The Cane

I have officially been doing this blog now for one week. The feedback has been overwhelming and I appreciate more than you know that you have returned to read more of my stories. Writing has been a big dream of mine for a long time and it makes me really happy just to do it, but the fact that other people are enjoying it makes it really fun. Anyway, let’s get on with it. We will pick up and finish off this little 3 part saga a month or so after I was out of the hospital.

May 1996. I was back on my feet and working my way through physical therapy. My first trip to physical therapy we found out that I couldn’t bend my knee more than 15 degrees with out extreme pain, we had a long way to go. Initially I was given the option of crutches (or maybe just one crutch because of my broken wrist). My dad explained that if I used a crutch it would take longer for my to heal, so we decided to go with an alternative option… a cane.

Just like that, I was transformed into a fat, adolescent pimp with a gangster limp. I moved slow before the accident, now I made elderly people look like Usain Bolt. It didn’t help that I needed a student aid periodically since I couldn’t write or take tests since my right wrist was broken. Although, this worked out to my advantage as she had to fill in the bubbles on the IOWA Basic test for me and I was able read her expressions when I gave a wrong answer. She had more tells than a first time poker player at the world series of poker (I scored in the 98th percentile by the way, did I mention I am gifted?).

The end of the school year was approaching and the anticipation of summer made the energy in the school rise to new levels, especially as 5th graders as it was our last year in elementary school. On this particular day it was gorgeous out, it felt like summer already and recess was on the horizon. Right after lunch (my personal favorite time of the day) we went out for recess where I patrolled the playground slowly, watching all of the other kids intently walking around like the chubby pimp I was.

I spent a lot of time near the kickball field during recess because I could at least pitch and feel like I was a part of a game. On this particular day I was just wandering around with Fred, you know, pimpin’.

We came upon some friends who were playing pickle and we stopped to watch a little bit. Quickly we lost interest and continued on our way. I took about five steps and then… wham!

I was dazed, something just hit me in the side of the head. Luckily I had my cane to brace myself with and managed to stay on my feet. It didn’t hurt yet, but I was stunned, I didn’t know what happened.

Turns out an errant throw had struck me square in the temple. I heard some kids laughing so I tried to laugh it off with them as I put my left hand over my left temple. As I rested my hand there for a moment as it started to happen…

The side of my head started to swell at an alarming pace and suddenly I was cupping a lump the size of a baseball growing on the side of my face. I don’t remember their being a whole of pain at this point, that is, until the laughing kids stopped laughing and started crowding around me as I transformed into a freak show (or bigger freak show) in front of their very eyes. Next, they all looked scared and were pointing at the side of my head, now it was starting to hurt.

The lump started rising in my throat and my eyes started to well. Now, this is when I would have run to the school nurse and escaped my gawking classmates but this was not an option. I started hobbling along as quickly as the cane would take me but the mob stayed with me like some sort of elementary school paparazzi.

“It’s fine, it’s fine, just leave me (gasp, gasp) alone” I was crying now. My head was throbbing and the attention was making it all much worse. Finally, one of the recess aids came over to see what was going on and gasped as she saw what must have looked like a spontaneous tumor or elephantitis type growth coming out of my already gigantic 11-year-old head. That pushed me over the edge, the adult looked unsettled by what she saw… I mentally went where my mind continues to go today when things go bad, the worst case scenario. I thought it was going to explode in my hand and I would start bleeding profusely from my head. Maybe I was actually holding my brain protruding from my skull. Maybe these were going to be the last moments of my life. I was bawling. I couldn’t speak, I could barely see through the tears as I made my way to the nurses office.

I was given an ice pack upon arrival and sat on the cot that was made for normal sized elementary school kids. The principal was calling my mom and I over heard her explaining that real baseballs weren’t allowed on the playground but that she should come get me right away.

When my mom walked in I had calmed down quite a bit and was starting to feel a little tired and lethargic. She helped me up and we made our way to the car. I quickly realized that we were not headed home.

“Where are we going?” I asked through sniffles (secretly hoping I was getting Dairy Queen to help me feel better… I was a large cookie dough blizzard guy back then, FYI).

“We are going to the hospital” she said.

“Why are we going to the hospital?” I asked wanting more than anything NOT to go to the hospital.

“We need to go get an x-ray to make sure that there is nothing wrong” she said.

