It has taken me a very long time to come to terms with this, and I don’t think I’m still yet able to comprehend all it means. I am disabled. Yea, I can walk. I’m not on oxygen. There are many in a much worse situation. There won’t be any placards in my car to get a better parking spot, and I’m not claiming Social Security benefits. It doesn’t negate the fact that I am less abled to do things I once took for granted.
I cannot put my daughter on my shoulders. I cannot have another day at the gym where I walk away with that pump and aggression from creating extra testosterone from 800lb squats. I cannot even cook big meals any longer. Looking down causes far too much pain. My neck has 14 screws, and I literally have a screw loose. I’m not the man my wife married. I’m not the daddy who can play with his daughter.
I remember shortly after the last surgery when I was trying to cut my own hair with my clippers. My arm above my head pinched a nerve, and I dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes. The pain was excruciating. The pain I’ve had randomly over the last nine years has redefined my 10 on the pain scale. Most days, I don’t get close to a 10, but it happens about once a week.
Everything started from a car accident on January 19, 2011. A guy hit my car as he exited a parking garage on K Street in DC. In September of that year, I had my first surgery. I probably should have exhausted other options, but my neurosurgeon was confident that the surgery would be necessary. In January of 2012, I started to feel a lot more pain. A CT revealed a screw had worked its way out from the plate. Many other attempts were made to get relief from drugs to physical therapy, but in the end, I opted for another surgery that added two bars and eight more screws to my neck. The pentacles on T1 were too thin to add screws, so the surgeon jumped over it and added T2 and T3 to the fusion. T1 is where I had the loose screw, so it hangs by one screw and the “fusion” of bone. I don’t think I ever fully fused. I feel too much movement to think it is solid.
The incision in my back to get to T2 and T3 cut deep into the muscle, and it wasn’t as linear as it should have been. The scar tissue healed in a criss cross pattern. Using the muscles meant it didn’t work the same way. Overuse became common, and pain followed. This lead to being a lot more sedentary. That only made it worse.
On September 6, 2019, while walking into a Staples, three cars were coming down the road between the parking lot and the store fronts by a Staples. The first two were Slingshots, the cool little cars with two wheels up front and one in back. They were turning into the parking lot, so I proceeded to cross the street as they turned into the parking lot. The third driver must have been looking at how cool those cars were because he didn’t notice my fat ass in the middle of the street. He hit me and tossed me down the street. He hit my ass on the left side. I had a can of Rockstar in my back pocket that exploded on impact and ripped the pocket out of the jeans exposing my ass for the world. I flew feet first and landed on my ass then back and then my head smacked the pavement. The guy who hit me didn’t say anything to me the whole time I laid there screaming, “Fuck,” until right before an ambulance took me away. That is when he said, “Sorry.”
Little did I realize at the time, but I had a concussion. Months followed where I thought I was being forgetful or loopy because of the pain medication. Weening myself off everything but Motrin on occasion, I realized it was my head. This lead to me carrying a book with me everywhere to write down everything. My memory was awful. It still is, which scares me. I’ve stopped midsentence with no knowledge of what I was saying. Some might say it is old age or that they have had that their whole lives. Not me. My brain power was all I had left. My body was already crippled, regardless if I was ready to admit it. I’m hoping that my brain gets better, but using pain meds has made that difficult.
I just needed to put that out there. I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want any special treatment. I just needed to say it out loud and admit it to myself.