The only thing I could feel was fear. I vaguely remember a short boat ride across the river from where the big bummer took place. From there it was a quick Medi-Flight ride above Sacramento to the hospital. A handful of firefighters and paramedics shot me out of the back of the ambulance like a wave breaking on the asphalt. Then the excitement began. My fear started to grow as the paramedics and doctors and nurses continually had little private conversations and powwows, obviously discussing the extent of the visible damage that I’d done to myself. I looked on. No, that wasn’t possible. I couldn’t turn to look because my neck was immobilized by a couple of blocks of big yellow foam. So I listened. It was so chaotic that trying to eavesdrop on these people was near impossible. I guess that a conversation would probably have to wait.
The whole furball of activity really seemed surreal because you seldom see this kind of thing outside of a TV episode. People were barking orders insisting on bags of this and tubes of that, sprinkled with short breaks of the murmuring powwows. I remember thinking, as people hung over my head looking down at me, that their startled looks began to mirror how I felt. My line of sight became a camera’s point of view looking up from the ground in a football huddle of medical personnel. It was the same thing you see on ER, the little pen lights shining in my eyes along with questions being shouted at me.
“Oh shit, they think I’ve gone deaf,” I thought. The questions kept coming while trying to calm me down at the same time. I began to panic once I remembered that I was in California, far from home and the only people really close to me weren’t with me when I had the accident. I kept pleading with the nurses to find my friends, giving their names thinking that someone I was with would be able to locate my job application or something. I knew of someone, the only one who could really offer any comfort was in San Francisco at the time and I had no idea how to reach her. I was also constantly repeating my Mom and Dad’s names and number. I felt like a desperate soldier shouting out coordinates for an airstrike while my body was being blown to bits.
As the night wore on the chaos was reduced to a low simmer. There were nurses ever present and soon a parade of gentlemen, obviously the guys with the big paychecks, entered one after the other to take a peek. Occasionally two would return together. They would confer and concur that I was really fucked. It was at this time that one of the doctors pulled out a good-sized needle or was it a pin and began sticking me asking “Feel that?, feel that?, can you feel that?” Every time he asked, my response was the same. Every time I said it, my heart sunk lower and lower. Into the pit of my stomach where I discovered I could still feel nausea and that deep sucking feeling you get after you’ve been in a close call with another car, or when you dive into a river leaving yourself motionless and unable to feel a thing.
The most thrilling moment of my life occurred about two months after my accident(which I’ve lovingly dubbed The Big Bummer.) I was progressing at a snail’s pace toward what I can only imagine was going to be my new normal (whatever the hell that was.) I was moved out of the intensive care unit after a nightmarishly long stint that was accompanied by routine nightmarish morphine trips, a nightmarish nurse whose evil was surpassed only by her heart shredding hotness and two screws tightened sharply into the base of my skull.
Indeed, it is true that I’m going to hell (simply an educated guess on my part along with innumerable suggestions from certain women in my life. However, when I roll into church, the ceiling still holds) my years of preparation of entering and reemerging from the string of horrors immediately after my accident should see me through fine. Each step I take now (figurative sarcasm) down my yellow brick road is accompanied by some form of final exam or certification before I can move on. To get out of ICU they had to stabilize my neck. Two plates and 9 inches of wire later my ticket was punched and I was declared stable to venture forth onto the Neurologic floor where my quest for answers continued. But what I really needed to know was, after all the spaghetti has hit the fan, all the spaghetti, in the end, who or what will I be?
I’m still just Steve, right? The thrill came in the form of a rehab session where I discovered and much to the surprise of my therapist, a flicker in my right bicep! This indicated my brain was still able to talk to my limbs. This small but major revelation began a twenty year dream of moving my arm again. Dreams tend to vary, in there validity or believability the closer they resemble reality. For twenty years, not much has changed. For one thing, my fear has become acceptance. My physical self changes as I grow older as a disabled man. Spiritually, my search of questions no longer takes me outside for answers. Everything I needed to know, from the ER to the struggles I share with many resides just below the surface of my skin.