“What could be wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing, I am sure you’re fine” she said.

“Why are we going to the hospital then?” I asked as I started to cry again.

“Because we need to make sure nothing is wrong” she said again.

“You said I was fine, what’s (gasp, gasp) wrong?” I was really crying now as I ran through all of the worst case scenarios I could think of.

“I don’t know. We just need to make sure nothing is wrong so we are going to the ER” she said as she started to cry.

This was the first mention of the ER that I can remember. “Why (gasp) are we (gasp) going to the ERrrrrr?!” I asked.

“We need to get x-rays to make sure that you’re ok” she said through tears.

“What’s wrong with me? Why do I need x-rays?” I asked looking for some sort of diagnosis.

“I (gasp, gasp) don’t know!” she said. We pulled up to the hospital, both crying. We both wiped our eyes dry as we made it to the ER.

I was about the same height as my mom at the time and limped in with her cane in hand looking like a prepubescent Quasimodo. I went back for x-rays that forced me to put the top of my head against the wall behind me, it was uncomfortable and painful.

We waited and found out that everything was ok… my mom was right all along, but I had already developed the habit that has stuck with me until this very day. I worry and look for the worst case scenario, always. I don’t know if this habit formed or if it was just solidified by this period in my life, but it was definitely the worst spring of my life. Luckily, I haven’t been admitted to a hospital since.

I still carry lasting effects of the accident with a trick knee that gives me trouble now and then but, those stories are for another day. Cheers.


My Dark Period

Hopefully you are back to read part 2 today. I promise yesterdays post was necessary to set this up, stick with me here. Thank you for reading.

The next time I woke up was in the hospital, I could hear my parents talking to the surgeon who had worked to repair my leg. I remember that it was extremely bright and I had a weird blanket draped over me. Then, they started to fill the blanket with warm air and I began to shiver uncontrollably, I didn’t even realize that I was cold until they turned it on. As I began to shiver my whole body ached, mostly my wrist. Then, I was out again.

The next time I came to I was the hospital room that would be my for the next few days. This was my first and only trip to the hospital for an extended stay. Sure, I had been there a lot with my dad as his assistant pediatrician checking on the newborns every now and then on Sunday mornings (some of my fondest childhood memories), but this was a completely new situation for me. I didn’t like it at all. I hurt, my head was foggy and I couldn’t leave my bed because of the injury to my leg. The only thing I liked was the morphine, the morphine was good. The next few days are what I refer to as my dark period (it was short, but it is still a fitting title).

Here I am, chubby and awkward not able to move. My right wrist had to be held upward above my head with a sling to prevent it from further swelling (it looked like I was waving constantly). But, I had my own tv and I had the morphine. Things could have been worse…

My first night was a bad night. I had managed to fall asleep in the awkward position I was posed in, but over the course of the night I moved my left arm in my sleep and pulled the IV out that was supplying me with my morphine, not good. I woke up in the first real pain I had experienced since the accident. It felt like the handle bar of the snowmobile was still in my leg and twisting. The lump formed in my throat and my eyes welled as I pressed the call button to get the nurse into my room to get the morphine back into my blood stream. When she entered the room, something told me I was in trouble.

The nurse was old. Not like old in the way that 11 year olds think 40 is old, she was old. She was definitely someone’s grandma and may have had a couple of great-grandchildren. It was the middle of the night and the hospital was very quiet.

Before she had a chance to ask, I said, “my IV got pulled out of my arm.”

She smiled and said, “well, I will get that right back in there for you.”

This actually made me calm down, she was confident and gave off that warmth that only a grandma can… then she grabbed the needle. Her hands were shaking terribly, the way only an old persons hands can shake.

I didn’t have any fear of needles or blood, so I was monitoring her progress closely as she made her first attempt to hit a vein. Swing and a miss, she said, “oops!” Oops is not something you like to hear when someone is stabbing you with a needle, but I smiled politely back at her.

Attempt number 2, “oops!” And the same went for attempts 3 and 4 when she finally said, “let’s try the bottom side of your arm, it will be easier to find a vein.” That is when without warning she smacked my arm like I was a junkie looking for a fix (I was starting to feel that way, actually). I gave her a surprised look and she said, “hit helps to find a vein.”

