Sunday, January 11, 2009

My friends, my family

I have some amazing friends and family. I really do. I've only been overseas for a year but what a difference they've made in my life, near or abroad. So, at the risk of being sappy, I wanted to share a bit more of how they affected my life in the hospital.

Lisa was my rock. I can't imagine how she must have felt the night of the accident, receiving a phone call at work around 9pm saying that I had been brought in by ambulance and was heading in for surgery. She left the lab for the hospital and waited until 3am having no idea what to expect when I got out. Hers was the first face I saw.

I had the easy part being the patient with all the attention, the sleep, the painkillers, the surgeries, the sponge baths, the prepared meals, etc. She had it rough. What happened to me happened to her, day in day out, only she had to go home to a very empty house, bills, dishes, a job, reality. She handled every bit of it with grace. She was incredible.

Mostly what I'll remember from our time there was the fun we had. She always managed to keep me entertained! She baked for me, brought in contraband chocolate, bought me Subway and Nando's when the food got repetitive and managed to find a way to fit two of us in a tiny hospital bed to watch a DVD while I was still tied up in traction. We went for wheelchair whizzes, snuck off hospital grounds together for haircuts (try explaining that one), played two-headed patient (photo) and clowned around with anything we could get our hands on. I'd have lost my mind without her!

My Dad, Mom, sister and other members of my family spent hours upon hours talking with me by phone or in person during that period, 24/7, all hours of the day, sorting me out. I took them each down a dark scary path and none of them backed down. They were invincible. No one flinched. Each one of them is a superhero.

There were countless amazing emails of support from friends and family, both near and abroad. At one point, I told my Dad that I felt really lucky for getting to hear so many nice encouraging things about myself from everyone without having to attend my own funeral!

I also had a constant stream of good people coming to visit me. There was even a local attempt to organize a bit of a schedule for visitors so I wouldn't be overwhelmed on any given day. As you can probably tell, one of my good friends here is a project manager!

A few rallied together and bought me a chess board, then came around to have afternoon games with me. Others sent in DVDs or kept me stocked well with chocolate and amazing baked goods to help keep the weight on as I wasted away in bed.

Two people in particular made life a whole lot better/easier for us here. One bought an early Christmas present for his kids, a dual-screen DVD player, and gave it to us to use for as long as we wanted to cut the drudgery of the day. He and his sister (my friend the project manager) kept us extremely well stocked with DVDs for the whole stay. Together they took care of everything outside the hospital that Lisa and I couldn't get to.

On leaving the hospital, a friend of mine from overseas got us a gift certificate for pre-packaged gourmet meals to make the transition back to home and back to worklife that much easier. This wasn't an easy thing to do from so far away.

There are a few more things I want to mention and tons more people I need to thank, but I've decided I need to post about those ones separately. Please watch for future posts about "my payback", "my tallisman", and (as of today), "my Maton"!

There is no way I can thank everyone enough and there's no token I can give to show my appreciation to you all (that and I'm cheap). Instead, I vow this to all of you: I will get better, I'll live harder than ever before and I won't let your amazing support be in vane. I'm a lucky person to have seen the true value of friends and family in my life and I won't soon forget it.


  1. Your post reminds me a lot of my time in the hospital... and how even in the most "unlucky" of moments you can feel really lucky. This support network is going to help in a million ways and I'm sure they will expect no payback.

    Pay them back by blowing them away with your progress and positivity through difficult times - you're obviously off to a grand start!



  2. Michael, I have to agree with Meyrick how familiar your time in the hospital sounds to my time also at the Skilled Nursing Hospital where I spent 99 days getting physical therapy after my below the knee amputation of my left leg. You’re an excellent writer. Isn’t it amazing how we can find humor during our discomfort and pain, and now laugh about much we went through. Maybe those meds helped. LOL . Of course, I’m glad to be off them now for several months, but I do get some phantom pain at times still, but not bad. This past year has been an incredible time for me. Not only did I learn more about myself, I learned a lot about those around me. It seems I’m really at a new spiritual place in my life. Strange how a life-changing event can turn out so positive. But it all comes down to our attitude. I learned that when my husband died in 1995. I had a choice, go crawl in a cave and wait to die, or find joy in my life again. And again, with this, I had a choice, as you did. And damn, I’d say we made the right ones.

    I can’t imagine 11 surgeries and all that went with it. I had poor circulation in my legs which I did not realize, got an infection in my foot, and gangrene soon set in. It was terrible, and I could hardly walk for weeks. Finally found a doctor who knew what he was doing...had a full leg bypass with a 20% chance of success, and it did not work. I decided two days before the amputation was scheduled that I did not need that foot anymore and I said goodbye to it. I suppose I came to terms with that immediately, but I still had fear of the unknown, and fear of losing my independence. But like you, and like Meyrick, and others, we decided to make the best of it. I often think about the Serenity Prayer... “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference” ...and have always tried to live my life that way. Also a favorite quote I have on my wall above my computer monitor is: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell.

    I have a great prosthetist who has inspired me from the moment I met him a couple of weeks after my surgery. He gave me hope and helped me get rid of my fear. I can still see his smile the first time I was able to put weight on my new leg and walk holding onto a rail with one hand. That was a year ago next month. My first steps without holding on at all were April 1, 2008. I quit using a walker in July and have been doing well ever since. We’ve done several castings along the way, tried a couple of systems, still having occasional problems with socks, a couple of blisters, but it is easier all the time.

    I’m 66 now and I have no plans to climb mountains, ski, or race, or even hike, like you do, but I am walking well, just completed a year of physical therapy and gait training, and will continue working on my endurance as my hip muscles are now much stronger. I’ve been told for months now that people do not know I have on a prosthetic. Thanks for sharing all your experiences you’ve had these last few months. Very inspirational. I look forward to reading your progress as time goes on.