Placing one foot in front of the other is a process that people don’t often think about. They just get up and go. Fast, slow and everything in between. Their brain sends signals to their legs which tells their feet, “lift, move forward and push off” with seemingly zero effort. I have always possessed that ability; that is until March of 2006 when I was involved in a motorcycle accident. It was a single moment out of the millions I’d had up to that point. A moment that would define the remainder of all moments I’d ever have again.
I was riding home on my 2003 Honda RC51 1000RR from Las Vegas. I exited the interstate, and made my way to the stoplight at which I normally made a U-turn to get home. My light turned green, and I out my bike in gear and started to accelerate into my u-turn. I was half way around when I noticed a car approaching from the North. The individual was looking left, and I could tell right away that they were not planning on braking. The car ran the red light. I knew I had to act fast so I cranked my throttle to get out of the way. I tried getting my front tire up so that I could hop the curb, but everything happened so fast, and the next thing I knew I was waking up in the hospital with no idea how I got there.
As I laid on a stretcher fading in and out of consciousness, I grabbed onto reality just long enough to notice my arm was busted up, and my leg was twisted at an angle that was not normal for the human leg. I was in and out through the entirety of my hospital stay. I believe this was mostly due to the repeated doses of morphine being injected into my system. I had no complaints about that. While my arm and leg were twisted and mangled, the morphine was providing a great service in helping me place my mind elsewhere. That is until a doctor finally arrived to reset my leg. I remember this moment in great detail.
I had been on my back for hours because the hospital was brimming with emergencies. It was standing room only. Again, though, no complaints because, you know, morphine. Finally the doctor comes over and tells me, “We need to reset the leg because an operating room wasn’t going to be available for a while and there’s a possibility of a nasty infection if we leave the leg like this for any longer.” So, I told him to do whatever he needed to do. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain, so I didn’t think it’d be too big of a deal–that is, until he actually did it. He offered me something to bite down on, but I respectfully declined. “We’re going on 3,” he announced, “Are you ready?” I angrily egged him on trying to psych myself up for it. He looked at me until I settled down, and began counting. “1…” Silence fell upon the room. It was as if humanity had been raptured from the Earth, and the doctor and I were all that remained. That silence immediately turned into the sound of bone rubbing against bone. Under normal circumstances, I would have known better that to believe a doctor when he told me to wait until 3, however these were not normal circumstances, and he went on 1! Blinding pain made its mark on my long term memory and setup shop for the long haul, and then suddenly, it was gone. I must have passed out again. The next thing I knew, I was being prepped for surgery.
I opened my eyes to a mask over my face, and the anesthesiologist telling me to count backwards from 100. It took my a moment to fully grasp what was happening. My family was with me and wishing me well. The anesthesiologist repeated his request. I began to count, “100, 99, 98, 97…” I stopped. I felt odd. The nurse asked me what the next number was. I continued, “96, 95, 94, 9…3…”. I blinked, and when my eyes opened, I was inside of a recovery room, dazed and confused without any knowledge of how I’d gotten there or where ‘there’ was. From there on, things got pretty spotty. The constant fight to keep my eyes open was a battle I lost over and over again. Finally, my surgeon came in to speak with me. “Your surgery went well. It was one of the worst breaks of the femur I’ve ever seen.” At that point, I was beginning to understand where I was and what was happening. I noticed I couldn’t bend my leg, and I asked him about it. “The good news is that, with time, your leg will regain full range of motion. The bad news is I’m not sure that you’ll ever walk again.
Words sat silently on my tongue. I attempted to articulate those words into sounds, but nothing would come out. My heart started to race as the words began to backup on my tongue without any way out like water trapped in a dam. Then all at once, everything went silent. Thoughts flashed about in my mind of my impending future. I’d never walk again. I’d never run again. I’d need to rely on people for the simplest of things. I shook out all of the cobwebs. With that, from deep down inside, words arose to the surface. Through all of the other words stuck on my tongue, these words shot through like bullets. I looked up, and they seeped out. “We’ll just see about that.” The doctor looked at me sideways, and kept talking, but I didn’t hear anything else he said after that. I was too busy plotting my escape from a body that no longer properly functioned.
Shortly thereafter, I was given an appointment with a physical therapist. This only lead to more bad news. I began to see a pattern emerge. No one was hopeful. No one was inspiring. It seemed that every medical professional that spoke to me was reserved to the fact that I was broken and there was no way to fix it. With the exception of never walking again, my physical therapist happened to be right. He spoke to me about a condition I’d never, before that moment, heard about. He spoke in medical jargon for a while until he said words I understood. “You’ll probably end up with a condition called ‘drop foot’. It’s pretty common in blunt force trauma cases such as yours.” While still a medical term, ‘drop foot’ was pretty straight forward. I asked him to go into greater detail about that. Basically, the poor soul that ends up with this condition is unable to lift up their foot or toes by their own accord. My physical therapist was amongst the other professionals convinced that I was a lost cause.
