It had been three weeks and I was not seeing any improvement in my ability to take care of myself independently. Without this ability I was not going to be able to start life again. Each day that passed was effort in futility in what seemed to be a battle that I would never win. The little voice inside my head that would tell me to “Never Quit” was slowly getting quieter. Many of us are told growing up that God never gives you more than you can handle, this process and road I was on was challenging that piece of advice and support.
Added to the cold showers, restless nights, bathroom ghosts, and using the bathroom experiences, was the fact that a few of the surgeries I had gone through left stitches in my incisions and I needed to go to the local clinic to have them removed. This taught me very quickly on these visits that if you were not an emergency, then expect to wait a long time to have anything done…..and most likely they will do it in a fashion that requires the least work for them. The only thing that made these trips bearable was the fact that Priscilla would come with me. Her father would usually drive but she was there by my side to listen and laugh at jokes that I would make. It is kind of a habit of mine to try to make light of bad situations. Being serious for long periods of time (more than about 15 minutes) is not my forte.
On the days to go on outings to the clinics, I would have my daily cold shower at 6:30 am, I was dressed and put in my wheelchair and rolled outside. At around 7:30, Priscilla and her father arrived to load me in the vehicle to take me to the clinic. With the help of her father and lifting my legs the best I could, I was placed back into the wheelchair and rolled into the clinic. Priscilla presented the paperwork to the clinic and talked to reception in order to put my name on this list of patients to be seen.
Although I had adjusted somewhat to sitting up for longer periods of time, during the hour long wait for the doctor, I began to get extremely light headed and knew I was about to faint. I pushed myself out of the wheelchair and onto one of the hard, solid wood, waiting area benches in order to lie down. I immediately felt better with the circulation increasing to my head. No sooner than I started to feel better I was ordered by an orderly to stop lying down and to get back in my wheelchair. I obeyed and within about 3 minutes had fainted. This was probably a good thing as it jumped me to the front of the line and I was next to see the doctor.
After checking the stitches, we were told that they were not ready to come out and that we should come back in 7 days to get them removed. So after waking up at 6 am, travelling to the clinic, waiting at the clinic, I was shipped back to the house where I was staying with nothing accomplished.
During the week between the appointments, I decided to call the daughter of the guy with 16 kids in the hospital. She had told me she knew a woman that could help with my leg and give me therapy. For $20 she was going to come over to the house. The guy’s daughter was going to come with her which for me was worth the money. After about 30 minutes of her pulling and yanking on my leg and then applying oils during a massage which was more painful than helpful, she left me in the room alone with the gorgeous 21 year old. A was able to sneak a quick kiss form her, which I assume she allowed because she felt sorry for me, as there was no passion and no feeling in it. So after the “therapy” and the emotionless kiss, both my leg and pride were more hurt than before.
Seven days passed rapidly and before I knew it, the time had come for my stitches to be removed. The same process and waiting period occurred, as the clinic was even more crowded on this visit. Upon finally seeing the doctor, he said he was not sure if we should remove the stitches yet, but that he would do it anyway. This is not a phrase you want to hear from a doctor, just in case you were wondering. After removal of the stitches, there was a phrase that came out of the doctor’s mouth, which sounded like an ‘oops’ to me.
Because the scar from the surgery had not fully healed and closed up yet, I now had a nice hole on my right side where bacteria could freely travel in and out of my torso body cavity. The consequences of this error by the doctor resulted in the fact that I was going to need to come twice a week to the clinic to get the opening treated. It also meant that I would need to pay a nurse about $60 per visit twice a week to get treated. Considering I did not have any money this was not an option. The anger inside me started to build as there did not seem to be any accountability for this doctor’s mistake.
I must have had a guardian angel standing next to me and helping me get through this because as I went to get the first treatment that same day of the open wound, Priscilla spoke to the nurse and told her my situation. The nurse agreed to treat me each Tuesday and Friday at the clinic for free until the wound had healed. These were the days she was in charge of this portion of the clinic.
So the process began. Each Tuesday and Friday I would be woken up before dawn, fed breakfast, placed in the cold shower and shipped off to the clinic. Priscilla’s father and I would sit and wait for all other patients to be treated and then I would be brought in the treatment room. The nurse would send me home with supplies for Angela to clean the wound on other days. If it got infected I knew that I was going to have to return to the hospital, but even though these actions were required and I knew it, I felt more and more alone each day.
The best days were the ones where Priscilla came with us to the clinic. There was just something about her that placed my mind and heart at ease, even if just for a little while. The only time I could muster up a real smile was when I was around her. The compassion I felt when she would do a simple gesture, like putting her hand on top of mine, would resonate throughout my body. She was a lighthouse beacon for me as I tried to get back to living on the rough waters I was sailing.
With every two steps forward there seemed to always be one step back. Most of it dealt with daily frustrations and the lack of sleep at night. When I decide I want to do something, then I want to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible; to stay strong and to not show weakness and to see visible steps that I am moving in the right direction. Going through the inefficiencies of the Costa Rican society where ‘pura vida’ and ‘manana’ are experienced each day can cause absolute frustration.
As I went through my daily routine, pura vida started to mean to me, “We do not really care about your situation as it does not affect my life personally.” Although I was surrounded by people that did not have to help me and were doing whatever possible in their lives to try to support me, I did not see that. I focused on the negative and on the times when people could not be there by my side, instead of focusing on the times when people were there with me. I knew I had screwed up in my life and had drunk my way out of multiple lives along the way and hurt family, friends, and loved ones that had finally said enough was enough.
When you come to the realization that if you died today most people would say at your funeral “with the life he lived, this was bound to happen” or to have people feel a sense of closure that a person who hurt them was gone, then it is time to start to be a better person and change…but my subconscious was holding onto 33 years of life and learning and experiences.
One night after a long day at the clinic and another fainting experience, I was emotionally wiped out and lying in bed unable to sleep because of pain in my leg and the fact I was unable to move into a position where I was comfortable due to the fact that the wound that was being treated had some swelling and pain as well. I began watching the movie “Soul Surfer”. This is the true story about Bethany Hamilton and her battle after losing her arm to a shark while surfing. It shows the depression she goes through as she has to adjust to her new life without her limb. Through everything she went through, there were times when she was on the verge of giving up and had to look within herself to realize she could not let the loss of that arm define her as a person. She needed to figure out who she was and as the title suggests, search her soul in order to do that.
After watching the movie I laid there and stared at the ceiling. I finally reflected on everything that had happened over the past months. I brought that emotional pain to the front of my mind in order to confront it and stop ignoring it; the pain of going through the lonely nights at the hospital; the pain of not having my parents come see me in the hospital; the pain of seeing that I had destroyed past relationships with my alcoholism; the pain of not being independent; the pain of not being able to walk; the pain of not having love in my life.
The tears began to fall and did not stop for what seemed like an hour or more. I tried to hide the audible sobs in my pillow. After the emotional breakdown and release, I knew I could not continue letting what happened to me define who I was and that each step I took needed to be on a path to becoming a better person and man. No one wants to die alone and without change, and I thought that was exactly what was going to happen to me at the end of my life’s journey if I didn’t make changes.
The voice in my head echoed my sentiment….. “Never Quit. Never Give Up.”
Next Up – Valentine’s Day and Therapy