Attempt number 5, still no luck. “These veins sure can be slippery” she said with a giggle. I was no longer smiling, the pain was getting worse. Attempt 6, nope.

“Maybe we should get another nurse” I said. Her hands continued to tremble as she focused on the task at hand.

“No” she said, “I’ll get it here.”

She lied.

Attempt 8 was another miss and I finally pulled my hand away and as I choked on the lump in my throat I said, “you are going to get another nurse in here or I am going to call my dad!” (The ultimate defense for an eleven year old). She looked at me for a moment then turned on her heel and left the room. I was surprised that she left with out argument, maybe she had experienced “the look” before while working with my dad. Whatever the case, she returned with a younger nurse who happened to live a few doors down from me in our neighborhood. She came over and placed the IV on the first try. That’s the stuff, I thought.

The next day, my left wrist had bruises up and down on both sides. Not to mention, the cast on my right wrist was to tight and my fingers were purple and swollen like fat little baby penises. The pressure had to be relieved so they were forced to saw the cast open. So, less than a day after I was stabbed repeatedly with needles, I had a guy sawing at my broken wrist. I was convinced the cast would give way unexpectedly and he would saw my flesh. It smelled hot and the vibrations made my arm ache even worse.

Morphine was my only friend.

My mom came in to visit with me. However, I wanted no visitors (sorry mom, I feel bad about this even today). I wanted the shades shut, TV on and my morphine. So, I quickly kicked my mom out of my room when she tried to open the shades like some kind of fat, adolescent Dracula. Karma would get me for this that very night.

I woke up shivering and had a familiar wetness on my lap. Before I looked I knew that some how I was bleeding from my leg again. I looked down and there was a big puddle of… piss (have I not mentioned that I was a bed wetter? Let’s be honest, you had already figured that out on your own). Now what? I was soaked and cold. I didn’t know what nurse was working and I was scared that it was going to be my neighbor from down the street who had a daughter that was my age… I had no options and I pressed the button.

To my delight it was the grandma again, finally a break. The relief was short-lived. She informed me that we would need to get me up off the bed so the sheets could be changed and so that I could get into a new hospital gown. I hadn’t stood up since I had been there. I knew that I was not a light little kid, she was going to need help. Two more nurses entered, including my neighbor. That stupid lump crept into my throat and I started to cry… everyone was going to know I wet the bed, dammit.

It was painful to stand, the embarrassment of wetting the bed was painful and being fat and naked in front of 3 grown women was also painful. Finally, it was over and I was back in bed, dry. The only nurse that remained in the room was my neighbor and she said, “the morphine does that to people sometimes, it’s OK.”

Damn you morphine.

It was clear that she wasn’t going to tell people who had soaked my hospital bed, so that was comforting. But, I was ready to leave the hospital. It had become a prison of pain and embarrassment. Luckily a few days later, I was out. And, with some physical therapy it was clear that I would make a full recovery but it would not be easy… there were still some bumps in the road ahead that spring…

The Bad Dream

Well, I am glad so many people got such a good laugh at my expense yesterday. Let me just say that you wouldn’t have handled the situation any better! Since my childhood seems to be so entertaining we will stay there for a couple of days at least.

The next three days will be a 3 part series from the most unlucky spring of my life. It will start with the first time I almost killed myself and the second & third post will be about… come on! I’m not going to tell you now because you wouldn’t come back and read tomorrow. As with the first tale about my brush with death, I will try to keep this light. But it is required for the set up of the second & third part of the story that I will post next.

Spring 1996. Early April when I was in the 5th grade. It is interesting to note that this story also includes my best friend since 1st grade, Fred (I don’t know why I didn’t name him in the first story…). I went to Pine River, MN to spend the weekend at Fred’s dad’s house. I remember being very excited to go, but there wasn’t a specific event, I just had so much fun hanging around Fred and his older brother Mike. It was a normal Minnesota winter and there was still a lot of snow on the ground but spring was just around the corner.

I don’t remember much from that weekend other than the lie that would endanger my life less than 24 hours later (lesson – don’t lie). We were riding in the car home from going out for dinner (one of my favorite hobbies at the time) when Fred’s dad asked me, “have you ever driven a snowmobile before, Tim?”

