Category Archives: Thoughts

A different outlook on life

One year down.. A Lifetime to go..

The weekend was indeed incredible. It is was all that I expected it would be. I got to see a lot of close friends that I haven’t gotten to see in a long time. I also got to spend time with some of the major players in my life this past year. I felt very fortunate being able to sit down with them and reminisce about everything. It got pretty emotional for me by the end of the day. On the drive home from Oxford, I had this ‘chilling’ feeling that was telling me I would cry at some point today. I felt absolutely fine at the time, and I had no clue what was going to get me, but I just knew it was going to happen. I was really surprised when I got this feeling. I can’t remember the last time I have cried. I know that I haven’t shed a tear since the day of the accident, because I have wanted to so many times. The days that I’ve felt really down, I would try to get a good cry out, but I could never do it. I wasn’t sure if I could do it anymore. If being told I would be paralyzed for the rest of my life and all the struggles I’ve had to go through couldn’t do it, I didn’t know what could. It was about 8 o’clock, everybody had left the party, and I was fine all day until I checked my Facebook..

I had all kinds of notifications and messages, which were all extremely nice and made me feel very good on my special day. Then I clicked on a private message from my sister-in-law (written by her and my brother). She had written a touching introduction, wishing me a happy “re” birthday, and telling me how happy they both were that I was still here. The second paragraph read..

“This time last year was the worst day of our lives followed by the worst week and several months. There are so many moments from that time we spent with you that I will never forget, some bad… a lot bad but some good. I will never forget one moment in particular.. In the ICU you would sometimes open your eyes a tiny bit and you would react to the tube in your throat. (It was horrible to watch you like that). When this happened your heart rate would spike so everyone would talk to you and try to just calm and relax you. One time it was just Alex and I with you and you had an episode like that. Alex started talking to you and you tilted your head in his direction. He told you he was there.. that he loved you and you had to fight… You had to keep fighting. You nodded your head.”

It was this paragraph that did it. It tore me up. My brother and I have always had a very close relationship and we were ALWAYS dicking around when we were growing up.. still today, on xbox live. We were almost never serious, we had a very ‘brotherly’ relationship where we would always be joking around and laughing, much like you have, or at least had at one point with your siblings I’m sure. Reading through this, putting myself in his shoes, not only thinking that my brother might be gone forever, but pretty damn sure he is, and I will never get to kid around with him ever again. Joking around being the very last thing on my mind, and never more serious in my life. Completely helpless to the fact and out of shear desperation, I start talking to him, even though I know he can’t hear me, “You have to fight…you have to.”

I started to cry. I didn’t just get teary eyed, I legitimately sat there and bawled my eyes out. It was a good cry though. Great, actually, it was so nice to get it all out. I thought the story itself was pretty amazing. All odds were against me, and my body was under unfathomable trauma. I have no recollection of any of this, or anything at all for another 2-3 weeks for that matter, but I still nodded my head to what my brother told me. I had the will to live. The two of them are making an Oxford trip this weekend and I am so pumped to see them tomorrow! I can’t wait to see you both tomorrow, I love you guys. Thank you for making me weep like a little bitch.

After talking to him on the phone for awhile, I hung out with just my parents. We had such great conversation. We were all so tired, but we did not want to go to bed, especially me, I didn’t want my day to be over. That night, I hit yet another milestone with my mom. Through the past year, spending every minute together for at least half of it, we had become so much closer. She became more than my mother, she turned into my best friend, too. However, she was still my mom and so I did not act 100 % like myself. I shared most everything with her and we got so much closer, though. Sunday night she was still my mother, but I no longer lived with her and my dad, and after talking to her for so long, she realized that I now have everything in my life under control. All of the little aspects of my life that I have to focus on and be constantly thinking about were also what she has been constantly thinking about, too. I know she is still going to worry, I don’t think mothers ever stop worrying, but she came to terms with that fact that I can handle what I have to handle. After all, I’ve done alright for myself this past year. Anyways, I now feel like I CAN be 100% me while with her. Knowing this is such a big relief, as a son. It’s huge. I love you so much mom, and I am so thankful that I have a mom who I know will always worry about me. 🙂

Sorry for such the extra fat post, hopefully you didn’t lose interest. If you didn’t, thanks for reading!

