Then, on December 2, 2007, I was stopped at a red light when a Ford Excursion rear ended me at an estimated speed over 45 mph. My 4-door sedan held up remarkably well to this very large SUV, but I still broke a few bones in my spine, herniated 4 discs in my neck and ruptured one in my lower back.
For about a week, I could barely move, but the swelling came down so that I could really see just how serious the injuries were. I could walk slowly and with a slight limp but I was so weak I couldn’t hold or hug my own two-year-old son. He would stand there with his hands held up, the universal signal to “pick me up,” and his mother would hold him in the air for me so that I could fake holding and hugging him. My four-year-old daughter was too heavy for her to pick up at that point. The best I could do was to get on the floor to hug her, but then I was always afraid of being stuck on the floor.
I did everything imaginable to avoid surgery, spending thousands of dollars on back braces, neck pillows, leg wedges, medicines, vitamins, creams, hot packs, cold packs, physical therapy, special mattresses, shoes, socks, massages and books. Some of it worked a little. Some not at all.
My doctor told me that I would know when it was time, and he was right. There came a day when I was in his office begging for help with tears running down my face. As I recovered from surgery, I realized that recovering from Pain was a journey. There was no single pill or pillow that made everything better on its own. Instead, I found my own combination of specialists, lifestyle changes and products. I studied kinesiology and exercise science. I developed my own regimen of adjustments to my daily activities: how I lie in bed, get up, sit down, brush my teeth. Everything changed slightly. I began to stretch every day, and invented Back To Normal Arnica Cream™. Each of these things helped on their own. But in combination, I found I can live a happy, active, and “normal” life. I exercise, snowboard (double-black diamonds), scuba dive, and rough house with my kids. I’m not 100% pain-free. But Pain no longer limits me from doing the things I enjoy.
My best advice to anyone who lives with their own Pain is to never give up. Choose to be happy, and decide that today will be better than yesterday. It’s easy to say “choose happy,” but it’s not always that easy. Pain can’t be shared. It’s personal and can feel very isolating. Please, please do not isolate yourself. Spend time with people you enjoy, people who are willing to walk more slowly or stay in with you to watch a movie. Your pain recovery affects everyone around you. Your friends and family will feel better about your improvement, but they will also need your support with their own lives and challenges.
You might have to adjust your goals. Depending on your personal situation, climbing the stairs in your house might seem like scaling Mt. Everest. My personal physical goals are to feel healthy every day, and to be able to lift my kids for as long as they want me to. Thankfully, my eleven year old daughter is growing out of it.
Don’t just survive with your Pain. Live your life. I want you to recover to a point where you can really live and enjoy your life. I exercise regularly. I snowboard. I coach and play soccer with my kids. I dance with my wife and my kids. I really “live.”
There will be good days and bad days, but my friends and I will be here to help you on your own road “Back To Normal.”