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The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Trip to the Post Office


Copyright 2018 MJ Blehart

Published by Argent Hedgehog Press at Smashwords




Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgements

Prologue – To protect the innocent and reveal the - inane, maybe?

Chapter 1 – You just never know what to expect.

Chapter 2 – A Little Insight into my life.

Chapter 3 – Rehab isn’t just for alcoholics and drug addicts.

Chapter 4 – Therapy isn’t just for psychoanalysis.

Chapter 5 – Relationship fu one-oh-one.

Chapter 6 – Testing…testing. Is this thing on?

Chapter 7 – Turn of the Century – what if the Y-two-kay bug brings us to the end?

Chapter 8 – Homecoming. Does my cat remember me?

Chapter 9 – Ask not for whom the phone rings.

Chapter 10 – Let’s talk about semantics, shall we?

Chapter 11 – Travelogue of the handicapped.

Chapter 12 – I am so gonna get medieval on your leg!

Chapter 13 – Repairs continue.

Chapter 14 – …but I digress.

Chapter 15 – ORs and Recovery rooms and Wards, oh my!

Chapter 16 – I swear the walls are closing in!

Chapter 17 – Not fencing, but I can still keep the rest of you playing safe!

Chapter 18 – Would the real Warren Mushnik please stand up?

Chapter 19 – Re-casting this whole piece.

Chapter 20 – Maybe you should drive.

Chapter 21 – Checking in for Outpatient therapy.

Chapter 22 – En Guarde!

Chapter 23 – A time to play, a time to laugh, a time to kill…kinda.

Chapter 24 – The candles seem to mean a lot more this time.

Chapter 25 – No rest for the weary.

Chapter 26 – To see, or not to see, that is the question.

Chapter 27 – Amazing what a man will do for a nice set of boobs.

Chapter 28 – I realize I am a great big jerk, Part I.

Chapter 29 – I know I am a great big jerk, Part II. Just to reiterate the point.

Chapter 30 – Sometimes I do make the right choice.

Chapter 31 – Welcome to AA – Assholes Anonymous.

Chapter 32 – Prozac: It’s what’s for dinner.

Chapter 33 – Pornographic Pennsic.

Chapter 34 – The many lives of me.

Chapter 35 – My family becomes more loco. I mean local.

Chapter 36 – On bubblegum machines and flashing lights…uh oh!

Chapter 37 – Why do I keep swimming in the dating pool?

Chapter 38 – Working for the man.

Chapter 39 – Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows?

Chapter 40 – A milestone. Please tell me there aren’t any pictures?

Chapter 41 – The adventure continues. Go west, young man!

Chapter 42 – The adventure continues, part 2. Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Chapter 43 – The adventure continues, part 3. Karma, and moving the floor.

Chapter 44 – No ending, just the chapter concluding this story.

Epilogue. You can’t go back again, but then, why would you want to, really?

About The Author

Connect with MJ Blehart



Acknowledgements


I want to thank Jody for suggesting I write this out in the first place, Cathy for her encouragement when joining in the discussion in the parking lot about it, Kristin for her constant support, Niki for her initial approval of my telling of certain parts of the story, and everyone who read the updates about my progress on LiveJournal (remember when that was a relevant place?), and the incredible encouragement you all gave me. I would like to thank the folks at National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWRiMo.org) for providing the impetus for writing it out.

I also want to thank my mom, my dad, my sister, my stepfather and stepmother for all of your amazing support through this difficult experience all those years ago.

I’d also like to thank my editor, Ned.

Last, but certainly not least, I need to thank Chuck. You are missed, my friend.

Prologue – To protect the innocent and reveal the -- inane, maybe?

This is a true story, of one man, picked by the powers-that-be, to live a life unlike any other.

But isn’t that the case with, well, everyone?

My life is not the same as your life - or anyone else’s. Life is a unique, individual experience that we can share with others in many times and many ways and many formats, but no matter all that, we always live our own life, and no one else’s. Some lives are probably better than others. I have come to believe that you get pretty much what you give, and it’s the everyday, mundane choices that give and take our power, make us happy or sad, energetic or depressed. We are on an endless quest to understand our lives, and how they affect not only ourselves, but those we surround ourselves with.

