Part 3, the Finale:
At the time of my accident, I was working on an important project at P&G. Being the single largest project ever and due to the type of work it was, we had a need to co-locate our couple hundred personnel. We were renting an office building but it was built before all the handicap requirements were mandated. Because I was using crutches, (and later, a cane for awhile), my office was relocated to the first floor. Even getting into the first floor is a bit difficult when you’re on crutches and there are three concrete steps to navigate, but I managed. I kept my office there for maybe nine months or more, until I got off of the cane.
Several months after my surgery, I went into the hospital for another surgery. This was a simple procedure; just cleaning up of calcium that had formed on one of the bones. The surgery went well – I was feeling pain when I walked but after the surgery it was great. Clarification – for about two weeks, it was great.
With each progressing day, I was walking a little more slowly. My leg was feeling a little hard to bend. I’d get to work and would have to prop my foot up on my garbage can or up on my desk due to the throbbing. Something was not feeling right. On a Wednesday morning, I’d decided I should call my doctor to report my symptoms. The weirdest symptom was the little thin line that had formed on the back of my leg. It looked like I had swallowed a rope that had made its way down my body, into the inside of my leg.
When I told Joe about my rope, his reaction was very immediate and I’m not ashamed to admit it here – it scared me. I remember his words, almost verbatim:
Ok Rob, I’m not kidding, this is no laughing matter, it’s very serious. I want you to leave work right now. Be careful, move slowly but get out of your office and get your butt over to Fort Hamilton. I will call over to let them know you’re coming so you get immediately in for a test. I don’t mean to scare you, but this isn’t just a knee, this is serious stuff.
Ok, now I’m scared. I did as ordered. First I phoned my wife to report in what Joe had told me. I think she was working that day because I seem to remember her showing up while I was being tested, Kim wearing her ER scrubs. The test was an ultrasound, you know, the same thing they swipe across pregnant lady bellies. The technician greased up my leg with cold Vaseline and then ran the cold metal hand iron all over the underside of my leg. As she and I were watching the tv screen of my leg insides, I asked her what the verdict was. She replied that she could not offer a professional verdict but that I probably shouldn’t be making any dancing plans for the night as I was likely going to be spending it here at the hospital.
Sigh, sure enough, I had developed “DVT”, aka deep vein thrombosis, aka blood clots. I was clueless. How could a forty year old allow himself to get so bad? In hindsight, I really waited much too long before calling my doctor or even getting a warning from my wife. Like many young men, I too had the opinion that I could just live forever, nothing could really take me out. Blood clots can take anyone out.
I was admitted and they immediately put me on heparin, a blood thinner. During the second day of my stay, a training nurse came into my room, followed by half a dozen young nurse trainees. They wanted to feel my leg. Wow, one of my sexual fantasies was coming true and I was too sick and tired to appreciate it. Six pretty twenty-somethings wanted to feel my leg…not because I was a sexy hunk, no, apparently my leg was a “perfect example of a DVT case”. Lucky me, huh. I said, sure, come on in and get a good feel. My contribution to medical science.
After 4-5 days of comfortable stay at the hospital, I was finally released. The doctors were convinced that the clots had safely been removed from my legs. Unfortunately though, there was much damage left behind. My GP, (family doctor), told me that it was difficult to measure, but she was estimating I’d lost perhaps 40-60% of my circulatory ability in my left leg. They, (my doctors), also told me that I was “damn lucky” a clot had not broken out of my leg and passed through my heart or brain.
For several months, I guess I was angry, you know, the typical ‘why me, feeling sorry for myself’ routine. But then I realized that, like my surviving the school bus, I might have been given another chance on life. I very easily could have died of a stroke. Worse, I could have ended up alive but without most of my neural faculties.
Many lifestyle changes were made after all of this. For one, I began wearing a ‘granny hose’ on my left leg and took Coumadin for a few years. It was prescribed for me, but also because of the circulation loss, if I went without it, I found my ankle would end up hurting due to all the blood settling there. Secondly, all running sports were totally thrown out the door. No more basketball, no more softball, no more jogging. I’ve lost a lot of cartilage in my knee and also it’s more susceptible to damage from twists. Once again, I was ‘reminded’ just how precious life is and how fleeting it can be. So the most major change I made in my life was a conscious decision to try to move my outlook on life to the more positive aspects. I’d focus on meeting my lifelong objectives and I’d try to not let things get me down. I wanted to live the rest of my life without major drama and I wanted to just be happy.
It was 1998 and I figured I had to do ‘something’ sports related, so that’s when I took up golf. I loved playing sports but all of them I had been engaged in had involved running – no more. Perhaps I should qualify my statement – my wife took up golf and I took up trying to keep up with her.
And that, my readers, is the story about breaking my leg and tearing up my knee. After the bad knee injury, I managed to get lucky and avoided yet another episode of a potential life threatening incident. Am I complaining, no. Do I miss running, sure. But everything we do, everything that happens to us, all the decisions we make and the actions we take ultimately go into the formation of who we are as individuals. I can honestly say that the incidents in this story managed to change me more in a positive direction than any other event in my life.
I am definitely more happy today than I ever have been. After the accident, I ended up making decisions at work which would put me in a happier place and would continue to move me and my family forward towards financial freedom. I managed to send my kids to good schools. I helped my two oldest boys buy homes for themselves. My wife and I have lived great lives out west in California for the past dozen years and now we’re both retired and making efforts to move through a transition period towards yet another satisfying chapter.
We both currently have our health and are both very active. I’ve been through several life challenging episodes and in fact, so has my wife. We both step back together now and then, and we reflect. Mostly we’re thankful for still being together, happy and healthy, but we’re realists and we know that at anytime another leg break could come along, changing everything.
As long as I don’t break my fingers, I guess I’ll keep churning out these stories. Hopefully, I’ll keep growing up. You should too.