What Happened?!?!

It seems you can’t almost die and then take 8 months off of work without people asking, “What happened?”  So, to avoid keeping everyone in suspense, here is a synopsis of “What happened.”

On July 21st, 2008, a sunny Monday morning, I was riding my motorcycle the 2.75 miles from my Tempe office to my Tempe home after seeing one client while Jon was on the second day of a 2-week vacation with his father.  I was going back to my house to keep working on cleaning up the flood wreckage and found out that the best way to get out of that was to get hit by a car.

I was traveling West on Baseline Road, at the 45 mile-per-hour speed limit, legally, in the middle lane, when a 68-year-old woman in a Buick came out of a gas station on the north side of the street and turned left across my lane.  Neither of us saw each other because of a van in the right lane, between us on the long diagonal between our vehicles.  As soon as the van passed her, she went, which put her directly in front of my motorcycle.  She was issued a ticket and I was not and her insurance quickly claimed full responsibility and offered us the full value of her $15,000 policy, which is the legal minimum in the state of Arizona.

I had nowhere to go but into her left front quarter panel.  When my motorcycle hit her car, both the motorcycle and the car stopped moving immediately.  I, on the other hand, did not.  I flew up and over my gas tank, through the handlebars, and completely up and over the Buick, onto the asphalt on the other side of her car.  A witness called 911 and another witness provided me some life-saving help until paramedics arrived.  I was wearing high-ankle shoes and a helmet, but also shorts and a tank top, all of which was destroyed except for one shoe.

I was quickly transported to Maricopa Integrated Health Services (aka County) because I was listed as a Level III trauma and County is well-known for their trauma services.  I spent 7 hours in surgery the first day, waking up at just about the time Jon and his dad had driven back from Moab, UT, in response to the phone call they got from the stranger who helped me out at the scene.

After a day of rest in ICU, I underwent another all-day surgery, then rested a few more days in ICU before having yet another surgery.  After 9 days, I was transferred to the post-surgical floor of the hospital and after another 11 days, I was moved to a nursing home where I spent the next 12 weeks in bed, flat on my back, about 23 hours a day.

My injuries included a broken bone in my left foot and two broken vertebra that did not require treatment because they were able to heal while I lay on my back for 3 months.  I had broken my right elbow into several pieces and they needed to screw and plate it back together, then keep it braced for about 2 months before letting me have a month break before going back in to remove most of the hardware.  Some wires remain, and I have lost some range of motion, but for the most part, the arm functions normally.  They also took some skin off my leg and put it on an abrasion that wasn’t healing well on my shoulder.

My more serious injuries included that I disconnected my sigmoid colon and amputated my right hip and everything connected to it, except for the skin.  The pelvis bone was shattered into about 5 pieces, 2 of which were left on Baseline Road, which is a little funny, because that is actually the exact stretch of road that I have adoped – to keep clean – through the Tempe adopt-a-street program.  When I am more well, perhaps I’ll get out there and see if those bone fragments are still littering up my street.  So, my bone, tendons, muscles, nerves, and whatever else keeps your leg on your body, except for the skin, were all severed on the right side.

Like I said, I spent about 3 1/2 months in a nursing home and was only able to do about an hour a day of physical therapy.  They didn’t let me get onto my feet at all until about 2 weeks before I was discharged home.  I did make it home in time for Thanksgiving and continued PT, OT, and nursing care, in my home, until the start of the new year.  In January of 2009, I began going to outpatient physical therapy 3 times a week and continued with the goal of walking a half-marathon within the time limits. I was nowhere near ready in 2010, but did complete the 2011 P.F. Chang’s Half-Marathon, which, I believe, concluded my marathon career, but who knows?

I was given a life-saving colostomy and was told that it was routine to give someone a temporary colostomy when they have such serious injuries to allow everything to heal without the worry of contamination.  However, my injuries were extensive enough that they were not entirely sure, if a reversal would be successful.  We tried it anyhow, and although things are not yet perfect, they are generally working as they should.

I was somewhat uncomfortable going back to my practice while I still had some difficulties, but since it was possible that my irregularities would end up being permanent, I guessed that I, and my clients, would just have to live with it. I have some mobility limitations and I fatigue more easily than I used to, but I am not on any narcotic pain-killers and I believe that my mind is sharp enough to return to practice at this point, although it has now become apparent that I definitely have some short-term memory problems that I’m attributing to the anesthesia. Turns out, that for the most part, no one notices, or cares. People that meet me now don’t even know anything ever happened to me.

I am incredibly thankful for the talented medical personnel and support staff who saved my life and helped me regain functioning.  I am blessed by a large group of family, friends, and colleagues who went out of their way to keep me company, provide me comfort, and to just be there for me when I needed them.  This is not something I could have done alone.  Friends continued to help us and held a fundraiser to help us recover from the financial injuries we suffered.  Family members started a trust fund to solicit donations for us.  We have since returned to our prior mode of functioning that has always included giving back to the community.

A Recovery Party was held around Thanksgiving of 2009 and we invited all the medical personnel involved in my care to acknowledge the life-saving work they do on a daily basis. We visit the ICU, the MIHS Trauma Clinic, St. Joes, and Plaza Healthcare Nursing Home on the anniversary of the collision and bring the staff treats. In September of 2011, I was the guest speaker for Plaza’s resident and caregiver support group and gave a speech entitled, “Thank, Think, Laugh, & Love Your Way to Recovery: Keeping Hope When Things Seem Hopeless.”

People continue to ask me if I am “100%.” I’ll never be who I was before the collision. Some parts of me will never work as well. However, I’d like to think that there are many parts of me that work much better as a result and it’s those parts on which I choose to focus.

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