This is not your typical holiday greeting or a link to an online card. Rather it is a heartfelt “Happy Thanksgiving” from our WHOLE family. We are here in St. Robert, Missouri to visit with Michelle for a couple of days. We pray that all of you are enjoying your family gatherings and blessings of just being together, let alone the bonuses of yummy seasonal feasts : )
Yes, this was the first and only time she has seen us since July 1st. NO, she did not get to graduate. We just attended the graduation of most of her company because she wanted us to meet a lot of them, the sergeant’s and other cadre. Plus, we were able to learn a LOT about the daily basic training and see some of the drilling in action.
Michelle was granted an overnight pass off base which is unusual for non-grads, but the Sergeants ALL are very impressed with her. You see, she is top-notch, but cannot graduate until she is healed enough to march and run 15k. The most she was able to do before the hip stress fracture was 8k, and then they shut her down for fear of the fracture breaking on through. She sure knows her stuff and she’s very good at communicating that to others; civilians or newbies or being quizzed by the brass to explain to other groups.
We are so very PROUD. She is meeting with the adversity of an uncertain future and limitations that she has no control over quite well. She is a bit bothered by the way that medical holdovers on profile (physical limitations) are treated by the rest of the troop as a whole. There ARE fakers and wimps who pretend to be injured, and then there are the legit. We met a young specialist (like corporal) who is gonna have back surgery in January. But it’s those that are assigned to crutches that basically don’t USE them that gives everyone a bad rep.
After completing 2 cycles now, she is respected by most everyone. But it is the army way to shun the injured to encourage quick healing and compliance.
So with her off base overnight pass, she was able to come back to the hotel with us, eat PIZZA and then we went out to a movie. “BOLT” is a new computer animated movie about a dog that our family wanted to see. It was either that, or the new James Bond movie. The dog in the movie and his relationship with the girl made Michelle really miss being home with Spirit. But it has LOTS of funny lines and happenings in the movie, not to mention the different animation styles. So we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Then, there was the Scrabble game and LOTS of good conversation, and popcorn and junk food. Then she shared the bed with me. Then in the morning, decadence of all time, Krispy Cream Donughts! We’re talking lemon cream and raspberry jam filled deliciousness. That and milk was it prior to the Family Thanksgiving Dinner Event put on by the company on base at 1pm. That food was delicious. And the best part was that there was no cooking and cleaning on my part. LOL. Seriously, it was surprisingly tasty and there were an abundance of things I never even got to on the side bar.
Turkey, Ham and Beef, Mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, StoveTop OR Bread stuffing, peas and mushrooms, corn, shrimp cocktail, pumpkin pie, cheese cake, rolls, and more and more that we didn’t even go to look at. They charged only $6.15 for Steve and me, and Michelle just checked in. A few of the mess hall employees pulled me aside and said things like “we’re not supposed to develop close relationships with the privates, but Spencer is special,” and “She’s a good one,” and “we all like your daughter a lot around here.” The one lady (has Michelle’s number memorized) wanted a photo of all three of us together. And Michelle asked for one with her and the lady together.
There were a few tears shared between us. During graduation, when the graduates are repeating the Soldiers Creed as one, was very emotional for Michelle and I. Knowing that she has to sit there while they move on. I am sure it was even more emotional for her when her first cycle graduated. The ones in which she really bonded as they broke in together.
The best tears/conversations between her and I came when I spoke with her about how proud we are of her. She and I have a SPECIAL bond. Not just parent and child. Not even as a just good friends. She is not just my offspring, but a Sister in Christ. That is an everlasting bond despite physical place, time or even death. There is great security and thanksgiving in that respect.
But the one thing that we share that no one else can understand to the degree in which I do is : the incredible pain that comes along with having your plans dashed by an unexpected, bodily, limitation in which you have NO control. Physical pain is rough enough, but the emotional pain SUCKS! Now What?
