Monday, May 10, 2010
We were asked to take part in a panel discussion because of our unique experiences with my own mortality so early in my life. It really was the first time that all of us spoke to a group together about what we went through. I began the tale with the story of the accident, but then passed the figurative talking stick on to my sister, as she was the one who had to make such horrible decisions on that first night because Mom and Dad were out of town. She then handed the story off to Mom and Dad who took it to the point where I was awake, at which point I finished the story off.
It was an emotional morning for all of us, and I learned some things about what my family went through that I hadn't heard before. One thing that really stood out to me was learning that, when I was probably at the most critical state, Sarah had questioned why they had allowed the Doctors to do all of these horrible things to my body if I wasn't going to survive. Even after four and a half years I still don't think that I can fully fathom the emotional struggle that my family went through.
We talked about a lot of things that day. Conversations that we didn't have before the accident that might have made things easier. Plans that I could have made in advance that would have taken the guess work out of what my family needed to do. Decisions that I would have made differently, and why it was a good thing that I wasn't making my medical decisions at that point.
If I had been given the choice about whether to amputate my legs or, let me go, at the time I would have chosen death. Let me be clear, I still don't want to live this way, but I am glad that I am alive. At the time of the accident I was in so much pain that death would have been a welcome release, and I had no concept of what life would be without legs. All I could see at that point, even after I awoke, was the overwhelming loss that I had suffered and in my eyes that was my future...pain and loss. That's why it is a very good thing that people who love me were making the decisions regarding my medical care, because I would not have been able to make those decisions with a rational mind.
I have suffered tremendous losses as a result of the accident, but I have also gained a unique perspective on the world, our society, and a new purpose in life. On the agenda for the first session of "living fully, dying well" was a discussion about purpose. Unfortunately our stories, and the stories of other members of our congregation who have faced death, took so much time that we never got to that point in the program. Now, I'm not sure what the plan was for the discussion about purpose, but I know what I have come to believe, because one of the things that I have gained from my experiences is a renewed sense of purpose.
That purpose is to help others, both individually and as a whole when it comes to our society. That's why I speak to groups about my experiences, disability awareness, inclusion, and visit with new patients in the burn unit and other amputees. It's why I've become so involved with the Burn Survivor and Amputee support groups. It's also why I've joined the Mayor's Advisory Council on Disability and the Board of Director's for the Indianapolis Resource Center for Independent Living (IRCIL).
Currently my efforts are focused on promoting the Wheel-A-Thon, which is IRCIL's major annual fundraiser. The event will be held on Saturday, June 5th from 10am to 2pm, at the Ruth Lilly Fitness Center on the University of Indianapolis Campus. IRCIL is a great non-profit that provides a wide range of services to people with disabilities in Marion county and the 7 surrounding counties. The Wheel-A-Thon is a fun event that will include wheel chair races, a wheel chair soccer exhibition game, Zumba/dance exercise classes and much more. The event is free to the public, and I want to invite everyone who is interested (whether you have a disability or not) to attend. If you would like to help me in my effort to raise funds for IRCIL, you can make a donation to my team, Rebellion on Wheels, by clicking on the team name. My goal is to raise $800.00 and as of today my team has raised $550.00, please consider making a small donation of $5 or more to help me close the gap! Helping raise funds for IRCIL will allow them to expand their services and help more people with disabilities live as close to an independent lifestyle as possible.
Now that my advertisement is done, lets wrap this up by getting back to the main point! There are many who find purpose in their families, careers, religions, friends, and more things than I can mention; which is a wonderful thing because a purpose helps us get through our struggles. Unfortunately there are others who struggle every day questioning if there is any meaning to their lives. This saddens me, because every life has meaning, and we all share one simple purpose. I believe that purpose is to use our unique abilities to live and help others live together, peacefully, in this world.