In the eleven years that followed my auto accident there wasn’t one where I didn’t spend at least two full months in the hospital. During the most intense of those years it was even worse. I would go into the hospital for whatever procedure and stay in until my body simply couldn’t take it anymore, when they would release me and allow me to stay out until my body was well enough to go back in.
For the most part this meant three months in followed by three months in the hospital repeated over and over again. In the midst of one of these multi-month stays, I had understandably gotten a bad case of cabin fever. I was so tired of being in the hospital I had to find a way out.
During this stay, like many of the others, while I was healing the doctors and therapists wanted me up in my chair as much as possible. Anyone who’s spent any real time in the hospital knows that as soon as they can they get you up and going. However, because of my health I couldn’t go far. Therefore, they would sit me up in my chair wrap three of their large blankets around my body (one around my torso, one around my midsection, and one around my feet), slide my Discman in the back of my chair with my headphones on my head so I had something to listen to, and allow me to cruise around the hospital in my wheelchair.
In those months I explored every inch of the hospital. From geriatrics to genetics, from examination to x-ray, and from the lab to the lounge I knew that hospital like the back of my hand. It got to the point where I spent so much time investigating the hospital and out of my room that the nurses didn’t think twice if I was gone for hours on end.
The day finally came when I had had enough. I couldn’t spend another day in the cafeteria, on the helipad overlooking the community, or in any other department of the hospital–I had to get out.
Knowing that I had at least three hours before someone would come looking I began to formulate a plan.
During that time I spent a lot of energy collecting comic books. The comics themselves were light enough that I could hold them in bed, and collecting them gave me something to pursue. Knowing that the new comics had just come in I knew that the comic store was going to be my destination.
Picking this destination made things a little tricky. The comic book store was nearly three miles away. In my chair that would just barely give me enough time to make it there and back before the nurses noticed.
That morning just like every other morning, the nurses got me up, wrapped me in the three blankets and loaded up my Discman. That morning just like every other morning, I headed off the floor telling the nurses I would be back in a while. However, unlike any other morning I made my way to the lobby.
As I came off the elevators I could see the doors leading out of the hospital. Unfortunately, I also saw the security guard who stood in the lobby to make sure that nobody came in who didn’t look like they belonged and that nobody went out that didn’t look like they had permission.
Obviously being in a wheelchair wearing nothing more than three blankets, what was generously deemed a hospital gown, and a pair of headphones, I was a little conspicuous. Sneaking out while the guard was watching wasn’t exactly an option. So I sat there in the corner of the lobby waiting for my moment.
That day when the nurses were getting me ready I had them put a Cd by the band Sugar Ray into my Discman. I sat in the lobby listening to different songs while I waited for the security guard to get distracted hopefully long enough for me to make my move.
Then it happened; he turned to talk to a colleague and I knew this was my time. Slowly, nonchalantly, I made my way to the automatic double doors that separated me from freedom.
Just as I passed through the first set of automatic doors listening to Sugar Ray’s song “Falls Apart” from their album 14:59 I heard their lyric run through my head as they sang, “Runaway, Runaway.” I thought, “This is a sign, I’m going to make it. I’m actually going to make it. Then again, the refrain, “Runaway, Runaway” as I passed through the final automatic doors.
There comes a time when you’ve been in the hospital long enough and you don’t care what anyone else thinks. This time had obviously come for me, because all I cared about was the fact that I was out. All I had between my birthday suit and the rest of the world were three hospital blankets, but I was out. Free at last, I began to make my way to the comic book store.
It was a precarious journey. Unlike many places in the United States many areas in the Northeast don’t have sidewalks lining every street. As I made my way through Norwalk, Connecticut I had to pick my route carefully. Sometimes the sidewalk was only on one side of the street, sometimes I would have to change the street I was on to find the sidewalk at all, and sometimes I had to make my way on the street with the cars.
Somewhere along the journey the hospital blanket that covered my legs came a little loose and got caught under my front wheel. Before I knew it I was down one hospital blanket. This was little disconcerting. Were I to lose another hospital blanket there would be few secrets left between me and the people of Norwalk.
But, I made it. I got to the comic book store, made my purchase (while the clerk gave me the oddest look), and made my way successfully back to the hospital. I reached my room in time minus one blanket, carrying a bag of comics on the back of my chair.
This was a huge success for me. I’d gotten out into the real world and procured my comics as well. This not only made my day, but my whole week.
I had so many opportunities to turn back, so many chances to give up. But like life, if we are to succeed there comes a time when we have to make our move. I’m sure there are people who saw me driving partially clothed on the road who thought I was crazy. That’s okay, sometimes success means being a little crazy. I’m sure the nurses thought it was unsafe. That’s okay, often success means breaking predetermined rules.
However no matter how willing I was to be a little crazy and little unsafe the magic moment came when I sat in the lobby. Right then I had to decide, right then I had to move forward or give up. Making my move made all the difference.
Each of us has times when we have the opportunity to make our move and succeed, or let fear win the day and fail. So, set your goals and pursue them for all you’re worth, and when those times come and you find yourself separated from your dreams by a security guard and a pair of automatic doors remember the wise words of Sugar Ray, “Runaway, Runaway” and make your move.
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