Thursday, December 31, 2015

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my wonderful friends, family, and even those who I'm never had the pleasure to meet!  2015 was momentous, with an engagement, amazing new experiences, and even a new Star Wars movie!  As wedding planning continues we look forward to a beautiful new year, excited to see what the coming year has in store.  Welcome 2016!

Friday, November 27, 2015

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting around the family table with loved ones, including my lovely Fiancee.  As is our tradition, before eating we went around the table individually stating what we were thankful for.  Words cannot express how grateful I am for the changes that have come my way this past year.  Change is good, even when its something we don't want to deal with, moving through change is good.

Ten years ago, through the actions of another person whose decisions were out of my control, my life changed in ways that, at the time, I perceived as horrific.  Yes, that change brought about many long term challenges that will impact my life until the day my physical body ceases to function, but through those challenges many amazing, new, and wondrous opportunities have come my way.  All of these things, coupled with my life before the accident, have changed me into the man I am today; a man who has finally reached a point in his life where he is ready to allow all of those challenges to become secondary to realizing his dream of shaping his own family.

I thought loosing my legs was the biggest change that I would ever face in my life, but in July I initiated a change that is far more impactful by asking Irena a simple yes or no question.  I'm so Thankful that she said yes and that her children have opened their arms to me as part of their evolving family.  I'm also truly grateful for all the blessings that I have been given...to have a loving family and a safe warm home and amazing sustaining food and to live in a nation where, for the most part, I can go anywhere I want and have the support to live an inclusively independent lifestyle, and soooo much more!

I'm thankful for the amazing souls who risked their lives to save me on that traumatic night, and for all of those who work in the medical and emergency rescue field.  This past year I've met three more of those individuals...a firefighter who just happened to answer the phone when I called the Greencastle Fire Department to research information for an upcoming speech...who also just happened to have voluntarily fought the fire that consumed my legs nine years before.  Then, just after the ten year anniversary of the accident, I was reunited with the Nurse and Paramedic who had kept me alive during the LifeLine Helicopter transport from Greencastle to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.  I finally got to experience a memorable helicopter ride over the city...a fitting memory to fill the gap of the $10,000 helicopter ride that I've never had any memory of, but certainly saw the bill for in my insurance paperwork.  Irena came with me on that ride, which I saw as a beautifully symbolic way for the two of us to move forward from all that we have both faced before our lives finally came together.





I'm thankful for all of these things and so much more that words cannot do it justice.  That said, as we sat around the table, all of us present, even the youngest in the room, were keenly aware of the fact that there are others in this world who are not as fortunate.  As we think upon the blessings that the universe has bestowed upon us, we must also be mindful of those whose daily lives are more of a struggle than ours, and we must not be greedy with our blessings or cling to them in fear.  We are meant to share our gifts and support our fellow man.  

By this time next year our nation will have elected a new leadership.  I sincerely hope that everyone with the power to vote is paying attention to the changes taking place in the world as we celebrate this Thanksgiving, and how our current political leadership is dealing with it, or not...as the case may be.  Our current leadership, from Governor Pence to the US Congress, including many of our Presidential Candidates have chosen to manage the changes in our world with decisions based in greed and fear rather than doing the right thing for our fellow man.  Our elected leaders have turned our backs on refugees, condemned those who are different from us rather than offering hope and understanding, refused to learn from our global history and led our society to perpetuate hatred on all sides. It is my true hope that come Thanksgiving 2016 we can give thanks for a nation of rational voters who take back the direction of our nation by voting for those candidates who are committed to doing the right thing for our fellow man, both within our state and national borders as well as on an international level, regardless of the differences that separate us.  In the end we are all human and should set an example for the rest of the world by preventing greed and fear from standing in the way of doing what is right.       





      

Thursday, October 22, 2015

 

Survival Day 2015 - Ten Years

It's been ten years since the car accident that changed my life.  Over the course of that ten years I've preferred to honor this day by staying home in seclusion.  Partly out of a desire for it to be a normal day, but the reality is that it is anything but normal.  It's a date that marks the beginning of a six week nap followed by a roller coaster ride of a journey that has led me to where I am today.  And I am thrilled with my life and filled with hope when I think on the future!

This year, instead of secluding myself, I spent the majority of the day with over nine hundred burn survivors.  Though it was a struggle to relinquish my desire for seclusion, this was a population of people that I am thrilled to spend this day with.  I find it significant that the tenth anniversary also falls on the first full day of the World Burn Congress, which is being hosted in Indianapolis...at the hotel that I helped open almost fifteen years ago.  It's surreal to be there as a guest.  I find old memories flooding back every time I turn a corner.  I spent five years of my life in those halls and left for a better career opportunity.  Less than six months later a sixteen year old driver, who'd only been licensed to drive for twenty days, struck the passenger side of my car and forced me off the road into a utility pole.  The damage and position of the wreckage left me pinned in my brand new jeep wrangler, which then caught fire due to a dangerously defective design.

