Saturday, October 24, 2015

Living it

 Velocity and acceleration were brisk. As quickly as I sped to almost 40 mph, the surface was smooth and my pant legs billowed. Down the hill I went, enjoying myself. Without warning, instability came to visit and I was no longer in control. The paved road came to meet me in an instant. After sliding and absorbing the impact, it was quiet and I was definitely broken inside. My first instinct was to spring to my feet and find my longboard. I was able get up without the help of my limp immobile right arm. Yeah, the pain caught up and something is definitely wrong with my shoulder. What followed next at the emergency room and subsequent surgery, I will save you the details. Briefly described, I dislocated my right shoulder, broke my right arm, crushed nerves and tore tendons. Not such a great injury for a pilot. I've broken bones before but never have I been injured to this degree. In addition to the pain, loss of mobility in my right arm was not what I imagined or expected. I am right handed, so the learning curve has been steep in teaching my left side to pick up the slack. Simple everyday tasks like brushing your teeth, showering and dressing oneself is challenging. It wasn't until 2 weeks after the surgery and the pain quit demanding 100% of my attention that I was able to ponder things like work, daily responsibilities and flying.

Flying, oh boy,,, flying. How and when will I be able to go back up? The answer to that question was of course not only to be decided by me, but also my aviation medical examiner. Being stuck at home while recovering is necessary but was tough on the mind's positive outlook. Thinking about flying and when I might fly again kept me hopeful that it would be soon. During this time of recovery, my thoughts were permeated with those that have experienced significantly more disability. I have a deeper understanding now and at this moment I am still thinking heavily about those bound to wheelchairs.

As a side note, the title of this post "Living it" is not meant to compare my injuries to more severe spinal injury or loss of limbs, rather the title just describes that I am a little closer to understanding the challenges that some are faced with.

From the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, I would like to share an excerpt about depression after paralysis. It is my firm belief that life after paralysis can be vibrant, happy and definitely worth living. I also believe activities (including learning to fly) can save the mind and push away depression.

"Depression is common among people who are paralyzed, but it's not normal -- becoming discouraged, grief-stricken or sad is normal, but depression represents a condition that is a health problem unto itself. Most forms of depression, however, can be treated. While about 10 percent of the U.S. non-disabled population is said to be moderately or severely depressed, research shows that about 20 to 30 percent of people with long-term disabilities have a depressive condition. Depression affects a person in many ways. It involves major changes in mood, outlook, ambition, problem solving, activity level and bodily processes (sleep, energy and appetite). It affects health and wellness: People with a disability who are depressed may not look after themselves; they may not drink enough water, take care of their skin, manage their diet. It affects one's social world. Friends and families are tuned out. Depressed people can't find pleasure, success or meaning. Substance abuse may develop. Thoughts of suicide often occur when things look most hopeless. In spinal cord injury, for example, risk is highest in the first five years after the injury. Other risk factors include dependence on alcohol or drugs, lack of a spouse or close support network, access to lethal means, or a previous suicide attempt. People who've tried to kill themselves before are likely to try again. The most important factors in preventing suicide are spotting depression early, getting the right treatments for it, and instilling problem solving skills. Many factors contribute to depression. These may include the effects of disability -- pain, fatigue, changes in body image, shame, and loss of independence. Other life events, such as divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job or financial problems can also lead to or magnify depression. There are effective ways for helping people cope with the stresses of paralysis. Life is worth living, despite what health professionals are sometimes prone to judge: According to a Colorado survey, 86 percent of SCI high-level quadriplegics rated their quality of life as average or better than average, while only 17 percent of their ER doctors, nurses, and technicians thought they would have an average or better quality of life if they acquired quadriplegia. If you are depressed, get help, including professional counseling or participation in a support group. An active lifestyle can also help to break through depression."

For more information, please check out the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

Yep, that's me with my arm brace removed thinking about the next time I can go up.


  1. Wow! I hope you heal completely soon! I didn't know you long-boarded, did you pick that up recently? Thanks for sharing this. I have a mild phobia of becoming disabled in the sense that, I love my life so much as a healthy adult I can't see how I would cope should my able body be taken away. But I know with the Lord's help and support from my friends and family, I'd survive. I just hope I'd thrive as well! Be sure to update us when you can go back in the air :)

    1. The longboarding I picked up earlier this year. On the day of the injury, there was definitely a few things I could have done better! By the way, there are too many good things in life to let phobias interfere.