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Bad Days

“You’ve got to allow yourself some bad days. It’s completely normal. Actually, I would be worried if you didn’t have any bad days.” This is what people told me in all of the hospitals, so I was expecting to have bad days. I waited and waited, but they didn’t seem to come. I have had a few in the past year, like 4 or 5, but that’s all. I just don’t really think about what I’m missing out on much, maybe because I don’t let myself. It’s totally up to you whether you’re in a bad mood, or not. I always asked myself, “why would you want to be in a bad mood?”

A couple of nights ago, I started feeling really down. It was about the time I posted the video of me getting tricky on Facebook and Instagram. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed pushing myself by throwing flips. I never had any teacher, or instructor helping me out, I taught myself everything I knew. I used to go on my trampoline everyday, as long as the weather permitted. Two summers ago, before going into my junior year in college, I decided to join the school gymnastics team and make something of myself with my passion. I really wasn’t any good at most of the events (bars, rings, vault, pommel), but I was good at floor. I had never done gymnastics, so I had a different style and could do some things that no body else could. I finally had an indoor facility to practice and people that knew what they were doing to give me pointers. I was really excited because I was finally going to push myself much harder. Then less than a month and a half into the school year, I had my accident, and I would never know how good I could have become once I applied myself. All of this was in the back of my mind and had me feeling really low and depressed. I called my mom at 2 am, Thursday night. I was just laying in bed feeling like shit and I didn’t know what else to do.  The first thing she asked was, “What’s the matter, honey?” and my response was, “I can’t even fucking stand up mom… that’s the matter.” She reminded me of all the reasons I should feel thankful and how much worse things could have ended up. She didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but it was nice to be reminded by someone other than myself.

Friday morning, I woke up and I was still feeling pretty crumby. I kept telling myself how lucky I am to be living still. It has always worked for me in the past because it’s absolutely true, but my bad mood was sticking with me longer this time. Longer than it ever has in the past. I then moved on to another thought. A couple classmates of mine back in high school had past away just earlier this year, and I kept thinking to myself how fucked up that was. One had been fighting cancer for the past five or six years, and the other was caught in a fire at school and suffered from smoke inhalation. I didn’t know either of them all that well, but I knew them well enough to know they would have made the best of their lives, had they been given a second chance. What happened to them, as well as me, should not have happened. There was no logical reason for any of it and it was just plain unfair. I don’t know why I was given a second chance and they were not, but I know I am going to make mine count. That’s what they would have done. My heart goes out to both of their families and I hope that they see this. I am terribly sorry for your loses, but if it is any consolation at all, know that their stories are what keeps me going.

Accepting Disability Part 2

School is really picking up already and I have not had any time to blog. I plan on writing another entry over the weekend when I have a little more free time, but for now I wanted to at least finish up my last thought.

The following weeks only introduced more examples deriving my disability. The day came to move all of my necessary belongings into my apartment back at school. It’s awfully tough to move objects when you need your hands free to push your chair from place to place. I still have my lap to balance objects on, and my mouth as a very limited third hand. When it came to loading up large objects, I was no help at all. I successfully carried out one, maybe two loads. I was pretty embarrassed at how little I could help. Then, while pulling into the apartment parking lot, it started raining. Rain is a an even bigger worry than hills for wheelchair users; I hate it more than hills, at least. Not only do you yourself get soaking wet, but your chair as well. The frame and wheels can get wet no problem, but the backrest and seat cushion will soak up anything liquid and start to stink and get moldy. So I was even more worthless unloading than I was loading. I carried nothing in, maybe a couple of towels on my way inside.

Once class started, I was quick to realize that getting myself up the hill to my classes was going to be much too tiresome everyday. Thankfully Miami has an accessible transit system that offers rides to accepted individuals, but I really did not want to have to do this. Unfortunately, it was the only option I seemed to have. So everyday I get picked up by this little bus, equipped with a wheelchair lift in the back, then dropped off to my first class. Once a day is more than enough; I am the only person in the bus at the time, and I really don’t like receiving the special attention. Luckily, my classes are very close and the path back to my apartment is manageable. It is either flat or downhill for the most part, and the uphill part is just short enough to handle. Actually it is perfect for a workout. I don’t have enough time to go to the rec anyway, so on this regard I kill two birds with one stone.

Once winter hits, I’m going to have to use this transit system much more; which I am not looking forward to. Hopefully by then I will be somewhat used to it. Thankfully it has been dry as hell and I have not had to ride as a result of rain. I’m sure that will change though soon enough though.

