Never got this published… better late than never. Enjoy!
It was right around Dec 24 when I was transported up to Strong Memorial… still little to no developments. Christmas Eve I finally had my hair washed, I believe three times! The dirt, skin and blood were all washed from my halo bound head. As I lay in bed, at about a forty/five degree angle I had the urge to curl my right arm up, a task that I’d repeatedly failed at the prior month.
The arm curled up. I may have done a second then called a nurse to witness my ‘feat of strength’. Only problem… fatigue took over and could not quite make it. After sleeping on my achievement, things seemed to start coming back and progressing forward.
Progress aside, let’s explore Christmas morning 1990. Santa made his way through the hospital, exciting the many kids who called this place home. It was a great morning, however, it was a strange, somewhat frustrating experience. Unwrapping presents was different than what any of us had thought. It consisted of a series of minute movements of forearm, wrist, and fingers after fingertips had been slid into folds or gaps in the gifts and their wrappings.
Fast forward to 2020… 30 years later…
Many years have passed, more ups than downs, and it’s me called on for computer/game setup or foosball table construction. Hard to see day to day or even year to year changes, but to see my reliance that year versus where we sat this year… I am pretty dang fortunate. Merry Christmas Everyone! Love to all
“The nature of their work exposes them to death, grief, injury, pain, and loss, coupled with demanding schedules, physically challenging job requirements, and lack of safety and security in certain work situations.” —- Northwestern.edu paper referenced below
This was a tricky post for me. There is so much to say but I wanted to keep it from being too statistical and “watered down.” This topic really struck a chord as soon as I was alerted about it by my firefighter/first responder buddy working in Winter Garden, FL.
In 2019 there was an estimated 1.1+ million firefighters, 745,000 of them being volunteers. In 2018, there was an estimated 36,700,000 calls for fires, medical, false-alarms, mutual aid, and hazardous materials. Extremely demanding.
As I was quickly browsing my social media the other day, I saw a post by a close friend of mine. The post addressed first-responder suicide and those exhibiting the warning signs of such. I then quickly messaged him asking if this was really as big an issue as it read. These selfless, life-saving individuals are haunted by the very job that’s said to offer an immense level of satisfaction and self-worth. This is the first I’ve heard of this ghost that haunts so many.
One would think that this would not be the case, however, suicide rates have been on the rise, and for some time now, more first responders die from suicide than in the line-of-duty. In 2019 there was greater than 233 suicides by First Responders, currently one in every four or five days.
To me, this is extremely sad, and baffles me… how people that perform such incredibly important and selfless job are often so tormented. If the crews from Oxford and Greene, NY weren’t there for me, I definitely would have died on the side of that road.
At the moment of my accident, I was about ten-minutes from home. It was a holiday weekend; after a day hunting and a late Thanksgiving get-together… relaxing, spending time with family, as I assume many of these responders were. A head-on collision, while entering the Oxford township, just in front of the propane tanks, shut down Route 12. Two crews, several volunteers, closed the roadway, and rerouted traffic across the bridge and down the back river road. My already-short, maroon Dodge Omni was two-feet shorter than it was just moments earlier. The doors were stuck closed, my seat jammed forward, and I had suffered significant neck and head injuries.
This team, by use of the JAWS OF LIFE, peeled the top off this car like a sardine can. Upon peeling back the roof, they immobilized my neck prior to my extraction, and loaded my body with a conglomeration of life-saving monitors and tubes. Due to the brain injury, my body started forgetting to send the message to my S.A. Node, thereby causing my heart to stop firing.
Bring on the defibrillator! After two good shocks, my heart was once-again able to supply me with fresh oxygenated blood. This, coupled with the emergency tracheotomy allowed for intubation and a continuation of life. I don’t remember a heck of a lot, but I do remember a voice telling me, “hang in their buddy, it’ll be ok.” I was eventually loaded into an ambulance for transport to Wilson Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, a good 40-minute ride, each way for the rescue crew.
