Living in the moment (after my near fatal accident) was the closest I have ever gotten to the Zen mindset, despite the many years of meditation and soul searching since. (After my accident) I was completely natural, there was no TRY or DO, I just was.
That's not to say there wasn't a lot going on. I went to Ireland with my Irish Nana, her sister, my two Aunts, and my cousin, 7 days after my accident. I convinced everyone I was fine and there was no way I was missing that trip!
When my Nana passed, in October 2012, and we watched the video montage of her life and her travels and our family I felt such great happiness in knowing that we'd made that journey together. Those experiences together, climbing the castle and hanging upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone, and getting blown away on the Cliffs of Moher, before Alzheimer's would make her house bound, are priceless, irreplaceable, precious memories of a life well lived.
I know now about the golden stuff, the stuff you do take with you when you leave, and the spirit you leave behind in the lives of others that love you and know you.
Ultimately, Nana's passing and the observance of her life this past October would be a final catalyst in my decision to leave the career that was not so slowly killing me and to seek love and meaning in my life that had been missing since I had locked my heart away on my 30th birthday, 5 years prior.... so getting back to that story..... I went to Ireland with my family after my accident.
At the time, I had been misdiagnosed in the hospital and the severity of my injuries had not been investigated properly. So I was trekking around Ireland, my right arm atrophying in a cast and my left wrist in a brace but not knowing it was broken. It would be six weeks after my accident that we would learn my left wrist was fractured, though I had been utilizing that arm as my strong arm and the bone had not healed the fracture. My right arm that had been in a cast, supposedly healing the break, was actually deteriorating instead over the six week period, and I wouldn't discover this until the doctor removed my right arm cast, I nearly passed out from the pain, and he said the magic words
"Oh no, not good."
WTF. Can doctors even say shit like that? WTF does Oh No Not Good mean???? I want to see my XRAYS now.
This is when my parents and I sought expert diagnosis and treatment. Side note: for any of you wondering, it never occurred to me to pursue malpractice and I never did, just so ya know I'm not living off of some large profit received from a lawsuit settlement. In fact, I continued working throughout my recovery, surgeries, and physical rehabilitation.
I'd later come to understand that my belief about getting better and healing completely as a nonnegotiable was precisely what made it so.
Living without the use of right hand/arm combination was just not something that ever crossed my mind, and I'm right handed. 6 weeks in and we were hit with the immense severity of my injuries. I thought I had a broken arm, would wear a cast for a couple of weeks, like kids did in elementary school and get my cast off and everything would be fine. I had never broken any bones, had really never been sick before, I had never been in a hospital before this entire calamity. I wasn't even born in a hospital, I was born at home with a country doctor and my family and parents friends around. When I was in Ireland, I carried a magic marker in my purse for people to sign my cast because I thought it was cool. I remember a guy at a bar wrote a dirty Gaelic poem on my arm and I proudly wore it back to Baltimore like I was in 5th grade show and tell.
After the "Oh no not good" response from my doctor we sought out expert help and I was fortunate to that there is a world renowned hand surgery center right in Baltimore. I remember being in the doctor's office at the Curtis National Hand Center and the doctor calling in all of the residents to look at my ex-rays of my injuries, they crowded in the room, at least 7 of them... all oooohing and ahhhhing over my ex-rays. Everyone was fascinated. [One a side note: This is a bad sign if you're the patient whose injuries are so fascinating that everyone wants to see and be part of your surgeries. ] Yes, this is when surgery gets laid on the table. At first there was talk of 3 surgeries, one on my left wrist to screw the bones back together, and one to remove bone out of my hip to perform the other surgery on my right arm that needed bone mass to heal the crushed bone back together.
I don't remember the timing here, I'm sure my Mom can chime in, but I feel like after they looked at my ex-rays, surgery became an immediate priority, maybe a day or two passed and I was under the knife. Once I showed up at the Hand Clinic, they said they would have performed surgery immediately if I had been brought in by the ambulance on the day of my accident, what went unspoken, but I can fathom now looking back on it, is how detrimental it had been for my injuries to have gone 6 weeks without proper treatment.