Lastly, I want to mention all of the medication, catheters, and special attention my body needs. I always liked the thought of being a drifter in the future. Not that I ever strived to be a drifter, but just knowing that I could. If my life started going to shit and I had no reason to stay in one location, I would just grab my immediate necessities and travel place to place. See the world. That really isn’t a possibility anymore. I take like 15 pills daily; most of which are just vitamins, but I have constantly been on an antibiotic for the past 6 months, and have a couple of other prescription pills. I also need at least 5 catheters per day. You can’t just go to the drugstore to pick these up, not in bulk at least, they need to be ordered through a medical company. I can’t just sleep wherever I want to anymore either. Before, sleeping on a bed was ideal due to comfortability, but now it is necessary due to keeping my health. There are all of these things I am now dependent on. I always just needed the clothes on my back and a few dollars in my pocket, and I would be able to manage for a while. Now things are different.

Accepting Disability

Accepting being disabled was a difficult thing for me. I’m not talking about actually being disabled, but rather accepting the term itself. In my last post I talked about being independent, doing everything on my own, not accepting help, hating help. For the longest time, I also hated the terms disabled and handicapped. I tried thinking of a better word for my condition, but couldn’t think of a good one. I remember the best one I could come up with was less fortunate, or unfortunate. I am unfortunate, what happened to me was extremely fucked up and unlucky, but that doesn’t describe the extent of things. People that don’t win the lottery are less fortunate than people that win. It just doesn’t work for people that get hit by speeding SUVs, break every rib in their body, become paralyzed and sustain traumatic brain injuries.

I have always liked to do everything on my own, being able to function my legs or not. So the terms, disabled and handicapped never sat well with me. I’m a pretty low injured paraplegic; I can still use all of my core muscles. I basically just lost my leg muscles. Sure, your legs are more powerful than your arms, but whatever, my arms are only going to get bigger. I mean, I will never be able to play soccer again, or snowboard, there are activities and sports that I for sure can no longer do, but as far as everyday life goes. I get doors myself, I get into my car and pull my chair in myself, If I drop something I can pick it up just fine, I drove 4 hours and stayed in hotels myself all summer, I can even go down stairs myself. “I’m not disabled, I can do whatever the fuck I want,” I thought.

About 3 weeks ago, my family and I drove to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my brother and sister in-law at their new house. Their house was the first place I stayed overnight that had no accessible shower. “I’ll figure something out,” I made myself believe. We brought a shower chair of mine that I sit on while showering. It eventually came time for me to get a shower. For probably 15 minutes, I sat outside the shower trying to think of the best way to set up. I positioned myself outside the shower this way, that way, every possible way. “Uh, yeah I don’t think I can get myself in here,” I said very disappointedly. This shower was different than normal showers. The shower had a trapezoidal shape with a skinny door in the center and small step up from the bathroom floor, but no able-bodied person would ever have a problem using it. If only the bathroom were a little bigger for me to properly position my wheelchair, or if there were something hanging from the ceiling that i would allow me to support my body weight from above (like hanging ropes). “Alright quit being ridiculous, this bathroom is average sized, and no sane person keeps ropes hanging from their bathroom ceilings,” I told myself. “I can’t do it. I can’t fucking do it,” I reluctantly admitted. My dad ended up piggy backing me onto my shower chair, but that’s besides the point. The point is, I accepted that there still were things that I could have done had I not been injured. I guess the terms handicapped and disabled do fit, although I still don’t like either one.

This is getting to be pretty long, I’ll add another couple of paragraphs as part 2 of this post next time.

Family

This past year, I have been through everything from hospital visits and surgeries to rehabilitation and finding my way back to reality. It has easily been the toughest year of my life, but not just for me. My family, primarily mom and dad, have been right by my side through it all. Of course I was the only one that had to hear from the doctor, “you’re paralyzed and will probably never walk again,” but they have had to deal with the consequences nearly as much as I have. Whenever I would need help with anything at all, they have always been the first to know it.  They were the ones to fix the problems that I couldn’t. They were the ones to pick up the slack when I was falling short.

When I was in the Trauma Center for a month, either my mom or my dad was by my side 100% of the time. At the Rehab Hospital for two months, my mom flew out to Chicago with me. She stayed there all but one weekend, which was only to help with the accommodations being made to the garage on my behalf. After returning home, I had no license and needed rides to appointments and therapy. She stayed home for months and made sure that I got where I needed to be when I needed to be there.