All I can say about these crews (all fire, EMS, rescue and police)… I am so darn grateful for what YOU do, day-in, day-out. The impact that you have on lives, families, and communities is immeasurable. Every chance that I get I try my best to express the gratitude I have for them and others in similar capacities and I’d hope others do as well. Honestly, not a day goes by that I don’t think, on some level, about the role they played in saving my life and adding comfort to the “moment.”
I have a few quotes my boys wrote…
“I think if we did not have firefighters and ambulances [EMS] a lot more houses would be gone and a lot more people would be dead.” — Magnus 9
“I think firefighters are important because they save lives and they help so houses don’t burn down during fires.” — Richie 10
If it helps at any level, just know, your needed and loved by many. I’m just one story, one accident, but I’d like to think that my being saved has impacted thousands of others’ lives, especially that of my wife, three kids, family and many close friends. Be well, stay safe, and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help in any time of need.
So, I’ve been sitting on this draft for a while now. I initially was really bothered by these ridiculous decisions. The start of the MLB season seems a good time to revisit, give my ‘expert’ analysis, and post.
There has been a lot of talk the last twenty-four hours (January 26, 2021) in regards to this years non-induction “ceremony”. Who got it stuck to?… names like Clemens, Bonds, Schilling, Sosa, Pettitte, Manny… Joined the Company of McGuire, Pete Rose..
What does my opinion mean and what qualifies me to cast judgement on the situation? I played little league baseball on the west-side of Binghamton, played as a middle-schooler, and at the varsity level. I spent many of those years pretending I was some of these major leaguers… Hall of Famer or not. I was hitting the grand slams and striking out the side in most of the World Series I had seen, and some that I hadn’t! I think this might qualify for opinion casting.
I have put a lot of thought into thinking of why another handful of “field dominators” were again shown no respect by a few, most of whom cannot THROW a ball, let alone influence who should and shouldn’t represent historical rememberances, timelessly saved in the small, hidden town in Upstate New York.
Pete Rose’s situation is different but possibly even registering more on the lunacy meter than the others. Betting on baseball while being a manager of an MLB club. Understandable we do not want people betting on other teams and purposely throwing the game. One problem… Rose always bet on his team TO WIN!!! WTH..??? Now on to the main chunk of guys that drew millions upon millions to baseball games, games that gave these voting sport ashes and journalists their jobs. PEDs (performance enhancing drugs)… increased sports ability, often in the arena of Home Runs. Home Runs and Home Runs races were all people talked about. It was part of the game; it was obvious and everyone knew it.
My solution… if they want these guys locked out… put these deserving gamers into Cooperstown, lock the Hall to future inductions and create the all-new…
Good luck with that. Put them in the Hall, change the voters if need be.
A break, much longer than I anticipated…. two different factors but now I hope to be moving in a positive direction.
Let’s call it an incident— I still believe the wall moved on me; that we’ll never know. As I was rushing to get to Target and BJs to grab my curbside groceries, I was making one quick pitstop at the bathroom. It was then I momentarily glanced back at a voice from the other side of the room. As I simultaneously leaned, stepped, and reached for the doorframe, it quickly evaded my touch—maybe it feared I had dirty hands—anyway, I had a tailwind of momentum that I truly felt should have broke that floor tile… with my left cheek. Oops, my recently fair safety record was now marred once again. Luckily, no broken bones, just a lacrosse ball sized lump that slowly morphed into this enlarged dark mask. I was Yin and Yan by morning! Next couple weeks we a bit of a blur… a slow blur…would that make it a smudge? Been two months, still purple at point of impact, with a small remaining dent. However, I believe my marbles are back to my semblance of normal.