I have made some good, some bad, some stupid, some brilliant, and some pretty unexceptional choices in my life. I have even, from time to time, chosen not to make a choice, either. All those choices and non-choices have shaped who I am, and both guided and misguided me to some very interesting places - and interesting, to quote Joss Whedon’s Serenity, can mean, “Oh god, oh god, we’re all gonna die.”

This is a true story. For real. Yes, names have been changed to protect people who may not want their roles in this story from my life explored or detailed, and who needs the lawsuits? Of course, I have only my own memory of the events to go on, and while I am sure that some might argue my take on the situation is not theirs, and may not even be the truth, as they remember it, they are what I recall, and it is, after all, my life, and my story.

Herein is a whole bunch of crazy stuff that I don’t think I could possibly make up. Get comfortable, maybe have a beverage and a light snack handy, and step into a life that, while unique, may not have started out so differently from your own.





Chapter 1 – You just never know what to expect.

So this is what I get for not being lazy.

I mean, c’mon, who knew a quarter mile walk to the post office could end up in months of pain, suffering, and physical therapy? Not me, obviously.

Step back into the time machine with me. Let’s borrow Mr. Peabody’s “Wayback” machine, shall we? His boy Sherman can just stay home, thanks.

It's November, 1999. I am between jobs, and just at the start of yet another of my yo-yo weight loss maneuvers. I have written all the checks to pay my bills, but they need to be mailed out. The post office is a whopping quarter mile from my home and, though I certainly don’t recall it, the weather is apparently decent.

I need to lose weight, a million pounds or so. Well ok, maybe more like forty, but that’s neither here nor there. So rather than drive, I’ll just walk to the post office.

How in the fuck did I get here?

"Where’s here?" you ask.

"Here" is a hospital bed, they tell me, in Manhattan - and it’s been a week or so since the accident.

Accident? I remember no accident.

But then, I don’t seem to remember a lot of things.

My friends relay a number of stories about things I said over the past week.

When the doctors said, “Warren, open your eyes,” apparently my answer was, “Just put it on my Visa!”

Do I recall that? No.

“I think I’m just going to fold it up into teeny tiny little pieces,” Jill claims I said. Really? So what the fuck was I talking about at that point?

“Warren, c’mon buddy, gimme a sign,” Bob claimed he chided me. He tells me I rolled over some, moaned and griped about the catheter.

Now, somewhere in all of that, I seem to remember waking in the middle of the night and thinking it was all just a bad drama. I am an actor, after all – or at least played one, from time to time, in High School and College. Anyhow, it’s a bad drama, so I remove the IV from my arm, and some protective wrapping from the other, and reach for my in-traction leg. That is not doable. I collapse and pass back out.

Sometime soon after that, my doctors reduced my morphine drip.

I don’t recall when, exactly, I woke up. I don’t know when I came around for real and started to be aware of my surroundings, but it happened, and I realized my mom was there.

Why is my mom in New York, anyhow? Shouldn’t she still be in Chicago, at work?

Next question: How come I am very uncomfortable, feel like I’ve been in bed for a week, and can’t remember why I am here?

Next question: Why is my right leg in traction?

Next question: How come my right arm isn’t working? Why won’t it move?

Last question: What the fuck happened?

We’ve never put together all the pieces. Hell, some pieces were missing, after all, but I am getting ahead of myself. Like I wrote earlier, I decided, on an apparently nice November day, that I was going to take a walk to the post office and mail out my bills. The quarter mile journey that walk represents is not all that treacherous, really - until you factor in the two-lane highway one must cross. Now, in all fairness, it is probable I was not, in fact, in the crosswalk. No excuse, still, for what happened.

To make a long story short (which defeats the purpose of this, in many respects), I was struck by a car, when I crossed that street.

Car versus man. Guess who wins? Yup. Not the man.

I have theorized that my right leg was clipped, and I was thus thrown. When I landed, my right shoulder connected with the curb, as did my gut. My face, of course, connected with the pavement. Ouch.

