The Neck Incident

Yeah, those pins go into my skull

February 21, 2013: Happily Ever After

It turns out that I’m not much of a blogger. Life as I knew it, as I know it again seems to have consumed me, leaving me little time to blog. Or maybe I’ve run out of things to report about my not so broken anymore neck. Okay, I’ve moved on. While the imprint of my injury probably will never totally fade away, its effect on my day to day life is hard to see at times. Don’t get me wrong, it’s with me. In my mind, I don’t forget just how close I was and how fortunate I am to have had so many people care for me. Physically, I still see the pin site scars on my forehead and I still feel my left hand tingle.

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All in all, this story ends well. Here’s a synopsis in case you missed anything. Guy breaks neck. Thinks world collapses. Realizes the opposite. Falls in love while recovering. Gets married. Lives happily ever after.

One last health report to honor the blog. Went in for a physical last October, got a blood test, cough, and all. I was worried I’d get a prostate exam, but thankfully the doctor wasn’t interested. Passed the physical with flying colors. The doctor and I talked more about woodworking and running than health issues. Even had my eyes checked last week. Nearly perfect vision. I told the optometrist I’d come back when I can’t read the 64ths on my ruler anymore. Yeah the top of the left hand tingles form time to time. Like a check engine light, it’s no real big deal. It is just telling me that I am tired, stressed, or that I’m going to need an umbrella. It may go away, but there’s a part of me that hopes not.

Don’t think I’ll ever be able to express all my gratitude to everybody (eyes water). I’ll keep trying though. Thank you all so very very much!

It’s true, I’m closing this door on you, but at the same time, I am opening up a new one for you. These may be the last words of The Neck Incident, but not my last words. Please come follow me at Aeris Studio Scraps. See what I am up to, what I am building, where my life’s journey is headed next.

Again, thank you all so very much for all your love and support.

Love and peace to you all,

Ehren

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February 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

March 21, 2011

It’s been a year.

Almost to the second of when I started writing this, a year earlier I was lying in a dark room in the emergency department, on a gurney, waiting. Waiting for a doctor, a nurse, an aid, my mom. Just lying there with no idea how my life had already been altered. No idea how fortunate I was to be lying there.

March 20th, 2010 was a great day that ended early Sunday morning. The last day of winter and the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny. The kind of day that makes you appreciate living in NC. I had a mid morning soccer game and an open afternoon which I spent grilling with friends. I’ve been playing soccer since I was 5. Countless games, countless weekends, countless hours of my life spent on the pitch. That day I played one of the best games of my life. I tirelessly ran like an antelope, challenged every ball, and had two of the prettiest goals I’ve ever netted. Including a game winner. Frankly, that was enough for me to have a good day.

The next day, that was gone. I couldn’t run a bit. I wasn’t allowed to walk. I’d been replaced as the boss of my body. Suspended indefinitely. Yielding all control to my mom and the medical professionals. Hoping they’ll be able to fix what I had broke. Hoping that one day I maybe in control again.

Control is just an illusion. At least that’s how I see it these days. I concede that most of us are in control. We decide the what, the when, the where, the how of our life. We dictate and create our daily lives. But those reins that provide you that control are fragile and come with no guarantees. Ultimately, we have no control. Maybe for the highest force in the universe, control is just an illusion too. An illusion that provides us comfort. It’s a catalyst, an impetus to take charge and create the life you want. Which we all can do. We all have the power to create our life in whatever light we choose. We just aren’t in control.

Recently, on my way home, along a winding two lane road, I noticed a head ducking up and down just along the side in the ditch. Curiosity slowed me down and I discovered a young deer. This deer was ducking its head when traffic passed and raising it while there was none. It was trying to get up. From the opposite side of the road, I pulled the vehicle along side it. The deer frantically pushed with its front legs to get up. But the back legs would not follow. Bothered by my presence it managed to twist itself and expose its white underbelly. I wanted so badly to help, but I was clearly just making it worse, so I drove a mile away. Stopped the vehicle and thought, “What can I do?” Nothing. It was out of my control. Unfortunately, it appeared to be out of the deer’s control too. I think the poor thing had been struck by a vehicle. Enough of a blow to disable its back legs, but not kill it. I had to drive away. Called animal control and they dispatched an officer. My assumption is that they put the animal down. I tell myself that’s better than allowing the animal to remain there to die from stress and starvation. I hope the deer miraculously got up and was gone before animal control arrived.

I share this story because the whole episode still impresses upon me. I share this story because it has helped evolve my understanding of life, of control. Moments before I came across that deer, moments before that deer found itself in that ditch. It was in total control, deciding when to stop, when to run, when to do other deer stuff. I too was in control, of my truck, of my day. It was an illusion. As the situation deteriorates, the illusion disappears and we are left with the reality. That horrible feeling of helplessness, raced through me. That same feeling I felt on the gurney.

The lesson is not that we should throw up our hands up and say, “Why bother? It’s out of our control.” The lesson is to strive to understand and be in balance with the nature of life. Accept its ebbs and flows, its ups and downs, its ills and fortunes.

All stories don’t have happy endings. Terrible things happen. Wonderful things happen. Your life is your experience.

