Second Chance – One Year Anniversary Changes My Perspective

On the 1st year anniversary of my second life, I wonder where am I now? I still feel lost. A year ago, I remember standing in our living room, turning to my husband to ask a question, and then face planting on our tile floor.

Days later, I woke up in a hospital thrashing against my bed rail and shrieking “Let me out! What am I doing here?”

Second ChanceMy head hurt, my face hurt, my right side hurt. One side of my head was shaved. I reached up and traced the scar dissecting my skull from my forehead to my earlobe.

On the telephone, my husband tried to explain why my head was sliced open in a 5 hour surgery and why no one, not even him, was allowed to visit me due to the COVID pandemic.

And so began a long year filled with fear, self-doubt and hopelessness.

Recovery required a team effort - a neurologist, physical therapist, speech therapist, neuropsychiatrist, rheumatologist, chiropractor and psychiatrist.

But my front line family care team kept me going day to day.

At the same time 4,000 miles away, my 89-year-old dad fought a daily battle to keep moving.

Recently, he was released from the hospital after a series of health crises that created the perfect storm. Wearing a special therapeutic boot for an infected toe, he walked off balance, leading to sciatica. Unable to sleep due to excruciating pain, the combination of pain meds and lack of sleep led to hallucinations.

I relived my accident in hearing about his. Ever the coach, in his delusions, he called out, “Keep hustling team!” And shot a wadded up pillow at a wastebasket. Ever the athlete, in mine, I blamed the nurses for hiding my basketball shoes and stealing my uniform making late for the big game.

Second ChanceWith my daughter, nieces, siblings and dear mom, helping him regain mobility and self care, my determined dad learned how to push out of his chair and walk unassisted again. Just like I once I relearned how to tie my shoes, grasp utensils, and button my shirt.

When I got out of hospital, I couldn't walk 60 yards without sitting down, now I walk 6 miles a day.Second Chance

At first, I was so frustrated. I couldn’t grip my guitar and play chords with my left hand. My left arm hung limp like dead weight. Then Gerald told me about Melody Gardot, an American jazz singer, who was hit by a car while riding her bike at age 19.

She suffered severe brain injury, broke her back and pelvis and could no longer sit to play the piano, so she taught herself to play guitar lying in her hospital bed. Like me, hypersensitive to light, Gardot, still wears dark glasses too.

Without a voice, no longer able to sing, she hummed. Unable to remember words, she wrote them down. Eventually she composed and performed again.

After my accident, intubation during surgery and hours with a speech therapist, my voice was a whisper. On long distance phone calls, I asked my daughter to sing with me like she did when she was a child.

Inspired by Gardot’s story I picked up my old guitar, practiced in 5, 10, 15 minutes increments and hummed too. I dreamed of being able to strum and sing around a campfire with family this summer at Summit Lake.

Thinking about my dad and remembering my own accident, I am reminded of our vulnerability. No one knows how much time we have left. Or how long we will retain our capabilities.

The human condition is humbling.

Life offers no guarantees. Will I ever recover completely? Maybe not.

I may never drive again or ride a bike, but I can still play a song, type a blog, read a book, walk a mile and cherish a new day.

Posted in health, inspiration, relationships.

14 Comments

  1. Always love reading your story! Always relevant and deeply personal! Your motivation to rise up from every setback is truly inspiring! And so is your dad! From one hair cut until the next, he had recovered SO MUCH! Truly inspiring, especially at his age!
    As they say-keep on keeping on! I hope you are able to travel across the “pond” this year and gather with your family.

    • Thanks Marilyn. I know that my dad really looks forward to seeing you for his weekly haircut. You will probably never realize all the joy you bring to others.

  2. Oh Pat, we never dreamed that these types of obstacles would enter our lives did we? But, your words remind me that we must press on no matter what is thrown at us…and I needed to hear them again. I’m experiencing my own physical and mental challenges right now and it’s easy to slip into silent despair. After surviving 2020, I really thought 2021 was going to be a great year. I mean, how could it not be after what we all went through with Covid? Turns out, being vaccinated and being able to venture out a little more didn’t solve all of the other issues. Those issues don’t nearly stack up to what you’ve been through, so I’m reminded to “keep hustling “. Thanks for that big sis! Being full fledged adults now, I just wish we could all spend more time with each other and just talk and share our lives, you know? Love you Pat!

    • Oh dear Mar-Mar what is happening with you? I truly hoped things would look up with the vaccination allowing more freedom. Are you having more health problems? Greater pain? What’s going on? Sending you big hugs for encouragement and lots of long distance love. Hang in there sis!

    • Thanks Lynne. Yes, I know that his example of determination inspires me in my own battle. Look forward to reading your new novel.

  3. Truly inspiring Pat. So happy to hear the progress of both you and your dad! Hope your able to spend some time this summer with your family at that special place; Summit Lake!

    • Thanks Dave. I always appreciate your encouragement. Yes the thought of being reunited with family at Summit Lake keeps me going. I am finally scheduled for my 1st vaccination next week!

  4. Oh Pat I remember what a frightening time that was. It was amazing to see how your friends and family pulled together to encourage you. And your indomitable spirit is such an inspiration to us all. You’ve come a long way baby. Keep going. Slowly, little by little you will be back 100%. It’s amazing how far you have come given the severity of your injury. I have to say the best part of keeping up with your progress was seeing you on the therapy pony!!!

    • Oh Tinie it was a scary time, a frightening year. And my indomitable spirit, as you say, was bolster by family & a few very loyal friends like you who never let me give up and kept cheering every step of the way back.

  5. Pat, I’m certain your positive mental attitude (possibly inherited from your brave dad?) is what’s keeping you going! You’re an inspiration, my friend. Prayers for your continued recovery!

    • Debbie, I am positive my never give up, keep fighting mental attitude was ingrained by my dad, a coach extraordinaire and wonderful example of resiliency.

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