One of the greatest things that I am thankful for in regard to Michelle’s situation is that she has a very strong faith. She is tough in dealing with the pain. Sucks it up nicely. BUT she is smart about not doing more damage or ignore that a problem really exists. Finding that balance is a hard, but very important skill.
Current plans are for Steve and I to drive back out to Ft. Leonard Wood mid-December, spend a night, see a couple more museum places and then home for the holidays.
Right now, we believe that Michelle will have to report back to Ft. Leonard Wood at the first of the year and continue on’til they decide what to do next. She is due to get a promotion on January 1st, so that is at least something for her to look forward to.
Christmastime will also include a trip up to cousins and grandparents up in Northern Indiana at some point. Less presents this year due to economy, but more family valuing.
We have many, many things that we are thankful for at this time of year. You, our Dearly Beloved friends and family are chief among those blessings.
September 17, 1987 is a special date on the calendar for me. You see, it was 21 years ago today that my life took a major hit. While driving our Kawasaki 550 motorcycle I was broadsided by the car of a young lady performing an illegal U-turn. My life as I had known it (had planned) would never be the same.
It was just before the impact and I was waiting for morning rush hour traffic to clear from one of the two major one-way streets located at the end of my commute to work in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. I knew that I had to wait a few moments more before the traffic cleared. So I took the opportunity to shoot up a praise to God. “What a gorgeous morning it is Father. There is not a single cloud in the sky.” Additionally I am going to be early for work, and I am excelling at my job.
Looking back on that moment now, I realize that was the last minute in which I had no chronic pain in my life. I really do forget what that felt like. Perhaps God answered me with ” Oh sure, you think it’s beautiful and hunky dory now, but let’s just see what you think in a minute.” I believe that in Heaven, God was gathering the angels to watch what was going to happen next.
After crossing the intersection, I noticed that a car traveling in the opposite direction quickly pulled along the opposite curb as it going to park. But then it happened. The sudden impact broadsided me full force as the black bumper of the Civic instantly crushed my Left Ankle. I found myself startled (WHAT just happened), in great pain as my foot was hit by the car then pushed off the peg, and dragging along the pavement. On top of all that, my head was wizzing by the bumpers of cars parked on my side of the street as I was still moving forward although at an angle of a track bike (like the GT racers we just saw here in Indy).
I jerked with all my might to keep from going down. All the while it occurred to me that I am now driving on the wrong side of the street (from jerking up), my foots dragging, and I must stop in just a few yards BEFORE I enter the intersection with the other major one-way street. AAAAAAH!
This is where I testify to the miracle on my motorcycle. God was at work greatly in my life. He got me to stop the motorcycle before getting hit again. I did NOT go down even though broadsided. I think part of the credit for that goes to the fact that I raced bicycles at Major Taylor Velodrome and in racing class and training we would purposefully jam our bicycles into each other to learn how to avoid wrecks and react to unexpected pedal in your spokes.
Once I had managed to stop the forward movement of the cycle, I was standing there with both hand squeezing the calipers on the handlebar (clutch and brake). I was managing to stay balanced on my one right leg, but it was heavy and my other foot was mangled. What was worse is that I couldn’t shift the cycle into neutral because it would have been done by my useless left foot. I was stuck there!!
Just then, a VERY pregnant woman came up the sidewalk to help me. I remember thinking that the gutteral screams that came out of me were not very feminine (surprised that I sounded like a guy) and that I could even scare her away if I didn’t quiet them.
She came up to me and saw that I had a problem, but couldn’t hear me very well through the running of the motorcycle and due to the fact that the visor of my full face helmet was down. So she was fumbling around trying to undo my helmet. I swallowed all screams of pain and yelled, “PUT… the KICKSTAND…. DOWN!” Once she did that, I killed the bike by turning off the key with the assurance of the kickstand there to keep me from falling over.
I took off my helmet and looked down at my foot. It looked like the ends of two of my toes were missing and I knew that my ankle foot was broken. The lady had called the police and ambulance and wanted to help me to the sidewalk. I initially declined since she looked like she would deliver her baby if she lifted half of my weight. However the incessant throbbing convinced me that I should accept her offer.
