Gratefulness on Thanksgiving
Thirty-five years ago tonight, I was in a car accident. I had an evening college basketball practice at Berkshire Community College. Then we went to a party in Pittsfield, MA. I didn’t know many people there and barely drank a beer.
More than that, high school friends were home from college. A friend and I decided to drive to 45 minutes to neighboring New York State to meet with them.
The last thing I remember was driving from the party in Pittsfield. The next period of time is blank. Fourteen days later, thankfully, I woke up. I was in a hospital bed.
The first doctor was set to amputate my left leg. And why not? I had a smashed knee cap, which had to be removed. A femur, which the second doctor described as “confetti”. And a split hip, which ultimately required five screws and a plastic plate.
But, my legs though were the least of the doctors concerns. A lacerated liver, lacerated spleen and broken ribs required an internist to work on my abdomen area. Simultaneously there was a plastic surgeon putting a hundred stitches throughout my face!
I don’t remember any of it – unconscious for about two weeks and in the hospital for six weeks. Bad experience? I don’t think so. It was a good experience. I, of course, am thankful.
People remember trauma. Some people want to hang their hat onto painful events and stew.
Another scenario I notice is that pain becomes a catalyst for change. The painful experience becomes a gold star in their life. The great tragedy is marketable. It is their rock bottom. As J.K. Rowling pointed out, it is the foundation upon which one can re-build their life. But most people never hit rock bottom.
Why should we have something bad happen in our lives to create something good?
Even though in pain, I remember these events differently. I remember friends coming to my hospital room. There was a daily stream of visitors. My hospital room had so many people in it and so much noise that the nurses came in to keep order. At one point there were so many conversations going on around me – no one was talking to me!
I was smiling through. I remember greeting cards like you wouldn’t believe. The cards were taped all of the greeting cards were taped up covering the entire length of the wall. I remember several of the nurses (two were named Roe). I remember the doctors (Dr. Cohen, Dr. Stern, Dr. Curletti and Dr. Magamola!). I remember that my aunt worked at the hospital as a patient ombudsman.
I remember kindness and support. I was in a hospital bed. But, I was happy. It wasn’t like a ‘happy to be alive’ experience. I didn’t know how close I came to ‘not being alive.’ It was just another experience.
In and Out in Six Weeks
I have never had ‘bad memories’ about hospitals as some friends have. My memories of this six week stay are positive. When I returned home and visited the family store, people were kind and respectful. I was treated me with praise. For a shy kid, it was a great feeling to be noticed. That opened doors for conversation.
Still, while at home, I received cards from strangers. I had a rock star mom who took great care of me during that time. One year later, my orthopedic doctor and I ran in a 10k road race on Thanksgiving day called, “The Turkey Trot.” The story appeared in the newspaper, while other stories that ran in different publications.
To say that this experience was a positive is an understatement. And, instead of a long essay on the accident and the recovery, I just feel thanks. I recall thinking at the time of the accident that I, metaphorically, had stumbled on a curb and fell down. I got up, brushed myself off and continued living.
But, none of that happens without such overwhelming support from the people around me. It was incredible. At work, people ask, “how are you?” I say, “FANTASTIC.” Outstanding. Great. It’s not because I overcame injuries (but that is nice). It’s because of friends, family and because of people. It’s because of YOU.
I am thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.