No, I thought. But I had driven a jet ski numerous times, how different could they be? So I said, “Yes.” Fred gave me a knowing glance as he still could probably do today when I am telling a lie, but letting this lie go meant an opportunity to go snowmobiling the following morning, which is what we decided to do early Sunday morning before I had to go back home.

Sunday morning we were up early and Fred’s dad made us eggs with American cheese on them. They were the worst eggs I have ever had, sorry, but that is something I still remember to this day. I barely ate any of them… we remember Tim at this age from yesterdays story, right? Not eating food in front of me was not something that I was accustomed too. I couldn’t even stomach the toast because it was, ugh, wheat (we always at white Wonder bread at my house, you know, the healthy bread…). Fred was not chubby and awkward.

Finally, breakfast was over and it was time to take the snowmobiles out. Fred’s cousin, Logan, had come over as well so the three of us got dressed in our snow gear and went out to have fun. We had a snowmobile and a dirt bike.

It was one of those sunny, late winter/early spring days where there was still tons of snow on the ground but you felt like you didn’t even need a jacket. We went down behind the house about 100 yards to a football field sized clearing, this is where we were to stay and ride the snowmobile and dirt bike. Right before we reached the clearing we stopped next to an old pump-house that was made out of cinder blocks and started our engines.

Logan started the snowmobile and asked me if I wanted to drive first. I told him I wasn’t really sure how and he told me to hop on behind him and he would give me a quick lesson.

Quick side note: as I remember this story it is so foggy still, it is like remembering a dream and trying to hold on to it after you have been awake for 5 minutes.

Fred fired up the dirt bike as I hopped on the snowmobile and took off with us following quickly behind. Logan took me on a loop showing me the gas and the brake and how they worked. It looked exactly like a jet ski, this was going to be easier than I thought. He took me on one more loop and hit the little jump that had been made over the winter, it was awesome. Then Logan stopped and asked me if I wanted to drive. I said yes and he hopped off to go for a turn on the dirt bike.

I started on the same loop Logan and I had just completed. It was easy, just like a jet ski, I was having a blast. I made the turn and headed toward the jump going towards the pump-house and Fred’s house. I was feeling brave and gave it some gas as I hit the jump and went air born. It was more than I had expected but I landed safely. I looked back at Fred and Logan who were laughing at what I had just done, I don’t think I got as much air as I thought I did. I turned my head back around to focus on where I was going when a saw the snow bank ahead of me. It was much bigger than the jump I had just hit. I panicked and squeezed the brake or what I thought was the brake…

In reality I squeezed the gas. I hit the snow bank going about 55 mph, I flew about 25 feet and landed just before the pump-house that I smashed into (I don’t remember any of that). I woke up in the snow on my back and heard Fred running toward the house yelling for his dad to call 911, then I was out again. Next, I woke up in the snow with Fred’s dad over top of me packing my right wrist in snow. I raised my head to look at my legs because my pants felt really wet, that is when I saw the blood. I looked at Fred’s dad and asked, “is this a dream?”

He said, “a very bad one.”

A lump formed in my throat and as I began to cry as said, “my parents are going to be so mad at meeee!” I pictured the infamous “look” that I was sure to get from my dad (if you’ve ever gotten it or witnessed it, you know how terrifying it can be. It expresses anger, frustration, disappointment and rage at the same time in a way I have never seen anywhere else, it was is his most powerful move). I am laying there in my own blood, semi conscious and the only thing I can think of is how much trouble I am going to be in. Then, I was out again.

The next time I came to was in the ambulance. I had an oxygen mask over my face but tried to ask the EMT a question, “mrmmrmri mrmrdie.”

“What?” he asked.

“Am I going to die?” I repeated.

“No, you’re going to be fine.” he said.

Until I see my parents, I thought.

My injuries were fairly serious, but I was extremely lucky since I was NOT wearing a helmet (things suddenly make sense don’t they?). I was thrown on the handle bars, the left handle bar punctured the middle of my inner thigh barely missing my femoral artery (that would have meant death, but now it just means I have half a quadricept in my left leg and a nice scar). I broke my right wrist badly and had a severe concussion.

I will end today on this thought. This accident was nobody’s fault but my own. I had no business being on that snowmobile and I was offered a helmet and I turned it down. I am sorry that I put everyone in the position that I did.

The good news is, that this accident is the start of a string of events that I am sure will be extremely entertaining, tune in tomorrow. Cheers.