How To Survive, Step 4: Friends & family


My Mom danced into my hospital room that morning & sang “Naaaathan! You have surprise visitors!”

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My Mom

“The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders? The Swedish Bikini Team?”, I murmured. I had a traumatic brain injury & a broken spine, I thought. That was the least fate could do to repay me for the inconvenience. That’s when Bill & Lloyd, two of my high school chumkins walked through the door.

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Bill & Lloyd

Whoa. I hadn’t seen them in years. They had booked flights from Atlanta & Austin to come see me in Oregon. {humorous high school story redacted to avoid incrimination}. I couldn’t believe it! For the past few years, we’d each buried ourselves in our businesses, marriages, etc., but now we were together again, just like high school. It was on.

We decided to go for a spin, down to the hospital atrium, so I could show Lloyd & Bill my shiny new wheels & make eyes with the hottie nurses, who were on break. What happened next was a miracle. Or, seemed like a miracle to those who saw it. It happened like this…

I rolled out onto the atrium floor, toward the food court tables, when I noticed a large family, sitting at a table & staring at me. It all happened so fast. The family staring, the ethereal ray of sunlight beaming through the atrium window onto the floor right in front of me… I rolled into the beam of light & with an expression of the sheerest amazement I could muster, I stopped the wheelchair & stood up! WITH BOTH LEGS! I had broken my spine, but now I was standing! In a ray of divine sunlight! I looked up at the ceiling & mouthed “Hallelujah!” to the incredulous bewilderment of the stunned family, sitting at the table, wide-eyed, mouths open, just… staring at me. I think one of them was clapping.

Then the sound of diabolical laughter interrupted the sacred moment. I glanced behind me to see Lloyd & Bill, spitting out their coffee & roaring with laughter that trailed off into a steady cackle.

“Sit down, asshole!”

I did, because I wanted my spine to recover and, though I had stood & walked a few weeks prior, my doctors wanted me to ride out the month in my wheelchair to reduce any possibility of accidentally damaging my recovering spine.

Like I mentioned before, mood is a big factor in healing. Depression & anxiety will jack up the Cortisol (bad) and decrease your Seratonin (good). Then, you won’t heal very well. Conversely, laughter erases anxiety & helps set the stage for your body to heal. This is why family & friends are important to your recovery. Friends can’t fly out to see you? No sweat. A phone, the hospital’s WiFi link & a Facebook app ought to do the trick. No web phone? The hospital phone will keep you connected to your peeps. It worked for me. I wasn’t supposed to live but I’m good as new.

The Importance Of Avoiding Depression While Recovering From A Traumatic Brain Injury

Here’s some helpful boilerplate I’ve writtem for your friends & family:

Dear friends & fam, I am all busted up at the moment, but I’m working hard to help my body heal. To that end, I’ll need your help. If you would be so kind, please visit me, call me, text me, western union me or contact me in some form. Doing so will raise my spirits & lower my anxiety, as well as my blood pressure. This will be of tremendous help in my recovery.

Thank you, in advance,
{your name here}

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My sweet wheels (with human burrito)

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How To Survive, Step 3: Dream


I had my mind. My body was broken & locked in place, but I had my mind. If I moved at all, I could injure my spine, even worse than the rear impact car collision had injured it, further decreasing the slim chance I would ever walk again. So the doctors strapped me down & tied up all the loose ends; torso, arms, legs, hands, fingers… I felt like a cucumber, wrapped in a burrito, wrapped in cellophane, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a… well, you know. I wasn’t sure my life would ever be the same.

But I still had my mind. I could dream, imagine, set goals & make plans. And if that was all I could do, nothing could keep me from it. Would it work? No idea, Would it make me as good as new? Probably not. But if I had to choose between doing nothing & doing something, damn straight I wasn’t going to sit on my ass. Well, figuratively speaking. Here’s how it all went down…

I can move objects with my mind. Hear me out. I started playing basketball my senior year of high school, in Connecticut. I scored the first 6 points of every game. And, every game, after I’d sink my second 3-pointer, the opposing team’s coach would call a huddle & tell his players not to wait on me to drive in towards the basket, but to go out & cover me. I had zero game when it came to dribbling, so that effectively took me out of the action. But the first 6 points? Mine, bitches.

For 3 hours each night, I practiced my 3-pointers. As a basketball beginner, it still wasn’t enough. Then, I read something about Larry Byrd or Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or whoever, visualizing the act of shooting baskets in his head each night, before he went to sleep. Sounded good to me, so I tried it. Bingo. My shoot/score ratio began to climb. It worked.