On Saturday the weather was beautiful, warm and sunny. The kind of day that makes you appreciate living in NC. For the first time, I returned to the same soccer field I had played on almost a year earlier to the day. While I played in the league last season, I felt like there was a huge deficit in my game. An understandable deficit, but enough of one to question if I’ll ever play again as well as I once was capable. On the way to the game, Mary asked if I was nervous? My answer was, “No, I feel fine, confident. I am a little worried we won’t have enough players and that I am losing my competitive fire.” Translation, I’m worried my days on the field are numbered. Arrived at the field and we had 7 players and our new jerseys were pink. “Ugh” I thought. I warmed up. We picked up a few players and we played the game. My objective for the game was low, just to keep running and hustle. I hoped to play smart. Playing in my most comfortable position, outside midfielder, I ran up and down the sideline. Making myself available to our offense and defense. My legs lightened up, my vision widened, my awareness increased. I played well, I ran tirelessly. And after a long run I was rewarded with my first goal since my accident. A header nonetheless. Played the whole game and I am feeling like that deficit isn’t so huge after all. I’m motivated again!

It’s been a year. Thanks again to all the medical professionals at Duke. Thank you for all the support in its many, many forms from family and friends. I’m thankful for my excellent health. I’m thankful for the women in my life, Mom and Mary. They’re like manifested guardian angels.

My Peace and Love to you All,

Ehren

March 21, 2011 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, March 2011 | 3 Comments

February 7, 2011

2010 rear in review. That’s supposed to be year. I know it’s a bit late. What’s that phrase? Something … late than never.  A lot of unpleasant sounding stuff happened to me last year. I reflect and respond with Wow! Not sure I have ever encountered so many challenges during a year. Hope I have learned from them. This probably won’t be the toughest year I ever have.  I hope not, despite my optimism, I am realistic. It would be nice if those things that challenge us in life are little more spread out next time. Indeed, for me, last year was for creating a tabula rasa. Last year was actually a really great year.

Besides the neck injury, there’s more to my 2010. There are other challenges that I had to deal with. Some occurred before my accident, some occurred after, and some were pushed to the forefront by the accident. Not everybody knows the whole story. I’ve kept my cards close to the vest as I navigated the year.

First let me honor the blog and give a neck update. I know I’m teasing the reader a little. I’ll be quick. I’m at 99%. The recovery continues in the left hand as it works just fine. It has normal strength. Fingers fing. The hyper sensitivity clings and has yet to cease. It’s a slow process with little tangible progress. There seems to be such a small amount of healing left. It’s as if the smaller the amount of healing there is the less noticeable the increments of recovery are. The doctor said it’s an 18 to 24 month healing period. After that, what lingers maybe permanent. My neck is sore occasionally and I have tiny little muscle spasms. They are rare and last no more than a second. I just need to massage and relax those muscles more often. I am back to work. Its business as usual. It’s nice to say that.

Last year started out with a nasty virus in my computer. Irritating and inconvenient. Time consuming and costly.  Micro PC-cillin was my antivirus. It’s not recommended by this user. The worst of it was the loss of all my emails, word, and excel documents. That meant all my business documents: contacts, forms, my history.

My dear Uncle Bill passed away in February. His quality of life had been inadequate for several years from a series of strokes. His passing wasn’t a surprise. Nonetheless the loss still hurt my heart. He was good to me, I Loved him.

Slow business and a poor economy for custom woodworking began to exasperate my long simmering financial problems. Years of stress created by overbearing debt left me feeling desperate, trapped, and desolate. Never missed a payment, but I knew I was in over my head. Eventually I would sink. I needed a solution. I was looking. I was hoping. I needed to win the lottery. Most people thought I was self employed. That was true on the surface, but I was really working for the banks.

It was March, I was turning 34. The house I lived in had my name on the mortgage but I shared it with my father and Uncle Dennis. The house was in a state of remodel. That state being stagnant and perpetually unfinished. It was underwater. Feared I would be living with my father and uncle forever. It’s not what I wanted. It’s not what I envisioned. I didn’t see a way out. I wondered, “How will I ever have a family of my own at this point?”

Broke my neck March 21st.

I remember laying in the ER waiting for my diagnosis and planning the rest of my day. I had a kitchen installation the next week and needed to spray finish on the cabinets. So the plan was to go work in the shop after I got home from the ER. The nurse broke the news. “The doctor didn’t tell you? You have fractures in your neck.”

Here’s what I actually said to myself, “Oh, just fractured. That’s not too bad. She didn’t say broken. Fractured is not broken. Oh God. Fractured is broken. I broke my neck. I can’t break my neck. What am I going to do??” That was tough. The gig was up. Soon the rest of my life would be crushed. It was out of my hands.

As you know, there were other hands. Lots of other, loving, caring, and helpful hands.

I told Hank, my step father, all about my financial situation and asked for his help and guidance. He called a debt counselor and they informed us that they don’t provide miracles. One credit card company was literally willing to let Hank pay bills on my behalf. We contacted a bankruptcy attorney. He recommended chapter 7, total liquidation.  Filed in July.

In September, my cousin, Sam, two years younger than I, passed away after a tiresome battle with cancer. That still hurts the most. The hardest to make sense of. I am still profoundly amazed by the strength of his parents, his wife, and brother. I know their year has been so much harder than mine. My thoughts are with them. I Love them. I Loved Sam. I miss him.

I got what I asked for, plus much more this last year, it just came in a ways I never imagined.

