I turned 40 on Sept 14th. My wife Tonia had a big surprise birthday bash a few weeks before my actual birthday. (We celebrated it as hurricane Irene hit the east coast.) It was a great party, attended by lots of friends and family. Many of my friends attended from out of the area and I hadn’t seen them since right after the accident. I was truly surprised. It was a very emotional evening. Not because I was about to turn 40, Lord knows I shouldn’t have even seen my 40th birthday. I can’t really complain about getting older, it comes with being alive. What made the night difficult was seeing the slide show of photos up on the wall. These were photos from birth to just a few weeks prior to the party. There were photos of me with my childhood friends (many whom were there) and photos of my brother with our parents when we were kids. There we photos of Tonia and I when we first started dating 22 years ago and when our children were born. There were lots of photos of us on vacation and spending time with our friends. There were also photos of me right after the accident and during my recovery. 100+ photos of the past 40 years of my life. If you had told me prior to 4 years ago that I would be the person I am today, I would have called you crazy! It was like I was looking at two different people. Two different families.
“Sometimes, we have to be broken down so that we can be rebuilt into what we are actually meant to be.”
I started my actual 40th birthday at the LifeLion hanger in Carlisle meeting with the crew and presenting them $2000 in honor of my birthday. (You can read the news paper story here.) Tonia had asked the people attending my birthday, who wanted to give me a gift, to make a donation to the LifeLion Fund instead. It was a special moment for Tonia and me, as well as the crew. If it wasn’t for the LifeLion helicopter in Carlisle, I would not be here today.
I have had a lot of chances to share my family’s story. Recently, I had a pretty exciting one. In the beginning of October, I flew to Las Vegas to speak at Hearts on Fire University. The theme of this event was “The Secrets of Life”. The CEO of the company, Glenn Rothman, writes a blog by the same name. This was a special anniversary year, not only for the company, but also for its founders, Glen and Susan Rothman, and they went all out to celebrate and share. I, and 1000+ other people, had a chance to listen to Magic Johnson and the Tuohy family, whom the movie “The Blind Side” was based on, speak. I have really started to analyze how other public speakers present themselves now that I am a “public speaker”. It was a great opportunity for me to speak and learn and I am grateful to Hearts on Fire, and Glen and Susan Rothman, for asking me to be a part of University.
When I returned, I made a trip to University of North Carolina Medical Center to meet with a doctor specializing in venous disease and limb retention. I had a pretty rough summer trying to get the swelling in my left leg, and the ulcers that opened up, under control. I had spent 12 weeks in a “cast like” wrap, trying to get the ulcers closed with no success. I was getting really frustrated with the fact that my “team” didn’t have a plan for beating this problem. It was also keeping me from being able to get any cardio exercise and slowing my recovery. Dr Marston, at UNC, is considered one of the best, if not the best, when it comes to damage to veins. It was my hope that he would come up with a plan to help me save my leg and get me out of those annoying casts. It turned out the my femoral vein in my left leg was 70% blocked, through my pelvis, from clots and scaring. He believed that he could open up the vein with angioplasty and stents. My issues with the damaged flaps in my deep veins can’t be fixed at this time, the science isn’t there yet, but he believed that opening the blockage could greatly decrease my swelling and pain. I signed up to have surgery on October 18th, but first I needed to make a trip to Montana to spend some time fly fishing with my dad and brother.
While on the trip, my brother caught the biggest fish I ever saw landed on the Missouri River. The guide said it is the largest fish he had seen caught all year. My brother is the best fisherman in our family. Our father and I could only hope to be half as awesome as he is.. Blah, blah, blah, BLAH, BLAH… Love Ya Bro! Consider that the end of the discussion…
On the Sunday that I returned from Montana, the Carlisle Sentinel published a story about my use of the Carlisle YMCA for my recovery. The story was about how a Carlisle United Way supported agency was making a difference in people’s lives. I was more than happy to do it. I find that when I can help those people and groups that helped me in my recovery, it has deeper meaning to me. My son James also got to be there for the photo shoot and the paper used a photo of the two of us which he always things is “cool”. (You can read the article here.)
I spent only about 16 hours home with my family before leaving for Chapel Hill, NC. I was certainly a little nervous about having to have yet another surgery. (Number 27, if we have been count properly.) But, also was happy to have a plan. The hope that I might be able to be even more active and have less pain was enough to push me back into another hospital. The drive south was very pleasant. A lot of people think it is strange that a guy who almost died in a car crash would love to drive on long trips, but I find it much more relaxing than flying. Tonia and I arrived at UNC around 7 PM. In time to have a great dinner and bottle of wine before I was to stop eating and drinking.
(To be continued…)