“That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball.”  We’ve all read stories of the physically challenged who have overcome.  Like most, I could not conceive that nothing threatening my life and my work would happen to me.  Hey, I made it almost to 75 years without fear that at any moment I could shoot off the planet like a punctured balloon.  Those “bad things” happened to others.  Until it didn’t

It was a Colorado August afternoon.  The sun sizzled the thin air like deep fry oil awaiting the fries.  Over Long’s Peak a restless motion of super-heated sky roiled clouds into towering banks of cumulous thunderheads.  The breeze stiffened.  It’s always a crap shoot as to whether that weather would remain a speculation or pound the earth below.

I decided not to chance it.  I needed to lug an open bag of mulch into the garage.  There were three roofers shooting nails into spanking new shingles on my roof.  Yeah, they told me not to go outside but . . . .    Within inches of the garage door, a heavy something slugged the back of my wrist.  I looked up first – saw nothing and no one.  When I glanced at my wrist, I expected to see a bruise, a big bruise.  I saw bone. I saw ligament tatters.  I saw stars. 

Every worst-case outcome sped through my horrified head as a friend punched the accelerator on the way to the closest emergency center. 

I had an initial surgery to reattach my ligaments.  I sported a spiffy purple fiberglass cast, followed by a softer support splint a few weeks later.  Thought I was on the short path to recovery.  But the incision refused to close two small but nonetheless oozy and resistant-to-closing wounds.  A month after the usual healing period of such an opening, the incision gaps refused to progress.

My optimism started to flag.  My hand hurt and it wasn’t functioning.  I couldn’t type.  While I previously viewed the wound as an annoyance, I began to doubt.  The surgeon speculated on errant stitches and recommended a reopening of the site to hunt.  Nothing turned up.  While I had just completed my second book, musings on long-term disability at first trickled.  After disappointment in the second surgery though, the intermittent disaster scenarios became a steady flow.  My emotional state sank like the Titanic – without benefit of the band or Leo DiCaprio!

I thought back to the writers who I read had survived the incidents and setbacks of bad fortune.  I considered Hemingway who endured back-to-back plane crashes only one day apart.  In order to extricate himself from the day-two crash, Hemingway had to ram the plane door with his head.  He survived with a legacy of persistent killer headaches and the after effects of damages to his kidneys, liver and spleen.  Given my own depressed state engendered by far less egregious injuries, I could not imagine how Papa managed to write with the incessant distraction of head pain.  Of course, he tried suicide multiple times before he set himself free.

I also was reminded of Stephen King’s almost fatal walk along a narrow Maine road where he sustained a broken hip, collapsed lung, multiple lacerations and his right leg was so badly shattered doctors debated amputation. At the scene, EMT’s told King’s brother he might not make it to the hospital.  He spent three weeks in said hospital and endured five surgeries.  In the immediate aftermath, he decided he would not write again.  The pain was too overwhelming.  Still, the siren call of writing persisted and, determined to complete his Dark Tower series, he began perspective repair.  And we know King did, in fact, return to his work which became his saving grace.

Debilitating what-ifs swirled faster than a mixing bowl beater on high when I learned from the surgeon that a third opening of the wound might be of help.  I swore I wasn’t going to cry.  Fear cozied up to me.  It wanted attention and I gave it.  Like a hapless customer in the clutches of a time share salesman, I had no wherewithal to flee.  I could not rationalize my way out.  I experienced my self growing smaller and smaller. Inversely, fear expanded by leaps. 

In a moment of clarity, a still small voice whispered “Enough.”  I clung to that and like a climber scaling a fearsome bare rock wall, I gathered myself to act.  I spent time learning the specifics of how my ligaments were re-attached.  I talked with others who had similar injuries from which they’d recovered.  I learned about things I could do to promote my own healing.  Once I retook my rightful place as chief of extricating myself from this painful tangent, my strength returned, though slowly.  And like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, I embraced the necessaries that would restore me. I booted my PC and took up where I had left off.

Without overt summoning, the flint of defiance stuck the stone of resolve.  I would find a way and I began to take heart as surely as I had begun to take action. It took some time but I found a chronic wound specialist who made a suggestion for a trial remedy.  It worked!

With success came confidence and I’ve been able to return to my writing.  At my lowest point, I had given up the idea of being able to create another book, but ultimately, I’ve never been a quitter.  My recent brush with defeat is far distant in the rear view.  While I continue to have healthy respect for “black swans” and “freak accidents”, they no longer threaten me with nagging residence in my head.

Every adversity has the potential to cut down or build character.  I want always to keep the faith and it was the words of Churchill, whose island was crumbling under the Luftwaffe’s devasting rain of bombing, who delivered the message of defiance that stiffened the Brits’ backbone.   If you’re going through hell, keep going.  And I am.