On 8/26/2016, I wrote my first article, on the subject. The article is "I'm Still Alive – Why?"
That article was my seventy-first article. This article, published on 3/29/2021, is my two hundredth article. In the one hundred and twenty nine articles that I have written, in between 8/26/2016 and 3/29/2021, I have commented on various aspects of my ongoing “bionic” life. My 3/21/2021 article, by short title, "My 'Bionic' Excuse," included three X-rays. If you haven't seen my “pretty pictures,” feel free to look – only if you are not too squeamish.
In this 200th article, I will summarize main details, perhaps adding a few new items along the way. My purpose is not simply to “tell my 'bionic' story.” I have a friend and brother in Christ, whom I have not met yet in person. He is in the early stages of his ongoing recovery. His malady is different than my multi-trauma (as they call it) has been. The stages of ongoing recovery, however, are and will be similar. I want to inspire my friend and brother in Christ. His recovery may be quicker than mine, which is ongoing, for about five more years or so.
I hope that my readers, in general, are inspired also. Never give up! It is step by step and day by day.
I will set the details in stages. Afterward, I will write concluding remarks.
Stage One (3/29/2016 – 5/4/2016; 36 days in two hospitals)
The following is a segment from my yet unfinished and unpublished book, “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” I had written the segment, on 8/24/2016, very early in my still ongoing recovery.
On 3/29/2016, Tuesday, life as I had known it ended. I was driving home from the office. An 18-year-old female -- who had no auto insurance, no income, and no resources -- failed to yield to my right of way. She turned left, directly into the left front quarter panel of my truck. My ’95 Nissan truck died. I almost did. After 36 days in two hospitals, I came home on 5/4/2016, to continue the multiple weeks of recovery and physical therapy. My upper left arm, right knee, and right foot have a combined 25 metal pins or screws in them. My brain managed to slosh back into place fully. My left eye recovered fully. My job was held open, for when I would be able to return, from my “sabbatical.” Despite a still swollen foot and ankle and stiff knee, I can walk, with a limp, even without the crutch (for a short distance).
On 8/24/2016, I have written again. It was my attempt to find a way to overcome the absolute boredom, of staying indoors, with still no truck to drive – even if my damaged right foot would have allowed.
I did not know that I was alive when the surgeon repaired my shoulder and knee. My brain had “sloshed back into place,” in time for me to speak with my surgeon, before he repaired my right foot. That was on April 13th. He knew that I hiked. He said, “you will hike again. It may not be until the fall.” From his words, I had speculated my full and complete recovery later in 2016! I was wrong. I am still recovering.
I was at the University of Tennessee Medical Center from March 29th to April 19th – 21 days. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman, bless her heart, was with me daily, even when my brain was still sloshing, and I didn't know anything. Family, friends, and neighbors visited. I don't remember some of the visits. I almost died twice, so my wife tells me, due to the concussion. After about ten days, I started to become aware that I was alive and that I was in a deep dark hole. I started to think about how I could get out of that hole. I am on the upper edge of that hole now. I'm still working on climbing out fully.
I remember some, limited, physical therapy. My right leg to foot were immobilized completely. The wheelchair and my wife got me around. I couldn't read or watch television, unless I wore the patch over my left eye. Otherwise, I was seeing double. The ice cream, on the outside deck, on which ever floor we were, were good times! I was outside at least, with my wife pushing me around in the wheelchair and buying the ice cream.
April 19th was my transition, by ambulance, to Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. It is part of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. I remember the fifteen days there much better. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman continued by my side, wheeling me around in the wheelchair, etc. It was “fun.” (Do not eat a full bag of chocolate covered peanuts! You will pay for it, on the portable commode seat, later! No worries! I could wipe my back side, with my right hand, not my left. My wife had the “fun” of flushing the mess, in the hospital room commode.)