I was told that what I am experiencing is called "traumatic amnesia". Something very painful happened, and my mind blocked it out.

Thank you, oh grey-matter, for doing something more than just retaining useless bits of trivia, which causes people to not watch Jeopardy! with me.

So, after being struck by the car, I lay on the side of the road, bleeding. The guy who struck me? Well, ya know, that’s not entirely fair; I presume it was a guy. But you see, I don’t know. He, or, to be fair, she, didn’t bother to stop. Yes, I was the victim of a hit and run. Don’t know if I even made the six o’clock news. Somehow, I doubt it.

I have been told that the next car or two or three after whoever hit me also continued on their merry way. Thanks, really, people. It was the fourth car that stopped.

I believe the first responder to my accident was a priest. My mom tells me that somewhere in my morphine induced haze, the priest stopped by to check in on me.

That is only amusing when you bear in mind that I was raised Jewish. Not that my name doesn’t give me away as a man of Jewish faith to most people. Though, unlike most Warrens, I am not anywhere near my sixties, yet, and I don’t care all that much if those damned kids are on my lawn again.

But I digress.

Apparently, I became conscious, at some point, during said priest’s visit, and made a comment to the effect of, “Oh, shit, I died and must have gone to the wrong place!”

I really hope he had a good sense of humor.

So here I am, lying in a hospital bed, and I am told that my right tibia has been shattered, my right fibula fractured, and my right clavicle is fractured as well.

I know that my clavicle is my collar bone. The tibia, and fibula, I am told, are the two bones in the leg between the knee and ankle. And, I am told, my tibia is wrecked badly.

Have I mentioned "ouch" yet?

As a result of my fractured clavicle, the nerve cluster that runs to my arm, called the brachial plexus, has been stretched.

That sounds not so bad, right? Will my one arm be longer than the other now?

No. The nerves are damaged, and that is why the arm is not working.

Okay. That is not a good thing. So the next question is, will my arm work again - and can my leg be fixed?

"Repairs are under way."

Images of a skyscraper in scaffolding come to mind. That, it turns out, will be rather apropos.

I need to go in for another surgery. It will be my second, apparently. They will be doing something or other to my leg, I guess, and then my recovery will begin in earnest.

Honestly, this part is all a little vague. I kinda remember being wheeled into the prep for the OR, and I sort of recall conversing with the doctor, or maybe it was a nurse - or it might have been an orderly. I honestly just don’t remember now.

I do, however, remember that my catheter was removed. I am pretty sure the only reason that was not as painful as anticipated was because the anesthetic had kicked in. Still, that is not something I would inflict on anyone - Not even the bastard who hit me with a car. I had far more interesting tortures for him, or her, in mind.

Sometime following that surgery, things begin to be clearer. I start to remember friends and family visiting me, now. Apparently, at one point in all my morphine induced haze, I could not stop asking for Torrance.

Torrance was my on again, off again, on again, off again, on again, off-again-but-we’re-still-sleeping-together best friend. Or girlfriend, depending on the day of the week and the phase of the moon. And apparently, at one point during all of this, my fiancé.

Well, at least that’s what she told them at the hospital, so that they would let her see me during the "family only" visiting period. Tori and I have had a long, twisted, complicated love/hate relationship. Calling it imperfect would be generous. Calling it bizarre and largely fucked up would be closer to accurate, but through it all, we’ve still always managed to be there for one another. We’ll get into that more along the way.

Following surgery number two, I have an external fixator attached to my leg. The term "external fixator" does, sort of, illicit images of medieval torture devices and, ironically, it isn’t far from the reality of it. Pins have been screwed into various parts of my leg, two just below the knee, four at various points around my ankle, and two in the bottom of my foot.

That’s half the fun. Various metal bars and rods are attached to said pins, a "satellite" designed to keep my bones in place while I begin to heal in a far better manner than a cast would do. The fixator has basically left me with a null area above my leg that goes about eight inches or so.

