Why I Screamed Freedom

Waking up after my spinal cord surgery was a surreal feeling. It felt like I woke up in the Twilight Zone or in a never ending nightmare.

At 18 years old I thought I was invincible and nothing like this could happen. So hearing I had a 3% chance to move or feel anything below the neck was difficult to process.

I am wondering if you feel or have felt like this over the past month? I have. How things have altered and changed so unexpectedly from COVID-19 feels like a bad dream. It has been difficult to process. Some are experiencing a tougher blow from the changes than others but nonetheless we are all feeling it.

If you are like me, your mind can’t help but race to how great things were before all the flurry of changes occurred.

When I was lying there in the hospital I thought-

Yesterday at this time… I was walking.

I was suiting up for my college football game.

Now I’m lying here in the hospital paralyzed, with only a 3% chance of ever moving from the neck down. How can this be?

I took for granted the things I was able to do before my accident. Like being independent and doing simple everyday tasks.

I longed for a sliver of freedom but at the moment I couldn’t even support the weight of my head on my neck. I couldn’t get out of bed. The only way to move me was to get lifted by a hoyer lift onto a large power chair. Once seated I still didn’t have enough strength to even use the joystick to drive. So I just sat there… or had to let my dad drive me which usually ended up with him crashing me into walls. LOL

Then a few days later came the day I mustered up enough strength to gently push on the joystick and drive. It was an incredible feeling as if I just got my driver’s license and handed the keys to a new car. I wanted to scream “FREEDOM” like Mel Gibson from Braveheart as I inched through the halls of the hospital.

There is only one thing that could make driving a powered wheelchair so special, perspective. I vividly remember the feeling of not moving anything at all and having no freedom. To this day I try to recall those early days in the hospitals. It reminds me that life can change on a whim for the worse, and that perspective feeds my gratitude. I now understand that our most important strength isn’t always physical but instead mental. That moving independently even in a wheelchair is an incredible blessing for example. The list goes on of the things I’m so appreciative of.

Ironically, I’m currently realizing all that I have taken for granted pre COVID-19. Like my kids being at school, shuttling our girls to softball or dance practices and games, going to our favorite sushi restaurant, being around friends, family, or strangers, and even all of the travel for my speaking events.

I’m sure you could make your own list of things you have taken for granted … Here is what can be so special and powerful about the moment we are going through, it now gives us perspective.

When the world and life finally get back to normal and in a good routine do yourself a favor and don’t forget what this moment feels like. Let it serve as a reminder of how quickly life can change. Grow stronger from this time and award yourself with more gratitude by having the perspective that things could be worse. Use that perspective to appreciate the little things you took for granted.

Stay grateful.