This is Kevin’s 4th installment read on as he shares the story of his accident and very long road to recovery.
Over the next two months during my time at the rehab hospital, I quickly found that the goal I had of walking and continuing in my career as a police officer varied greatly with what the doctors and therapists envisioned, which was to simply enable me to go home and take care of myself with the least amount of help and with the assumption I may never walk again. However in good Kevin Trees fashion, which was sometimes rational but more often hard-headedness, I stubbornly rejected my fate and ignored anything they said. Their prognosis wasn’t good enough for me and their opinion did not count! They didn’t know me and I didn’t care how many years of college they had, I WOULD PREVAIL (insert evil laugh here)! Yes, they saw me as a man confined to a wheelchair who required help the rest of his life. That’s was nice and all, but I saw myself as the young stud just like before my wreck that could do anything I put my mind to. In my reality, they didn’t know what the heck they were talking about and I was about to prove everyone, including my own rationality, wrong in every way. Today, when I look back at those days I realize the doctors and therapists were basing their opinion of me on the success of people who came before who were in even less of a dire condition. And they were probably right given their experiences. I mean no one outside the hospital thought I’d ever realize my goal either, family and friends included. But I want all of you to remember, the one thing medicine or science or anyone for that matter, cannot and will never be able to measure is the strength of your will to never give up.
Regardless, despite my own resentment towards the world and hatred for anyone who told me how well I was recovering through my “baby steps”, (kindly shut the H-E-Double hockey sticks up- UUUUGGGGHHHH!) my stay at the hospital was somewhat entertaining with plenty of things to laugh about, most notably the sight of all us patients walking through the halls on a daily basis during our therapy sessions wrapped in huge bandages and gorked out of our heads on pain medicine. The last time I had seen so many zombies was in the Michael Jackson video, Thriller! If you want to read more about those miserably humorous days, I wrote about them in the chapter titled, Wheelchairs and Zombies with Walkers in my book.
After two months of living in ICU followed by three weeks at the nursing home and another two months at the rehab facility, despite not walking and having my right leg immobilized in a brace and a fixator on my arm, I was slated to go home for the first time since my wreck five months earlier. On one hand I was far from where I wanted to be which was exactly how I was before my accident, and even I knew that wasn’t possible, and on the other hand I was happy to be going home and living with my children and seeing them any time I wanted. However, on my first day back, my joy was quickly replaced with the harsh reality of my situation. The first slap came immediately when we pulled into our driveway and the newly built handicap ramp SCREAMED that a cripple person lived there. Although it was well built by a group of my friends who even skipped the beer in order to make it right, I vowed to take it down within the year. Unfortunately it would be almost three years before I did. The second one came only a few hours later when, while reaching for something on the kitchen counter, the weight of my leg sticking straight out caused me to topple forward in my wheelchair which LITERALLY folded me in half like a pool lounger. Despite the excruciating pain and my inability to BREATHE (insignificant issue), my wife still found it funny enough to bust out in an almost hyena-like cry. I was suffocating. She was laughing. At least it was par for the story of my life! Usually I found pleasure in making others laugh, and actually I was really good at it especially in elementary school (people with ADHD make the best comedians), however the lack of oxygen was killing the moment for me!
After unfolding my body and untangling my arms from my wheelchair, I lied on the floor and savored the fresh air like a revived drowning victim, slowing breathing in and out like an oxygen connoisseur. With her entertainment over, my wife called the therapist to figure out what to do next. At that moment, I became afraid, very afraid, of how my future would be at home. I think secretly I wanted to return to the hospital, which in hindsight might have been the best thing for the stress already mounting in my marriage. And then things got worse……………………………..