I’m still waiting for the bank to come foreclose on the house and give me my 75 day notice. I may leave before then. I will lose my shop space. It’s a great place and I’ve built some very beautiful stuff in there. However, I have new shop space lined up just west of Carrboro. I can build beautiful stuff there too.

What do you think?

I think it's beautiful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bankruptcy really isn’t as scary as I thought. It turns out they don’t take your underwear and kick you out of your house. I give up the house and the shop, but the rest of the stuff I have is basically worthless and they don’t want it. With exemptions, I got to keep my tools, truck, and stay in business. I’m not sending all my income to banks anymore. My financial stress is all but gone now. It’s a real big weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s liberating. It turns out the rest of my life wasn’t crushed after all.

Lately, I’ve been taking a small business class, and I am finding it extremely useful. It’s giving me a foundation and understanding in running a business that I have never had. It’s creating confidence. I have a new opportunity, and I am excited about it.

My appreciation for life, its beauty and fragility, continues to blossom. I cherish and hold my loved ones closer. I’ve learned how wonderful the people in my life are. I see abundant value in my friends and I am trying to be sure they know that.

2010 also brought me Mary. I asked for her too. She is a big part of what was a really great year. She sort of came on the same day I broke my neck. Didn’t get to actually meet her in person until April. Nothing like being 34 years old having your mom drop you off for a first date with a halo on. I didn’t see her coming, but she saw me. I’m so very, very lucky. We are getting married and are planning our life together.

Told you I was lucky!

I believe life is easy. Life is beautiful. That’s a perception belief. I can’t provide answers for or a reconciliation of this past year’s events. I value them. They are a source of growth. Experience of life to draw on.

Heard this the other day and liked it,

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do”

Still immensely grateful. Still looking forward.

My Peace and Love to you all

February 8, 2011 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, February 2011 | 6 Comments

November 26, 2010

November 26, 2010

Just can’t help myself. I apparently don’t love blogging when I don’t have a broken neck. Or maybe I haven’t figured out how to make time for blogging when the neck is healthy. Yes it’s healthy. Just the other day I lifted up a whole school bus of overweight children from Ohio with only my neck muscles. I’m not exaggerating one bit!

I hope you’ve had as marvelous of a Thanksgiving as I. Been in Tryon, NC with Mary and her family. I’ve had a lovely time as they have so warmly let me do all of the cooking. Her mom was even nice enough to say “Hey slave” to me while prepping the turkey.  Speaking of, Terry has been thoroughly shared and enjoyed amongst the family, the crows and the neighborhood dogs. Thanksgiving is my favorite, a holiday to reflect and express our gratitude with the loved ones around us. And of course a holiday focused on eating and drinking, then eating and drinking some more. This year my thankfulness, my gratitude runs deep. Deep for the people in my life. Deep for this year’s experiences. Deep for my health. Deep for my life. Deep for not being a Turkey.

Saw Dr. Hardaker little over 3 weeks ago. Typical appointment, besides Mom not coming for the first time, it was very routine. More X-rays. Physical strength and nerve tests. I report how the neck feels and the changes I’ve noticed. He confirms my experience and gives me an idea of what’s to come. He advises me on the recovery process.  He’s very pleased with my progress.  We discussed the lingering hyperesthesia. My left hand still is overly sensitive to light touch and temperature change. Very, very little left side tingling. Other than that all systems operate like before. He has given me a time frame of 18 months from the accident for that to clear up. Anything remaining after that maybe permanent. I think I’ve said this before, but considering the gravity of the accident, I’ll take it. Thought that might be my last appointment, but he wants to see me again in a year. Can’t blame him. I thanked him again, checked out, grabbed Halloween candy, fun size, and headed to my truck. Sat down, reflected and got a bit verklempt. It has been quite a year.

Visited family in Sept. They are always so welcoming as I was provided with a harness to visit on the porch

My normal day consists of making dust, making phone calls, making drawings and other tasks you might expect from a woodworking business. Outside of work, I exercise by running or playing soccer, cook, spend time with my ladies, and work on my own little projects. Pretty mundane. It’s what missing that’s important, I don’t spend much time at all taking care of, talking or worrying about my neck anymore. It’s still sore in the evenings and my hand acts up from time to time when sleeping. Point being that the neck incident is fading out of focus and yielding.  That’s something to be deeply thankful for and I am.

Despite fading and yielding to new life experiences, the time in my life that was dominated by my accident will have an everlasting effect in who I am, how I grow, and how I live out all the wonderful days ahead. Call me crazy, but breaking my neck has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has forced and pushed me in the directions I have wanted to go but haven’t known how to or was, oddly enough, too paralyzed to move towards. It has given to me and I am deeply thankful.

Anyway, I don’t mean to insinuate that this is my last post. I do have another appointment with Dr. Hardaker. I’m just saying it’s time to begin to focus on other aspects of life.

Thank you for reading my words. Thank you for your concern. Thank you for being a part. I am deeply grateful for you.

November 29, 2010 Posted by | November 2010 | 3 Comments

September 22, 2010

Today I post on what is the last day of summer. Hard to tell it by the weather as we are enjoying another week of 90 degree plus weather. Its forecast to break on Monday and I am ready. I find it a bit symbolic as my fall occurred on the first day of spring. The first day of the year that represents the beginning of new life as we transform our environment from the dead of winter. My fall, if you look at it through my lens, was the first day of a new beginning for me. Fast forward 6 months through summer, and I feel like I have a good foundation going into autumn and winter.