20 years later, I was in a hospital bed with a broken spine. Ra ra, motivation! Your imagination can take it from here, so I’ll be brief; I set a goal of having a cup of decaf with my mom, in the ahospital’s atrium. I imagined walking there with her. EVERY NIGHT, before I went to sleep. 1 month later? Wheelchair. 2 months later? Walker. 3 months? I walked to the food court, ordered a cup of decaf… and drank it with my Mom, in the hospital’s Atrium.

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My Mom…

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The atrium.

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Coffee.

Then, I set some goals:

1 – Meet the 2 guys who saved my life** & buy them a kickass steak dinner.

2 – Meet the girl who ran over me and forgive her.

3 – Drive across the country (in a car, if need be), and see the world.

Every night, in the hospital, I dreamed of achieving my goals.

Dream about a better tomorrow. It gives you the strength to make it so.

** Jeff & Shawn, 2 off-duty paramedics, were driving their ambulance home after a hard day’s work, when they found me, dying on the side of the road. I was in respiratory failure, so they worked quickly, put me on a respirator & called in a life-flight to air-lift me to Legacy Hospital, in Portland. If they hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here.

To recap…

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1.) Thanks, Jeff & Shawn.

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2.) I forgive you, Charity.

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3.) Death Valley rules.

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How To Survive, Step 2: Laugh It Off


I used to borrow (steal) my little brother’s Popular Science subscription when we were kids. Ultimately, it saved my life. Thanks, Neil. I owe you (48 back-issues)…

In particular, I remember reading an article on the psychosomatic effects of stress on trauma patients. To paraphrase loosely, the article detailed a study on trauma patients, where a control group was left to struggle on it’s own, while a test group was fed a steady diet of comedy video. One group got Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinnison & such… and the control group got… nothing.

To sum up the results of the study, again loosely paraphrased (hey, I read it when I was a kid), all the patients in the control group died, while the test group healed miraculously and went on to win Nobel Prizes, set Olympic records and start Facebook.

That’s how I remembered it, anyway. So, when I awoke from my coma, I calculated my options:

1). Worry, stress out & die.

2). Laugh my ass off. Have fun. Heal. What did I have to lose? (besides my life)

Praying wasn’t an option as I am not superstitious. That left me with an easy choice. I decided to laugh it off. Again, I couldn’t walk, could barely talk & I couldn’t heal myself with telekinesis. Still, my mind was about the only thing I could control, so I figured I’d start there. The rest was up to luck. Worst case? If fate insisted I only had a week to live, I was going to enjoy it & go out laughing. Here’s how it went down…

The internet was the ticket for staying in touch with my friends & family, but my laptop was post-mortem (disassembled by my motorcycle accident)… so my Mom smuggled in my phone. One Facebook app later, I was in business.

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My Mom

I quickly Googled up some Hair Club for Men pictures & posted them on all my dude pals’ Facebook pages, then I dialed up Watchtower.org & scheduled some early Saturday morning Jehovah’s Witness informational visits for them. When you’re post-coma, shattered spine, you can get away with anything. Seriously. What are they gonna say? Who’s going to get mad at you? Being on a death-watch is a golden get-out-of-jail-free card. Enjoy it. I did.

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Hilarity ensued. My extended family is fairly religious, so I had fun with them, too. They’re mostly from the Appalachian hills, so they all went out, bought computers, signed up for electricity… & joined Facebook to cheer me on. And, being religious, they all wanted to know what the “other side” was like. I was in a coma, so I would surely know. I may have embellished a little bit; 666 magic elves, fire-breathing unicorns, Ozzy Osbourne background elevator muzak, etc. I had fun with it. I’m no longer invited to family reunions. Still, nobody holds a grudge. I was in a coma for Zeus’ sake.

Now I could go on about stress & cortisol or wax poetic about EEG readouts & the psychosomatic impact of Delta & Gamma brainwave states on flesh-wounds, but I don’t want to bore myself. You know how to Google. Instead, I’ll drop this analogy on you:

If your brain is the conductor of the healing orchestra in your body, marshaling it’s resources to heal you… then, do you really want to give the conductor syphilis? If you keep your brain from doing it’s job & healing your wounds, it’s going to be a shitty night at the symphony, isn’t it? Depression will kill you. Don’t worry. Laugh.

So, is laughter the best medicine? No. But it PREVENTS STRESS, which is the worst poison. Sure, it’s easy to stress out when you wake up in the hospital after a shark bit off your leg. But don’t stress out. At least you’re ALIVE. Start laughing & increase your chances of staying that way.

