Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1,000 Days

Almost 1,000 days ago, on May 26, 2009, my life stood on a cusp between ending, and beginning. A higher power, modern medicine, angels, being in the wrong place at the wrong time- but also the right place at the right time- on that day, 1,000 days ago (on Feb 20, 2012), I was granted a second chance at this wild and crazy, yet precious, life.

When I returned to my parent’s home from Kaiser Vallejo rehab over a month following that fateful May day, life essentially began again. A serious "medium core" cyclist and runner and training for the Death Ride in the days prior to my accident, now my physical activity consisted of slow walks up and down the driveway three times a day. Cane in hand, father bracing me.

The words “hope and courage” a permanent mantra running through my mind, each moment of each day.

Living in San Francisco with friends before my accident, now I slept in my childhood bed, pushed up against the wall, baby monitor next to me. The sides of the bed were lined with chairs and cushions, in the event I rolled over. My mom would lubricate my eye each night with a gel and patch it with cotton swabs and tape. With 7th cranial nerve trauma, I lost the function of the right side of my face. No blinking, no smiling. Almost worse than this, because of trauma to the tear ducts, I could not cry. Not a tear to dismiss the pain, sadness, and fear from me.

Hope and Courage.

I spent a lot of time in that bed, sleeping. Sleeping is a crucial part of recovery, and I did this well. Once a person who went to sleep late and woke up early to enjoy a morning run or bike ride, now I would count down until 9pm, when I could go to sleep and forget the waking moments of life. Each morning I would wake up around 9am, bringing me back into the reality of life. This was real. My vibrant life had come crashing down. I spent the day awaiting the hours until bedtime again.

Hope and Courage.

Each day I would count the number of days since the accident. I wanted the past to be the past. The 100 day market was a celebration for me. Each day was a celebration for me, to still be here, still alive. Although I did not always feel that way. Sometimes I was so angry with the world, with the firemen and doctors, for keeping me alive to survive this. To endure this battle.

Hope and Courage.

I wore an eyepatch, as I suffered from double vision. My dad would ice my face each day, helping me close my eye and move my mouth on the right side which otherwise had no movements. I was deaf in my right ear. Life was terrifying. Again, I counted down the days, relying on blind faith that time heals. I did not know if I would ever overcome the double vision, if my face would ever regain movement.

Hope and Courage.

Despite all of this, despite the collar I wore around my neck because of a fracture, despite the cast on my arm, despite the fact I was now deaf in my right ear and suffered optic nerve trauma in my left eye, there was some joy in life. Despite the fact my mouth was wired shut, and I weighed 90 pounds when I returned home, I was able to look towards the future because of 2 words: Hope and Courage.

My community- my family and my friends, were beyond amazing. They gave me the strength, the hope, and the courage I needed. My sisters came home often, eating burritos and drinking Starbucks with me, making me feel “normal”. My mom and dad were simply incredible. They put me ahead of themselves each moment of each day. They knew how to make me laugh, but more importantly, they allowed me to be sad. And my friends. Although they live in San Francisco, and my parents 1.5 hours away in Sacramento, each weekend I had visitors. Much like when my sisters came, I felt “normal” again. One of my closest friends Ashley came often, always dreaming of the future and talking of adventures to come. Conversations much like we had prior to the accident. This became the summer I went on an Alaskan fishing boat. A summer which was out of the norm but would give me strength and stories for the rest of my life.

I became pen-pal friends with a man named Drew Sloan, whom my brother-in-law and his brother put me in touch with. He had suffered his own life trauma, but more importantly, survivorship. He became my inspiration, the person I looked to for strength when I doubted my ability to overcome what life put in front of me.

Hope and Courage.

September 3 marked the 100 day mark. A week earlier, I had an MRI and was cleared to stop wearing the neck collar. On Labor Day, when my friends were celebrating in Lake Tahoe, I went to lunch with my mom and dad prior to going to a family friend’s home to say hi. At lunch, I decided to stop wearing the sticker in my glasses (which replicated the work done by an eye patch) to see if my brain could adjust for double vision. By the end of lunch, I only saw one, rather than two, of everything. A week later, on my birthday weekend, my mouth started to move. Just a tiny bit, but there was a flicker of movement.

Hope and Courage.

Thanksgiving that year was a special day. November 26, 2009. It marked the 6th month anniversary of my accident. 3 weeks prior, I took the CA drivers test, which is mandated if you suffer Traumatic Brain Injury. The following day I took the GMAT. And the day after that, Halloween, I moved back to San Francisco. Back to work. Back to life. Yes, that Thanksgiving I was GRATEFUL.


Since then, life has returned to normal in some ways, not in others. I am permanently deaf in my right ear, due to a fractured cochlea. While my smile largely recovered, it is not the ear to ear grin I used to wear before all of this. While my face wears the scars of this traumatic event, my soul is a little clearer, my heart more open, my ambition motivated and stronger than ever. I competed in the Alcatraz swim the past 2 years, and this past summer I competed in a Half Ironman triathlon, and in the Fall I ran the Denver Marathon. I am almost done with my MBA at the University of Denver, and am looking forward to all that lays before me. I am still processing the life lessons I take away from all of this, but each day, no matter what I am doing, I hear 2 words. Hope. Courage.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hope and Courage

Aside from one entry, my blog is blank. I am not really sure what to write, and not sure how much information the world needs or cares to read about MY life! The point of this blog isn’t to write about me and my year long quest to become something I was. Why I write this blog is to spark inspiration in at least one person who reads it in a time when he or she needs a little spark of hope and courage. These words-HOPE and COURAGE- run through my veins and pump blood into my heart. I cling to them. They helped me persist through the toughest of times, the saddest of times, the times when nothing in the world felt fair or just. Hope and Courage. These virtues must remind us to step back, practice patience, and not look at what the crystal ball shakes out for the end of the hour or the day. Knowing that time will pass, and with each sunset, a new sun will rise and grant beauty and light upon us. Keep Calm and Carry On.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Ride

On May 26, I set out on a bike ride up a local mountain.  Five months later, I am still facing the challenges of that ride.  But like any ride I have ever been on- no matter the difficulty, distance, or elevation gain- I will not quit or retreat in fear. I will keep riding, keep putting every ounce of energy and determination I have into it, keep fighting.  And I will reach the top.  When I do, the views will be breathtaking. They will be inspirational.  And they will be worth the sweat, blood, and tears.  But for now, I must keep my focus on the end goal, continue fighting, and know without a doubt that the tough switchbacks will lead me to the peak.  Keep calm and carry on.