I think my wife took the above photograph of my right leg at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, in late April. Those hospital beds are NOT comfortable. I slept on my bed, or tried to do so. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman slept, or tried to do so, on the bed beside me. (I had a private room.) Near bedtime, the nurse finally stopped asking me if I needed a pain pill. NO! Give me two Tylenol pills. I'll sleep. I did, well enough. I don't know what pain medicine they pumped in me, in the early days, when I was, apparently, trying to not die. When I became aware of reality, I refused all pain pills! I had wanted to know the feelings of the damage, to know how to get out of the dark hole.
I had, daily, except Sundays, what I call “brain” therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, several times a day. My wife had to wheelchair me, via the elevator, to the location each time. Several good therapists were there. I remember Heather, by first name. She was the best. Saturdays were a lighter schedule. I was glad. I was always trying to endure. Oh, I got a good bench seat shower every week! I managed to get to the point that the nurse didn't need to see my private areas! I could do it alone. Well, my wife helped some with my private areas, bless her heart. She had seem them before.
“Brain” therapy was mental games, to see how well my brain was doing. They were easy, but I fatigued quickly, as my brain still recovered. I moved my left hand in circles on a table. My left hand picked up toy items to stack (as a child would). I don't know why they wanted me to play cornhole. I couldn't toss with my dominate and busted up left arm. I had to use my right. When I was allowed to start trying to bend my right knee, I tried to turn the pedals on a stationary bicycle, with my right leg. I couldn't do it. There were other aspects of the therapy. I remember them all. My concussioned brain was working correctly.
As in Star Wars, “May the 4th be with you!” On May 4th, my 15 days at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center were done. I could manage to transition from wheelchair to our 2008 Honda Civic passenger side, with painful effort trying to move my right leg, from knee down, forward enough to fit inside the car. (The seat was back as far as it could go.) I was home. It felt good. I was inside. I could see Molly (our 'ol puppy) through the windows. Family, friends, and neighbors started to visit, at certain times.
Stage Two (48 Out-Patient Physical Therapy Sessions)
The wheelchair, portable commode, shower bench, and other items came home also. The commode stayed near me, in the living room. I could transition from wheelchair to couch and from couch to portable commode, using my good left leg. My right leg looked like a toothpick. My left shoulder looked pushed in and down. I didn't have a left pectoral muscle.
(If you don't or can't use muscle, it will be gone in two weeks. You have to rebuild it all. I did. My right leg has the same power as my left leg. My shoulders are even. My left pectoral has been back for years. My left side neck muscles look the same as my right side neck muscles. It has taken time and effort, day by day. When I was able to have my wife begin taking me to our chiropractor, my bones kept alignment. We still see our chiropractor, ever four weeks, for tune ups. My bones keep alignment. My soft tissue still needs improvement.)
The best “fun” of being home, before I could manage to shower, using the shower bench, with my wife's help, in her bathroom, was when my wife gave me a weekly sponge bath, in our kitchen. Warm water can become cold quickly! I endured. My wife endured. Thanks, wife!
On 5/3/2016, the day before my discharge to home, Mrs. Appalachian Irishman helped me arrange the TEMPORARY wheelchair ramp, from driveway to front porch. On the day that I came home, 5/4/2016, the ramp was installed. I never did photograph the entire ramp. It was TEMPORARY.
Oh, here is a “pretty” picture of my right leg. I'm on the couch. You can see various TEMPORARY devices in the image. I took the photograph on 6/6/2016. The what I called “100 lb.” knee brace was off. I still have it. I still have the boot for my foot. They are souvenirs.
At some point after 5/4/2016, I had the “joy” of my three sixteen-session rounds of out-patient physical therapy. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman drove me to and from each one. Let's see. Three times sixteen is forty-eight, right? I thought so.
The location was at the Orthopaedic Center, near the University of Tennessee Medical Center. My wife tried to miss the rough spots on the roads to and from the Center. My right foot and knee still felt every one of them. My wife would have to “trap” Molly in her basement condominium, temporarily, while she got me to and from the house and car, using that ramp. (We had several times of rainy weather “fun.”) After a while, she didn't need to “trap” Molly temporarily! I could see Molly, briefly, outside! I had managed, over time, to get from wheelchair to rolling walker! Eventually, I could rolling walker down and up the ramp, with my wife nearby.