Recap…

STEP 1: RELAX
STEP 2: LAUGH

Here are a few places to start…
=========================
http://xkcd.com/
http://www.someecards.com
http://www.google.com/search?q=the+far+side&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&ei=Ni5HT6CJEqamiQLCsJnaDQ&ved=0CEkQsAQ

STRESS prevents healing…
==========================
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050729063608.htm
http://biology.about.com/library/weekly/aa070998.htm

And, here are some cross-country pics…

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Somewhere in Montana

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Somewhere in Wyoming

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Somewhere in Idiotville

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How To Survive, Step 1: Relax


“Get me some peanut butter.”

Those were my first words out of the coma.

“Grab his head! Grab his head!”. These were the first words I heard, as the static began to clear. Not being a fan of having my head grabbed, I expressed my displeasure;

“I’ll punch YOU in the head”…

Except, I spoke those words to my Mom.

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Now, I can only imagine that the most beautiful words any woman could ever hear, would be the first words of her child, waking from a coma.

Unless her child is me.

My opening lines were even more of a surprise to my doctors, as they hadn’t expected me to ever wake up from the coma in the first place. In fact, the night my life-flight helicopter landed on the roof at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, in Portland, Oregon, the trauma docs didn’t expect me to live through the night. But thanks to a little luck, a little determination and the ninja medical staff at Legacy Hospital, I did.

But I was still pretty broken; shattered spine, busted ribs, cerebral contusions, blood on my brain, etc.

I’d love to tell you that, at that point, I devised a plan to survive, but it would be a lie. That didn’t happen until the following week. Before then, I wasn’t sure if I was Batman or Napoleon Bonaparte. You don’t just wake up from a coma & win Final Jeopardy. It takes awhile for reality to set in.

But when it did? I learned I was in bad shape. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t move… I could barely talk. There didn’t seem to be too much I could accomplish. It’s not like I could suit up & hit the weight room, right?

But I decided I’d better learn what I COULD do, and, eventually, I came up with a 3-step plan. I survived. You can, too. Here’s how:

STEP ONE: RELAX

Sleep it off… I remember reading somewhere, that the brain had evolved with one primary purpose; HEAL the body. Thinking came later, but job one: HEAL THE BODY.

I figure my brain has a finite computing capacity; 69 trillion godzillahertz, or whatever, so, like my PC, if I tried to run too many apps, it would crash. Blue screen of DEATH? No thanks. I figured if I gave it less to do, it could focus on healing my broken parts.

So, I closed my eyes & turned off the lights. I gave my brain room to work.

Let’s recap… STEP ONE: RELAX

Sleep it off.

PS – I’m still alive, running 5 miles per day, and driving across the country (in a car this time). Here are some pics. Enjoy…

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Yellowstone National Park

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Ghost town; Rhyolite, Nevada

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I can’t talk about this one.

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Dude-Skills 101: Fun with Facebook


Geo-Caching is probably cool, or whatever, but Geo-Bashing & Gag-Tagging are way better. I’m pretty sure I invented them. If not, I coined the cool names. I’ll explain how they work, but only after I explain how dudes develop guyness. I’ll explain this so chicks, girly-men & dudes raised in the jungle by wolves can understand the “why” behind Geo-Bashing/Gag-Tagging. Follow…

The dude gender shoulders the responsibility to “provide”, but before that can happen, little dudes must first learn:

A) how to deal with stress
B) how to think on their feet
C) how to NOT get an ass-whooping or eaten by a bear

When we were hunter-gatherers, dude-childs developed strength, agility, cunning & farting skills, through a series of challenges from their elders. I don’t know what those challenges were. I wasn’t around. Get off my ass.

Fast forward. Evolution. Today. Dudes still learn A-C, through SCORN, DERISION & HUMILIATION, at the hands of their elders & their piers.

If they cry? FAIL. Otherwise, they prove their dudeness. This process became the basis for male bonding, which will never change. Ever. After all, if you can stand a good teasing from your friends, a vicious, brutal teasing, then you can kill a sabre-toothed mountain lion. With your BARE HANDS. No problem. The life-long value of this is universally self-evident, among dudes. Got it? Good. Moving on…

But, what if you don’t have mad dude-skills? Are you less of a dude? Yes (for now). Is there something wrong with you? No, but if you run into a sabre-tooth mountain badger, you’re dinner.

Stop crying. You can develop dude-skills & become a real, manly man. Here’s how…

Step 1: GEO-BASHING: Ever clicked “check in”, from your phone, on Facebook or FourSquare? What do you see?

