Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stream of Consciousness...

I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately because it is coming up on one year since my surgery and one of the most horrific times of my life. I feel like it happened to a different person because it just seems like a million years ago. I remember being frustrated at the increasing pain and swelling and the speed, or lack thereof, in getting through the medical hoops process to even diagnose what was going on. I remember being angry about not being able to walk, much less run or do any type of exercise. I remember thinking that it was going to end up being no real big deal and that I would go through a possible surgery or physical therapy and be back to normal in no time flat.

But the reality ended up being SO different from what I had been thinking. And I guess now that I have that year as perspective what I find myself reflecting on more and more often is how life can change in the BLINK OF AN EYE. No really!! I know we hear it all the time, to the point of it being a trite expression that is easy to write off. But it's so freakin' true. Friends, it really is!!!!

And you know, it's not my first dance with that devil, but yet I still forget all the time how fragile this life we have been given is.

In early 2005 I crashed on my quad while out riding with my husband and a group of friends. The quad flipped on me while I was driving up a hill and basically came back and landed on my face. I had to be flown out on the helicopter to the local trauma center. I broke my ocular bone, suffered facial nerve damage, had a quarter-sized puncture wound on my forehead (hubby loves to remind me that you could SEE BONE), and a broken wrist that needed additional surgery months down the road.

I could have died. Lots of people do. I could have been unable to live a normal life due to injury. I could have been maimed. Lots of people are.

But I was, for the most part, okay after healing. And I had a new appreciation for life because of what I had gone through. For a period of time anyways, but then life just became normal again.

In the summer of 2005 I had to have that wrist surgery that I mentioned earlier. It was a very basic surgery of  grafting a little bit from my hip bone, fusing my wrist, and adding a small screw. And the surgery went as expected except I developed a large hematoma at the hip surgical site. Internal bleeding. Emergency surgery. This one wasn't life threatening, but as you know, people die from this stuff all the time.

But yet again, I was shown that life is precious and I woke up and began living.

In late 2007 my husband crashed his street bike when a car pulled out in front of him. He had to be helicoptered to the local trauma center (yes, the same one!!). He had a punctured lung, a very large laceration on his leg near the groin, a broken collarbone, and a broken back that required spinal fusion at 5 (FIVE!!!!) levels.

He could have died. Another guy in the ER on the same day as him that was also in a motorcycle accident did. He hasn't been able to live a normal life due to his injury. BUT he could have been paralyzed. He might have been maimed beyond repair. He was lucky to be alive, quite honestly.

And as much as I know he is glad that he didn't die, I know there are some days when he wonders if that wouldn't have just been better. Days when his pain is unbearable and there's nothing to do but ride it out. On days like that I'm (selfishly) glad he didn't get a choice. When he was getting somewhat better and the early part of the holiday season began, he went across the street to Walmart and came back with those lighted deer lawn ornaments and put them up - it was early November and way too early in our holiday book of etiquette. But you know what he said? He was just happy to be alive and he wanted to celebrate. He didn't care that it was early!!! And I agreed completely.

But eventually life just became normal again; and that happiness at being alive waned.

And then last year on Super Bowl Sunday I came down with the worst sickness I've ever experienced. I know now that the staph infection that had been growing in my knee had become septic and had spread to my blood and was now running wild through my body. But at the time, we had absolutely NO CLUE what the heck was happening. And it was terrifying. I'm just really glad that the medical process had already been started even though we were operating under the assumption that it was a simple meniscus injury. I often think about WHAT IF the MRI hadn't already been taken the Friday before Super Bowl. They may not have been able to identify the problem or handled it as quickly as they did; which still took 8 days from diagnosis to surgery. And even after the surgery, it still took the better part of almost 4 days to identify the infection and begin effective antibiotic treatment.

The reality is that if it had gone unchecked, I might have died.

So you see, as I said, this isn't my first dance with the "could have died" devil. But a year later and I find myself losing sight of the wonder and amazement at being given another day of living. February of last year I knew in every fiber of my being how special this life is. I knew it was fragile and that it could be gone, or drastically changed in a heartbeat. Today it is just a normal life. Get up, go to work, come home, eat, wash, rinse, repeat.

The thing is I don't want to forget how special this life is!!! I don't want to forget what a gift it is to be given each and every single day!!! I don't want to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia while waiting for another wake-up call that might not end as well as my previous ones.

At my half marathon earlier this month one of the songs that really struck a chord with me (very apt metaphor, true?) was "I Lived" by OneRepublic. When it came on I was probably at about Mile 11 and it just reinforced for me not just what that run was about for me on a personal level, but what LIFE is about.

Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up

And when that sun goes down
You raise your cup

Don't forget that life is precious, life is fragile, life is a gift. Don't forget that what you have today could be gone tomorrow. Don't wait for a wake-up call to tell people what they mean to you. Don't lose sight of the true meaning in a lot of trite expressions about "living life".

Cheesy? Yes. True? MOST DEFINITELY!!!
But I've got to go back for just a moment to the Oscar Wilde quote above. You know how he talks about how most people just "exist". Well, that's true. But there is LIVING in the EXISTING too if you open your eyes to it. Every day I come to work and sit at my desk and...EXIST. Reality is there's not a lot of living to be done in pushing papers, answering phones, and menial tasks. But there is LIVING in the relationships, the people I encounter, the blue sky out the window, the emailed pins from my friend, a well-written blog post, a smile. Find the life in the everyday. 

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, worth every broken bone
I swear I lived


  1. Thank you for sharing this Kristen. Your story helps you and helps those of us who may never experience your pain and suffering. I too become lost in the day to day shuffle of life, but I do appreciate the experiences offered by people like you to serve as a reminder that it can change in the blink of an eye. I think the key is though that while your painful experiences are not always at the forefront of your daily agenda, you make sure to make it a point to live while performing the tasks of our mundane existence. You are one wise and strong woman!

  2. Thanks, Luisa!! It's funny (well, not funny haha...) but I've been through so much in comparison to some, but so little in comparison to others. And you are right - I do try to make it a point to live! Glad you do too!!!!