I had taken my first “baby steps,” three in all, on 6/16/2016. I've written about that before. You can find details in my archived articles. Granny Wood was born on 6/16/1901.
The effort to get from wheelchair, to rolling walker, to walking stick, then to no help was NOT fun. I can endure pain. There were times that, almost cursing, I had to tell a therapist, “STOP! I'M DONE.” I couldn't move my shoulder, knee, or foot – which ever was the target of work at the time – any farther, in which ever direction. After many attempts, I could, finally, get the stationary bicycle to turn a full circle, with my right leg!
I set my own home physical therapy schedule. (I've written about it before.) They wanted my home routine to be three times, for 30 minutes, a day. I knew that I could do more. The trips to and from out-patient therapy were usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My schedule was five hours daily. Each hour started at 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, and 5 PM. I skipped the 1 PM and 3 PM schedule on my out-patient therapy days. I included all seven days of the week, usually. Sometimes, I had to take a weekend or at least a Sunday off. Sometimes, when I was “feeling my oats,” I added a 7 PM one hour extra!
The out-patient therapy was NOT fun. I endured. My wife knows the details as well as I do. By the way, NEVER say, “suck it up, buttercup” to me! I heard it a couple of times at therapy. I educated the ones who said that to me. They learned. I endured. Remember, as I phrase it, “no gain; no pain!” If you want to gain, take the pain.
Stage Three (“Normal” Life Returning)
Papaw Ferrell passed away, on 11/21/1970. On 11/21/2016, I drove the car to and from the location, to check out my soon-to-be “new, 'ol” truck, 2006 Nissan Frontier. 11/24/2016 was Thanksgiving. (Mom was born on Thanksgiving, 11/24/1932.) The next day, I drove our car, with my wife with me. We got my new, to me, truck! You've seen his photographs many times, if you have been reading my website. He loves to have his picture taken.
12/7/2016, Pearl Harbor Day, was my first trip, in my truck, to and from the homeplace. It had been a while. The homeplace was, and still is, surviving well enough.
12/19/2016 was my first day of return from my work “sabbatical.” The first two weeks were working Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only. Afterward, I resumed the Monday through Friday routine. I started back to work too soon. I knew it later. I endured it. We needed my paychecks. My wife's pay could keep us going, on the monthly costs plus some extra for retirement, maybe. (I had budgeted our construction to permanent home mortgage that way, in 2003, as I tried to think ahead.) My pay had to kick in, to help.
The only financial “help” that we had was (a) the insurance pay for my '95 Nissan that had died and (b) the months of paid leave that I had accumulated on my job. My health insurance and our automobile insurance folks had asked me to let them know, if I could ever get any money from the “turnip” that had tried to kill me, on 3/29/2016. They had tried, with failure. I didn't care. I was trying to work on surviving!
12/22/2016 was a winter day – either way, if you count winter starting on 12/1 (as I do) or on 12/21. I hiked House Mountain (loop trails at least). That was #137 and #1 “bionic.” I had missed my surgeon's prediction by ONE day ONLY. As I have written, “a man has to start somewhere.”
On 1/28/2017, my new 'ol truck and I hauled to the dump the TEMPORARY ramp! By MYSELF, as I wanted to do, I ripped apart and broke up that ramp! It took more than one day. 1/28/2017 was the final day.
The above photograph is the final load that my truck and I hauled off. That was a psychological victory!
12/3/2017 was my House Mountain hike #141 (#5 “Bionic”). I happened to meet my friend, Mr. Antonov. We had hiked together several times, and I had met him on the trails many times before. (My hiking log has the details, for family, who may access my log. I might publish my log, but not today.) This was our first time to meet, since I acquired my “bionics.” We talked. I told him about my “fun,” so far. He examined me on the ridge line. I remember the exact location. He has a doctorate in nuclear physics. He has a self-educated doctorate in many other fields, including medical. After he listened to me, asked questions, and examined me, he stated, “It will take you ten years, before you do not notice much, if any, difference.” That was his way of telling me that my ten-year recovery (well, I hope ten years only) was underway well.