1. Starbucks
2. Walmart
3. Desi’s TuTus & Ballerina Supply
4. Hair Club for Men, treatment center
5. Amp U. Tate’s STD Clinic

Yeah? OPPORTUNITY. Which would your dude-friends LEAST like to see on their Facebook wall? What would humiliate them THE MOST? Bam. Check them in. They’ll be better men for it. Exhibit A: this is ESPECIALLY funny if dude is obsessing about slowly losing his hair. Help him grow a pair of balls…

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GAG-TAGGING: In battle, Cromagnons gagged at the site of blood & guts. They got distracted. That’s how the Neanderthals killed all of them. Want to survive? And wrestle alligators? Don’t gag. Train yourself. Like this… Exhibit B:

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Step 1: upload to Facebook.

Step 2: tag your dudes.

Step 3: sit back & laugh (cruelly)

IN SUMMARY: dude-bonding + dude-skills development. Remember: Adversity builds strength. Make them suffer. Next time they face a sabre-toothed mountain weasel, they’ll thank you.

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My Bucket List


Current Location: Death Valley, CA…

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2 years ago, last month, I almost died. 5 months ago, I drove across the country. Today, I’m driving back. Here’s why…

Late one night. July 23rd. I sat awake, pondering the things I’d never done but always wanted to do, but almost never had the chance, because… well… I almost died. It occurred to me that I’d never driven across the country.

So I got in my car and left.

Now, after my accident, I can relate better to old people. At least, we have more in common; I can’t remember shit. My vision sucks. Young people piss me off. Oh, and I can’t remember shit. Commonalities lead to bonding and, suddenly, I got along with old people. In time, they accepted me as one of their own. And made me their leader. And, I would ask them; “how’s your bucket list coming along? Did you check off #1 yet?”

“No… no… Not yet.”, they’d say.

“Well, YOU’RE OLD. What are you waiting for?”

“Too busy. No time. See, my cat got syphilis & I uad to take her to the vet. Then, I had to pick up the dry-cleaning. Shit. I haven’t even opened the mail yet, etc. But one of these days, I’ll get around to it…”

“One of these days, you’ll be dead. Look at you. You’re older than time. Shouldn’t you get around to it sooner, than later? Like, NOW?”

“Well, maybe. One of these days…”

“Knock Knock! Who’s there? Death! At your door, Old Timer…” (They like it when you call them that. Try it.)

So, you’re alive. But you never had time to… live. Hear that sound? That’s your coffin lid, shutting on all the things you hoped to accomplish in your brief life…

But, back to lmost dying. It’s a funny thing. Well, your Mom won’t be laughing it up… count on that… but, anyway, almost dying has a way of making you think about your mortality… in ways you never did before. And, reflecting on your demise?

Well, that gives you the opportunity to think about life. And your life?

It’s a death sentence. Life. Is a death sentence. Your time is running out. You only exist for a fraction of a hair of a cosmic nanomillimicrosecond. What on Earth will you do with all that time?

Poof.

Morgan Freeman summed it up best in Shawshank Redemption…

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HOW 2 SURVIVE


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After I awoke from my coma, I searched for a blog or first-person account from a survivor. Well, that’s not entirely true. After I awoke from my coma, I thought I was on a 4-star pleasure cruise. My whole family was there, everyone was smiling… & attractive women, in matching uniforms, were bringing me breakfast in bed. The food was delicious. For some reason or another, I had a fist full of $20s in my left hand to tip the wait staff. I made it rain. And I was SO excited to see everyone! This was the BEST VACATION, EVER!

But I wasn’t sure why my Mom burst into tears & began sobbing when I ordered a bottle of champagne & some hot wings for my brother & his girlfriend.

Days later, it occurred to me that I was strapped to that bed & wearing a body cast. The docs laid it on me: I’d been in an accident & my spine was broken. Brain damage, too. I had contusions on every lobe of my noodle except the Parietal. My Occipital had seen better days, which is why I wasn’t seeing very well. My L&R Frontal lobes, which compute actions & consequences, judgment, etc., were pretty mashed up, but I’m pretty sure they never worked anyway, so… no biggie there.

So there it was: shattered spine, brain damage, some busted bones in my torso & a scratch on my left knee. I knew my odds weren’t so good, because if they were, they’d have told me; “You’re gonna be fine! No worries!”… over & over again. But nobody ever tells a patient; “Your survival odds are just shy of 5%. At best. In all likelihood, you’re TOAST. Prepare your will, ASAP”.

Well screw that. NOBODY tells me when I’m gonna croak, or doesn’t tell me when they’re thinking it. So I figured I’d better find a blog by someone who lived. A DIY guide. Time to get inspired… Ink my game plan… and SURVIVE, bitches.

I never found that blog. So I wrote It.

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