So, to recount, I’d lost the ability to walk. I’d lost the ability to even bend my leg. No one thinks I’m ever going to walk again, and I’m trapped inside a body with the equivalent of a flat tire. With all of that in mind, I began to scribe a plan in my mind. I decided I would regain full range of motion in my leg, I would rebuild muscle in my leg, and for my final act, I would reteach myself to walk again. I quit physical therapy, and decided I would tackle my problem on my own. I didn’t need the constant reminder that I may never walk again. It’s all I thought about when I was around my doctors.
Step 1 was range of motion. I needed to be able to bend my leg. The hospital gave me a wheel chair to get around. I sat in that chair as an inmate sits on death row and vowed to myself that I would be out of it as soon as humanly possible. This would not be my fate. I would sit in the chair and place my leg on the couch next to the television. I pushed the wheels toward the couch with all the strength I could muster. That forced my leg to bend—which was INCREDIBLY painful. I’d push until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. Then I’d push a little more, lock the chair, and turn on the TV. I regained full range of motion after only a week.
I was wasting no time, and step 2 was on deck. It was time to get out of the chair. I had sat around long enough and I was ready to do some real work. My whole body had atrophied, as it had been about 2 months or so since my accident, and I’d done nothing more than lie around in bed, sit in the chair and watch TV—like I had any other choice. I was still unable to put any weight on my leg, so I hopped around on my opposing leg everywhere I went. Once I regained enough strength, I began hopping up and down the stairs. This started building up not only my strength, but also my stamina. After a couple weeks of hopping around, I took the chair outside and wheeled myself to a local park. The park had a basketball court that was empty. “This,” I declared, “is where I will take my stand, and my second first steps.”
I stood from my chair, and placed my crutches out to the sides. I gripped the top of the crutches that were supposed to go under my arm, and put weight on my leg for the first time in nearly 2 ½ months. It was not easy, and did not feel good, but I looked at the corner that had taken so much from me, and I gave it the mental middle finger and took another step, and then another, and then another. I walked from one end of that basketball court to the other. I turned around and looked at how far my chair was. I was exhausted and writhing in pain. I took another look at the corner, and decided to walk back at an even quicker pace. I got back to my chair, and decided to call it a day.
Things went on like this for a couple of weeks. Then the day came when it was time to remove the crutches. I made a beeline to the park completely focused and zoned in on the task at hand. I’d worked extremely hard to get to where I was and I was ready for this next step. The final step. The first step. I got to the park and I pulled up to the baseline behind the net and locked the chair. I stood up to the soundtrack playing in my mind. If I didn’t know any better, I could have sworn I was hearing ‘Eye of The Tiger’ in the background while 60,000 fans lined the bleachers waiting for me to make a move. I was fired up and ready to prove all of those doctors wrong. I didn’t care that they’d gone to school for their profession, and studied tirelessly to get to where they were. Their school didn’t teach them about me. It didn’t teach them about how hard headed I can be when I’m told I can’t do something.
So, this was it. The moment that I had been waiting for. Everything lead up to this. I was nervous, but fully prepared for whatever was about to happen. Without hesitation, I put my bad leg forward. Discomfort shot through my mind and body. I hadn’t had any weight on this leg in quite some time, and this was no longer the norm. These thoughts grew louder, but I managed to shove them to the back of my mind, and I made my next move. I swung my back leg forward placing all of my weight on the bad leg. This hurt a lot, and I had quite the limp, but I had done it, I was victorious! The track playing in my head got louder, and the audience went absolutely bonkers. They began chanting for me to take another step, and I happily gave them what they wanted, and then another, and then another. Before I knew it, I was at the other side of the basketball court. I turned around and made my way back to the chair. Triumph rained down on me and hope was no longer a twinkle in the sky millions of light years away. I was covered in it from head to toe.
My journey was complete. The limits I was once told were inevitable were now nothing more than blurry objects in my rear view mirror. I started on top of the world, and the accident knocked me down to the bottom of the ladder. According to the doctors
with whom I was stuck, I was never supposed to climb that ladder. I was supposed to suck it up, and deal with it. It’s human nature to think the worst in the early moments of disaster. Believing there was nothing and giving up would have been so easy and even preferable at that point in time. Though, it’s what follows in the moments after those thoughts that uncover what a person is truly made of. I’ve learned a lot about myself since that fateful day. From climbing mountains and hills to conquering some of the toughest foot races in the United States, I’m constantly pushing myself to do bigger and better things whenever an opportunity presents itself. Through perseverance, I retrained my leg and my brain to walk. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Am I satisfied with where I’m at? I probably never will be, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s what drives me up and down mountains and hills, and pushes me through some of the toughest foot races in the United States. There’s a beast inside of us all. Sometimes, it just needs a little nudge to bubble to the surface.