Over the years I have told the tale of the heroic strangers who risked their lives to fight the fire and free me from the wreckage.  I've told the tale of the mysterious person who emerged from the corn field, fought the fire, and disappeared moments after aiding in my rescue.  I've even spoken of the doctors, nurses, therapists, and other medical staff who kept me alive and brought me back to the world.  Rarely have I spoken of the other burn survivors from that night.  The heroic efforts of my family who held it together with the support of friends, neighbors, coworkers, ministers, congregation members, bosses both current and past...the list goes on and on.

Yes, I bear the physical remnants of the fire, but my sister, mom, dad, niece, cousins, and friends all waited for six weeks not knowing if I would be there the next day...then they had to deal with me when I was.  They supported one another each step of the way.  Those closest to me were burned in a deeply emotional way that can't be seen at first glance, but its there, on the inside.  Each has there own story to tell of the days that come after tonight.  Each of them is experiencing their own anniversary of the event that altered all of our lives...some more so than others, but the degree matters not.  Today, as I immersed myself in a community of burn survivors I found myself thinking of them, and how this is their survival day too.  To all of you I say, Thank You!            

Thursday, October 08, 2015

 

One Year!

Today is the first anniversary of the day I started walking on Power Knees! In the past year I've done things I never would have attempted without these legs and seen tremendous improvements in my health...


And these are just a few of the highlights!  Thanks to everyone, family, friends, and blessed strangers who helped me purchase these legs and gave me the opportunity to make these changes in my life. Thanks to my Prosthetist for opening the door to this new realm of mobility. Thanks to Ossur for manufacturing such amazing prosthetics and working with me to learn how to use them and get the kinks out.  Thanks to my Physical Therapist for learning a totally new prosthetic and setting me on the path to master their functions...still learning, but we'll get there.  And a special thank you to my beloved Fiancee who has been with me every step of the way!



The following is a list of all of the amazing people who have helped me walk on the Power Knees!  I am eternally grateful!

