Thursday, February 6, 2014

Justin (Part 3)

Part 1

At the time of my accident I weighed 155 pounds.  I was in very good shape with very little body fat.  As you can imagine after 9 days in a trauma ward and 2 days in an orthopedic ward I was not the same.  Not to mention all of the pain meds I was on were knocking my appetite right out.  Going into the rehabilitation center I was all of 130 pounds.  When you are 5'-11" and 155 lbs. you don't have much to lose to start with.
    I will say it again, therapy is tough!  Anyone who has been through physical therapy, that truly wanted to recover, will agree.  Along with P.T. I had to under go Occupational Therapy as well as a few visits with a Psychiatrist.
    Occupational therapy was just as difficult, if not more so, as P.T.  For those who don't know what O.T. is let me share my real world definition.  Occupational Therapy is learning how to go about your life with your newly "acquired" disability/limitation. As you can imagine O.T. takes a lot of retraining your brain to understand that you are not the same person physically.
    When I said that therapists are "well intentioned torturers" I meant it.  Don't get me wrong, I know they're good people.  I am just not sure that I have what it takes to do their job.  I broke down and cried through the pain of my therapy several times.
    I began to dislike my therapists until I witnessed an elderly patient crying through their therapy after hip replacement.  I think it was about 3 days after my arrival and I noticed a new face in the morning group warm up.  I didn't know how old the man was but he did look frail.  His therapist was coaching him to raise his leg off the mat just a couple of inches.  I remembered when they asked me to do the same thing and they had to push me until I complied.  Ohh it hurt!  Then again and again and with each repetition the pain seemed to dissipate.  Then I saw it, the man had hit bottom and tears began to flow.
    I imagined the same thoughts that ran  through my head were now running through his; Why am I so weak?, I used to be strong!, I can't take this pain!......etc.  Then it happened, his leg left the mat.
    All at once the atmosphere in his little corner of the room went from nightmarish to a family hug, tears of joy and all.   The people he once considered to be his captors were now his source of encouragement and strength.  It was this moment when I fully committed myself to my recovery.
    The next 18 days I put all I had into my therapy sessions.  I had so many motivators as well as a couple of setbacks.  Friends came to see me, letters of support were delivered and progress was being made.  I was getting stronger every day and learning how I was expected to get around and accomplish every day tasks.
    The decision had already been made for me to move in with my sister outside of Albuquerque and continue to get better.  After a while there I lived in Socorro for a few months then back in with my sister and brother-in-law.  I had to "wear" an external fixator  on my left leg for about 165 days.  This device is screwed directly into your bones.  I have been told they are usually taken out after 90 days max because of infection.  I also had several casts on my right leg  as well as the left once the ex-fix was removed.
    Not long after the ex-fix was removed I joined my family on a road trip to Seattle, WA. to visit my aunt and uncle.  I was now able to walk around on crutches or walker but I would still tucker out rather quickly.  So when I needed to move around a lot I still used the wheelchair.  We had a great time but I was still not sure how much I could ever truly recover.
    Before we left for the trip my dad had convinced me into getting my real estate license and make a new career for myself.  So as soon as we got back I was enrolled in a RE school.  I then started a career in real estate.  It was nice but my heart longed to be doing something with my hands and working outside.
    One year had past since my accident and I was now able to walk without any assistance.  Every step still hurt mind you, but I was happy to be unassisted again.  I was not doing as well in real estate as I had hoped, but that is to be expected when your heart isn't in it.  I needed to make some extra money so I applied for a part time job at Home Depot.  I was hired about 14 months after my accident.
    My first day on the job was excruciating!  I was sure I had made a mistake.  After and between shifts I was still working real estate and pushing myself pretty hard.  There were times I was not sure I could walk up the stairs to my apartment in Albuquerque after working.  I will say this, working at Home Depot made me realize that I was not that far from being able to do the work I loved to do again.
    The path I was on eventually lead me back to where I was before the accident.  Back home doing what I love.  Back to working with my hands!  When you love what you do the pain, for me, is worth it.
    My mother had convinced me to join our local VFD & EMS as a way for me to give back to those in our community who supported me in my time of need.  I have loved being able to serve my community this way.  I have been in these services going on 11 years now.
    Like anyone who goes through a traumatic event, change has taken place in my life.  I have tried to imagine what my life would be like had I not fallen, but that sort of imagining is best left to fiction writers.  When I look back on the accident and the recovery of it I realize I would not be who I am had I not been down that path.  I truly believe this.  Our past experiences make us who we are, for better or worse.  I remember my past but I don't live there.  I look to my future but I don't reside there either.  I embrace the present, because this is what matters.  What you did yesterday is done, right or wrong.  Who knows what will happen tomorrow!  The present is all that we are guaranteed.
    I thank my God and family for all they have given and done for me.

    P.S. This was written on the 13th anniversary of my accident 2/5/14

To see what I do now, click a link.
Log Stick and Steel
Stool Bus
Fire Dept.

External Fixator


  1. I had no idea. What a moving story of strength, courage, and God's grace. Thanks for sharing. Happy Valentine's Day to the Carroll family.

    1. Thank you, and thank you for taking the time to read it!


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