Sleep remains a real gift. Sleep remains vital in recovery. In fact its one of the few remaining tangible indicators of how am I doing. I still need sleep like a child, 9 to 10 hours in every 24 hour period. If not careful, I can easily get caught up in my daily activities and find myself very tired and achy in the night or the whole next day. It’s a tricky equation with variables that are in a state of change. I need to honor the limitations that my body dictates for healing. And at the same time, I am trying to steadily increase my daily activities and get back to work and play as I used to. In due time this will happen. I like to imagine a line on a graph that smoothly goes up towards infinite energy. The reality is  no straight line, its jagged. It’s more like a tug of war. I pull and overextend myself for a day or two, even sometimes three. Then my body tugs backs. I feel tired and achy overall, especially in my left arm. My body tells me that I am compromising my recovery. I abide and take it easy with less physical activity and more rest. Rinse and repeat.

As I said, there are only a few tangible indicators of how am I doing left. There’s the energy level which is directly related to sleep. There’s my neck and its muscles. And then there’s the most influential one of them all, the left arm and hand. The neck doesn’t talk to me too often, but it does get extra sore from time to time. Yes the implication is that it’s typically a bit sore and stiff each day. In due time it will loosen up. I need to remember to do my physical therapy neck range of motion exercises. They seem to have fallen off my radar.

The left hand and arm still show signs of hyperesthesia. Which is hard to explain specifically, but it’s generally an abnormal increase in sensitivity to stimuli of the senses. For me, it manifests as heightened sensitivity to touch, and is often perceived as painful or irritating. It’s basically the result of nerve compression during my accident. Overall, this has been getting better and I actually had to think about whether it was bothering me last week. This week is another story. Went for a run 3 days in a row. The top of my hand and wrist have been extra sensitive and achy the last 2 days. I’ll have to pull back, maybe only run twice in 3 days.

Saw Dr. Turner about a month ago. He continues to be impressed by the rate of my recovery. He sees no reason for an operation unless I start to go backwards. He expects the hyperesthesia to take 18 months maybe 2 years to correct its self. Hey that’s great! And I’ll take it. He explained that those nerves associated with the left hand somewhere along the line aren’t relaying clear messages to the brain yet. Let’s call it under construction.

I still have tingling on the left side when looking down, but its severity has lessened significantly. I expect it to continue to get better as my neck muscles strengthen and help hold everything in place. Additionally, Dr. Turner says those nerves are still extra sensitive to movement. Again, still under construction.

So overall, I am writing in good and improving physical health. Doing well, mentally too. Like I said, it’s a bit taxing having to constantly figure out my body and make adjustments, but I am doing great.

Unfortunately though, I have been experiencing a heavy, heavy heart and soul over the last week plus. As you may remember from my May 16th post, my dear cousin Sam had been battling a serious illness, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. News came last week that he had been doing poorly. He left us on Sunday, peacefully while resting at home with his family by his side. He is survived by his wife Jennifer, his Son Sullivan Sam (age three), daughter Delaney Jane (age one), Aunt Sandy, Uncle Tom, and his Brother Luke.

As most of us know, it’s often a lot harder to reconcile the death of someone so young. I am no different and am struggling as where or how to begin. There’s honestly a part of me residing in deep incredulity, just waiting to wake up. But it’s not a dream; it’s the harder side of life. The hurt, the heartache, and the sadness come overflowing from what seems like every possible opening. Where does it all come from, what is the source? I don’t really know, but my best guess right now is that it’s Love. The harder side of Love. Love is displaced, defragging, resettling inside of us. It’s not leaving us. It’s not lessening. It is eternal. It is undergoing a metamorphosis, and it hurts. I am leaving for Michigan this afternoon to be with what is a large and beautiful extended family. There’s no doubt that being there with them and participating in “meaningful ritual and celebration of Sam” will help settle our souls. Lastly, despite the ugliness of Sam’s illness and the pain it creates, Life’s beauty continues to find a way to shine through. There will be a very full house in honor of Sam. It will be a true testament of Sam’s beauty and love that he created and cultivated with us. I am so very thankful to have been a part of his life, and I will miss him dearly.

Tom, Luke, & Sammy on the right. I know they're not looking at the camera, but I was trying to take Aunt Sandy's pic there on the left

If interested, memorial to either of two donations in lieu of flowers:

Not wanting to end on such a sad note, I bid you a wonderful day and great health!

Ehren

September 22, 2010 Posted by | September 2010 | 1 Comment

July 21, 2010

Well what do you know? Time flies when you’re not in a halo! It’s been over 5 weeks since my last post. I’ve seen both doctors, started Physical Therapy (PT), and flew to the moon since I last posted.

It’s been 7 weeks since the halo came off and I’m still sporting the Miami J collar. Wore it solid for the first 3 weeks. After that, Dr. Hardaker set up a schedule to wean me gently out of it. Fourth week slept without it. Fifth week didn’t put it on until noon. 3 pm on the sixth week. This week it only goes on after 6pm until bed time. It sure would of been nice to be without it a lot sooner. I have to admit though, that when it comes time to put on the collar, my neck doesn’t hurt from not having it. So the weaning process has been successful so far. I was thinking yesterday that I didn’t need the thing at all anymore. I am only wearing it for a few hours even though my neck feels fine. Then the smarter part of my brain chimed in and said, “It’s a reminder.” Indeed, in the very least it slows me down. Which I need, because I am raring to go! Saturday is the last day for the collar.

