Regain, restore, recover, redemption

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 57, No. 9, November 2015, Page 376 Editorials

I’m not sure which word best fits but I have recently experienced all four. A year ago my life was altered by a collision with a large metal object. I don’t like to dwell on the what-ifs, but a few millimetres make a big difference when it comes to your cervical spine and cord. Suffice it to say I feel blessed to be alive and mobile. The memories of my months in a hard cervical collar are fading, but I haven’t forgotten the general malaise of just feeling less. It wasn’t so much the neck pain or arm weakness/numbness that made me feel this way but the loss of my former self. I found relying on others for formerly simple, mundane tasks very difficult and humbling. Exercise is a huge part of my life and I definitely identify with being a recreational athlete. Having that part of my identity taken away led to feeling weak and vulnerable. I received a small glimpse of what my life could have become if my injuries were more severe and permanent. In retrospect, feeling weak, vulnerable, and humbled is a valuable, character-building experience that I would rather have avoided but is now part of my life lessons.

One of the first questions I asked my neurosurgeon, M Squared (I have disguised Dr Mark Matishak’s name so as to not embarrass him) was about my exercise options. Initially I was limited to walking and stationary biking. However, no limit was put on amount so it is possible that I went for long walks that I don’t really remember due to the mind-altering affects of opiates. I know this because someone mentioned they saw me miles from home walking in little circles whistling to myself. As my recovery progressed it is also possible that I pushed the limits a little. I am here to testify that strange looks come your way when you jog or lift weights while sporting a neck brace. Stop the eye rolling; I swear I didn’t ride my bike outside until the brace was off. However, the brace may have had faulty Velcro fasteners and fallen off prematurely. I distinctly remember my first road ride as an anxiety-filled, sphincter-testing fear-fest complete with hallucinations of silver cars flying at me.

Things steadily improved from there and I began to contemplate competing again. I chose a triathlon in Santa Cruz, California, which was scheduled almost 1 year from the date of my accident. When the big day arrived and I lined up on the beach with my fellow age groupers, the prerace jitters were replaced by a sense of calm as I reflected on the year’s journey. I felt happy to be alive and to have a body that was up to the physical challenge of the next few hours. How many others would love to have this gift? I kept this thought in the forefront of my mind as I swam, biked, and ran. As the miles passed, my lips settled into a small smile of gratitude. As I crossed the finish line, my eyes filled with tears as the words flowed—regain, restore, recover, redemption.

David R. Richardson, MD. Regain, restore, recover, redemption. BCMJ, Vol. 57, No. 9, November, 2015, Page(s) 376 - Editorials.

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