A Second Chance to Dance by John
A SECOND CHANCE TO DANCE
...a second chance at life, faith and friendship, or morphine and me, what a strange dichotomy” It was dreary and sullen on that fateful day. In the distant horizon I could detect a northeasterly rumbling that blanketed the sky with a tinge of color the shade of slate. A rapidly moving wind bent the treetops and everything became a blur. The breezes that blew were fiercely intense, precipitating my fall to the ground as solely accidental. While lying entwined with the branches I had just clipped, I screamed aloud for help hoping that someone would hear my pleas for help. My life changed dramatically, the moment I hit the pavement on that morning of August 27th, 1998. I lay alone in the roadway with my head downhill. The blood from an open fracture on my right foot was like a geyser spilling into a river that ran past my face. I mourned to myself, “what have I done”. It was about 9AM and the streets were empty of pedestrians and moving vehicles. I was a solitary soul imaging the worst of my fears. Suddenly a Department of Public Works employee drove by. He jumped out of his pickup truck, took one look at me and dialed 911 on his cell phone. Within minutes two police officers and a First Aid squad arrived. Without any time to assess my condition, they put me on the stretcher and loaded me into the ambulance. I distinctly remember the sheer pain of the trip. My right foot was dangling from my leg and every time the ambulance turned the corner, it twisted and swayed. The slightest motion of my near-severed foot was excruciating. The trip to the hospital was only ten miles but it seemed like an eternity. Halfway there, my vitals went south and my blood pressure bottomed out. I went unconscious but I remember hearing the paramedics saying, “he's a goner, this guy isn’t going to make it". As those words were spoken, I was immediately visited by a flock of angels who hovered over me and extended their outreached hands. God’s little attendants reached down to hug me and tug me off into flight. My body had now become suspended in air and it was as if I was in a geodesic dome. The curved ceiling was immersed in the brightest white light, similar to what is used in an operating room. A glorious radiance illuminated the delicate silhouettes of these fluttering creatures. Rather than accept their invitation to fly away with them, I chose to flail away at those saintly patrons in the hope that I would return to the loving embrace of my family. My immediate experience could have been scripted for the show, ER. The trauma team had been waiting for my arrival. I soon found myself regaining consciousness with eight pairs of eyes focused on me. I was in and out of consciousness. One nurse kept asking me who I was and I could not communicate any meaningful information to her. The sheer magnitude of my physical pain consumed any conscious thoughts I still possessed. They stabilized me; took portable x-rays; and began infusing my body with fluids and painkillers. Finally my wife arrived, and provided all of my personal information to the administrator. From a medical point of view, the surgeries were successful. However, from a patient’s perspective, I felt as though I had entered the twilight zone. The combination of morphine, anti-depressants and other assorted pain relievers left me in a state of total confusion. Sometimes too many cooks can get in each other’s way. The same rule applies to doctors and nurses. A dangerous concoction of morphine, along with too many doses of mind-altering drugs provided me with the ability to levitate myself above my hospital bed. This crazy mixture was instrumental om causing me to suffer a collapsed lung and total disorientation. It was a Sunday morning and my mother had just entered my room while my friend Bob called from Florida. By now word had gone out to family, friends, and coworkers and everyone was inquiring about my condition. During my conversation I was not able to enunciate very clearly as I thought that the different medications had filled my mouth with what I assumed to be a ball of cotton. Along with my disparity of speech, I was not able to think clearly. After having been hospitalized for fifteen days, I was discharged. Like a prisoner, I was to be confined to a hospital bed in my home for the next three months. My new world revolved around my rented bed and its overhead trapeze. In November, I had my third surgery to remove nine screws from my right foot and ankle. It was believed that these were no longer needed and they were only impeding the minimal range of motion I still had. The steel plates and other hardware in my left foot would remain inside till the end of time. After this surgery, I would soon begin the arduous process of learning how to walk. This was 1998 and my surgeon believed in doing whatever it took to reduce my threshold of pain. I would visit him each week and his first question would be, “do you need anything?” “Yes I do would be my ready reply.” “What do you want?” “Whatever will kill the pain.” I started the program of numbing my pain. Numbing was the key word because eliminating pain just never happened, no matter how much I ingested. I started to take one pill every four hours and when that didn’t work, it would be two pills every four hours and then it would be two pills every two hours. I never ran out of medication because it was always available to me. I tried them all: Percocet, Vicodin, Darvocet, and OxyContin. I had opiates for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I tried different doses and mixtures to see which worked the best. None of them ended my pain; they merely dulled my body and dazed my mind. I was on anti-depressants (Elavil) for six months. The primary reason for these was to reduce my sense of depression and to heal all of the nerve damage in my feet. Whenever the doctor examined me, he would take his ballpoint pen and bang it against my toes. The vibrating sensations sent aching, electric impulses throughout my body. The secondary purpose was to keep me from going crazy. Well surprise, surprise! They made me crazy. I had recurring dreams every single night for seven months. It was always about the same people and the same place in time. I would sit in the recliner watching television and for no reason; I would break down into dark emotional valleys in which I would cry uncontrollably. Finally I said to my wife, “I need help”. She did not want me to go because she was afraid of what I might find out and feared the unknown more than I did. The therapist was a middle-aged woman with similar experiences and perspectives on life, which immediately put me at ease. Her whole approach was calming and reassuring. Of course my diagnosis was one for the 90's: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. She explained to me that my dreams were not unusual for this kind of situation. She said that because of my accident I saw my life pass by my eyes and I dwelled on a period of time that was unfulfilling. After going for therapy for a short period of time and having a better understanding of myself, my dreams dissipated. As for life and fate, the past can never be re-gained. All we could do is live life to the fullest as it is now. Enjoy the present and leave old regrets in the past where they belong. Life teaches you that when you start your journey, not everyone gets out of the starting gate at the same time. My experience has taught me that it is how you end up that is important and I think I turned out very well. I came to the realization that I wanted to see life as it truly was and not as a hazy and foggy reality show. Both physical and emotional therapy helped me heal my body and the need to swallow different sized pills slowly dissipated. New bright horizons have given me many precious blessings. I once again learned to love life and all it has to offer. I gave thanks to everyone who motivated, believed and cared for me. They instilled in me a positive spirit that I didn’t know that I had and I will be forever thankful for being given a second chance to dance.