Today I celebrate a birthday that was not to be, that has been the modus operandi for nearly a quarter century. I recall like it was yesterday how matter of fact the diagnosing neurologist was enlightening me of my impending death. When he completed his polished conclusion of the test results there was nothing to question a vacuum of hope, but I could not resist I had to make Linton Hopkins, M.D. who had been staring down his nose at me just above his black rimmed reading glasses place the gauntlet before me. I asked how long and his immediate response was “three to five years.” Place your bets gentlemen!
A devastating sucker punch when I was certain the symptoms manifested from a pinched nerve, but an abbreviated life terminating before I was thirty was unacceptable regardless of how many physicians concurred. I was overflowing with unrealized dreams and at the threshold of life to begin fulfilling long held onto hopes. I don’t know why I did not succumb to the naysayers, the statistics, and reality. I suppose I get a notion in my mind and see it through hell or high water.
History is an accurate predictor of future outcomes, but dwelling in the past replaying old engrained tapes is a lethal quagmire. Our society has become so negative, ruthless and selfish. I am dumbfounded by the vicious heartless words the youth spews at each other. The negative sticks like Velcro while complements and praise have a brief shelf life. Turn off those tapes. When a retrospective glance stirs a painful recollection reflect on the source of the hurt. Time does not heal, but it does give birth to a fresh perspective.
Study your past long enough to learn from mistakes then make tracks. It’s impossible to successfully move on with life looking backwards. During my decline into a quadriplegic I held onto failing abilities far too long endangering my well being, but once my body failed to do a desired task I left it behind. I allowed myself adequate time to mourn, worked to compensate for the loss and reengaged being on this side of the grave.
The decline to a feeding tube, wheelchair, ventilator, etc. was pure unadulterated hell, but once at the bottom there was only room for improvement. My old hopes and dreams died on that examination table 25 years ago this spring. My new goal was to remain alive. Just the basics we’re talking about, maintaining a pulse and exchanging gases minimally to keep cells functioning. It wasn’t a sexy goal, didn’t inspire any water cooler gossip, but my plate was full with this challenge.
It was a crap shoot if the bipap could maintain an airway through the night. My wife at the time taught me to sleep comfortably in one position all night, because I would do anything not to wake her to adjust an aching limb then catch her wrath. For some particular reason increasing the bipap pressure during the night really turned her bitch on, so those occasions were saved for when I would wake gasping for breath, shaking uncontrollably and delirious with carbon dioxide build up. Seeing a new dawn became a major milestone.
It challenged something deep within me not to fulfill everyone’s expectations and some hopes. In my able life I enjoyed discovering my capabilities, now down in the trenches I learned I never met a challenge I didn’t love. The word impossible became more inspiring when hearing birds sing outside my window the following morning.
With no family encouragement to prolong my life with mechanical ventilation therapy, a ventilator, fifteen years and six days ago I said, “SCREW IT, I’m not ready to die!” I woke from surgery feeling like a billion bucks! I began thinking in terms beyond the next eight hours; it became a day then two. I allowed myself to have obtainable goals. Every goal has a catalyst. Even though I was over a decade away from knowing Carey I held out hope I would know love like hers one day.
With deference to Lou Gehrig, I am the luckiest man alive. I am graying, balding, aching and thrilled about it, because I was not supposed to be still stirring up trouble. What milestone are you living for? Have a great day! dj