Always look for a silver lining

Life can turn on a dime, or in my case, a gurney. One minute I’m lifting a 266 lb. patient on an unbalanced fully loaded stretcher at University Hospital, and then for some still as of yet unknown reason, the five nurses plus the unlicensed EMT at the foot of my stretcher decided to have a gravity malfunction and which meant nearly 400 lbs (patient, stretcher, 10+ bags of clothing, and the largest artificial leg I’ve ever seen in my life) came crashing down on me, courtesy of a gravity malfunction.  I could hear the crunch of my back as it gave way and felt the trickle of urine down as it ran down my leg.

The most common injury of all of EMS, a back injury, and one that I had successfully avoided for 7 years.  But as I would find, it wasn’t just a back injury, it was cauda equina syndrome, a rare medical emergency affecting the base of the spinal cord and one that workman’s comp did not want to cover in the least.  If it is not fixed within a few hours or days, it becomes a permanent condition with permanent issues with urination and bowel movements.

But amidst the bone bruises and physical therapy, something curious happened – I rediscovered the forgotten song in my soul, the one I’d silenced with sirens and sterile sheets.

Let’s rewind. 8 years in EMS, but 13 years in healthcare. Adrenaline fueled my veins. I loved helping people, but somewhere along the way, my own creative fire dimmed. Writing, the passion that once consumed me, became a dusty relic in the back of a mental drawer. Then, boom, 400 pounds of reality landed on me. And in the quiet hush of recovery, the whispers of that old dream crept back, louder than ever.  It’s not that I stopped writing, it’s that I changed what I was writing.  The reason I was still doing EMS was because I was putting myself through graduate school getting my MS in Psychology and then Covid hit so science, science, science.  Nothing about me or my experiences.

Suddenly, for over two years from Feb 16, 2022 to now, downtime wasn’t just “forced leave,” it was an unexpected residency program in Writeville.  Imagine the old phrase “write drunk, edit sober” but with prescription pain medications.

Due to the pain and the time I have with physical therapy, I have barely been able to do any other work, not even the hypnotherapy practice which I loved so much.  I can’t work elsewhere since I can barely move and the neighbour’s dog barking next to me (as well as the ones in back of me who keep jumping the fence at 2 am) and the harassment from the neighbour who insists on leaving fake reviews is destroying that business slowly.

Hours spent icing my swollen back and hurting hips became stolen moments for stolen chapters. The rhythmic drone of my heating pad morphed into the steady beat of a new story’s pulse.  Waiting for Frank to come help me to the bathroom since I couldn’t walk myself became moments for me to try to edit some grammar time and time again.

My physical therapy room, really my living room where I did physical therapy three or more hours a day until I could walk again, became my writer’s studio, filled not just with rubber bands and other, but with notebooks, plot twists, and characters bursting to life.

This wasn’t just some forced sabbatical; it was a serendipitous shove towards the life I’d nearly forgotten. Sure, I missed the camaraderie of my EMS crew. But in their place, a different adrenaline surged – the joy of crafting worlds, the thrill of breathing life into words. Every page turned was a victory lap, every finished chapter a bandage for the ache of what was lost.

And guess what? Writing didn’t diminish my recovery, it fueled it. The act of creation, of pouring my pent-up energy into writing both fiction and non-fiction, became a powerful form of therapy. My fiction characters grappled with their own challenges, mirroring my own struggles with pain and uncertainty. Writing became a way to process, to heal, to reclaim a sense of control while my non-fiction was finally telling my story.

During my down time, I published my non-fiction book which I had been working on for 10 years, and watched it win a Non-fiction Book Award.  I also published my first monologue in an anthology.  Of course, I have also had to say goodbye to 11 friends and family members in 14 months, everything from old age to suicide as well as dealing with all their legal issues.  Especially my grandmother’s.

Last week was my surgery at last, it took almost two years to get which included 1.5 hours in court litigation.  And I come out of the hospital to see fake reviews, on something I could not have reported because I was literally in the hospital under sedation.

Now, with my back on the mend (we hope) and my manuscript published, I see the accident not as a detour, but as a detour towards destiny. Sure, the path may have been unexpected, paved with ice packs and Percocet cocktails, but it led me back to who I truly am – a storyteller, a weaver of words, a chronicler of the human experience.

So, to my fellow injured souls, my brethren of workman’s comp, I say this: listen for the whispers in the quiet. Your injury may have sidelined you, but it may also be pointing you towards a hidden passion, a forgotten dream. Embrace the pause, the enforced quietude. See it as an opportunity to rewrite your story, not just your body. You never know what unexpected gems may surface when you let the dust settle and listen to the symphony of your own soul.

