Almost from the first waking moment with my injury I’ve been surrounded by people who have urged me to “accept my injury.” I’m not stupid. I completely understand that I have a spinal cord injury. Really people, I live it every single second. It’s not like I can possibly forget that I’m paralyzed or all that comes with it.
From the beginning I have refused to accept that I am permanently paralyzed. From the first day I have said that at this time medical science cannot repair my spinal cord injury, but one day there will be treatment; a medication, a surgery, an implantable microchip or some such; that will mitigate spinal cord injuries. And one day there will be. Whether I’ll ever benefit from said future advances only time will tell, but I refuse to say it can never happen.
I had to ban a hospital social worker from coming into my room during my initial hospitalization. Every day, she would show up to “help me with my denial.”
Denial. AKA Hope.
Every day this social worker would come to my room to talk about my injury. Every day she hammered me to repeat after her “I am permanently paralyzed.” I refused. I would say “I am paralyzed. At this time, there is no cure.” So yeah, denial. But she’s the one who left each day cussin’ and spittin.’
I acknowledge my injury and all that comes with it. I’ve never accepted it.
Semantics? Not at all.
If I accepted my injury, I would not have taken the leap of faith that led to moving my legs and my subsequent victory in 2010 half marathon. Those 9 steps over the finish line were the second greatest thing I’ve ever done (my son is my greatest accomplishment of course). The Wright brothers refused to accept flightlessness. Roger Bannister refused to accept limitations and broke the 4 minute mile.
Since my early days of injury, I’ve set big goals. Scary goals. Unobtainable goals. Then I’ve gone on to complete them. That’s what humans do. Hope is the human default position.
But I sit here now without a goal. Without direction. Wondering.
My hope is intact. I KNOW deep within me that treatments that restore function to people living with paralysis are just a matter of time. And money. Thus, my fundraising continues. My commitments to the people and the organizations that work to end paralysis are unwavering.
My personal realizations though, they have slowly changed.
I’ve sat a long time now, looking at the words I’ve put on this page, wondering where I’m going. Sometimes the truths that fall out of my fingers surprise me.
I’m nursing a new fracture. Another in a line so long I’ve lost count other than I’ve fractured every bone in the lower half of my body at least twice. Some, like my femurs, many more times than that. Scoliosis slowly bends my frame, crushing what’s left of one lung; I lost large portions of both lungs at the time of my initial injury. I’m losing more function every day in my weak side. These are simple facts.
I always knew my injury came on the cusp of discovery. I would either been one of the first to be cured of this curse or one of the last who could not be. I knew that time would reveal the reality of my situation in its own fashion.
If “The Cure” walked into my door today, it can no longer help me. The secondary damage to my body is now too great. I’ll never dance at my son’s wedding. I’ll never climb to the top of Piestewa Peak again and watch the sun rise to reveal Four Peaks in the distance. I’ll never again see the mystery Christmas tree that gets hauled up Camelback each year. There are no more care-free days hiking rainforests or chasing up and down the steps in my favorite little spot in Mexico. Never again a Songahm Star.
I am permanently paralyzed.
That’s a game changer. One I need to sit with for a while. But one that still does not get to break me.