the need for a stairlift of some type for safe transport to both levels. I researched lifts over the weekend and found that the least expensive units cost around $2000 plus installation. With our current financial situation a lift would have to wait until I could get back to work in order to pay for it.

Monday morning, both my occupational therapist and my physical therapist ran into my room with a printed e-mail. A previous patient of Mary Free Bed had an adjustable stairlift that she wanted to donate to anyone who needed one. Angie called that morning and the lift is ours. Her son is removing the lift and we can pick it up as soon as it's out. 

From the moment of my accident, its been very obvious that someone was watching over me and providing everything that I needed. This ordeal has reaffirmed our families trust in God. I truly believe that he understood our financial situation and therefore made that lift available to us. He knew that it was the last piece needed in order to complete the home transformation. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Accident

I've often been asked if I remember the accident...

Many people know how dedicated I was to riding my motorcycle. Rain or shine, warm or cold, I was enjoying the wonderful feeling of riding. Depending on who you talk to, I might of been on the verge of obsessive.

Anyway, here is the story for those of you who haven't heard it.

April 10th, 2011 it was 34 degrees at 6:45am when I jumped on the bike to head to work. The forecast called for mid 50's by the afternoon so I expected a nice ride home. I had an uneventful ride until just before North Liberty on state road 23. All of a sudden, out of nowhere I see a truck in my lane headed right for me. I slammed on the brakes and veered to the right. (As the large skid mark left in the pavement confirmed) The further I traveled into the edge of the roadway, and then into someone's front yard, the truck continued to aim right for me. I couldn't seem to get away no matter how far I tried.

I remember the impact... I don't recall much pain, but I remember hearing a small sound like a twig breaking. (I assume that this sound was my spinal cord being severed) I remember flying through the air and landing in someone's front yard. I landed face down. The face shield was torn from my helmet and could feel grass rubbing my nose and face. (I thought to myself that the owner of this yard could have at least cut the grass a little shorter) I knew from my medical training that I should stay completely still until a cervical collar and backboard could be applied. A wonderful lady touched my shoulder and asked me if I was OK. I answered YES... Looking back that was a really dumb way to answer her... I was just hit head on by a 9000 pound truck doing 65+ mph... And I answer that I'm OK?

The second person to come to my side asked if she could call anyone for me. I hadn't thought of that and asked her to call Angie and I gave her the phone number. She asked for the phone number multiple times, evidently seeing me face down with bones protruding through my skin distracted her. I gave her the number one last time and explained to her that I was going to stop breathing soon. The people around me old me that help was on the way and to just hold on. I felt the last breath exhale and heard sirens in the distance. The rest is black and cold.

Here is a link to the news report:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Discharge Date

My rehabilitation team meets every other week to discuss my progress and estimate my discharge date. This is a cross functional team that includes my physician, therapists, psychologist, and social worker. They each report on my progress and discuss what goals they would like me to accomplish before I'm discharged. This team approach to care ensures that each discipline is allowed to discuss the challenges and report on the goals as they see them. The goal of the team is keep me as an inpatient long enough to teach me all of the skills that will be necessary for me to be self sufficient for the rest of my life. Being self sufficient will allow me to return home and not be a burden on my family. Once discharged, I will still come back for therapy as an outpatient and continue learning additional skills.

The result of the meeting this week is that I will be discharged in 2-3 weeks.

On one hand, I can't wait to get home to my family, but on the other hand, I don't want to go home until I am as self sufficient as possible so that I don't become a burden to them. In the macro view, 2-3 additional weeks is just a small percentage of the time this entire ordeal has lasted.


On Tuesday, Angie, the kids, and I went to the Grand Rapids children's museum. Mary Free Bed conducts outings in public places so that we can begin to feel comfortable in a wheelchair around other people. It is a major change to have to watch for high curbs, find alternate routes around tight areas, and look for elevators.

We all had a great time and can't wait for another opportunity.

Monday, September 12, 2011


When we look for someone to share our lives with, we look at many qualities in these people. We look at their morals, their capacity to love, and their spirituality to name just a few. One quality that should not be overlooked is Strength. Not strength as in physical strength, but strength as an individual. Webster defines this type of strength as: one regarded as embodying or affording force or firmness. This type of strength is what keeps a person from giving up in adversity.

The strongest person that I have ever met is my wife.

Never once has she made me feel even 1% responsible for this, never once has her support even wavered, and never once has she not been there for me. From the moment that the Dr. informed us that I would be paralyzed, she has been there pulling for me. After hearing this life changing diagnosis, I didn't even have a chance to feel sorry for myself, my wife stood by my side and told me that we could do this.

When I've needed to cry, she has been there with a shoulder; when I've needed a push to keep going, she has been the drill sargent; and when I've thought I couldn't go any father, she has been my rock.

We have cried together and prayed together. I could not imagine going through this without her love and support. I love you so much Angie.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wheelchair Sports

Prior to my accident I was vaguely aware that there were wheelchair sports. I envisioned slow moving older people in wheelchairs and rules that were completely changed to make it easier to accomplish in a wheelchair.