Sleeping on my stomach, which is how I normally sleep, is going to be impossible with this thing on my leg. Just inside the lovely metal scaffolding that keeps my leg in more-or-less one piece, there is a very unpleasant looking bit of skin. It’s like there was a hole of some sort, and they have closed it over with what appears to be skin that may well have been removed from somewhere via a cheese slicer.

Oh, wait. That’s more-or-less accurate. It was.

It's a skin graft, taken from my upper right thigh. It had been placed to cover what I will learn is the exit wound.

Yeah, you read that right, "exit wound." As in, the point from which my shattered tibia protruded from my body.

So I am a resident of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for a time. And it is a fine hospital. It also happens to be a teaching hospital. That means I have a lot of doctors, and doctor-esque residents and students hovering over me during daylight hours. It was a veritable parade of lab coats.

My case presented them with a fine example of a multitude of broken bones and the expected lengthy recovery process. Not to mention the already multiple and complex surgeries they performed, to put me back together.

Insert sound effects and cheesy music from The Six Million Dollar Man here.

“We can rebuild him. We can make him better - stronger - faster.”

That would have been nice.

Not that I am complaining. At that point I would have been happy simply with rebuilt, like I was before I learned that the human body does not fare well against a moving car.

So now I am becoming more and more aware of my surroundings, and the fact that I am in quite a lot of pain. The meds are a nice thing; they take what would be a fairly sharp and unmanageable pain and change it to a much duller, far more manageable ache. This is going to take some getting used to.

***

Once they scooped my broken body off the street, they went through my wallet, and found my dad’s business card. On the plus side, we have the same last name. More than that, his card has his picture on it, and it is very, very obvious we are of the same blood line. So they called him, and he made other necessary calls. One of those calls, of course, was to my mother.

I love my mom, don’t get me wrong, but she is the stereotypical Jewish mother, with the exception of the accent. We are from the Midwest, and while I have lived on the east coast a long time now, she has lived, pretty much, her whole life in the middle of the country. So just imagine the stereotype of the mom nagging, but switch out the Brooklyn accent, insert a Chicago one, and enjoy the hilarity.

Anyhow, my mom is unsurprisingly very worried, and flies out. Apparently she is staying in my apartment, which is good because that means someone is watching my cat.

So mom comes by to visit, and she’s only just keeping herself together. I know it’s rough, I mean her boy is barely in one piece in the hospital, and clearly did not pay attention, as a child, to the constant reminders to, “look both ways before you cross the street.”

So my mom is here, Tori is here, My dad, my stepmom, my pal Bob, and even my sister has flown in.

Bob is still cracking jokes and making snarky comments around me. His girlfriend giggles at them in her usual way. Some of the other friends who have popped by have been their normal selves. No one is being too nice, everyone is acting as though aside from the scary satellite orbiting my leg, everything will be okay.

I take that as a good sign. Still being teased, still being joked with; okay, good, I am obviously not dying. Whew!

So I now learn from my doctor, a nice Jewish man with a strong German name, that I nearly lost my right foot. They could not, upon bringing me to the nearer hospital to my home, where the EMTs took me, find a pulse in my poor foot. Just when it looked like they may have no choice but to remove it, apparently my pulse was found.

That is some good news.

My fractured clavicle is less of a problem than the stretched nerve cluster. Yup, got a really spiffy scar across the front of my right shoulder, but the nerve damage is why my arm will not respond. That is the most fascinating and bizarre thing. You have no idea, probably, what it is like to look at your arm, lying there at your side, and while you are sending it commands to do simple things, like rise up, or bend at the elbow, or twiddle the fingers, very little is happening. A twitch here and there, but beyond that, it will not move. I push. I fight. I think really hard about it. I will it to work. I attempt to use The Force to make my arm do my mind’s bidding. No good. It is very disconcerting.

“You should begin to recover the use of your arm a little bit every day,” the doctor tells me. “And as it improves, in time there should be more and more function.”

“Am I going to completely get back the use of my arm?” I like to ask direct questions.

He hesitates. “Possibly. Only time will tell.”

Okay. Not a negative, but not the best answer I wanted.

