On December 13, 2009, I almost got killed. Those of you who have been in touch with me have known this for a while. For the record, I was a non-fatality in a fatal car accident on southbound US-222 in East Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I was proclaimed “in critical condition,” having broken my left femur and left ulna, suffering a grade-1 blow to my spleen and herniating my left abdominal wall, subsequently allowing my colon to slip into a 4-5 cm gap between the muscles that form the wall, which is really the part that could have killed me. My passenger, a former student of mine, who is about to graduate from Franklin & Marshall College in just a few days, was virtually unhurt and went on to spend his winter vacation with his family and friends in Brazil. The woman responsible for the accident, younger than many of my students, who found her way northbound in the southbound lane en route to her home in nearby Denver, PA – a place I had only known of from the road sign that leads motorists from Route 222 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike – died instantly. When I was aboard the ambulance I heard someone say the word “fatality.” I recall asking, “did I hear the word ‘fatality,’” and the silence that ensued, which to me was a confirmation of what I thought I had heard.
I wanted to write all this as soon as my father brought my laptop to the hospital. Resuming my blogging “career” seemed like a good way to pass the time in my three weeks of hospitalization and the months of recovery to come. At first, however, I was only able to use my right hand, and for a devout lefty like me, that was a hindrance I could barely tolerate. I did gradually resume my updates on Twitter, which I saw at least once described as micro-blogging. And it was through that medium that earlier tonight I was urged to “blog more.”
What to write about after such a long hiatus, especially one in which my life was turned upside-down, is not an easy decision to make. In many ways, I am exactly the same sarcastic, obnoxious, cynical son-of-a-bitch (sorry, mom) that I’ve always been. For a while I was the grouchy disabled guy in a wheelchair that we all pity and forgive, but still want to punch in the face when he reacts like an asshole trying to accomplish easy tasks like crossing the street in the snow. For a short period of time, I took a break from caring much about human rights violations in my native Israel and the Palestinian territories it so arrogantly clings on to, or LGBT issues that have been dear to me at least since 1999 (though, secretly, long beforehand).
Two weeks ago, one of my orthopedic physicians has cleared me to walk, sans wheelchair, sans walker, sans cane. Just me and my own two legs, one of which will probably never fully gain the bone density it had before my injury. I still tire quite easily. I still rely on pain-relieving medications (though less on those scary, habit-forming narcotics). I am not going to Cairo with my students on a summer program that I came up with and feel like I’ve abandoned. And I have not been without at least one of my parents around for over forty-eight hours, even though I recently turned forty.
On my first morning in the rehabilitation unit at Lancaster Regional Medical Center, which was my home for two-and-a-half weeks after being released from the ICU at Lancaster General Hospital, I asked to see a psychiatrist. Earlier that morning I had cried like a baby in front of my father after enduring the embarrassing experience of having my ass wiped by a nurse’s aid whose appearance couldn’t help remind me of Kathy Bates’ character in Misery. My regular psychologist, who is based in Philadelphia, called me at least once a week to check on me, but for several weeks I felt as if my physical injuries were distracting me and preventing me from feeling my good ol’ depression.
A lot of this is over now. More and more things seem as if they are back to normal. I spent most of the spring semester teaching, most of it full-time. I have traveled independently to Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia on several occasions. I’m in this interesting position of having the greatest excuse to refrain from doing too much work, combined with the desire not to sink into oblivion, either professionally or socially.
To be clear, I have had the utmost flow of support from colleagues, friends, acquaintances, students, the few relatives I am still on speaking terms with, you name it. And it was genuine. My biggest fears at first were that (1) I’d need Kathy Bates to keep wiping my ass for years to come, and (2) that people would get tired of caring and that I would be left alone in my misery (no pun intended). Neither happened. I learned to use my right hand for the former (don’t give me any “TMI” bitching now), and, if anything, I have people caring in doses that are a bit overwhelming at times.
I will pause here, for three almost prosaic reasons. First, this entry is already a tad longer than what I would have cared to read in one chunk had this been, say, your blog. Secondly, I want to have an incentive to keep writing. Thirdly, I want to get some sleep tonight. And this being a blog, I don’t have to adhere to any rigid beginning, middle and end rules, right? So here I am, unorthodoxically ending in the middle of nowhere.