Boy was I wrong...

Thursday night I attended one of the weekly practices held by the tennis division of the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association. These players are true athletes armed with amazing chairs that enable them to play as fast as any tennis player I've ever seen. They welcomed me to their practice and gave me a sports chair to use during the practice.

Make no mistake, these wheelchairs are designed for speed and turning. One grab of the left rail at speed causes a 7G turn that causes a small blackout and neck snapping turn. Once your brain catches up with your bodies new location, you have to look across the net, push as hard as possible, and be ready for the next volley. The athletes that use these chairs are in exceptional shape and would give any able bodied tennis player a run for their money.

Each of the players introduced themselves and included me just like I was one of the regular team members. I was impressed with the players and coaches of the GRWSA and I hope to return to another practice at a later date.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I've had a few people tell me that I'm just too positive in this blog...

Do they want to hear that I can still hear the sound of my spine being severed during the nightmares I have?
That I have no feeling or mobility below my ribcage and never will?
Do they want to hear that I have very little feeling my hands and fingers?
That I've completely missed the last 3 months of my children growing up?
Due to my injuries, for the rest of my life, I'll have to insert a long tube into my bladder every four hours to urinate?
That I no longer have the ability to father anymore children?
That I'll never again get the thrill of running into a burning building?
That due to Michigan insurance loophole my accident wasn't covered and I'll receive no compensation?

No, I have not always been so positive and this ordeal really sucks...

But, I've had time to come to terms with my injuries. I understand that God has a plan for me and that he saved me to accomplish this goal. I trust in him to guide me on this new path in life.

Pool Therapy

For the last 3 months, these anchors that I used to call legs have been a heavy burden for every movement I have attempted. Legs in the wrong location or pointed the wrong way can stop me from the movement I'm trying to accomplish. Getting dressed requires lifting each foot and leg while threading the clothing onto my lifeless bottom half. I often think how wonderful it would be to take the weight and non movement of my legs out of the equation for just a short time.

The solution:

The therapists load me into a mesh chair attached to a crane in the ceiling and I am lifted above the side of the pool. They slowly lower me into the pool and I loose the weight of the anchors. My legs become weightless and I'm floating. For the 1st time since the accident, I don't have these anchors holding me back. Therapy takes me through some simple swim strokes and then let's me float around. Next, therapy holds me by the shoulders and slowly pulls my body around 180 degrees and then returns at the same speed. As the water rushes along my body, I become so relaxed. This continues until the time is up on my session and I'm removed from the water by the same mesh chair and crane.

Getting back into my wheelchair, my anchors reappear and I'm reminded again of reality...

Until my next pool therapy

(Stock Photo from Mary Free Bed Website: Not me)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Definition: a person's perspective toward a specified target and way of saying and doing things.

I had a conversation the other day with a lady here who has similar injuries as myself (T-9 Complete SCI) and she commented how I always had such a good attitude. During our 15 minute conversation she told me no less than 50 things that she couldn't ever do again. In my mind, many of the things she mentioned could still be accomplished, maybe not exactly as it was done before, but could still be done. She had a negative attitude and was letting the disability win.

I explained to her that I didn't have time to dwell on the bad parts. I know that I'm alive because of the grace of God; and I'm not going to let him or my family down. I don't think either of them would be proud of me laying down and playing dead to this setback. I'm going to get back to my life as quickly as I can because I have people counting on me. Having an SCI doesn't release me from my responsibilities as a father or a husband.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Take the stairs

You know, before my accident I never really appreciated elevators or automatic doors. (They were a kind of convenience, you know like when a fast food restaurant puts salt and pepper packets in your bag in the drive-thru. You could have gone without them, but it's nice that someone put them there.) When I had the use of my legs, I still had another option, I could always take the stairs. On rare occasions I did take the stairs, but not very often.

I have a new understanding of elevators and automatic doors now. They are essential and allow me to move throughout a buildings many levels. Without an elevator, I am now unable to get to the next floor. Without automatic doors, I have to try to keep the wheelchair stopped, while pulling on a door that opens outward. (A task that I am told that I will unfortunately get better at.)

I didn't understand what these "conveniences" meant to people that had no other option.

I wish now, that I would have taken the stairs more often.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


There is not much better than having people you love come see you. My Mom and Dad flew in on Tuesday from California to see me and check out the rehab center. They have attended some of my OT and PT sessions these last few days and have gotten to experience my progress. I have even caught my Mom holding her breath for me as I'm pushing hard trying to sit up or move my legs into position. (Thanks Mom)

Angie and the kids also came up today and will be staying a few days. It's really wonderful to see everyone together. We took a long walk on the grounds here and everyone played in the grass for an hour or so. Seeing Mom with the kids really makes me happy. I know that she doesn't get to see the kids as much as she would like, but the time that she does get to spend with them is magic.