Actually, over the next couple of days, I do begin to get back some movement in my arm. Mostly at the shoulder, and I can kind of move some of my fingers. It’s better than nothing, but damn is it frustrating.

There are some minor, albeit annoying logistical problems. First and foremost, I can’t get out of bed. My leg is pretty badly wrecked, so I am going to be unable to stand. I am still, as far as I know, human, and that means, from time to time, I gotta use the bathroom. I am no longer catheterized (thank god, or the gods, or the powers-that-be, but that’s another topic). So I now have a bottle-thing to pee in. They actually produce a plastic bottle specifically for this purpose, I will have you know. So I am peeing into a bottle.

Oddly, don’t need to poop. This might be an overshare, I realize, but when you know it is a bodily function that is supposed to occur daily, there is some concern when it is not happening for a week. Or two. Or three. But if the doctors are not showing concern about it, I’m certainly not going to worry.

So, what is going to happen now, I begin to question.

Physical therapy.

When they finish doing all they can for me here, I will be moved to a rehabilitation hospital, and begin, in earnest, my physical therapy. That should allow me to start the road to recovery, and begin work to recover use of my arm, and to get comfortable doing everyday things like standing up.

“When can I begin to walk again?”

I don’t recall just how many different answers I got to that question, but I was informed that in a few months, if my healing progresses well enough, they will be performing a third surgery, this one to repair my leg. A bone graft.

"Okay, spare me the gory details. How long til I can walk again?"

If the bone graft takes, and things heal quickly enough, I will be able to start to bear weight once again, and we will take it from there. Again, they have yet to properly answer my question.

I honestly don’t recall if I got the answer from a friend, or a relative, who in turn got the answer from a doctor, but somehow I have been told it will probably be one to three years before I am walking again.

Oh no. No no no. That’s bullshit. We’ll see about that.



Chapter 2 – A Little Insight into my life.

So, now seems as good a time as any to interject my social life into this tale of woe and misery. I have, since the early 1990’s, been a part of a world-wide medieval recreation organization called the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The SCA is, in many ways, like a big family. A big, incestuous, dysfunctional, high-school, hive-minded family, at times, but a family none-the-less. I met Torrance through the Society, as well as Jill and Bob and most of my closer friends.

In that fine organization, I take on the persona of a sixteenth century Scotsman named William MacDonald. As such, there are a number of people who call me Will far more often than Warren. Most of those people agree that I look a lot more like a Will than a Warren, whatever that means, and there is my one friend who puts it like this, “No one named Warren should be listening to Nine Inch Nails and be a fan of rollerblading.” Probably true.

Anyhow, in the SCA, my favorite activity is medieval fencing. Rapier combat. Sword fighting. I love that game. Of course, being laid up in a hospital bed is not going to be very conducive to my game.

So being of a mind to get back to my life as much as possible, as soon as possible, I have to wonder, with my leg wrecked and a long recovery ahead, and a non-functional primary arm, will I be able to fence?

If my arm does not recover - I might not.

Well, no, I actually can fence left-handed. Not quite as well as with my right, but I can.

I blame the movie The Princess Bride. One of the best scenes in that movie is the sword fight between Westley (Cary Elwes) and Inigo (Many Patinkin). They deliver the best lines.

Inigo: “I know something you do not know.”

Westley: “And what is that?”

Inigo: “I am not left-handed.”

fight - fight - fight

Westley: “There is something I should tell you.”

Inigo: “Tell me?”

Westley: “I am not left-handed either!”

Brilliant!

So I took it upon myself to learn to fence left handed. Of course, in the SCA, we sometimes fence with multiple weapons: a sword and dagger, a sword and buckler, even a sword in each hand. But when you are teaching someone new how to fence with a single sword, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of messing with them by spending some time fighting as a lefty. Then, once you have frustrated them enough, deliver the line, “There is something you do not know. I am not left handed!”

Yup. Cheesy. Somewhat obnoxious. Borderline lame. That’s me.

My extended medieval family has come by to visit from time to time, and they have treated me no differently than before. It is a good thing.