No brace! Until 6

I can turn to the left too

So what about that left arm and the new left side tingling? Still present. What did the Doctors think? “You’re healing very well. Remarkable recovery over the last 3 months.”

But I can make my left side tingle by looking down?

“Try not to do that.”

Don’t we need some tests? Don’t you want to see what’s going on?

“Only if we are going to operate.”

Oh. Well that’s good.

Here’s where it all stands right now. Surgery is not off the table, but its teetering on the edge. The doctors are very pleased with the progress of my recovery. My bones continue to heal, become strong. My neck muscles are back to work. My paresthesias (mild abnormal nerve sensations such as pins-and-needles, tingling, burning, prickling, itchy, etc) in the left arm and hand continue to slowly dissipate. And the left side tingling is probably caused by that bone, which over time should wear away and yield the space back to the spinal column. The doctors reminded me that my bruised spinal cord and nerves take time to regenerate and heal; 6, 9, 12 months maybe even 2yrs. It’s been 4 months. The bottom line here is that it would be crazy to operate near my spinal cord to fix two issues that will probably correct themselves with the aid of time.

I have good strength in my left arm. Starting to get back some tactile feelings in my fingers as they don’t feel like blocks anymore. I can pick my nose again! So I am feeling good about the prognosis and I just repeat my mantra, “In due time. In due time.”

I’ll see Dr. Hardaker next week and Dr. Turner September first. There’s a lot more time between visits now. Another good sign.

I’ve had 4 rounds of PT as I see Jeff once a week. We don’t seem to do much but talk and go over a few exercises. It’s been easy and relatively painless. In fact I am not supposed to do things that hurt. So what do I do? Isometric exercises, range of motion, neck traction (have somebody very, very gently pull on my head), walking, trunk twists, leg raises, and shoulder shrugs. I do all of those things each day on my own. I am determined to take advantage of my time and this period where PT is most beneficial. I think I have been showing progress too. This week Jeff introduced a big rubber stretchy tube to do all sorts of resistance exercises. Just 3 to 5 reps. Doesn’t sound like much, but I guess it is enough. He warns me about over doing it, “red lining” and the consequences. If I over do it, I may not know immediately, maybe 6 hours later, 12 or the next day. But when I do, I pay with my energy and feeling good. I ache and am tired. I am going to get those days. They usually come after a day when I felt great. I am still learning to find the sweet spot and ride it. The thing is, as I get better, the sweet spot is always changing.

I still can’t go running. It’s too jarring. I still can’t pick heavy stuff up. I still can’t do pull ups. No soccer or tennis. Not suppose to swim or roller blade. No tree climbing. But I can breathe, move around and interact with the world. I am still feeling very fortunate and thankful for my life. I’m still overwhelmed by emotion as I think about all wonderful people who make me who I am. Thank you.

Speaking of those people, I’ve got 3 more in my life. Congratulations to Kristen & Mark who now have a little boy, Eli! Congratulations to Jill & Chris who now have a little girl, Ava! And congratulations to Susan & Billy who now have their second boy, Henry! Thankfully, everybody is home and healthy.

For the most part, I have my autonomy back. I’m at 79 mph out of 100. I take care of myself again and I am starting to slowly ease back into my work. Huge thanks to all of my clients who have been patient and understanding. I can drive myself around again. Today I’m going to visit my Mom, play some disc golf in the 96 degree heat and juggle a soccer ball. I sure am lucky.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, July 2010 | 4 Comments

June 12, 2010

Well I’ve been halo free for 11 days now. While this is a big change and very symbolic of my recovery’s progress, there’s still a long way to go. It’s taken me those 11 days to figure that out. I thought once I’m out of the halo I’d be just about back to normal. Let’s call normal 100mph, and right after the accident I was going 2mph. I was hoping to be at 90mph coming out of the halo, but I am more like at 45mph right now. It’s still better than 0.

Even with my Miami J collar on, I can swivel my head a bit on my neck. Look up. Look down. To the right. Not too fast. To the left and even a little circular head roll. There’s enough play in the collar for those movements. I think it’s designed to allow me to use my neck muscles and give them immediate support at the same time. It’s like training wheels.  So I do practice turning my head slowly from side to side. Just go the edge of discomfort and back again. It really did feel much more frail just a week ago. Today, I have more confidence in it and am starting to move it more naturally, unconsciously.

Most common question these days is, “What can you do now that you couldn’t before?” The answer is, not a whole lot more, but I did compile a small list:

  • I can give hugs without leaving halo grill marks on peoples faces
  • Wear whatever clothes I want
  • Take showers (No hair washing for the first week! Pin sites)
  • I can actually sleep, all night, in a comfortable position!!!
  • Move my neck
  • Not get tangled up in wires and cords when I go under my desk

As I alluded to above, I do wish the list was longer. However, I am much more comfortable these days. Thankfully, I got that halo off just before the heat of the summer hit last week. I’ve been getting out and about more too. Visited the Haw River last weekend, been throwing a frisbee, out to listen to music, went into a pool, made a second trellis for my out of control tomato plants (see below), and even ran into a couple of my favorite characters at a brewery tour.