As you can probably imagine, insurance has shed a good deal of money as a result of this accident of mine. After awhile, they started declining most of the bills. My mom has been there to talk on the phone time and time again to inform them why everything is necessary. Every little doctor’s appointment, medication, catheters, surgery, ect. It has been a full time job. I’m not her only child either, my brother just bought a house and needs some guidance on how to become a successful homeowner, and my sister is only 12 years old and has soccer every freakin day. Not to mention she’s a little girl and is really difficult.

You probably hear it all the time, but family really is everything. It shouldn’t take a tragic accident to make you realize. You may have a lot of friends, but even your best friends are nothing compared to your family. Family is willing to drop everything on your plate to help out. It’s willing to quit your job and move 5 hours away to be with you. It’s willing to load up all of your stuff on a trailer and move everything into your apartment when you are unable. It’s willing to be available 24/7 just to make your life a little bit easier. If it weren’t for my family, the world would have swallowed me whole a long time ago.

Moved In

I’m finally back at school, and it feels amazing. Being around people my age again has really got me feeling nostalgic. I’ve been here for three days and have spent more time with friends than I have in the past 11 months put together. It feels like it has been so long and it feels so right. The liberating feeling of being on my own once again is indescribable. I’ve taken another big leap towards independence. Things do feel different now. Getting from place to place is much more difficult and time consuming. It doesn’t help that Miami is one big hill (hills are wheelchair user’s worst nightmare). My daily travel is going to start feeling more and more like a workout. On the plus side, I’m going to be one big dude before long. I also have to closely monitor everything I do, because I really have to take care of myself:  Lifting up from my chair every 5 minutes to take pressure breaks, keeping my skin clean, using the bathroom every 5 hours since I have no sensation of when I have to urinate, these are just some of the things I am constantly thinking about. I have to be fully conscious at all times, because if I fail at any of these tasks, terrible things will happen. I could receive pressure sores (which are very serious for SCI), skin breakdown, or receive infection. I have had many UTI’s along with other infections, and they are not fun. I get terrible headaches, often vomit,  and altogether feel like hell. When this happens, I am  confined completely to my bed, and am transformed into an absolutely worthless human being. It’s a God send having my cousin as one of my roommates. I do most everything myself, but it’s the little things, like grabbing a bottle of water once I’ve already gotten in bed, or reaching a glass from the kitchen that I cannot reach. I also know I can ask anything of him if I have to. We have been like best friends since kids, and he was the only person with me during my tragic accident. He understands.

Today is the official move in day, so my other two roommates will be showing up anytime now, and I’m sure I will meet my neighbors at some point here soon. Hopefully all goes well; one of my roommates I’ve never even met, and I have absolutely no idea who my neighbors will be. Hopefully some good looking ladies though… Please God be good looking ladies.

Blogging

I have been wanting to write about my everyday experiences for months now. Getting this blog started was not the easiest thing for a non-techy guy like myself, and took me a lot of time with everything else that I’ve had going on. Early on, in my post accident months, I frequently brainstormed ways of sharing my story. Ideally I would write a book, but I’m an engineering student, I’m no writer. I was also told by people in hospitals to start journaling. It was early summer that I decided blogging would be my solution because it would be a nice compromise between the two. I feel like I owe it to my followers who have kept up with my mother’s Facebook page (Pray for Hunter) to start hearing from me personally. I feel like I owe it to the whole world, really. There have been countless amounts of people that have told me my family and I have served them with great inspiration, and have changed their lives. Through this past year, I have become closer to God than I already was, I am convinced people’s prayers from all over the world saved my life. There’s no logical reason for my survival, otherwise. He told me to share my story, and as far as I’m concerned, I owe him everything. No, I heard no voices from above telling me this. He told me through my pastor, Mike Slaughter, at Ginghamsburg church. On that Sunday in May I remember hearing Mike saying over and over to “make your mess your message”. If anybody’s life in that room was a mess at the time, it was mine. For weeks, all I could think about were those words. It wasn’t long before it became clear to me that God was telling me to share my story with others.

From the blogging information I have read over, and was taught from fellow blogger, Matt Wainscott, it is smart to state how many posts to expect each week. I am starting a new chapter in my life, returning to college, and classes start on Monday (8-26-13). I am not sure how much time I will have for the blog at first, but I think it is safe to commit to one post per week. So I will say that you can expect to hear from me once, maybe twice per week. All depending on how busy my week is. In the meantime you should check out my “About” page. Even if you’ve been following my story since the beginning, I guarantee you’ll learn a thing, or two.