I had throughout this period, thought of journaling but the eyes said different. Not long thereafter I felt it was looking safe enough to get my Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. April 6, 2021… after having watch a couple months of relatively safe distribution I went and rolled up my sleeve, literally. Got mine at around 11:00 a.m., home by noon, and asleep on the couch by 4:00 p.m. It felt as though every ache and pain that I normally had was amplified… that was the target of the vaccine apparently. It flowed and ebbed over the next few days but by Saturday things were pretty normal… so here I am… back… hopefully some coherency…
It’s been thirty-years and reminded, just how effortless the act of walking, running, stammering drunk, across the grass and down a sidewalk, and sometimes navigating the curb-cut.
Apparently the Cerebellum is an integral piece of the balance puzzle.
As I was pulling off Graham Road onto Triphammer my attention was drawn to a young guy in workout attire, wearing a backpack and headphones, nonchalantly walk-skipping along the sidewalk. Adjusting his phone, shaking his hair out of his face, then adjusting a shoe… not really breaking his rhythm one bit.
It was at this point I had a ‘journal cue’— a response by my subconscious brought on by Certain acts or sites that make something in my head ‘click’, alerting me that it is something I must further explore. Healing, up-and-out, however you view rehab or recovery… maybe is accomplished by understanding or accepting these cues.
Anyhow, getting back to the amazing coordination between the afferent and efferent pathways of the nervous system. Even as I watch what many consider a’debilitated’ body, it’s still one heck of an amazing ‘thing’.
I know, people be like, ‘it’s normal… ‘
I’ll give you my end of things, which I’m well aware is much better than many… but is why I’m fascinated by locomotion. It’s nighttime and I’m standing in the center of the room— no furniture to guide my balance, so I’m fully focused. Knees slightly bent, weight more forward than back (reference backward balance), centered— weight not beyond my lateral stability zone. I’m good! I hear the rain on the windows, a rumble of thunder, a few flashes of lightning, and a sudden big… BOOM! If I manage to remain upright from the startle I’m likely in trouble because the power went and there is no visual cue to keep me centered and upright. Thoughts race, the head spins a bit, knees begin to bend in an attempt to lower the body’s center of gravity. Those darn ears tones aren’t working, no visual horizon, arms go out… reaching for any stability, or maybe seeking balance. It isn’t more than a second or two, and as the weight shifts to my dominant right leg, it lowers to the floor— like performing a negative repetition, very slow and protectively deliberate.
So… there I am, lying on the floor in the dark, because once I’m down, extensor tone kicks in…
That is why that skipping dude and that 95 year-old foot shuffling slow guy steal my attention. Again, I’m in no way speaking or thinking with envy… hard to reduce these thoughts one idea… besides amazed..
So… as many of you know, I recently got a new treadmill to have in the house. I an effort to improve my health—decrease my blood pressure and resting heart rate— and get stronger so that I can get myself off the floor again, something I’ve been struggling with for the past year.
It was this past Sunday. Sue took the kids up tubing at Greek Peak ski resort, while I stayed home prepping for Championship Weekend. It was a day that was zero degrees and a dusting of snow. I decided to not brave the elements, hopping on the treadmill for a nice, moderately, pregame-watching pace.
This seemed a good idea, as I’d told Sue that I’d not go do work in the garage since it was so cold and nobody else was home to assist if I got myself in trouble… not that I’ve ever found myself on the floor, or ground, or gravel drive.
Now some of you may not find this as amusing as I now do, however, those that know me, know that this is SO me…
I headed to the lower landing to hop on my barely broken-in NordicTrack treadmill. iPhone in hand, so that I could stream pregame for the Buccaneers, I climbed onto the treadmill , feet straddling the belt. ‘Manual Start’… pressed… toggled down the speed to 0.8 mph for my three-minute warmup… ready to ramp it up to 1.0/1.2 mph. At my most precise recollection, I cannot remember more than a minute or two passing when I attempted to toggle the display. Apparently I bumped something… the whir of the belt got louder and faster. As I reached down to the minus button, I believe I bumped it a ‘beep’ faster… now reading 10.5… oh my…
Before I knew it, I was arm extended… hanging on with my right arm, body fully extended, dragging on the belt. As I held on, losing layers of skin on the knees, it was like a moment from ‘The Matrix’… I remember looking around, processing my situation, with a multitude of thoughts and options scrolling. This is where I wish I had a video on… I could have definitely gone viral with this clip. It was only a quick second or two, but the moment that I let go of the handle I rolled to my back, was spun around at least once, and spit off the back… into the Spinning bike.