Good old friends!

Oh! There's no pleasing Homer

My left arm issues have regressed somewhat since removing the halo. Nothing extreme, but noticeable. I guess it’s understandable if not expected a little. The regression slowed down and seems to have stabilized. Hopefully it’s a 2 steps backwards, 3 steps forward scenario. Then on Wednesday, I noticed that when I bend my neck down, say to look at my feet, the intensity of the discomfort increases immediately, it’s similar to increasing the volts in a Stanley Milgram obedience experiment. It’s like a switch and when I pick my head up, it disappears. It doesn’t necessarily hurt more, but it does travel down to my left leg. Yes that’s new. So what’s happening? My guess is that bone, C5, which was resting on the spinal cord after the accident, is pushing on the cord when I move my neck that way. Its pause and cause for concern. Will that force them to put me under the knife or is it just something new to watch? I’m trying not to get too worked up over it until I hear what the doctors have to say. I see Dr. Hardaker on June 24th and Dr. Turner on June 30th.

Like me, almost ready to give back

More Hot Peppers and Tomatoes

Hot Peppers and Basil

My neck does ache at the end of the day. The muscles feel tired too. I think it just part of the process. It has felt better after a night’s rest. Let’s just call it getting one day closer to a full recovery. My pin sites have closed up nicely and quicker than I expected. I am contemplating, whether or not to put some scar reduction cream on my fore head sites or let them be and wear them as badges of honor or as a reminder of life’s beauty. Love to get your opinion.

I see you!

How about physical therapy? It’s still down the road, but I think we’ll be weaning me off the neck collar first. Just going from the halo to a neck brace is probably more than enough for my neck to deal with right now.

Want to send out thoughts of love and support to my Uncle Frank and his family up in Michigan. His Brother Jeff, passed away this week. I’m thinking of you all and sending my peace your way.

On the brighter side of things, good friends Kristen and Mark are expecting their first born, imminently. I’m guessing the 22nd.  They’ve asked me to deliver the baby! What an honor. But I really need to clean the shop up before hand. Seriously, they’ve asked me to house sit and care for their other 7 four legged children while at the hospital. I’m honored and happy to start giving back.

Hope you all are doing well and finding a moment of happiness each day. It’ll cure what ails you.

June 13, 2010 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, June 2010 | 2 Comments

June 3, 2010

Put my head in the fridge today! Not a big deal typically, but it was today. Got to give my Mom the hug she so deserved too.

Yes, I am out of the halo! So very happy about it. So very grateful.

Mom took a bunch of photos during my visit to Dr. Hardaker. I had to keep her from following me into the restroom with that camera! So I’m going to let the pictures do the talking today. I’ll come back fill you in about what the next month looks like for me in my next post. But wanted to go ahead and share because I know you all are curious. Thanks for keeping up with me.

Heading into Duke Sports Medicine

I'm the one next to the building

Stairs buddy?

Paper work! Without it, I'm like a ghost


The waiting game

The waiting room

Damn papparazi!

The next waiting room

Dr. Hardaker arrives

Explaining the intimate process of whale love

"Wow! Who knew?"

"Hey! Those pins really do go into your skull"

Last look at the pins

1, 2, 3, 4

State of the art medical equipment

Hey Frankenstein

More waiting. Let’s spin!

Around and around and

Whoa! Stay seated!

Around

Here we go!

Precautions

Who farted?

3 of dook's finest

There goes the rigging

Wake me when your done

Halo still on. Were those even needed?

Checking out their handy work

Now the halo

Not going to turn itself

Two! Now the back.

That's one!

Finally!

Easy

I can see out of those holes too

Wow!

The new hardware

Rollerblading this afternoon?

Thanks Guys!

Better take it easy; I'll sit on a railing.

Good-bye old friend

Lets take a look at this

It actually wasn't easy saying good-bye

You'd think I'd had been tired of looking at it

Heading out!

No turning back

Its a sunny day again

Looking good

What you don’t see, after I got in the car, are the tears slowing revealing themselves from behind my sun glasses. As if they were there to wash away a great weight off my shoulders.

Some are wondering if these are my last posts. Far from it. There’s plenty of healing left to do. Further, The Neck Incident is about more than the halo. Its about life, love, and growth. Thanks for following. My love to you all.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, June 2010 | 3 Comments

May 30, 2010

A lot can happen in 48 hours. A painfully long time if you count it second by second. That’s 172,800 seconds. Who’s got time for that? However, those 48 hours are nothing compared to the 2 1/2 months I’ve had the halo on. That’s 10 weeks or 70 days or 1,680 hours or 100,800 minutes or 6,048,000 seconds. Whatever units you prefer, I’ve enjoyed every life saving moment of them. Yes, enjoyed. I’m still so happy to be alive, to be walking, to enjoy all the wonderful people who make me who I am. In fact life seems to get sweeter with each passing second.

In 48 hours, I should be halo free! I’m going to try not to count all 172,800 seconds, but they will be on my mind. In fact these last two weeks miraculously, somehow, have taken more time than the first two months. Go figure. Not miraculously, I’m ready to be let out. I’ve mentally been ready for a while; it’s up to Dr. Hardaker as to when I’ll be ready physically. He says Tuesday. I say today. The neck is ready. I can rack the halo with my neck and I can hear it creak. It’s as if the neck is speaking through the halo, “Let me out. Let me out. Let me out!”

