Part 4 – Survival, accident, luck, miracle

Survival, accident, luck, miracle: I wouldn’t change any of it

As I consider the wonders of life with a disability, I find myself pondering the survival-miracle-accident-luck narrative. “Survive” is defined as “to remain alive after the
occurrence of some event; 2. to endure or live through an affliction, adversity, or misery, etc.”

“Miracle” is defined as “an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God; 2. a
wonder/marvel; 3. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.”

“Accident” is defined as “an unexpected or undesirable event often physically injurious.”

“Luck” is defined as “good fortune.”

Every person is different and will evaluate the narrative for themselves. Can one experience more than one survival-miracle-miracle-luck experience in a lifetime? Can one overcome these experiences to thrive in the world?

I think most of you who have followed this series probably know my response to the narrative. Most if not all of you will be surprised by the incidents in my life after my accident that caused my disability.

I remember one day when I was six or seven when my mother arrived home from work. I was in the second-floor playroom of our home. I saw my mother parking the car out of the window. I ran out of the room and down the stairs to go outside to meet her.

The front door to our home was open, but there was a screen door to the entry/egress. The lower part of the screen door was a glass pane. I think I froze when I got to the screen door. I went through the glass head first. I could not stop my momentum. I did not have a single scratch or cut, but the glass was shattered.

I may have been eight years old when my family took a short road trip to visit my Godparents in Alton, Ill. My family of seven loaded into our station wagon. We were traveling at 70 miles per hour when the left rear tire blew out. The car careened off the highway and rolled over four times into a field. There were no severe injuries, mostly cuts and bruises. I had a mouthful of dirt.

I believe I was 10 years old when my brother, I, and one of our best friends decided we were going to sleep outside at our friend’s home. We slept in a tent with sleeping bags. In the morning, it was kind of cold. Instead of going home, we decided to build a fire in the fire pit.

We used sticks and newspaper for the initial fire. The original flames went out quickly. We set up more sticks and newspaper and we had a great idea. My brother and friend went into our friend’s basement and put some gasoline into a cup. The first application of gasoline was great. The second application of gasoline was a disaster.

The flames and fumes came up so high that the cup in my brother’s hand ignited. I was standing off to his right and a bit behind him. He tossed the cup towards me, and the remaining liquid went onto my clothes. The fumes and flames followed as I caught on fire. The results were that all of my body hair was singed and my private parts were burned from coming into contact with the hot metal zipper of my pants.

From the age of 11 to 14, I nearly drowned on three separate occasions: once during swimming lessons in a pool, once at a family picnic at a lake, and yet again at summer camp on the Merrimac River. I was saved by extraordinary individuals each time.

For some normalcy, not much happened for many years except a few concussions during basketball games, another car accident in 1977, repair of a torn rotator cuff, selective surgery to improve use of my left arm and hand, and a hernia repair. My joyful life with all of its wonders continued.

In 1992, I was assaulted and stabbed, leaving two holes in my large intestine. I had to drive 13 miles in Milaca, MN to the police station to receive assistance. I was rushed to the hospital in Buffalo, MN and then transported to Fairview Riverside Medical Center for emergency surgery.

In 2000, I went onto a second-story roof to clean and flush the gutters on a client’s roof. As I got back onto the ladder to get to the ground, the ladder turned onto its side and slid back. This left me dangling from the roof edge on my left elbow and my left foot on the ladder. I was able to call 911 and get emergency assistance within minutes.

The most interesting thing about this adventure was the response by the 911 operator. When I told her my predicament, her response was: “Don’t go anywhere.”

In 2008, I was having trouble with my right knee. We found that I had a calcium deposit over my knee cap that had cracked and was causing the pain when I kneeled down. I had this repaired, and six weeks later, as I walked down a damp, grassy hill, I slipped, causing my patella tendon to snap. I went back to the surgeon for repair and recovery.

I think that due to the recovery time and the closeness of both surgeries, I developed a hernia. The recovery period was short, but I was 99 percent immobile. Eight days after recovery, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor. I told him of the severe pain in my left leg. He scheduled an ultra-sound for two hours later.

The ultra-sound showed I had a blood clot from my hip to below my knee in my left leg. Eventually we found that the large blood vessel in my left leg had stopped working and I would have to take blood-thinning medicine the rest of my life.

A part of my gene pool encompasses the hypertension-high blood pressure abnormality. My hypertension became apparent at age 44, much later than most persons in my
family. I will be and have been taking medications to control my hypertension since the first diagnosis at the age of 44.

I do not share these experiences with you for pity or sympathy. I share them as a gift to you so that everyone can have a full and experiential life. I only asked once, “Why me?” After reflection I say, “Why not me?”

None of us is given more than we can handle, and I accept all of the above because I would not want any of my children or grandchildren to have to experience the adventures I have. I would not change anything about my life. My experiences have assisted in helping me to be the best person I am today.

People with disabilities are people, too. We experience the joys of life daily as everyone else does. Treat us with the respect, honesty and dignity that every member of the human race is given upon birth.