This experience hasn’t just healed my body, it’s healed my heart. It’s reminded me that life’s detours can be the most scenic routes, and that sometimes, the greatest silver lining comes wrapped in bandages and painkillers. So, grab your pen, your paintbrush, your instrument – whatever whispers to your soul. Let your injury be the catalyst, not the roadblock. This could be your chance to rewrite your story, one word, one brushstroke, one note at a time. Because sometimes, the best endings come after the unexpected falls.

Remember, fellow scribblers, even when life throws 400 pounds at you, there’s always a story waiting to be told. Go write yours.

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Thankful for being able to help

This Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I am reminded consistently of how fortunate that I am in the position to help people with time and money and that I have the ability to do as much as I can.

In fact, sometimes I think this back injury and being forced to NOT be on the ambulance was a blessing because I was able to help more people and have a better attitude when doing so.  During the worst of Covid, I was working 24 hour shifts back-to-back for four months, while getting my MS degree might I add, then took a small break to work part time for two years which meant so much of my other parts of my life just… died.  Now with the sabbatical from EMS, I could work on the others while still using the ethic of hard work and my non-pandemic standard 12-48 hour shifts that I learned from EMS (and ok even 14+ hour shifts from theater) to do a lot of good.

Since the injury a year and a half ago, I’ve donated thousands of dollars from everything from arts education (mostly high school theater and stage management stuff) to things for the refugees from the war in Ukraine (mostly the organization my cousin Tirza was working with).  I have another $3K earmarked for the World War II Museum in New Orleans.  Most of that were my tzedakah payments that every Jew is required to make.  That’s an obligation.  I don’t know how many people I’ve helped but I am grateful that they allowed me to perform a mitzvah.

I also donated anywhere from 15 to 60 hours every week as a volunteer.  Mostly in either theater related or healthcare, but other things as they came up.  I certified almost 400 students in bleeding control, offered free acting classes and stage management courses.  If anyone needed anything, I tried to help. A few months ago I ended up with a dog who is in really bad shape and needs so much work (Sophie).  I also did so much crisis counseling.  Even on holidays.  Last night (yes Thanksgiving) and the night before, I was dealing with an autistic with self-esteem issues whose therapist was taking advantage of him.  He got several hours of free therapy and I think he had a breakthrough (well given he just dropped me a note when I was writing this confirming a huge breakthrough.)  I was NOT supposed to be doing counseling last night because I have so much stuff I have to do this week.  But I’m happy I could help him.

Of course, there are always people who like pretending I don’t do anything or have never heard of me, but surprisingly that only happens in Augusta.  Like I was just harassed by someone who works at Le Chat Noir (Maddy) which is the theater that is always on the verge of shutting down.  It’s the only one I haven’t worked for in any capacity because all they promote is burlesque which I am uncomfortable with as a respectful Jew as was my Augusta BFF Caitlin who was religious.  Instead they decided to say they don’t recognize my name (um… which one?  Facebook name?  Maiden name, married name, Hebrew name, nickname, initials, callsign, or stage name?  No one calls me by my Facebook first name but Adrian) and that I don’t know what I am talking about writing wise because my public posts are all kosher recipes.  People actually follow me for them, one day I want to assemble my own book to include them.

The harassment is because I said I had never heard of some writing competition that was formerly only open to local writers but now is open to internationally.  Please note, it says first annual in one place and 10th year somewhere else.  It’s either one or the other.  If you can’t advertise or market in such a way that the local writers groups know, that the local theaters know, that the media knows, and that the creative writing professors know, then you can’t blame the person.  They are complaining that my autobiographical accounts are fictional… could have fooled me since I have documentation on everything I’ve ever done and I am primarily a non-fiction writer.  As I find the documentation, I list into the correct section specifically so people can’t make wild claims about the things I do and do not do.  The amount of slander/libel that goes on in Augusta is the reason that people in general hate this town and the amount of hostility just makes people leave this area which I am really trying to do.

I’ve been very selective of my fiction attempts since I am a non-fiction writer and nearly everything I have written fiction wise was based on something I did when I was doing research.  I have a monologue, which I stole and shamelessly adapted from my time in the field learning about paranormal investigators (the paranormal tourism project from 2018), that will be published in a few weeks.  Two more that didn’t get picked up, but I might polish them and submit for next year.  The monologue is going to be performed in a few weeks in the UK somewhere.  So I am also thankful for that too.

One might ask why I focused on helping others as being thankful for despite no one believing what I do?  It’s not about what other people believe or don’t believe.  If you remember the MASH episode where Charles Winchester donates a fair amount of chocolate anonymously, that’s the meaning of charity.  Not to announce it on social media every time one can.

I also find it hard to be thankful for family when your child is a missing person and Augusta PD (well really Richmond County Sheriff since we don’t have a PD anymore) or that you’ve lost 11 people in 14 months including all three dogs, which is basically all the family you have.  The people I help are my surrogate family.

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