We managed to get me to the sidewalk, a couple of very painful steps, and then I was down. Only then did I see that the only damage to the motorcycle was to the left case guard that helps protect the engine… a $50 part!! Another miracle.
Yes, God saw to it that I did not go down, that I had NO other damage to my body other than my left knee, leg, ankle and foot. Do you realize that if I had gone down I wouldn’t have been able to even use crutches?
May I just say something about crutches. When I am using them I get the “oh, you poor thing” look from everyone. Others using crutches say, ‘don’t you just HATE having to use crutches?” My answer is a resounding “NO.” I love these crutches. This is the original pair and if they had an odometer on them it would have tripped over the 100,000 mile mark about three times. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
When I am on crutches I can really move!! Just ask my friends. Unfortunately, right now I am recovering from a shoulder injury and can’t use them yet. So I appreciate them all the more, because without their use I am much more limited. Still I do have the famous “black boot” that I can throw on when I am expecting to be “slammin’” (on my feet or walking a lot). Again, I get the looks and the questions “what happened, did you have another surgery?”
I know that people are generally caring and tend to think that injuries are supposed to get better. But the sad fact is that some of us are never going to recover from our injuries. Not in this lifetime anyway. These appliances (crutches, canes, boots, funny shoes) are just our ways to cope in the meantime. To try to live a productive life in spite of the physical challenges.
I now joke that I have been through probably about a dozen sets of guardian angels. They draw lots up there to NOT have to get me as a client.
Almost half of my life has now been in constant pain.
As a competitive long distance runner I used to just push through the pain. No pain, no gain, right? Maybe so, but you will notice that I don’t run anymore. I can’t. If it’s an emergency or something I can lope along with the understanding that I will have to pay a physical price. I’ll be “lame” for a few days, and have to go back to using my crutches.
Worse than that, I often don’t realize that I’m overdoing until after it is too late. Again because my way of dealing with pain was to mentally ‘shove it aside’, I use a kind of self-hypnosis that worked well for me as an athlete, but that can do damage to me now.
Since I am allergic to almost all pain medicines, I can take none. So I really am in constant pain every moment I am awake. But there are a couple of coping skills that I have learned that work for me. Music is the biggest one. When I sing or play, it is a painkiller for me. It helps that I like to sing praises to God with our church worship team and jam on mandolin and guitar with friends. That’s why you’ll hear me turn almost any sentence into the lyric and break out into song.
Another painkiller is laughter. My friends help me with this one. Laughter is the best medicine is tried and true. I know that depression is just a natural outcome when someone is dealing with chronic anything. There are chemical things happening in the brain with seratonin and endorphins and such. Since I am unable to be as physically active as I was as an athlete it’s even more important that I laugh. Like exercise, laughter increases the endorphins; the body’s natural pain killers.
So that is why when you first meet me you may think that I am very silly. I am learning to roll with the punches and not take things too seriously. I realize that things could ALWAYS be worse. And, in many people’s cases, they are. However, I also realize that no matter what happens it is all under God’s control.
Let God be God: get out of the way.
So my plans to be a nurse practitioner were trashed, as were the ability to participate in a lot of the exercises and sports competitions that I enjoyed. Now I have a permanent disability that prevents me from enjoying the life I wanted to live. Besides the walking, standing, foot down time and distance limitations, I have the physical drain of the constant pain. Think about it, when you are in pain you get tired more easily, don’t you. I think part of that is from swallowing down the pain, not expressing it through some means. The other problem is the emotional drain. Frustration of not being able to do what I once did, it’s never going to get better than this, the extra time that adaptability methods require. It just takes more time to do things.
