Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Tale of 2 Life Changing Events

August, 1998:  Age Group Swim Invite

I just finished stretching & warming up.  I had "Lightning Crashes" playing on my diskman (yes, you read that right, I said diskman) to calm my nerves all while pacing the deck.  I don't usually swim the 100 free, but we needed the points and we were a man down due to illness.  If I could at least snatch 3rd, we could keep up the pressure and give us a chance to take the meet.  After pacing anxiously for several minutes, we got the call for the final heat.  I had lane 2 placement due to the fact that I haven't logged any times in that event earlier in the year.  When I reached my starting block, I noticed who had lane old nemesis from my power event in the 100 back.  In swimming, lane 4 is reserved for the top seed.  He had somehow beaten me out this year for the 100 back and I was left with lane 3.  My blood was boiling! Swimmers to your block. Take you mark.  BANG! I couldn't have asked for a smoother entry.  In short distance sprints, it's all about breathing and control.  For the 100 free, you only take one breath if necessary.  Anything else can throw your rhythm off and slow you down.  I couldn't do it.  I had to take two breaths for 4 pool lengths.  I powered through as much as I can and to my surprise, I was neck & neck with the leader despite being in lane 2.  .....must have been adrenaline.  During the last length, my lungs felt like they were on fire.  I had to take another breath.  The second I did that, the leader kicked on the afterburners and left me behind. When I hit the wall, to my surprise I had a new personal best of 53.44 and finished 2nd!  Apparently, they pulled their #2 seed for another event, thinking they would take more points. You'd think that I'd be happy, but you'd be wrong.  I was pissed.  One stupid little breath. It didn't matter that the 1st place finish was in the mid 40's & crushed me.  One stupid little breath.  I did take revenge in the 100 back with nearly a 2 second lead win, but I just kept thinking, One stupid little breath.  For the next several weeks, I trained harder than ever to keep my breathing under control.  Every practice, my lungs felt like they wanted to explode.  I needed more lung capacity.  I eventually got it, but it was a lot of work.  I actually maintained it through college too.  Little did I know, it would come back around when I needed it the most.

October, 2010:  Work "Light Duty" post 2008 Accident & Unaware of Spine Injury

The pain in my neck, shoulder and back had not gone away since the accident and I felt like I was getting worse.  My employer kept piling on new work that was very repetitive and physical.  Yes, it was against all of my restrictions.  I found myself again pacing up and down the hallway near my post.  I couldn't shake the pain.  It felt like I had a knife embedded in the middle of my back.  Sometimes walking helps it or at least keeps me from thinking about it.  Today was different.  I had been put on a task that required a lot of twisting and it made me feel way worse. After arguing with my "supervisor," he finally pulled me off the task after I threatened to go to HR.  He thought he was a doctor & could interpret my restrictions as he saw fit.  Yeah, that won't go over well with corporate.  An hour passed and the pain didn't stop.  In fact, it only seemed to get worse.  I started to lean against the wall for some relief, but it didn't give me much.  My "supervisor" passed me and said, "don't you have some work to do?"  I bit my tongue as I had some choice words for him.  Things just got worse.  I started getting light-headed and I was having trouble breathing.  I couldn't inhale or exhale without great difficulty.  I slunk down onto the ground and my "supervisor" passed again.  This time, he said "how does a dislocated shoulder hurt your back," and then walked away while I was on the ground.  I started to feel a blackout coming and seeing those "spots" everyone hears about.  It felt like I was being bear-hugged by the terminator.  Just one stupid little breath.  That's all I need. One stupid little breath.  I forced as much air into my lungs as possible when a different supervisor saw me hit the ground.  He must have called 911 because when I opened my eyes again, I was on a gurney, being taken into an ambulance while the paramedic was using that great big blue bag to force oxygen into me.  After a series of tests and medications, I was able to breath on my own again.  We later found out that my core muscles spasmed so much that they pretty much choked me out.  Also, my diaphragm had been compromised due to nerve damage in the thoracic spine area.  OH, I had also broken my back in 2 different spots in the earlier accident and it was healing wrong all while having 2 fully ruptured disks in the same area! .....nice to find out, it only took them 2 years.  It was at that point, I fully ditched the company doctors and found a good attorney.  The new doctors were appalled that no one checked my thoracic spine injury after an accident like mine and even more appalled that the company doctor who was treating me was not qualified to.  He could stitch someone up & treat soft tissue injuries, but that's it.  He should not have been handling me and he should have known better.  So much for the Hippocratic Oath doctors take.

Just one stupid little breathe.  It drove me to better myself after costing me a race.  Then it saved my life when I needed it the most.  The ER doctor explained that if my lung capacity had not been that good, I may not have made it to the hospital when considering the time the call was made and when the ambulance arrived.  If it wasn't for that one stupid little breath, I would have died there of asphyxiation.

You often hear the saying, "why put off tomorrow, what you can do today." Well, I have a different take on that.  I don't know what tomorrow holds for me.  I may be back in a wheel chair, I may be back in the hospital, I may even find myself on the ground again, fighting for that one stupid little breath with no one to help me.  I'm going to push myself no matter how much pain I'm in or how much I "don't want to." Why?  If I don't push myself today, I may not be able to tomorrow.

Just one stupid little breath.            

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