It's been nine weeks. Nine weeks since I lay staring at the ground, struggling for breath, hearing my own strangled sounds of pain. I knew I would be OK. I just needed to breath, and everything would be OK. I didn't realize that my past and future had just been in a violent physical collision.
I breathed. I managed to sit up. The world got brighter.
I lay daydreaming in the hospital. My narcotic haze was pierced by words I heard in the hallway.
The doctor stepped in. He looked right at me.
"You have two fractures in your neck. You have a fracture in your back. You have multiple rib fractures and a pneumothorax in your right lung. You must be a very tough guy."
I didn't feel tough. Fear welled up in a way I'd never felt before. Breaking your neck isn't something that happens to me - that's for other people. People who know how to live in wheelchairs, people who know how to make the most of things. Did I know how to make the most of things?
"I'm turning you over to a neurosurgeon. We don't think you will need surgery, but we need more images."
Some consolation. But the damage was done. Finally, I'd done it. I'd broken my neck.
Getting the required images meant I had to stand up. Every time I tried to roll into position, my ribs screamed at me to stop, lay there, give up. And I did give up, many times. The words of the PT echoed in my head "breath, you've got to breath. Your muscles will seize if you don't breath." And of course, he was right. I breathed, slowly, deliberately, purposefully, and I managed to sit up.
I went home, plus neck brace, sans surgery. The weather was warm and the early fall colors golden. My friends and family talked to me and reassured me. I walked through the park with my uncle. How strange and childish it felt - hazy, long ago memories of playgrounds, grass and family. Was it a lifetime ago? Was it yesterday? Is this how it would feel in the final years of my life? Who would I be walking with, and really, who would I be, by then?
Weeks came and went. I was allowed to shower. I went back to work. Normalcy made an appearance, and it gave me something to move towards. I walked as much as possible and my body played along, for the most part. Eerie phantom sensations appeared from time to time, sometimes trickling like water, sometimes crawling like bugs, with no apparent cause or solution. They are scariest at night.
There are less than four weeks left of anticipated neck brace time. I wonder what it will it be like on that wonderful, expectant day. What will I eat for breakfast? What will I wear? Will I cry? It might as well be a lifetime from now.
...But I know it won't be that long. I'll blink and it will be over. The past and future will come to crossroads, and I won't be on the ground. I'll breath and I will be OK. I'll blink and it will all be over.