Melissa & Thor Miller, Jim & Jennie & Anna Goodman, Emily Augustyniak, Jennifer Baker, Peter & Rebecca Noot, Frank Crowe, Carole Commons, Andy Carlson, Don Altemeyer, Shelia Hyatt, Kathy Lause, Laura Houlette, Amy Murray, Mark Fields, Stacey Craig, Dan & Donna Archibald, Brad & Jamie Dameron, Rae Wallis, David & Dot Owen, Jennifer Rozens, MaryBeth Ingram, Dennis Liberatore, Carl Braunlich, Debra Lein, Jack & Julia Wickes, Mary Crouse, Shulamite Wan, Lisa Delaney, Laurel Sorensen, Cindy Williams, Mark Nardo & Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Randy Domeck, Katie Marlowe, Bryan Norrod, Sue Hirschman, Elizabeth Bowman, Wendy Kiefel, John & Suzy Roberts, Erin Longwell, Albert Guay, Sari Snyder, Cindee & Jim Fisher, James Michaels, Joseph (Mick) La Lopa, Rebecca Zirnheld, Harry & Lilla Kuper, Charity Rosandich, Diane Wilson, Derek Delp, Arlene Brooks, Ray Heilman, Ginny & William Patrick, Chad & Michelle Hayward, Michele Knoderer, Joanne Doroshow, Patty Gotway, Roberta & Bill Warriner, Jim & Della Hinds, Keith & Helen Olson, Lori Bradburn, Jenni Mansell, Ryan Stewart-Muery, Laura Bonko, Mauricio de Gortari, Andrew & Elizabeth Whittaker, Julie & Jeff Eggert, Emily Bedwell, Linda McClain, Kristen & Brandon Cook, Christina Nelson, Mary Sidener, Erin Peschel, Beau Reneer, Cathy & David Simpson, Al & Charlotte Galloway, George & Jean Waden, Linda Hempel, Marcia Lurie, Jonathon Day, Rob & Kelly Hatfield, Jennifer Harper, Michael Galligan, Angharad O'Brien on behalf of Mary & Gerry O'Brien, Jonel Thaller, Tina Ruth, Judy & Loren Zimmerman, Traci Ashcraft, Sylvia Gingrich, Jennifer & Scott Williams, Audelisa Dimos, Dan Waugh, Jessica Neff, Angharad O'Brien with her husband Jake and their children Harlan and Mallory, Carol Frohlich, Brad Polo, Kelly Clements, Jennifer (Elliott) Estes, Ray Smith, Jace Hodson, Mark Henry, Pamela Gilbert, travis Wilson, Benton Tempas, A Nonymous, Alice Hodge, Lillian Goodman, Cheryl Carlson, Sharon & Brad Kent, Amy Bird, Laura Pitts, Jim & Mary McDonald, Bonnie Benshoof, Mark Hatfield, Cindy Martin, Micahel Guerriero, Bruce Livingstone, Nancy Belser, Merna & John Ruby, Phillip & Millie Lewis, Lisa McClanahan, Tracy Wiseman, Rob & Suzanne Aaron, Jane Williams, Katie & Mike Sliter, Dennis Johnston, Barb & Bob Sczesniak, Keri Erickson, India Anderson, Bruce Harris, Kimberley Meyerholtz, Stuart Hyatt, James & Miki Hamstra, Christy Vopelak, Nathan Ferreira, Marlene Burle, Frankie Crowe, Joe Popolo, Nancy Dowling, Courtney Colles, Jim Stroh, the Tumminello family, Jessica White, Kate Shoup, Peter & Daphne Chen, Lydia Shaw, Thomas & Gladys Smith, Alice Shoemaker, Erik Smith, Sheri Caveda, Alli Fetter-Harrott, Jennifer Truex, Ted & Johanna Maple, Polly Points, Ashley & Mujtaba Al-Qudaihi, Leanne Lafuze, Janet Cloe, Elsa Massonneau, Lowell LaBaw, Linda Mansfield, Albert Frohlich, Judy Townsend, Denise Rogers, Steve & Lourdene & Molly Schutte, Mark Foglesong, Michael Perkins, Preeti Sugathan, Linda Hempl, Dawn Duquaine, Sylvia Gingrich, Anita Simmons, Kathryn E. Meredith, Suzanne & Jon Gray, Don & Sue Childers, Sheila Pluckebaum, Abigail Frantz, Troy Barker & Tim Rankin, Melissa Rainous and family in honor of Sylvia Gingrich, Pat Thorlton, Fran Kandrac, Molly Garau, Patrick Brady, Janice Swartz, Jack & Karen Kay Leonard, Mary Klee, Beth Bonham, Jeff Rose, Gayla Pitts, Wendy Walker, Elizabeth Bowman, Douglas Bates, David and Carole Wills, David Palmer, David Eli, Tammy Mertzman, Drew Carlson, Eddie Hall, Kelly Bentley, Joyce Bennett Parrish, Sarah Tempas, Leo LaGrotte, Seth Little, Robert Morse, Ann Kelly, Eva Baguma, Crystal Davis Black, Laurel Sorensen, Jennifer McCreadie, Donald & Susan Foley, Bill & Sarah Burke, the Hume family, Fritz, Mark Bisch, Joe Feinberg, Kathy Berg, Amy Aldridge, Bill & Phyllis Groth, Mary Niccolini, Rob Wile, Jane Stephenson, Brian & Laura Petraits, Carol Madison, Jo Ann & Nick Hatfield, James & Shirley Marshall, James & Mary McDonald, Daniel Wathen, Bob & Rita Schilling, Brandy Dickerson, Dan & Donna Archibald, Betty Danner, Carolyn & Bruce Armacost, Ann Mackey, the Fox family, Kim & Joe Starlin, Ron & Julie Berry, Jennifer Phelps, Sharon Speichert, Sharon Desautels Prisco, Pam Connerly, Amy Moeder, Cindy & Scott Shaw, Lori & Shelby Curtsinger, Duncan & Jacob, Patricia Hines, Troy Campbell, Rachel S., Joan McCormick, Virginia Hughes, Saundra Lange, Judy Flowers, George Van Horn, Bill Appenzeller, Kevin Fischer, Andy Leffler, Shannon Hendricks, Paul Cunningham, Kevin & Mary Beth Clarke, Kathleen Waggoner, Harold Crosskno, Mickey Huffman, Marilyn Strawbridge, Max & Jeannene Inglert, Judy Eggert, Barry & Jill Irons, Sandy Kurker, Lemberis, Anonymous, Elizabeth Bowman, Cathie Perolman, Rene Patton, Kellie Commons, Linda Hempel, Gabrielle Balkan, Mary Nicolini, The Armacost Family, Geoffrey Hennig, Dan Penfound, Barb & David Greenburg, Tami Marcus, Teri & Ivan, Anne Schollenberger, Aubaine Woods, Sarah James Slater, Christy Mattingly, The Perrin Family, Lisa Schubert Nowling, Tamara Leech, Lois Calkins, Tricia Robinson, Timothy Fischer & The Indiana Lions Eye Bank, Roosevelt & Tavetta Patterson, Doshia & John Stewart, Ellen & Scott Rogers, Rita Vinci, Sandy Colles-Forbes, Megen Gaylord, Chris Barr, John Lawlor, Andrea Vrobel, Angela Carbone, NUMC Amazing Grace Sunday School Class, Robert & Lisa Warriner, Monica Griffin, Virginia Melin, Jason Spicer, Linda Hempel, Ruth Shaw, David & Nancy Lamm, Sylvia Gingrich, Steve & Challen Powers, D.O.R.K.S (Doing for Others Random Kind Stuff group donation via Jeff & Julie Eggert), Sandy & Albert Payne, Linda Hempel, Maureen Cornelius, Kelly Nelson, Jim & Linda Miller, Patricia Gotway, Pamela Gilbert, Mom & Dad (Patty & Robb Warriner), Colin Fogarty, Elizabeth Bowman, Frederick Shorter, Laurel Keller, Cody Byrns, Mary Klee, Joseph Lalopa,        



