I was lying there. My body, well what was left of it, aching as it had been for weeks. Somehow though, today felt different. I reached up with both hands to wipe the sleep from my eyes. The cast on my right arm caught on the rails of my now familiar hospital bed. Well, banged against more than "caught". Either way, it brought with it a twinge of pain shooting through my arm and a more painful reminder of where I was and what I had become. It seems strange but during my time in the rehabilitation hospital, I had begun escaping my situation through sleep and dreams. I would wake up each morning and have to shake the sleep from my body and remind myself, usually quite painfully, what had become of me.
Whether it was the pain from my arm or the sudden surge of adrenaline at once again remembering where I was, I was suddenly very awake. Then, in a rush, it came to me. I remembered what was different about today. Today was the first time since my arrival that I was expected to wake myself up and deliver myself promptly to my therapy appointment. Up to this point, I had needed someone to come into my room, help me from my bed to my chair, help me use the bathroom and clean myself up, brush my teeth and then take me out of my room, down the hallway to the elevator and downstairs to the therapy room. There I would go through a predetermined regiment of vigorous exercises and workouts designed to help me regain use of my damaged limbs and learn to manipulate my new, shiny leg.
I was suddenly very excited but a little scared as well. My heart raced a little as I sat up and inched closer to the edge of my bed. I mean, only a few short weeks ago, my doctors weren't sure I would ever walk again and now, thanks to my therapists and a lot of hard work, I could move my big toe. I know, that might not seem like a huge deal to some but it was a huge leap forward and it ignited the flames of hope inside me that I might not only survive what had happened to me but might actually flourish. As much as I hurt, as hard as it seemed, as huge as the mountain in front of me appeared to be, I might actually make it.
Flash forward nearly twenty-two years and here I am, with a great life. I often wish I could step back in time and speak to my twenty-year-old self, lying there in the hospital bed, optimistic but unsure of what the future held. I would let him know that I saw his tears when he thought no one was watching. I would tell him that the nightmares of the accident would subside. I would show him the commercial for his prosthetic company that he would one day appear in on a BMX bike. I would show him all the amazing things he would accomplish over the years that stretched between us. I would also thank him for all the hard work and determination that he would reach inside himself and find because it would all help me become who I am.
My journey has not always been easy. My journey has not always been fun either, but coming from death's door with doubt that I would ever walk again to a self proclaimed awesome guy who enjoys life and a variety of very physical activities stands as a testament to the old adage: "If I can do it, so can you." You don't get much more damaged than I was and still be alive to talk about it and look how far I've come. If my life stands for anything, I want it to stand as an example that an ordinary person can accomplish extraordinary things with enough help, encouragement and support. In your darkest time, in the most frightening moment of your journey, remember that it does get better and while rarely ever easy, it will be worth it.