The first time I recall waking up in the hospital after my accident, I was greeted with so many clear tubes and electric monitoring lines that I looked like someone dumped a bowl of spaghetti on my chest. And I had bandages everywhere, head to toe, along with a neck collar that felt like it was suffocating me. And to add to my discomfort, my left leg was held in the air by a weighted pulley system. And I specifically recall that I was in a ton of pain! Like bad pain! And it was everywhere! And as much as I rolled back and forth in my pillow cocoon that was crafted to keep me from moving, There was no way I was ever going to get comfortable laying there like that, not that it mattered anyway as everything hurt like never before, ever! I had even done a lot of stupid things as a kid like falling off roofs and wrecking dirt bikes. Falling through that frozen pond in 8th grade was pretty painful too! But this pain was different. Like a professional pain. And if my pain wasn’t bad enough, that one tube that went up my man-part preoccupied my mind and had me worried more than anything!
Before that one defining moment of harsh reality as I woke up in my undersized bed, I had never spent a day of my life in the hospital since being born at Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida. Now I found myself getting the full treatment! Why couldn’t my orientation to the American health care system have started with a nice broken arm or leg?? Maybe a busted nose or finger even? Nope, like everything else I did in life, I had to go big, and this would be no exception! Still, in a daze from anesthetic and pain medicine, my mind fought to even accept where I was as everything seemed washed out and white and unreal like a dream. I tried to wake up from the nightmare but the pain quickly reminded me things were real. With the massive damage I sustained while meeting the tree, my pain was uncontrollable and waking up in intensive care was the first time I realized more than my arm was hurt. I had way too many bandages and casts and tubes to deny that. I tried to think back to the day of the crash and piece together what else I might have hurt in addition to my arm, but my wide-spread pain didn’t pinpoint any one single area I could concentrate on.
Since the best way to manage my pain was to sleep, my memories of almost two months in intensive care were limited to a few stories. I do remember lying on my back somewhere in the hospital, half conscious in a bed that was also too short for my body while a rude and sarcastic nurse bugged me to sign a consent form so doctors could perform a surgery. I couldn’t even read the form if I wanted to! She left mad after I didn’t comply. Then on another occasion, a nurse’s aide recognized me from my police job and, after waking me up, asked me if I was a cop and if I ever arrested a relative of hers. Suddenly, I was wide awake! There I was helplessly on my back and unable to move, still wrapped head to toe in bandages, casts, and a neck brace. Then there was the creepy witch doctor that wanted to shove something far into my sinus cavity to help alleviate the pain, all while her quiet and equally creepy assistance stood by her side. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen either. I had nightmares of being buried alive and falling to my death. The coma I was sent into after another surgery had me fighting to break free from a white light as faceless souls floated around me. During that time, I tried to talk to the nurse that was calling my name, but the words didn’t come out. I also remember a good friend bringing some of my fellow officers from the Fourth District up to my room about two weeks after my accident and staring at me speechless and with a loss for words. That visit would be the first time I’d wonder if I could ever recover from my massive injuries and be a cop again; after all I loved my job and loved the camaraderie and couldn’t think of anything else I’d be happy doing. But instead of laying there pondering my bleak future, as soon as they left I called the nurse for more pain medicine and went back to sleep. Sleep not only took away my physical pain, but it took away the reality of life. I knew at some point I’d have to face the prospect of living my future years in a wheelchair and eating pain medicine, but for the time, I wasn’t strong enough mentally to even try. I just wanted my old life back… I just wanted to be in the same shape I was in the second before I slammed into the tree… I just wanted to be Kevin again…
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Kevin wears and Ottobock C-Leg