For me, with my bent toward perfectionism, I need to get rid of the “would have,” “could have,” “should have” statements. It just is what it is. I am not God. I am learning more and more the importance of the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things that I cannot change [past, not in my control], Courage to change the things I can [focus on what I CAN do, and learn new ways to adapt], and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
Over the last 21 years, I have learned a lot. I would not have chosen these events. But I now see where God was in control the entire time. “I know the plans I have for you…. plans for hope and a future,” is what God tells me in Isaiah. It is not the path that I would have willingly chosen for myself… motorcycle crash, crushed leg, 31 surgeries, pain and disappointments…. “sure, sign me up.” Nonetheless, I am blessed beyond measure. I have become a stronger person who is learning to take my value less from what I do and more for Who’s I am.
I joke about the fact that with so many surgeries and stuff, the guardian angels have to draw lots in hopes of not getting me as an assignment. I’m sure I have worn out at least a dozen sets. I know that like Paul, God has allowed me to be molded through trials. That if I hadn’t had all this happen TO me, because He cares FOR me, I would probably have been a prideful, arrogant, competitive jerk. So when the trumpet sounds, get ready to eat my dust… cause I’m going to be running into glory!
But for now, I’m going to keep on placing my faith in Him and do my best to help others to meet my Saviour so that they can come with me. You wanna come???
This was the easiest surgery I’ve ever had on my leg. Dr. Karl Raynor went in and removed 2″ from my left distal fibula (smaller lower leg bone) and the internal bone stimulator that was placed in there when my ankle was totally fused in May of 2006.
You can see the wires sticking out of where the devise had been. See that sharp bone sticking out of the back of the leg? That is the place to which my fibula was cut this time (where some tendon attach). It was about 2″ longer but had grown toward the tibia to try to make a pseudo-joint which was causing unbearable bone pain for me.
The wires from the bone stim were wrapped around the ankle area along with some bone removed from my fibula to help attain a solid fusion. Though the bone stim is supposed to stimulate bone growth in the area where the wires are located, apparently some EMFs encouraged some bone growth at the end of my fibula that we didn’t want.
You can see that I have a metal rod and a couple of long screws that bind things together. It looks rather robotic on xray, but kind of nasty in real life. I have a crookedy lower left leg with no outer ankle protrusion at all. It’s flat and majorly scarred.
Still . . . I have my own leg and foot. I even have most of my sensory nerve functions so that I feel thing with that foot which is amazing given all that it’s been through.
I joke with people who can’t believe how many surgeries I’ve survived by saying, ” When God does finally take me home, it will probably be from an infection from a paper cut or something small like that.”
Seriously, the prayers of my friends have helped sustain me through everything. It is especially important since I am allergic to all the main pain medications.
I went into surgery at about 11 a.m.. My nurse’s name was also Ellen (43 y.o.) and she also likes to long distance run. Therefore she understood when I said I take the pain and push it aside like when you are waiting for your “second wind”. Still the different people including the anesthesiologist found it hard to believe that I was not taking anything for the intense pain.
I came out of surgery in record time and was very talkative even before I could open my eyes. I heard Dr. Summers (the anesthesiologist) check on me before he left. I asked him to please give us some “Summer” weather. It was a bad joke, but he laughed anyway.
At 1 p.m. I was home in my own bed! The nerve block that they gave me in surgery worked so well that I felt no bone pain, just sharp cut of the incision. The On-Q Pain med ball was in place to drip Marcaine right into the surgical site, and was a godsend for the three days it worked!
With my leg elevated in the wheelchair, I am finally able to get back to my computer to catch up (if that’s EVEN possible) with all the things I need to attend to. [Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition because that's how I would speak naturally].
Currently, I am using lydocaine pain patches next to the incision for 12 hours a day to help with the pain. I am to be non-weightbearing until at least Monday when I get the stitches out.
The most frustrating thing is that I can’t do housework that I want, cook supper, or be much help around here. AND I am lonely, since I am unable to go out just yet. Thank God for phone calls and book reading, cause there’s hardly anything worth watching on TV.
Well, I’m gonna call it quits for this post. I’ll just be “kickin’ back” and recovering for a bit.