Now that I am more aware of what is going on, I have noticed that something is missing, and during one of her visits, I query my mom.

“Mom, I don’t have my chain. My necklace. I know I was wearing it.”

I have a chain that was a gift from my mother, grandmother, sister and stepfather that I only take off when I am in my medieval persona, and it is not on me at this moment.

“It’s okay,” she comforts me, then produces it, “It wasn’t stolen; your father got it, and gave it to me to give back to you. I think it’s okay now.”

So, she puts it back on me, and I feel a bit better.

Eventually I recall that, as much as it was apparently a decent day when I left my apartment to go for this fateful jaunt, I probably had thrown on my beloved leather jacket. I query my father about that.

His eyes drop, “Sorry son…they had to cut it off you.”

“They had to what?”

“You were a bloody mess, and they were not entirely sure where all your injuries were, so they had to cut you out of your jacket to work on you.”

“Oh.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I did shed a tear when I threw it out.”

*sigh*

Now, in addition to all the visitors, the physical and occupational therapists are coming by. The physical therapist is a very attractive blonde girl. I mean, wow, she’s really cute.

“Let’s begin by having you raise and lower each leg.”

Right. Not a problem. Left leg is up, then down. Right leg is up, and damned is that satellite thing heavy! Process repeated several times. Reps, even.

Did I mention that the therapist is really cute?

“Alright, Mr. Mushnik, let’s have you stand up.”

Tentatively, I swung my legs off the edge of the bed.

“Remember, all the weight has to be on the left,” she reminds me sweetly.

Got it. Left leg - is - on the floor. Right leg is - heavy, but I can keep it up, if I use my left arm to hold onto the railing of the bed.

My right arm is just hanging there.

C’mon, righty, move!

“Well, this is a good start,” she says.

I think that was the extent of my initial physical therapy.

The occupational therapist is the next to visit. Darker skinned, dark haired girl. Also extremely cute. You know, if all my therapists are this attractive, this is going to help speed my recovery.

So, she manipulates my arm for me, bends it, moves it, has me attempt to do some on my own. I can kind of move some fingers, slightly. My wrist twitches a bit, and I am beginning to be able to move at the shoulder.

“Pretty good,” she says.

I am encouraged.

It would probably be best, though, to not let Tori know that I am attracted to these lovely therapists. But then, there are a lot of things it would be best if Tori did not know. But that’s another story.

So they are nearly done with me at the hospital. That means I am soon to be moved to the rehab hospital in Rockland County. I know of that place; it’s not too far from my apartment.

Mom is sticking around, and while she and my dad have been divorced for the better part of twenty two years, dad has been really good to her, and let her take my stepmom’s car. Mom can’t drive my car. It’s a stick shift.

I remember when I was four, or so, and my mom, very pregnant with my sister, was being given a lesson in driving manual transmission by my dad. At the time, dad had a Mercedes. A two seater-convertible, even. Sweet car. I am certain it was a hand-me-down from grandpa. Grandpa loved his two-seater Mercedes.

So we’re in a parking lot, and mom is behind the wheel, and dad is trying to explain clutching and shifting. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what he had to be doing, since I drive manual and at the time I was too young to understand what he was attempting to teach mom. The classic Mercedes two-seater did not have a proper back seat. There was a hump back there. The top, when folded down, was partly stored in that hump. So I am sitting on the hump, not strapped in, while mom is attempting to drive stick.

Hey, this was the mid 1970’s. It was a far less pussy-whipped society back then. Seat belt and car seat laws were much more lenient, if not non-existent. Anyone who has driven stick knows that the hardest thing to master is getting in and out of first gear. It is a complex process involving timing and coordination and a general sense of the engine, the clutch, and other factors.

Use the Force. Feel the engine demand to be shifted.

My mom is not a Force practitioner.

So at some point, she seriously lurches the car, and I bump my head on the hard leather seat in front of me. Crying ensues. Driving lesson ends. Mom never learned to drive stick.

Since she’s staying around for a while longer, and dad has things he needs to do, he takes my car, lets my stepmom, Lucy, take his car, and has mom take Lucy’s car.