So, here I lay… between the running treadmill—because I didn’t connect to the safety switch—and the bike, with no phone (it’s up on the console), no fall-detection watch (that was charging), and the family was on the ski slopes. At this point I realized my work over the last month was paying off.. getting to my hands and knees, I made my way to my feet, getting my bearings back.
Upon realization that all was pretty okay, I hopped on the treadmill to knock out an extra 15-minutes before kickoff. All in all, when retelling the story, it sure seemed funny… now.
From the first moment of cognition… to present day… I stil wonder, ‘one dang bone, one bone is all that broke that night of November 24. How, in the name of all that’s holy, could ONE BONE do that?” Turns out to be more than that; I guess everything EXCEPT that.
My initial thought process left me thinking that I was extremely unlucky, breaking what I broke, while at the same time also knowing, somehow, that my communicative blinking—one blink meant yes and two meant no— allowed for cognitive understanding. The problem, not the broken Odontoid Process, but the traumatic brain injury TBI.
What’s an Odontoid Process? It’s an upward extension of the second cervical vertebrae (neck bone). It protrudes up through cervical number one (C1) and allows for head rotation. Upon my impact, my spine was driven up into my brainstem, causing my TBI, thereby snapping the Odontoid Process. Sounds pretty bad… doesn’t it?
Apparently the majority of affliction came in the bruising of the Cerebellum (the hind brain) and subsequent filling of all four ventricles with a mix of red blood cells and plasma.
I’ve always realized how fortunate I am, especially with every gift I’ve been blessed with since injury. Since i have been researching the topic and heard what others are experiencing and lived through, I KNOW I’m lucky as hell! For those of you who don’t know, a TBI comes in as many flavors as there are people who have them. The number of symptoms are numerous and combinations are unique, and, can change in seemingly a moment’s notice.
When I was thinking the other day, I paralleled a TBI to one of those new medications that nobody really understands. Here’s the extensive list of the side, effects, here are the bad ones, and, oh yeah… anything is not really outside the realm of possibility. This leads me to how lucky I am with my checklist. Yeah, I’ve got some things going on, but, when I’m reading about other’s obstacles or rehabilitative medicine, I’m feeling very FORTUNATE for my days and hoping others can get there as well.
Forgot to indicate… all of this came about after reading detailed doctors notes post accident, covering the first few months of injury and recovery. Based on what I have read and envisioned, I would think I’d be much more affected than I have been. 🌴
So, I was originally going to call this post “broken crap”. My initial intent was to write about all the things that have been broken or damaged as a result of… ME. This could eventually spin off into a page of its own, based on my damages and those people, both family and friends, that have to deal with us—the damages, the inconveniences, and the drama.
I will be expanding upon this as the week goes…
Canes and walkers were one of the first things I can recollect bending and breaking. As I pushed the limits of stability, while leaving the sporting goods section of Horton Hardware, I remember tripping on the edging of carpet that was creeping up at the corners. After making it back to my feet, I realized that my only cane had a nice bend to it. Because the twenty-five dollar replacement was beyond what SSI could support at the time, I ambulated with a ‘fancy’ bowed, bronze-colored cane. It may have the same one that I fell through the ice with, but that’s a separate story. Over the years to come there have been several. One of the last I recollect was at Friends’Academy, Dartmouth, MA.
my dog Dutchess, right front fender of the minivan, toilet paper holder, cognac glass, trash can…