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.