Monday, October 22, 2018
Survival Day 2018, 13 Years Forward
I am still here. Though greatly changed physically (bi-lateral above the knee amputations, prosthetic legs, additional body mass...really long hair), emotionally (far less tolerant of trivial complaints and far more accepting of the differences that make each of us unique), mentally (can't come up with an example...but that in and of itself is probably indicative of how I've changed in that area), and even spiritually (far less questioning and more grounded in my personal faith), I am still here.
Thirteen years makes a tremendous difference in one's life. I'm married now and Step-Father to several brilliant individuals. This past year saw my 18 year-old Step-Son, who has lived with us for the past two years, graduate from high school, start college, and move into the dorms...I'm regularly amazed by the young independent adult that he is becoming. This past year also saw a change in custody and my two youngest step-kids (13 & 15) now live with us full time. In addition to those big changes, we also purchased a new home.
Renovations at the new house to make it accessible enough for me to live their, including a new master suite, are well underway and we are hoping (fingers crossed) to be fully moved in by Thanksgiving! Renovations are also underway at my old house to get it on the market as soon as possible. As a result of this I've been blessed to have a lot of time with my dad as we've been working on various projects...most of them involving paint...at both houses. I've also been blessed to spend more time with mom, as she comes by regularly to check on our progress and ensure that we are eating lunch or at the very least stopping for an afternoon snack.
With all of this going on, it's no small wonder that today crept up on us like any other normal day. Last night, as I was getting ready for bed I decided to check my calendar hoping that I would have nothing to do today, as I really needed a rest. Shortly after midnight was when I became aware of today's date. My immediate thought was "wow, that's today." I would've missed it completely if I hadn't looked at the calendar. Irena sent me a message shortly after her work day started asking why I hadn't reminded her of the day's significance. I replied that "it's just a day"...a day that I prefer to do as little as possible and interact with people as little as possible, but it's still just a day.
That said, when she asked what I wanted for dinner I didn't hesitate to ask for a Vampire Slayer Pizza from Just Wing'n It. The kids aren't big fans of that particular restaurant, but that's what popped into my head when she asked the question, and as step-father to this many kids my opportunities to get what I want are few and far between, so I figured I better take the chance while I had it! It may be just a day, but it's still my special day, and I aim to enjoy it!
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Survival Day 2017 (12th anniversay)
Year 12 has been crazy to say the least. 10 months ago I received a letter from the US government informing me in bold letters that I "have overcome my challenges and no longer have a disability". This decision led to the Social Security department mistakenly cutting off my health care for a month, and nine months of me sweating an appeal of their decision, which ultimately got reversed when they received confirmation that I still need two crutches to be able to ambulate...which I know was included in all of the paperwork they received from me and my doctors, but the first reviewer must have overlooked...or simply didn't believe to be consequential to the decision. During this year I was also seriously asked by several people to consider running for public office...a concept that I have been exploring and weighing the impact such a change would have on my family. Irena and I found time to attend a friends wedding in Buffalo NY, and took the opportunity to escape into Canada for a few days and enjoy the majestic power of Niagara Falls...and a pitcher of sangria while sitting next to a vineyard for an afternoon. Given the political trauma our nation has been continuously suffering since last November, we found it quite tempting to permanently stay with our neighbors to the north, but ultimately decided that being with our family was worth the constant turmoil coming out of our White House. In August we both took rejuvenating trips to see the totality of the total eclipse with some of our closest friends. We've already got our spots picked out for the 2024 totality! There's such power in that silver ring in the middle of the day twilight sky...truly felt like we'd been transported to a different planet for three minutes.
The first message of the day was a "happy anniversary" text from my friend David. I responded with a "happy anniversary" back to him, as on this night twelve years ago I was supposed to be attending a Halloween party with him at a swanky midtown penthouse apartment, but never made it. David, and our friend Jamie (whom I was planning to pick up for the party on my way home from work that night) upon getting word of my accident, went to my home and searched the house to find a phone number for my sister Sarah, because our employer (David and Jamie worked with me during that time) could not reach my parents and mom and dad didn't have cell phones way back in 2005...the rest of the world did, but apparently mom and dad were waiting for a family tragedy to join the rest of us in the digital age). This is David and Jamie's anniversary too...they played an important role that night, as did my sister. Sarah was the only immediate family in the city and she had to identify me at the hospital (I arrived as a John Doe), sign off on all of the initial medical decisions, and bear witness to the destruction of her brother...we didn't know it then, but she was also bearing witness to the birth of the new man that I would become as, like the phoenix, I would rise from the ashes of that vehicle fire far stronger than I had ever been before. This is their anniversary too, as we all survived the trauma of that night and each of them, and many others, experienced it in their own unique way. From then 33 year old Sarah, sitting in a low lit hospital waiting room and telling her best friend over the phone "there are no adults here" to mom and dad having to make arrangements to return to Indy after just arriving in Atlanta, not knowing if their youngest child would still be alive when they got home.
