Hard to believe that it has been nearly 20 years now. It was November 30, 1999, and I had to mail out my bills. I decided since it was a lovely sunny day, to walk rather than drive the quarter-mile.
I frankly don’t even remember this. But I am pretty sure that’s what I was thinking.
During the trip, in the process of crossing the busy highway between my apartment and the post office, I was struck by a car. I have zero memory of this, or frankly, most of the following week while heavily sedated.
This was, I’m sorry to report, a hit-and-run. The accident caused the shattering of my right clavicle (collar bone), my right tibia (the big bone between the knee and ankle), a fracture of the orbital around my left eye, and two breaks in the right fibula (the small bone between the ankle and knee).
My shattered clavicle caused stretching of the brachial-plexus (that’s the nerve bundle for the arm).
End result was a severely broken right leg and a largely unusable right arm.
It could have been worse
I have a pretty good guess as to what happened. They told me that the two cars immediately after the one who hit me drove on, but the next, driven by a priest, stopped to help me.
(I was knocked out cold. Again — ZERO memory of any of this. But apparently, while the priest paid me a visit during the next week while I was heavily sedated, upon seeing him I said something like, “Oh crap, I died and went to the wrong place!” For context — I was born and raised Jewish).
It was estimated the person that hit me was going around 50 mph or so and clipped my leg. I was thrown by that, and my shoulder impacted with the curb, which is how I shattered my clavicle.
Ouch, right? I firmly believe that traumatic amnesia is not a bad thing here.
However, bad as this was, it could have been far worse. My head hit the road, but I suffered no brain damage or serious trauma from that. I tore a gash in my gut, but that was easily closed. I am reasonably certain that bad as it was, I never got that close to death.
I did, however, almost lose my right foot. They had a difficult time initially finding a pulse in my foot. But they did, and I kept it.
When I came to myself after they lowered my sedation a week later, I found I was in a hospital in NYC (the accident was in Rockland County, just northwest of the city). My right leg was in traction and I couldn’t really use my right arm at all.
I do not recall the first surgery they put me through at all. Again, thank you traumatic amnesia. The second, though, I have the foggiest memory of being wheeled from my room to the OR.
During that surgery, they put three titanium plates around my shattered clavicle to take the weight off of the brachial plexus. They also attached an external fixator to my right leg. That, FYI, is like a funky satellite of metal scaffold around the outside of the leg, including large screws holding it in.
They were very frank about what I would be facing going forward. I had a lot of physical and occupational therapy ahead of me in order to recover. They expected it would take me 1–3 years to walk again.
Nobody was sure if I would ever recover full use of my arm, and what that might mean. There was at least one more surgery down the line, a bone-graft to repair my wrecked tib-fib. I would probably walk with a limp for the rest of my life, due to the fused tibia and fibula after the bone graft.
This was when I learned what would eventually evolve into my life philosophy. I saw three choices before me:
1. Curl up in a ball, wait for death. That was not an option, not at any time.
2. Just go with it, let time have its way with me. Recover as time and medicine would heal me.
3. Push it to the limit. No stopping, no pausing, no choice but complete and total recovery.
I am pleased to report that I went with option 3. That would be my first real understanding and application of conscious reality creation.
The next year
Once they transferred me to the rehab hospital, every single day I pushed to and past all limitations. Frequently, my therapists and I would have the following conversation:
Therapist: Does that hurt?
Therapist: Do you want to stop.
Me: No. Keep going. Give me more.
Three weeks later, I was home. I had recovered about 25% of the use of my right arm, and though unable to bear weight on the leg, I figured out how to move between a wheelchair, chairs, and bed.
Within a month I was maneuvering around on crutches, despite only 50% use of my arm.
A couple of months later they did the bone graft. That involved taking bone from my own hip, mixing it with various stuff, and packing it into the mostly-destroyed tibia. They told me this might take three tries. I was determined it would take only one.
After 7 months, they put me in a walking cast. I bore full weight within days of this. When the cast was removed a month later I was walking with the aid of a cane.
A year after the accident, I had 90–95% use of my arm, and was walking without the expected limp.
Twenty years later
Now, unless I show you my really impressive scar collection, you would have no idea that I went through this. I walk without a limp, and I can even run (not well, not long — but I can). My right arm is 98% healed, though still numb at points, and the muscle groups work a bit unusual compared to my left arm.
This could have ruined me. The accident could have utterly destroyed me and wrecked my life. But I never allowed it to. Instead, I used it to gain insight into what I am truly capable of, and the immense potential for growth and healing not just of myself, but for anyone.
Hell, I even wrote a humorous narrative about my experience called The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begin with a Trip to the Post Office. Yes, there was a lot of pain and amazing doctors working on me, but I made a choice and took a bad situation and made good of it.
Someone once asked me, if I could go back and undo this, would I? No. Despite all the discomfort and the wicked scars, no. This helped make me into the person I am today. It may have sucked a lot, but it taught me about myself, the human spirit, and how to push and not give up, even when the odds look grim.
If I overcame a life-changing situation for the better, so can anyone. You have the power of mindfulness, conscious reality creation, and unbelievable potential. When I share what I have done, I hope that you can gain mindfulness with far less in the way of trauma to your body.
I can hardly wait to see what I can make of my life over the next 20 years.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter.