Monday, March 29, 2021

Four Stages, So Far, of My “Bionic” Journey: 3-29-2016 to 3-29-2021 (published 3-29-2021)


On 8/26/2016, I wrote the first article on this topic. It's titled "I'm Still Alive – Why?"

That was my 71st article. This is my 200th article. In the 129 articles that I have written, between 8/26/2016 and today, I commented about various aspects of my ongoing “bionic” life. The 3/21/2021 article, with the short title “My 'Bionic' Excuse,” included three X-rays. If you haven't seen the “pretty pictures,” feel free to look – only if you are not too squeamish.

In this 200th article, I summarize the 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 yet met in person. He is in the early stages of his ongoing recovery. His malady is different from my multi-trauma (as they call it). 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. Mine is ongoing and may continue for about five more years or longer.

I hope that readers, in general, are inspired as well. Never give up! It is step-by-step and day-by-day.

The details are set in stages. The concluding remarks move from temporal to everlasting.

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The following is a segment from my yet-unfinished and unpublished book, “Light at the End of the Tunnel.”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 a 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 him, before he repaired my right foot. That was on Wednesday, 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 on 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, due to the concussion, so my wife tells me. 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 limited physical therapy. My right leg and foot were immobilized completely. The wheelchair and my wife got me around. I couldn't read or watch television, unless I wore a patch over my left eye. Otherwise, I was seeing double. The ice cream, on the outside deck, on which ever floor, was good! 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 the 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, and so forth. It was “fun.” (Do not eat a full bag of chocolate-covered peanuts! You will pay for it later, on the portable commode seat! 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.)

In late April, I think that my wife took the above photograph of my right leg at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. Those hospital beds are not comfortable. I slept, or tried to do so, on my bed. 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 into me, in the early days, when I was trying not to die. When I became aware of reality, I refused all pain pills! I wanted to feel the painful damage, to know how to get out of that dark hole.

Several times a day, except Sundays, I had what I call “brain” therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. My wife had to wheelchair me, via the elevator, to the location each time. Several good therapists were there. I remember Heather, by her first name. She was the best. Saturdays had a lighter schedule. I was glad. I was always trying to endure. I had a 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 seen 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 concussed 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 also came home. 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 held their alignment. We still see our chiropractor, every four weeks, for tune ups. My bones keep in 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, dear!

On 5/3/2016, the day before my discharge to home, Mrs. Appalachian Irishman helped me arrange a temporary wheelchair ramp, from the driveway to the front porch. On the day that I came home, 5/4/2016, the ramp was installed. I never photographed the entire ramp. It was temporary.

The following is a “pretty” picture of my right leg. I was on the couch. You can see various temporary devices in the image. I took the photograph on 6/6/2016. The “100 lb.” knee brace (as I called it) 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, while driving to and from the center. My right foot and knee 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 instances of rainy weather that were “fun.”) After a while, she didn't need to “trap” Molly temporarily! I could see Molly outside, briefly! I had managed, over time, to get from the wheelchair to the rolling walker! Eventually, with my wife nearby, I could use the rolling walker, to go up and down the ramp.

I took my first “baby steps,” three in all, on 6/16/2016. I've written about that before. You can find the details in archived articles. Granny Wood was born on 6/16/1901.

The efforts -- from using a wheelchair, to using a rolling walker, to needing a walking stick, to needing no assistive device -- were 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 – whichever was the target of work at the time – any further, in any direction. After many attempts, finally, I could get the stationary bicycle to turn a full circle with my right leg!

I set up my own home physical therapy schedule. (I've written about it before.) They wanted my home routine to be done three times, for 30 minutes each day. I knew that I could do more. The trips to and from out-patient therapy were usually on 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 schedules on out-patient therapy days. Usually, I followed my schedule all seven days of the week. Sometimes, I had to take a weekend or at least a Sunday off. At times, when I was “feeling my oats,” I added an extra hour at 7 PM!

The out-patient therapy was not fun. I endured. My wife knows the details, as well as I do. By the way, never say to me, “Suck it up, buttercup!” I heard that a couple of times during therapy. I educated those, who said that to me. They learned. I endured. Remember, as I phrase it, “No gain; no pain!” If you want to gain something, 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, a 2006 Nissan Frontier. Thanksgiving was 11/24/2016. (Mom was born on Thanksgiving, 11/24/1932.) The next day, I drove our car, with my wife along. We got my new-to-me truck! You've seen his photographs many times, if you have read previous articles. He loves to have his picture taken!

Pearl Harbor Day, 12/7/2016, was my first trip, in my truck, to and from the homeplace. It had been a while. The homeplace was, and is still, surviving well enough.

My first day back to work, after my “sabbatical,” was on 12/19/2016. The first two weeks, I worked only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 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 income was barely meeting monthly expenses, maybe with a bit extra for retirement. (I had budgeted our construction-to-permanent home mortgage that way, in 2003. I tried to think ahead.) My income had to kick in, to bridge the gap.

The only financial “help” that we had was (a) the insurance settlement for my '95 Nissan that had died and (b) the months of paid leave that my job had accumulated. My health insurance provider and our automobile insurance company had asked me to let them know, if I ever got money from the “turnip” that had tried to kill me on 3/29/2016. Both companies had tried and failed. I didn't care. I was focused on trying to survive!

It was a winter day on 12/22/2016. Meteorological winter starts on December 1st. Astronomical winter starts on December 21st. On that day, I hiked House Mountain (on the loop trails, at least). That was hike #137 and “bionic” hike #1. I had missed my surgeon's prediction by only one day! 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.

The above photograph is of the final load that my truck and I hauled off, on 1/28/2017. That was a psychological victory!

On 12/3/2017, I hiked House Mountain. It was hike #141 and “bionic” hike #5. I happened to meet my friend, Dr. 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 it. 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. I remember the exact location. He has a doctorate in nuclear physics. He has self-educated doctorates in many other fields, including medicine. 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 was well underway. I hope that it takes only ten years.

Dr. Antonov was right. Various medical folks have speculated on many things. I was told that I would never serve a tennis ball over my head again. I have been able to do that for a long time. 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, you will notice that life, “such as it is,” continues. I'm still standing here. I ain't breathing hard!

The soft tissues (i.e., muscles, ligaments, etc.) are still a work in progress. Each “bionic” joint still feels the differences. I do not feel pain – unless I've reached the point that pain is my “new normal.” No, it's not pain. It's tightness only now. Each right foot step feels different. At times, I have taken steps when both feet felt the same. I like those rare moments!

Today marks the halfway point in my ten-year recovery. I hope that Dr. Antonov was right. I think that he was. I should know. I am in my own body. The step-by-step, day-by-day process continues.

I do not concern myself with mundane details of my temporal life. I write about “polytics” and other temporal topics. I place 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 and 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 but have 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 many 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 my body.


On 11/3/2016, I started writing “Punctuated Providence.” It will be an addendum to my yet-unpublished book, “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” 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 providentially 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 lose 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 article today is relatively trivial, folks! When I publish my book, my “bionic” life will be a side note only. The book, “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” goes back to events that started on 12/28/1999. They involve my godly mother. Since then, my “five scars” are healing. They have been emotional, relational, spiritual, theological, and occupational.

The damage that I sustained, on 3/29/2016, was trivial. My emotional damage is nominal. My relational damage is relative. (Slight pun intended.) My spiritual and theological statuses have improved. My occupational life endures until I can retire.

I am ready to go home to everlasting life. I did not take that journey 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 email me. Using the “Contact Form” will email me. Otherwise, don't concern yourself too much with temporal aggravations (e.g., work, “polytics,” economics, etc.). Focus on family, friends, and God.

I need to publish this article. An article, with more photographs, may follow in a few days. Y'all keep turnin' right and goin' straight out there! Email me, if you would like to start a conversation. I'm standing by. (I gave up that wheelchair long ago!)

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