Went to see Dr. Hardaker on Tuesday. He stood me up. He apparently prefers emergency surgery to a visit with me, my halo, and my smiling face. He didn’t really stand me up; I didn’t get the voicemail requesting I come in earlier. So I did get another neck X-ray, talked to the nurse about the next Tuesday, and went on my merry way. She said the doctor would look at the X-rays on Thursday and call me if there’s a change in my Tuesday removal. He never called!

Unfortunately my somewhat long list of questions didn’t get answered and I had to go back home with my uncertainty about the next month still fully intact. I was hoping to find out about so many things:

Physical therapy – when, how long, where?

How strong will my neck be?

When can I start back in the shop?

When can I run again?

When can I drive again?

Will there be another cat scan, MRI?

How long, how often will I be in a neck brace?

Will I sleep with it?

Do my pin sites still need special care?

More patience is in order. I’ll know in 48 hours!

The injuries continue to heal. Thankfully. The head hurts no more and the neck is ready for its next new friend, the Miami-J collar. My left arm & hand, like me as a whole, continues to recover and look to the day when everything is back to normal. It’s just a long road with no short cuts. I’ll get there. I use the left arm & hand for most tasks these days. I pay for over use at night and sometimes still take a nerve pain med in the middle of the night. My fingers aren’t very tactile and I can’t rely on them to provide accurate information when touching stuff. I can count on it to provide a funny or intense feeling. It’s like the circuits are still scrambled as the body continues to untangle the nerves. I’ll get there with more patience.

Going out in public over the last month has provided me with much more stranger attention than I have ever cared for. I typically prefer not to be noticed and go on my merry way. It’s okay though. These strangers are just curious and/or concerned. They want to know what happened, if I will be alright, and how long? And like you, they are genuinely sincere when they say things like, “It’s nice to see you out.”, “Glad you’re alive”, “You’re very fortunate”, “How do those pins miss your brain?”, and “You look good”. I’m thankful for them reaching out to me and wishing me well. It helps validate my belief that people are intrinsically good and beautiful. Friday night I had a great stranger encounter. As Mary and I walked down the street in the waning evening light, we noticed a man walking towards us. Not to pass us, but to intersect us. Each time we adjusted our path, he adjusted his to intersect us. He saw me coming, but I didn’t see him and I’m glad he reached out. He, like me, is intimate with life in a halo. He broke his neck when he was 18 by diving into the shallow end of a pool. He had 2 little forehead dimples and a clear zest for life. Told me what it’s like when the halo comes off. Showed me that I’ll be alright and gave me a beautiful example. Don’t remember his name, but I’ll recognize him and I’m grateful for his time. Oddly enough in that same 24 hour period, I also received another message from a distant friend who had been in the halo too. She also talked about life after the halo. I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe in intention at some level. Those two helped prepare me for the next 48 hours. Thank you.

Lastly, a paragraph of thanks to all of you who have helped me get through these last 10 weeks. It’s more than I can comprehend. It’s more than I have words for. Speaking of more than I can comprehend and have words for, lets us all remember to take a moment to honor all of our Countries fallen heroes. They and their families have selflessly given us theirs so we can have ours. Deepest thank you. Shelly came out with a meal on Tuesday. Thank you to her and her family with special thanks to her boy Jonah who prays each night, “And thank you for Ehren, who has a broken neck.” Thanks to my mother who persistently continues to look after me and accompany me to all my doctor appointments. I’m grateful for my hair stylist, Sheila, who was has cut my hair 3 times since my accident. Carefully and skillfully working and cutting hair around my pins. And then refuses payment! Thank you Mary, El & Christian, Billy, Marta, Mark & Kristen, Karen, and Dennis for continuing to drive me around so I can take care of my needs and fun. Of course I owe thanks to the rest of you who have checked in with me, just to see if I needed anything. I continue to enjoy a multitude of frozen homemade dinners from Helen and Myles; they’ve all been delicious, thank you. And last, but not least, thank you Lynn for having me over for dinner last Sunday.

So if you haven’t come by to check out the freak in the halo and see the pins that go into his skull, you better do it this weekend. Because I am not waiting around for you come Tuesday. I hope everybody enjoys a safe remainder of their holiday weekend.

Love Ehren

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, May 2010 | 2 Comments

May 16, 2010

There’s always good news to report. You just have to look for it. Like, I had a great day today.  I did.

Of course there can be no good news without bad news. It’s that whole yin and yang or perspective thing. However if you want some bad news, you’re going to need to check out somebody else’s blog. Today’s post is going to focus on recognizing good news and creating positive inertia to carry us forward. Nothing reckless, don’t want to derail this train. I’ll keep it under control. Here we go.

Washed my left hand today. Okay, that’s not too impressive. But I did do it with cold water! Maybe I’m just tired of waiting for the warm water and willing to tolerate that pain or its becoming tolerable. Let’s just leave the good news at I washed my left hand with cold water today.