FYI, names will be added throughout the life of the fund raiser!




Monday, August 31, 2015

 

Lots to do!

So, here we are at the end of another month.  Almost two months have passed since my previous post, and life has changed dramatically.  Why, you might ask?  Well, when I awoke from my medically induced coma almost ten years ago and learned that my legs had been amputated, I honestly thought my life was over.  I honestly thought there was no chance that any woman would ever find me attractive enough to give me the chance to develop a loving relationship again.  I honestly thought that my life long dream of having a family had been ripped away along with my lower limbs.  I was wrong...

For the last two years I've had the honor of falling in love with Irena Priddy and her family.  About 10 months ago I was feeling lots of pressure from people around us to propose, but I wasn't ready yet, and neither was she, but I felt like something needed to be done to slow things down, so I told her I felt like I couldn't make any major life changes until the book was finished.  (This was before I stopped writing due to the strange illness that lead to therapy...which, by the way, has not reared its particular brand of physical torture since I started therapy...knock on wood...and progress on my book has continued).  She understood, but wasn't really pleased with my decision, though she did respect it.  What she didn't know was that I had already begun making a plan, and after a great deal of soul searching I finally began to understand that while I couldn't make any major life changes on my own, that didn't mean that we couldn't start working toward them together.

So, on the morning of Saturday, July 25th, 2015 I sat down to write the epilogue to my book.  Now, please understand that the middle chapters of the book have not been written yet, but I've known how I wanted it to end for a long time.  When I finished the first draft of the epilogue I printed it out and tucked it into the bag on my crutch.  Irena and I then went out to Cataract Falls, about an hour west of Indy, to spend the afternoon with an old friend and co-worker of mine and his family.  When we had a quiet moment to ourselves we walked down to an observation deck overlooking the swollen river and her cascading falls.  We sat down at a pick-nick table and I handed Irena the last seven pages of my book.  As she was reading towards the last few lines I began to get down onto the ground in a kneeling position.  When she finished reading, this happened:



 
Thank God she said YES!!!!  The last month has been spent wedding planning.  Its been fun, overwhelming at times, but a tremendous experience to share with the woman I love, her children, and our families!  If you're curious, here's what we know so far:
  1. Our wedding date is Saturday, May 21st, 2016.
  2. We're getting married at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, time yet to be determined.
  3. I'll be wearing a purple, red, and black kilt... (Irena will be the center of attention, but she decided that we've gotta show off my legs)!
  4. While our wedding will be open to the public, and we want to share this magical day with everyone we know, the guest list is already out of control and will require a great deal of revisions...due to both space and finances we're going to have to make some very difficult decisions, so please do not be offended if you don't get an invitation to the reception... 

Friday, July 03, 2015

 

How It's Supposed to Work...

So, first a quick update on the topic of my last blog post.  I didn't post in May because I was super busy, it was a confusing month (more on that sometime in the future), and I was actively looking for a therapist.  Good news, I found one that I like and have begun the process...so far so good.  I did not write a blog post in June because I was busy, was trying to learn a solo guitar version of Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton in time for my girlfriend's birthday party (mild romantically comical success), a lot happened in the world (more on that sometime in the near future), and I've been more interested in writing my book than I have been in writing social commentary.  Yes, progress on my creative work has begun once more...so far the hell-mouth in my stomach has remained blessedly shut.  Now, all that being said, something did happen during the past two weeks that I feel the need to comment on...

