Sometimes Pain is a Good Thing

March 11, 2010

Out of nowhere, I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off just next to my left ear.  Before I knew it, my 1/2 ton Ford Van went careening across all three lanes of traffic going south, continued through the median, and proceeded to fly into the on-coming traffic.  Then, everything went dark.

I don’t know how long I was out on that November day in late 1997, but the next thing I knew, I awoke to an EMT asking me a barrage of questions, like,

“What’s your name?’
“Where do you live?”
“Do you know your phone number?”
“Are you married?”
“What’s your Social Security Number?”

As I did my best, to answer the questions, I tried to figure out where I was, and what had happened.  The first thing I noticed was that my view was filled with a blue sky dotted by puffy white clouds.

“Wasn’t I just in my car?” I thought to myself.

Then, as I stared to wonder if the whole accident hadn’t simply been a big dream, the pain kicked in.

Now, 100% sure that this was more nightmare than dream, and all too real, I noticed my van’s radio antenna.  This seemed odd, for I knew that was the antenna was on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Then, I realized the enormity of what had happened—I was hanging half in, and half out of the passenger side of the van (which was the opposite side of the van from where I’d started out.)

My face was covered in blood, and as the paramedics on the scene began to employ the Jaws of Life, a whole new fear enveloped me.

Petrified, I wondered, “What if I have broken my neck again?” and “What if that break would take away more movement?”

I was pretty sure that at least one of my wrists were broken, but that was the least of my worries, and so with all the courage I could muster, I started moving my wrists up and down.

Tears streamed down my face.  One of the EMT’s saw the tears and my moving wrists, and told me that it wouldn’t hurt so bad if I would keep my wrists stable,

What he didn’t know, was that the tears weren’t from the pain, instead, they were from an overwhelming sense of joy.  Based on what I knew about my spinal cord injury, I was pretty sure that moving my wrists meant I had not lost any additional movement—that of all the injuries that happened in the wreck, I hadn’t done any more damage to my spinal cord.

That day, pain was a good thing.

The adage has proved itself in the years that have followed.  It is pain that reminds us of our blessings. It is pain that teaches us things like humility, and diligence.  It’s pain that gives us character, and pain that helps us love what we have along with what we’ve had the opportunity to have.  It is pain that often glues us together.

Pain isn’t ever fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.  In fact it is often just the thing that reminds of all that is wonderful.

Yes, I’m quite sure that sometimes pain is a good thing.

Jh-


The Saving Grace of Hope + DVD Giveaway

December 13, 2008

sunrise1

After the EMTs brought me in from my major car accident and the doctors and surgeons in the ER and OR did their part I was placed in the intensive care unit to heal. As life-threatening as those first weeks were, the first days were an hundred times more harrowing. My body was battered and broken and one big bruise. As difficult as the battered and broken parts were it was the “bruise” that was putting my life in danger.

Think back if you will to the last time you saw a black eye. Remember how the area around the eye swells and fills with fluid. Think now about my body as one big black eye. The accident had caused my legs to break badly enough that I slipped out of my seatbelt and “ping-ponged” around the front of my van. My body therefore, like a black eye, was swelling and filling with fluid.

The damage was so extensive that on about a third day after the accident my tissue became saturated and the fluid began to fill my heart and lungs. On that third day as my family came into the hospital the doctor pulled them to the side and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it that day, because I wouldn’t be around the following day.

Curious about what the doctor meant exactly my family inquired further about my chances. They wondered if the doctor meant I might not make it through the night or I probably wouldn’t make it through the night, to which the doctor replied that there was no chance I would make it through the night.

That night was as difficult a night as I have ever had in my entire life. My lungs would begin to fill with fluid and my ability to breathe was seriously compromised. The only way to alleviate the situation was to have a Respiratory Therapist come in and suction out my lungs. This required the RT to slide a tiny tube down my nose and into my lungs to draw out some of the fluid.

The process was painful but when they were finished I could breathe again. Unfortunately, my situation was so dire that 45 minutes to an hour after the procedure was finished my breathing would become labored again.

I would push my nurse’s call button and when the nurse arrived in my room I told her that I needed to be suctioned again. She reminded me that it had barely been an hour since I had been suctioned last and that because of the pain I might want to wait a little while. I told her that I didn’t feel like I could make it a little while, and regardless of the discomfort I needed to be suctioned. The RT would again come to my room and take some of the fluid out from my lungs.

All night long this process was repeated. Nearly every hour for the entire night I pleaded to have the Respiratory Therapist do the procedure and nearly every hour through constant reminders of the intense pain my pleas were heard and the procedure was done. It was difficult, it was hard, it hurt, and when the sun rose the next morning my hospital gown was covered in blood, but I was alive.

As I think about that night and what it took to stay alive the primary ingredient was hope. I hoped to live. I hoped to breathe. I hoped for the courage to endure the pain. I hoped for the intestinal fortitude to see the morning come. All I had to hold onto through that most difficult of nights was hope.

Luckily when the doctors told my family about the severity and potential fatality of the situation they elected not to tell me. This allowed me to hope. I never once considered that I might lose my life. Hope kept my mind focusing on the positive instead of becoming mired in the negative. Instead of wondering which hour would be my last, hope allowed me to think of every hour as one bringing me closer to new health.

There is a saving grace that comes with hope. Hope can change our hours as we think about our opportunities instead of our pitfalls. Hope can change our days as we concentrate on how things can become better instead of worrying about how things will become worse. Hope can change our lives by allowing us to maximize what we can do instead of being weighted down by what we can’t.

I am thoroughly convinced through my own experience and through those experiences that I have seen others overcome that 90% of success is waking up each morning with a little hope in your heart.

So hope; hope that things can be better, hope that you can accomplish your goals, hope that your life will be filled with the richest blessings of your dreams. Just hope, and let that hope chase all the fear and doubt from your heart.

Jh-

Leave a comment of something that brings you hope and one of the comments will win one of my autographed DVD’s (or click here to purchase your own). I can’t wait to see the things that bring you hope. I can’t wait for your hope to increase my own. Comments close at 9pm PST Tuesday, December 16.


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