As many of you know I prefer to spend this day in seclusion, contemplating the previous year and indulging in fantasies of the year ahead. However, about a year and a half ago I made a decision that, by its very nature, means including others in this day. Irena is with me, supporting me as I move through the emotional nature of this day and, honestly, the days leading up to it.
The kids are on their fall break, and we've been blessed to spend the majority of the time with them this year. There have been overnights with friends and cousins, a day trip to pick apples in an orchard, and eat elephant ears and sip apple slushies while sitting by a sparkling lake (my favorite part of the annual orchard day). We've spent days together as a family, and I'm struck by how foreign all of this would seem to the man I was twelve years ago. As it stands, its still an adjustment, but one that I'm thrilled to have made...and to continue to make year over year.
I'd love to say that this weekend is on track with how I planned to spend the anniversary, but fate had other plans. On Thursday night Irena took the kids up to Purdue to spend a few days with their older brothers. We had a lovely date night on Friday and enjoyed a wonderful meal at a local steak house. She was stunning in her multicolored dress...it would give Joseph's coat a run for the money. On Saturday she went to get the kids and the plan was that I would spend the evening gaming with my best friends, while she and the kids, their cousin, her sister and brother, would enjoy a fire and carve pumpkins. I was a bit torn between the two...wanting to enjoy the fireside time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and watch the kids enjoy such a traditional part of childhood...and being with several of my closest friends, many of whom came back into my life as a result of the accident.
Fate chose for me, whether it was a bout of food poisoning, or a severe anxiety attack, I cannot say for sure, but a little before 5pm yesterday my stomach decided to get rid of all of its contents...a process that lasted several hours and incorporated multiple emptying methods. When not in the bathroom, I laid in bed watching the fire through the window and listened to my family. The laughter of the children, the conversation of the adults, the activity of the dog, Irena checking on me frequently and bringing me water to stay hydrated, and to be honest, it made the physical pain and discomfort that I was experiencing more tolerable than if I had been alone.
I awoke this morning with an empty stomach...looking forward to an applesauce breakfast. Irena had slept in the living room, so as not to disturb me in my suffering, but came in to check on me shortly after I awoke. As I type this, the house is quiet, the children are sleeping, and my wife is laying next to me wearing an adult raccoon onesie...yep, you read that right...and again I'm struck by how foreign this would seem to 30 year old me. I'm so glad I lived to see it.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Survival Day 2016...11 years
I have that moment; the universe stuck its foot (or perhaps its ample ass) in my path in the form of a sixteen year old driver with no experience behind the wheel. I DIDNT' DIE. I suffered terrible pain and the loss of both legs, but I DIDNT' DIE. Several brave souls, random people whose skills were anything but random in regards to what I needed at that moment, risked everything to ensure that I DIDN'T DIE. During my recovery I tried to reclaim my "pre-disability" life and learned that path was no longer viable. I went another direction, and that direction led me here.
My eleventh survival day I awoke thinking about my tenth, as last year I decided not to spend the day in insightful solitude (as has been my decade long preference), but rather surrounded myself with "my people" (burn survivors and amputees and other people with disabilities...traumatic gifts of the flames that forever altered us) at the world burn congress. This year, unlike any year previous, I awoke laying next to my wife. This year, rather than sequestering myself, once again I am surrounded by others, but these are my step children...and my step dog. This year, my eleventh survival day shall be spent with my family, and friends, and even some strangers as we venture off to Owen county to spend the afternoon and evening in the woods...at the place where my friends gathered for my Bachelor Party in April...where many are gathering to enjoy this beautiful fall day.
I know I haven't written much this year...in fact I haven't written since New Years Eve, but please know that I'm still here. Other priorities have required my focus this year. I'm married now...that happened in May...and now have a modern family of my own, and thanks to those living angels who ensured I didn't die, and the divine spirit that coordinated their efforts and the efforts of those healers who administered my care from that night forward, I get to spend today with them.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Happy New Year!
Friday, November 27, 2015
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.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Survival Day 2015 - Ten Years
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
- A wintry four hour zip-line tour in eleven degree weather.
- Working with power tools to make home improvements without needing assistance while standing.
- Controlling my type 2 Diabetes diagnosis to a point where I'm now considered "pre-diabetic".
- Potentially reversing the sleep apnea. (The numbers say I probably don't need the CPAP anymore, but I have a sleep study scheduled in a few weeks to find out for sure.)
- The biggest news, I GOT ENGAGED!!!
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!