A time to laugh - Act 2

I ended up with enough entries in my first write, so decided to split them into two sections of more readable snippets.  Enjoy (or at least you will see, as many have noted before, I do have a warped sense of humor)....

  • Thank goodness for a resourceful wife!  In my early days at Harborview, long before I had any arm movement at all, I had to be fed by family, friends or occasionally by Harborview staff when available.  On one such occasion I found myself alone with my l lunch tray before me, yet no way to call for nursing or other such help, as I could not even operate a call button or switch.  Gwen had realized that no one would be there to assist me that day, so she called the Virginia Mason ER to ask if one of the ER techs could break away from VM to travel the 5 blocks to Harborview to feed me lunch.  As luck would have it, one was available as the ER was not busy (aka quiet - a word we NEVER say in the ER itself).  So unexpected by me, in comes my co-worker from VM dressed in VM ER work attire, informing me he was sent by my wife Gwen to feed me lunch at Harborview, before returning to work duty in the ER at VM.


  • I have already mentioned a bit of my bicycling endeavors, still the first recumbent training ride was the most humorous with Keith and I going down twice to the asphalt (now with a bit more details).  Again at this early point in my recovery I could not rollover, stand or walk without significant assistance.  The first low speed tumble came as we cycled uphill as Keith downshifted only to have the chain derail and fall off.  He put his feet out to keep us upright, mine too weak to assist.  Then reaching behind and underneath himself he tried with one hand to get the chain back onto a smaller chainring.  So here we were on an uphill rise with Keith struggling to balance the weight of us and the tandem, brakes on with one hand so we don't roll backwards, the other hand trying to re-engage the chain behind and underneath him.  Myself entertained watching him juggle all this as we slowly began to roll over to our left, Keith struggling with all his might to keep us upright, landing close to the yellow midline of the road.  I landed face down as softly as one can land on asphalt, immediately laughing at the situation, Keith was not so entertained.  After untangling himself from the bike, he had to roll me face up and get me out of the middle of the road.  A couple of passing motorists came to our aid, Keith getting the bike pointed back downhill with me on it, and away we went.


  • The second spill, which followed the first by perhaps 20 minutes, found us headed up a steep pitch on High School Road, the same road I was originally hit on in 2004.  On this occasion my cleated foot came off the pedal causing us to immediately loose all momentum and fall to our right, myself landing twisted against the curb.  While lying prone on the street before Keith could sit me upright, an alarmed motorist remarked that I appeared to be seriously injured. I assured her those injuries were from an earlier bicycle accident, and that I would be fine this time.  At that point another motorist informed us that on his scanner he had heard the medics dispatched to the scene.  My response was that we needed to get away from the scene as quickly as possible; I was not yet ready to see the medics again.  So Keith got me upright with my gait belt, we crossed the street to point downhill, myself holding onto mailboxes for stability, we then got on the tandem and rode away from the area to avoid the medics.  Little did I know by then we were actually being followed by the chief of police in his unmarked car as we rode into Keith's open garage. Though the officer later told me he was baffled by the sudden closure of the garage door, he figured we must not be hurt and the medics were called off.

A time to laugh - Act 1

In this section, hopefully you may find a few good laughs from my experiences.  As said in Proverbs - a good word brings health to the bones.  Beyond even a good word, laughter just deeply feels so right.
  • In early November 2004, I was to be transported from the rehab facility in Silverdale to Seattle to see my spine surgeon.  If my neck and arms were found to be stable enough, I could qualify to be transferred back to Harborview for additional rehab.  I had thought we would take the ferry to Seattle, but it was not to be.  The ambulance transfer crew arrived late for my pickup with plans to drive around through Tacoma and up I-5 thinking it would save time.  We had to hustle to make the appointment, and heading north on I-5 across from Boeing Field in the HOV lane at 60+mph we had a left rear tire blowout!  The driver maintained control, but alas there was no shoulder.  So we parked it in the HOV lane and called for another ambulance as there was no possible way to change the wheel; the tread had somehow caught the rear bumper pulling it into the wheel rim.  All this time I am facing backwards, watching the rapid traffic come up from behind, thinking we were at risk for being rear-ended in the HOV lane and on a curve with limited sight distance.  Visions of my legs which were close to the rear window being thrashed in a collision seemed possible, with myself having no way to move them out of harms way.  30+ minutes later another rig arrived, the back doors popped open and one of the attendant rescuers was an off-duty ER tech that I worked with at Virginia Mason!  So timing my move with traffic, I was moved in the HOV lane of I-5 on a wheeled gurney from one ambulance to another.  In fact making it to my appointment only a few minutes late.


  • While there have been many episodes of bowel and bladder dysfunction, a few are perhaps worth mentioning, others not fit for publication.  Briefly, though everyone with a spinal cord injury has different levels of ability to control bodily functions, I was able to begin re-learn at least bladder control while on Harborview Rehab.  Given my lack of mobility this meant lying in bed using a urinal.  One particular day while lying on my hospital bed getting dressed, my nurse left me ONLY with the urinal and a small washcloth (yes, like 6x6 inches), and not a stitch of clothing on.  While awaiting the nurse's return, without warning my mother-in-law pulled back the curtain and walked in simultaneously announcing her surprise visit finding me there with only my bit of a fig leaf in place.


  • Though I went home wearing Depends, my control was gradually getting better.  Yet even to date I get very little warning of the impending fullness of my bladder, that urgency striking suddenly, so quickly I often have only minutes before risking incontinence.  Though by then I had graduated from Depends, in the summer of 2005 on a hot day Gwen and I were headed over the North Cascades Highway to Winthrop for a bit of a getaway.  The iced Latte I had consumed before the long stretch of mountain pass road suddenly hit my bladder, and I told Gwen that we must find a place to stop ASAP.  We both figured there would be a gas station or restaurant along the way as we were getting close to Winthrop.  But nothing appeared.  Our peace of the day, time together and the amazing beauty of the mountains now replaced by one thought - empty that bladder.  There were not even any indiscreet places to pull off for me to mark a tree or other object.  Finally, myself now in a full sweat with lap belt off to avoid any extra pressure, a side road appeared, though admittedly it was a little too late.  Gwen pulled quickly down the gravel road getting out of sight of the highway and I finished relieving myself amongst the shrubbery. Oh what relief!!  As we pulled out from the side road back onto the North Cascades Highway we both saw the road sign, we had turned down Dripping Spring Road - and that is just what I had experienced.


  • Since we are on the topic of water, I will relate my first swimming pool experience.  Weekly, Harborview rehab patients have the opportunity to travel to a community pool for therapy.  My first such episode involved getting from the wheelchair into the water by either a chair power assisted device, or via walking down steps to the water.  This was at a point in my rehab when I could not walk, and had not yet tried steps.  Yet my confident energetic African American therapy assistant was sure he could handle the steps with me and my 139 pound frame.  He was after all still a buff muscular ex-athlete.  The plan was to stand from the wheelchair arm in arm and face to face with Mike as he would support/carry me as he backed down the pool steps, I moving forward upright in his arms.  Problem was, I could not feel my feet, and my nylon pressure stockings were still on.  Once I hit the water and those tile steps, my feet and legs were sliding every which way; I had no control over them, nor could I even see where they were.  Yet I felt like, and Mike's face confirmed, we were on the edge of losing all control.  Desperate, I was looking for something, anything to grab onto - and all I could see were Mike's disappointing short and tightly curled chest hairs.  His strength and ability saved the day, but I'll never forget the loss of control I felt and the overwhelming desire to grasp at something, anything to achieve stability - with the only option being those black, short, curly African American chest hairs.  Mike and I had a good laugh over that.