Saw Dr. Turner Wednesday.  He’s my neurosurgeon, but that doesn’t mean there’ll be surgery. It does mean he is keeping tabs on my neurology. He’s like Lynn, he comes in, asks me questions and pokes me with the sharp end of a safety pin. I fail to see how the pin is safe for me. He also whacked me with his little rubber hammer and did resistance tests with both arms and hands.  Then he put his hand on his chin and assessed me, “Hmmmm?” Actually we talked about that left arm and hand of mine. How it’s doing? How it’s changed? How it feels?  Better from week to week. Slowly getting better and more active. Doesn’t feel as swollen, still aches, fingers and hand can’t take cold water still: too much sensation.  It was a pleasure meeting and talking with Dr.Turner. He did an excellent job describing the healing process that is occurring in my spinal cord and how it affects my arm. He pretty much described exactly what I have been experiencing. It was a real confirmation for me that my body is doing what it’s suppose to. Thanks Body! He used some pretty big and long words. Everything seems to have a name. But then he followed it all up in terms that I could understand. Something a little more blue collar. So my spinal cord is like a phone wire or a cable. Made up of many little wires, each having a protective sheathing. Fat cells in the case of the spinal cord. During the course of the injury some of these tiny little nerves in the spinal cord were damaged. Sometimes just the sheathing and sometimes the nerve too. The body is really good at repairing this type of damage, it’s just slow. At least it seems like it to me. At the end of the appointment, he mentioned that he and Dr. Hardaker (my orthopedic doctor) talk and see each other almost every day. Golf? Tennis? Pimping? Apparently they are both quite amazed with my recovery so far. When I heard that, it was like my pins were instantly tightened. Yup, they said I am amazing. Good news.

I’ve noticed my neck muscles get soar from time to time. The muscles are atrophying a way. So this makes sense to me as they are just not as strong as they were two months ago. Besides that, the neck stays pretty stable. Thank you Halo. I wonder what will happen once the halo is removed. Will I have a floppy noodle neck? Amazingly, the tender area on the top of my head still has some lingering sensitivity. My pin sites are doing really well. There’s barely ever any gunk or head boogers when we clean them these days. Good news.

Energy level is increasing a little with each week. That’s good news.  It can be so encouraging and deceptive at the same time. I need to still be very careful not to over extend myself and deplete my daily energy rations. If I do, it slows me down for a few days. With these gradual energy increases, I’m really starting to get a sense of just how far I’ve fallen and how far I got to go before I have my pre-injury energy back. I’m determined to get it back. That’s good news.

Not as much to report these days. That’s a good thing. No news is good news. The time has come to start knocking the dust off of things, off of my life. It’s time to start engaging and ease back. Re-embrace my responsibilities. Be productive and give back to this world. I have been out and about several times a week: grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, lunch, strawberry picking, finishing up loose ends on my jobs, soccer games, disc golf, etc. These are things I would normally do; that’s a good thing. I am still 100% reliant on my friends and family to drive me around.  So thank you all very much. In fact just this last week I received rides from Zach, Sue, Peter, Mom, Mary, Lynn and Gianni, Julie, Hank, Dennis, Eric, and Chrissy. Thank you!

I played left out

2 months in, and I’m still amazed by the people in my life. Feel so very, very fortunate. I am still receiving calls, emails, cards, visits, texts, meals and well wishes galore. You all are still caring for me. Thank you for your beauty. Consequently, I still become choked up while writing this blog. I choke as I reflect on all the love and generosity. I choke as I reflect on the last 8 weeks. I choke as I consider just how serious this injury is and how close I fell to that catastrophic line. I choke as I contemplate how this injury has forced me to grow. It’s like I’ve been pruned and I am just now beginning to see the new buds. There are more, they’re bigger, they’re stronger, they’re exceedingly beautiful. All sorts of buds. Bone buds. Energy buds. Physical buds. Mind buds. Love buds. Heart buds. Buds of the soul. Growth is good news. I’m anxiously awaiting the blossoms and can’t wait to share the fruit with you.

It seems like more and more things pop up that I want to share with you as I write.  But I’m going to end with a few words about a couple of other important people who have been on my mind. First, I want to recognize my brother, Giovanni’s hard work, perseverance, and considerable accomplishment. As of yesterday he is “officially a master of higher education.” He graduated with a master in education administration. That’s good news. I am very proud and happy for him. Love you.

Daughter Daddy time

Detained by Sully. Good news.

This will get that extra air out

Second, Sammy T has been on my mind for a very long time. He’s been on a lot of people’s mind. Sam is my cousin, 2 years younger, living in Michigan with his wife and two beautiful children. He also has been, simply put, in a fight for his life. He received a bone marrow transplant last year and it took well. But complications surfaced that landed him back into the hospital for the last 6 weeks. “Holy cow!”, one night was enough for me. Leukemia was found, chemo was administered, and the leukemia is now hopefully in remission. To me, my medical issues are just a scratch on the knee compared to what Sam’s been going through. However, I am sure all of our Aunts and Uncles are very concerned about us these days. I’d like them to know that I see the day where Sam and I will be there with you all, living, loving and laughing again. So please send some of that positive energy for me to Sammy instead. Sam came home from the hospital this weekend. Skinny and weak, but home. That’s great news!! Keep up the good fight. Love you.

Lastly, Mr. Halo comes off in just a little over two weeks. Good news.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Ehren's Posts, May 2010 | 3 Comments