As I believe I have mentioned, several months ago I began swimming laps several times a week at the local JCC.  It's taken a great deal of commitment, but I have finally reached a point where I am consistently swimming a half mile three days a week (or a mile and a half weekly).  While I have also made strides to improve my average diet as a result of last year's type 2 diabetes diagnosis, I believe that in my case the exercise has made the most significant impact...so much so that I have recently been taken off of the medication, as my pancreas seems to be doing its job quite well on its own!  As a result of this wonderful news I have made it a point to get to the JCC every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, rain or shine.

Two weeks ago I went early to get a jump on my day and finished my half mile swim in record time (for me).  Moving quickly out to the parking lot in my wheelchair, I was looking forward to getting home for some quality writing time when I discovered a white Porche parked in the hashmarks between my "handicap" accessible parking space and the next one.  Of course, I had parked with the hashmarks on the drivers side of my car so that there would be room for me to safely get my wheelchair out of the car, put it together, and transfer to it.  This fancy Porche was too close to my drivers side door for me to safely get in the car, and even if I could swing it, there was no way that I'd be able to take the wheelchair apart with out causing damage to both vehicles in the process.      

Annoyed, I turned around and went back inside to ask for help.  The helpful young woman at the desk paged the security guard who, once he'd made his way to the front desk from where ever he had been, walked out to see if he could help me get in.  On the way to my car, which was at a different entrance because there had not been any accessible parking spots available at the end of the lot closest to the health club, the security officer (who was an off duty police officer) said that he "would give them a ticket, but management doesn't like to upset the members."  The officer was quite nice and was able to spot me as I swung my body from the wheelchair to the drivers seat.  He then listened to my step by step instructions to take my wheelchair apart and handed me each individual piece.  I left the lot 40 minutes later than intended and frustrated that most likely the owner of the Porche (which did not have any kind of disability placard or license plate) would never know what an inconvenience he or she had caused, or how close they'd come to a busted windshield (because I was mad enough to smash it)! 

A few days later I received an email news blast from the JCC and I responded to the marketing manager with my tale and requested that something be said in upcoming communication about not abusing the accessible parking spaces or the hashmarks between them.  She replied that day saying that she'd be happy to do so, but unfortunately could not guarantee that the Porche owner would read any of their communications (which is understandable).  I replied that I appreciated anything that she and the JCC could do in regards to access and inclusion...and for the record, they are already very accessible, which is why I swim there.  When I went for my swim this past Wednesday I was surprised and pleased by the following sight!


 
 
What an awesome response!  In my decade as a person with a disability this is by far the quickest and most effective response by an organization to an accessibility issue by that I have ever seen!  Great job Indy JCC; this is how its supposed to work!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

 

Admitting when its time to get help...

So, many of you know that I have been working on a book for the past several years.  Sadly, it has been slow going, but well over two hundred pages and fourteen plus chapters have been written.  The good news is that those who have read the first section of the book have all said "keep writing!"  I set a personal incentive a while back that when I finish the book I'll get to cut my hair...my hair is now quite long and continues to grow. 

Many of you also know that for the last year and a half or so...almost two years now...I have been suffering from strange monthly episodes that begin with sulfuric gas burps and nausea which then, over a varying degree of hours to days, develops into very violent and disgusting...often simultaneous...gastroenterological issues.  It's horridly awful...tastes like a doorway to hell has opened in my stomach, and pretty much feels like it too.  It led me to see numerous doctors last year, a severe sleep apnea diagnosis and a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in addition to revealing some very common allergies, but no answers about the monthly GI issues. 

What do these two opening paragraphs have in common, you might ask?  Well, the only correlation that I and those who have witnessed these recurring episodes have been able to observe is that whenever I make any real measurable progress on the book, one of these episodes follows within the next week or so.  The last occurrence was on November 9th, at which point I stopped writing, and I enjoyed the holiday season up to and including my 40th birthday with absolutely zero stomach issues.  I started working on the book again on the Monday after my birthday, as I had committed to myself that I would refocus at that point.

I should've waited.  I should've waited at least an additional month to get through dad's birthday.  Sadly, on that very day, as I was on my way to my parents house for his birthday dinner, the gates of hell opened in my stomach and I began burping sulfur once more.  All progress on the book has ceased momentarily and I have admitted that I need the psychological help that I never sought after the accident happened...after I lost my legs.  Go figure...right?  So, I've met with one therapist...whom I like and will probably continue to see...but as this is a new process for me, I'm also shopping around.  Happy birthday, dad, your son may have some deep rooted psychological problems (don't we all?) and he's finally getting help.  :)         

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