They are prepping me to move to the rehab hospital. The goal will be for me to recover enough to return to my apartment, and start in-home therapy, so that I might actually return to some semblance of my life.

It dawns on me about now that I have a choice, and this leads to one of my philosophies on life in general. I am broken. And there are really only three options before me:

1. Curl up into a ball, cry a lot, and wait to die.

2. Just wait it out. Let time have its way with me. Take it as it comes.

3. Grab the bull by the horns, and fight every step of the way.

I have never opted for option 1. Even in my most depressed state, I never was suicidal. Too much left to do in this world.

Option 2 is a good option. But that is the option that means it’s going to be one to three years before I can walk again, let alone fence.

Option 3 is going to be painful. But then, I’m pretty much constantly in pain at this point anyhow, so what’s the difference?

If I choose option three, maybe I can get back to this thing I call my life a lot bloody faster. My doctor clears me, signs the necessary paperwork, and it is time for me to go to rehab.



Chapter 3 – Rehab isn’t just for alcoholics and drug addicts.

Helen Hayes is one of the finest rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. That is a comforting fact, in especial when you consider the level of rehabilitation reassembling me is going to take.

I have what few things were with me gathered together, and my mom will be following along. So, onto the gurney and into the ambulance I go.

This would be my third trek via the back of an ambulance. The first I have no recollection of – I was somewhat of a mess at the time. The second is equally blank, since I was only a day or so from the first, and am pretty certain this is a pair of episodes I will never manage to recall.

Incidentally, there would be, years later, a fourth trek in the back of ambulance, but not due to any injury or illness of my own. We were attending a concert when a friend decided that mixing Benadryl and alcohol would make a terrific science experiment. Friend fell down and went boom, said friend’s head meeting a concrete floor rather swiftly. So I got to ride in the back of the ambulance about twenty blocks through New York City.

If you are a fan of swiftly spinning amusement park rides, or any other similar vomit inducing activities, a speeding ambulance through Manhattan, when there is no traffic, is an equal thrill. Makes the unconscious treks sound all that much better, frankly. But I digress.

This, my third trip, I was awake for, and it just so happened the EMT was an attractive female.

Yes, I know that this is the third woman I have mentioned to be attractive, and each, frankly, was very different. We aren’t even talking about Torrance nor Jillian at this point, but we’ll cover that later. The PT was a cute blond. The OT was an attractive, exotic brunette. The EMT in the ambulance was a taller, broader dirty-blond haired woman. Very different types, and all attractive in different ways.

This is the first jaunt I have taken out of my hospital bed for more than a few seconds. Previously I have arisen and stood on my good leg for less than a minute, and I have been able to sit upright for extended periods of time. Any kind of travel was not going to be happening. But now I get to take a nice, thirty minute ambulance ride, and at least the company is pleasant.

We talk about general things. Obviously a primary topic is my accident, and my current trip to rehab. She was impressed that it had only taken me three weeks to leave the hospital. Okay, I can take that as a good sign, judging by the source. EMTs see a lot of crap that makes my accident look less horrific. Of course, conversely, they see a lot that made my situation look worse.

We turn up a large hill, and I can see the building we are approaching. It is Helen Hayes. The rehab hospital is divided into different floors for different levels of care and types of rehabilitations. Some are more complex than others. For example, as I recall it, there was a floor dedicated to the rehabilitation of brain injuries. This ranged from near paralysis to impairments from strokes and other such brain traumas.

I was to be on the first floor, mostly orthopedic and similar rehabilitation. People broken in accidents like my own, some recovering from replacements of knees and hips, and still others having lesser and greater needs. I was wheeled into the room I would be sharing with three other gentlemen. Mind you, even in the hospital I had had a private room, and at this point had been living alone for about a decade or so. A situation with three new roommates was going to prove to be interesting.

So I was moved from the gurney to the bed, and immediately there was consultation about getting me more mobile again. The plan was to put me in a powered wheelchair. Having very limited use of my right arm, and no use at all of my right leg, they deemed this the best way to get me some mobility.