Mr. Antonov was right. Various medical folks have speculated many things. I was told that I would never serve a tennis ball over my head again. I have been able to do that a long time now. I continue, day by day, slowly but steadily. I have had to go backward, temporarily, to go forward more times than I can count.
Stage Four (Life, “Such As It Is,” Continues)
If you read my articles from 8/29/2016 to today (3/29/2021), you will notice that life, “such as it is,” continues. I'm still standing here. I ain't breathing hard!
The soft tissue (i.e., muscle, ligaments, etc.) are still my work in progress. Each “bionic” joint still feels the differences. I do not feel pain – unless I've reached the point of “pain” is my “new normal.” No, it's not pain. It's tightness only now. Each step feels different, for my right foot. I have taken some steps where both steps felt the same. I like those moments!
Today marks the half way point, in my ten-year recovery. I hope Mr. Antonov was right. I think that he was. I should know. I am inside my body. The step-by-step, day-by-day process continues.
I do not concern myself with the mundane details of my temporal life. I write on “polytics,” etc., at times. It's temporal stuff. I take temporal life in the everlasting perspective. My sarcastic humor helps.
Each morning, I still do various stretches, before getting out of bed. I have been taking hot to cold showers for so long that I don't remember when I started. I have taken a year of deep tissue massage therapy. I have tried all the various creams and ointments. I have inquired about other types of therapy and found no interest. I even tried the “marijuana” sublingual liquid. All it did was give me the munches! That didn't last long. I KNOW what I have ENDURED. There are other details. My wife knows them.
Hey! I need to get House Mountain hike #178 done! It will be a future hike. Let's hike! I DO NOT BACK DOWN. I ENDURE. I'M THAT STUBBORN, as long as I have life in this body.
On 11/3/2016, I started writing “Punctuated Providence.” It will be an addendum to my yet unpublished, “Light at the End of the Tunnel” book. One segment reads:
God, however, will allow disease, sorrow, calamity, injury, and death to occur in our lives – whenever, at the most inappropriate times. My years after our return from Russia demonstrate that. My current situation demonstrates that. In providence, God may protect us from the above, or he may allow it to come, and to come in waves. We want to know why he acts in providence at times and why he does not at times. He does not tell us. He may tell us in heaven. We may “cuss and fuss.” We may loose the zeal of what once was a strong faith. We may give up. I have done these.
The bottom line is that I am still saved by God’s grace through my faith. My faith, punctured by pain, is not what it once was. God is not as close as he once was. Why has he allowed so much tragedy, since we came back from Russia? He only knows. I do not. He will not tell me why. I just trust that he has his reasons. Whatever. Blah, blah, blah . . . .
This 3/29/2021 article is relatively trivial, folks! When I publish my book, my “bionic” life will be a side note only. My “Light at the End of the Tunnel” book goes back to events that started on 12/28/1999. It involves my godly mother. Since then, my “five scars” are healing. They have been: emotional, relational, spiritual, theological, and occupational.
My 3/29/2016 physical damage was trivial. My emotional damage is nominal. My relational damage is relative (no pun intended). My spiritual and theological statuses have improved. My occupational life endures, until I can retire.
I am ready to go HOME, to my everlasting life. I did not take the journey HOME, on 3/29/2016. I will take it eventually. I am READY to go HOME!
Are you ready? If not, you are welcome to comment or to e-mail me. My e-mail is in my website heading. Otherwise, don't concern yourself with the temporal too much (i.e., work, “polytics,” economics, etc.) Work on the family and friends temporal items.
I need to get this article posted. I may have a follow up article in a few days, with more photographs. Y'all keep turnin' right and goin' straight out there! E-mail me, if you would like to start a conversation. I'm standing by. (No, I gave up that wheelchair long ago!)