Sunday, October 22, 2017


Survival Day 2017 (12th anniversay)

Today marks the end of 12 years living as a bi-lateral above knee amputee and the start of 13.  Having been born on the 13th of March, thirteens typically hold a lot of luck for maybe this is the year my prostheses get hover jets...please!  I'd also accept hover jets on the wheelchair...the wife keeps putting the junk food up high where I can't reach it.

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 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.

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