The $64 bill for toothpaste and my long road to recovery


Following two months of misery and approximately two dozen surgeries, at the end of May 2003 after doctors concluded there was nothing more they could do to get me back to “normal”, I departed the hospital dejected, weak, and depressed and with a $64 bill for toothpaste that I never used; actually, as gross as it sounds, I can’t recall brushing my teeth a single time!  Regardless, as I was loaded in the back of another ambulance, which would become my mode of transportation for the next two months, too weak to even sit up on my own along with losing 60 pounds; I was also silently losing hope for my future as a police officer.  I had already lost faith that anything would ever be the same as once before prior to my freak accident.  But to sweeten my pot of misery further, doctors felt I would never walk again given my injuries and thought I would be addicted to pain medication for the rest of my life.  Oh joy, I thought!  And to make it just a bit worse for me, they felt the need to let me know this in person which was certainly personable, but given their bad timing, wasn’t necessary.

Arriving at the outdated nursing home, I was taken to my own room and left in the middle of a barren space adjacent to an IV pole and call button.  My hospital bed faced an empty television stand which was below a faded picture of a flower arrangement.  After a request for entertainment, a male nurse brought me a small dusty television set the next day with the explanation that an elderly lady left it behind after she departed.  Sadly, knowing she probably didn’t go back home to her family, I could only imagine her other destination.  Although the staff was nice and somewhat amused by the fact I was the youngest patient they had ever served, the facility was depressing and smelled of bleach and dirty diapers.  The food was even worse and tasted similarly bad!  Nevertheless, my rehabilitation was started days later with the single biggest goal of getting strong enough to sit up in my bed on my own. 

Over the next ten days as I grew stronger, so did my bitterness towards my situation; I was becoming an expert at feeling sorry for myself, an obstacle that would prove to be much larger than the physical therapy.  By the end of my nursing home stay, I slowly grew stronger to the point where I was able to stand for ten seconds before plopping back into my wheelchair, but even that wasn’t good enough for me.  However, because my strength was coming back as well as my weight, I was able to travel the halls of the nursing home more.  As such, I got to know a number of the elderly residents and enjoyed listening to the stories of their families, their careers, and of the history they saw firsthand.  The cheek squeezing became a little obsessive, but given the fact I never saw a lot of their family members visiting them, I let them treat me like their lost loved one.  Despite feeling sorry for myself, I found myself feeling sorry for them as well.

Three weeks after arriving at the nursing home, I grew strong enough to start physical therapy and was once again transported by ambulance to a rehabilitation facility in downtown Louisville, my home for the next two months.  It was the first time in almost three months that I wore normal clothing and went to the bathroom without the help of a clear tube.  However, with my new found freedom to pee, I was still unable to walk and was still having the biggest pity party known to man, and sadly I was started to become comfortable in my sorrow as my future as an officer slowly faded with each passing day.  I had a long way to go with the first gulp of reality being my inability, as a former bodybuilder, to lift even a ten pound dumbbell.  I still couldn’t walk, my right arm was still unusable and I had a dozen or more surgeries ahead of me.  After that first day, honestly, I wanted to quit.  I wanted to give up and not do anything else.  It felt so comfortable.  Before my accident, I was known as big Trees because of my stature, now everything that defined who I was, was gone; all those years, 19 to be exact, of weightlifting and hard work, out the window.  I was torn between laying in bed the rest of life, quitting and feeling sorry for myself and moving on with life the best I knew how.  With all the pain medicine I consumed daily, feeling sorry was just as easy to swallow.  No one knew how I felt or what I was going through.

 I felt so alone…

Have you ever felt alone? Or have a question for Kevin? We’d love to read your comments below.


Kevin wears the C-Leg

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