My mother of course was pushing to get me moved to a more private room, but in Helen Hayes the most private would still leave me with a roommate. Thanks for trying, mom.

Within less than an hour of my arrival, it was determined that I had probably had more than enough time in a bed, and even if it meant someone would have to push me around for the time being, they opted to help me into a wheelchair. Of course it was going to take a little time to get me a powered chair. So I believe it was a nurse and an orderly who helped me into the chair.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have very little patience. I don’t like to be immobilized, I like to be on the go rather constantly. It should come as no surprise that, my good foot on the ground, I started to push a bit, and see if I could maneuver the chair in the least.

Okay, good start, I can sort of use my good leg as a rudder. Mind you, my bad leg is currently elevated and pointed forward, like a lance in scaffolding. I have no doubt jousting will probably be painful. Not certain just how much pain touching the leg with any pressure will cause.

Let’s take the example of a canoe in still water here. If you always paddle on the left side, you are only going to circle around. Endlessly. Same theory was expected to apply to a wheelchair. If only the left arm and left leg are available to control and steer the chair, I’m going to spend a lot of time in circles. So much for mobility.

The words of a pair of childhood heroes came to mind with regard to that situation. The first was the sage, my personal Buddha, Yoda. “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” That might be my mantra, if I adopted a mantra. The other words were from a more brash source - Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds!”

Let me get this out of the way now. I am a geek. A really big geek. I have seen all the Star Wars movies, even the prequels, many, many times. And this is not my sole geekdom. Just putting that out there.

Ok, where was I?

Left arm, left leg, drag and steer with the leg, use the arm to turn the wheel. And I am not moving in circles. Soon I am across the room. It takes some effort to not just move in a circle, but I am nothing if not persistent!

Left arm, left leg, drag and steer, turn the wheel. I’ve returned to my starting point in less than half the time it took. I think I might have the hang of this. In minutes, I am out of the room and up to the nurse’s station.

“Hi there,” I address the nurses.

I have returned to my room. My mom is wearing that look of pride, and surprise. The best way I can describe this look is if, for example, I had won the pornography equivalent of the Oscar. Sure, she’d be proud of me, but probably surprised none-the-less.

The folks who have been making the arrangements to get me the powered chair have returned, and learned of my left-side-only wheelchair mobility progress.

“The choice is yours. That can’t be easy. Do you still want us to locate you a powered chair, or will that do?”

“No, thank you. This is fine, thanks,” I state with no hesitation in the least.

Neither the first nor the last time I would take the harder path through this.

It is time to meet my roommates. It turns out the gentleman directly across from my bed, which, by-the-way, is closest to the bathroom, is leaving that same day. Good, don’t need to give him a name. We’ll just cast some drifter in the role when we shoot the movie version of this.

Next to the random guy-not-in-this-book is Roger. Roger is nearly eighty years old. Calling him a curmudgeon would be complimentary. He’s an old codger, this guy. Roger broke his back some months ago when he fell off his roof. Why, you might ask, was Roger, a man of nearly eighty, on his roof? It would seem Roger is the strong, independent type. Roger was up on the roof adjusting his satellite dish. He missed his ladder on the way down. He is learning how to continue to be mobile, though his legs will never work again.

Roger is tough. Picture any “Old Man so-and-so” from Scooby Doo, “And I’d have gotten away with it too, if not for those lousy kids and their mangy mutt.” That would be the type that best fits Roger.

To my right, my last roommate, Carter. Carter is a college professor, and a paraplegic. I never did learn how he lost the use of his legs, and in fact I think he had no use of anything below his waist, frankly. He was mostly quiet, but seemed to be your typical academic. The stoic, thoughtful, pipe-smoking blazer-wearing, buttoned-down, old-school type. We three could not be more diversely cast unless we were being put in an episode of The Real World.

OK…so where are the fucking cameras, anyhow?

Thus begins my next step in recovery. My mom is staying in town a few more days. Wants to be sure I am all settled in here before she heads home; Mom loves to worry. While I am safe at this point, my injuries are pretty grievous - and gross, too.


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