Going into surgery, it was determined that performing 3 surgeries at once: one on my left wrist, another on my right arm, and then another on my hip bone that would be sacrificed in order to be extracted to mend my right arm bone back together. 3 Surgeries would be too much for my body to handle.
I had been told about the possibility of using donor bone to fuse my right arm bones back together, and I had been okay with that in theory. On the day of my surgery, however, naked in the prep room, with the dressing gown opened to the front I wasn't so cool with it. I remember thinking, "This is not like you see in the movies", my dressing gown had to be open to the front, NOT the back, in case of cardiac arrest... I thought, I'm having surgeries on my arms, why would I go into cardiac arrest and why do I have to be naked?
THE NURSE EXPLAINED I HAD TO BE NAKED IN CASE ANYTHING WERE TO GO WRONG. THEY DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO WASTE TIME CUTTING THROUGH MY BRA AND UNDERWEAR IF THEY NEED TO RESUSCITATE ME.
I'm cold and I have a hair net on and I'm in a dressing gown with a tie at the neck and no real front coverage and my Mom is in the prep room with me when they tell me they've decided to go ahead with the procedure of inserting donor mass into my right arm.
I remember being extremely upset about this. What will it mean for me to have someone else's DNA in my body?!? I was questioning the spiritual logistics of it all.
Someone who has died, their living matter will now be inserted into my right arm, and their life force will help to fuse my crushed and disintegrated bones back together.
That means that the dead person's bone is still alive and my bones are alive and now that person will be alive inside of me?
Will that person be a part of me?
My Mom says to me,
"You know Chloë, everything in the Universe is made up of the same substance.
We're all just molecules of chemicals of the same stuff.
We're all just stardust in the end."
This struck me in my state.
We're all just made up of stardust.
"Ok then, I'll call him Ziggy STARDUST."
And this somehow seemed to make sense and comforted me, because I love David Bowie. When I was younger I proclaimed I was saving my virginity for him. Most young girls at that time were in love with New Kids on the Block, not me. I had this strange sexual obsession and fixation on David Bowie.
I was in love with him and he has always been a muse.
Throughout my life, there would be times that I would stop and fantasize about David Bowie. I would imagine him sitting legs crossed in pure eccentricity next to me, we'd review my life's ambition and he'd counsel me to be less scared and more rebellious.
His message to me would always be I could never be too weird, strange, or self-expressive, and no matter what my shame was, I wasn't to get hung up on it. "Move on, your mistakes make you, you."
What Would David Bowie DO, became a lense I would view my life through. Our fantasy sessions would end with him saying, "Hot tramp I love you so" and he'd sing Rebel Rebel to me.
They wheeled me into the operating room and I was splayed out, both arms extended on cutting boards and my front parts and legs on another board.
Two surgery teams would be attending to me at the same time, one for each arm. You are supposed to go under immediately before they start talking shop... but the anesthesiologist couldn't fix my veins that day, they tried both arms, and so I'm fully conscious as the doctors are talking about my surgery prep....
I remember my lead doctor asking are you ok with this? "Sorry we're talking about the details."
And I was splayed naked with both arms outstretched on the surgery prep boards listening to them talk about the how and what and I started convulsing and shaking.
Yes, I'm fine. Just please put me under as soon as possible. Shaking, convulsing, naked, fear, vulnerability.
And then finally, the anesthesiologist found a vein in my foot, she or he had been poking around and finally they asked me to count backwards... and that was it.
ZIGGY STARDUST has become a part of me. And sometimes when I'm not listening to my inner guidance, or the fear has gotten too loud, Ziggy speaks up, and tells me to remember my heroes and have courage.
Rebel Rebel is my favorite David Bowie song. For further indulgence....HOT TRAMP I LOVE YOU SO.
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