A Long, Hard Road
I was a vibrant, recently remarried 37-year-old man with three children. I felt as if I were invincible. I wanted to be a cop.
A Hard Landing
On a hot Saturday afternoon, while in Basic Law Enforcement Training (B.L.E.T.), I was training on their obstacle course. I crossed the top of “the wall” — a 4” wide by 8’ long by 6’ high structure — and landed firmly on both feet… or so I thought. I found myself in the rock dust lying flat on my side, not knowing how or why. I had landed lock-kneed on my left leg, powdering the inside of my knee and shattering my tibia into many pieces. On Sunday, I was taken into surgery to have my leg repaired. Through a series of unfortunate events, my leg sustained irreparable damage.
Thankfully, I did not have to face this catastrophe alone. My mom spent every day with me while I was in the hospital. And although my wife spent her days working 45 miles away, she spent nearly every night with me at the hospital despite being exhausted. When it was time for me to return home, my sister and her husband built a permanent ramp so I could gain access to my home.
Soon after my return home, the intern who had performed my surgeries told me I would never work or walk again. (I was at home alone when I got the news.) The tears flowed, and depression set in. My heart and spirit were broken.
A Hard Path
Two and a half years and over 40 surgeries later, due to complications, I made the decision to have my leg amputated, and my whole world was turned upside down yet again. My wife and I had just moved into our new home. After my amputation, I began to improve and started getting around by myself. But I was a still very angry man. Many people were there to help me, but no one knew how I felt. I met people that looked down on me. They thought that because I was in a chair I was not as good as they were. Others sought to sympathize by saying they knew how I felt. However, I knew they could have no idea of how I felt until they had to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. Others still would try to “help” by grabbing my chair and attempting to roll me where they wanted me to go without asking if I needed or wanted help.
Even though I was surrounded by family, friends, and visitors, the world kept spinning as I sat there watching. I was alone… or so I thought. There were no support groups… no one I could talk to that actually knew how I felt. I had to learn how to live all over again — to accept that there were things I could no longer do and to choose how to excel in the things I still could do.
A New Beginning
Five years after my accident, I returned to school for training in a new vocation that I could do from a wheelchair. I started a business as a certified bench jeweller and diamond setter, met a lot of wonderful people, and employed some very good employees who saw value in me. It felt wonderful to feel I had purpose once again.
I am still in a wheelchair. I still suffer from daily pain, with some days being worse than others. I became addicted to opioids in the hospital, to the point of psychosis, but for over 10 years, I have been opioid-free. I live alone since my divorce in 2012, but I am satisfied living alone, although once in a while, I feel lonely and wish for a companion to do things with. I now know that being in a chair was not the end of the world. In fact, it has been a new beginning.
Today, my children are grown, college-educated, and doing well for themselves. I often have opportunities to help people with addictions and relationship issues, and I even participate in a humanitarian relief organization that helps people in disaster situations.
There is Hope
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