Thanks to all that have helped!!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Yes It's Painful; but It's Worth It

Fear. Fear is a commonality among all us carbon based lifeforms with a sentient brain. Tonight I have been writing on my (hopefully soon to be done and released) book. I started remembering when I first started having the nightmares associated with PTSD and could feel the fear start to build up inside me. As the fear built, I had a flashback of some sage advice Kate gave to me after I woke her up thrashing my way through another nightmare. Here's is an excerpt from this section of the book. I thought it was appropriate for you guys to read.

{It was during these moments of doubt that I first started having flashbacks of my fall and the subsequent hours afterwards. I would have flashes of memory, hear myself begging Kate not to let them amputate my leg. Flash again, and I can feel the splash of the cold spray of water ricocheting off of the rocks at the bottom of the falls, I look down to see my mangled appendage and start to feel the burn in my ankle where the skin had burst open with the rotational force of my toes spinning 180ยบ to where my heel once held residence. Then as quickly as they started, they would end. Leaving me in a panic; sweating, heart racing, trying desperately  to catch my breath that is just out of reach. This only concreted my doubts in my mind. I begged to keep it; now I want them to remove it? It doesn't make sense. As I am going down this rabbit hole of doubt and despair, Kate would anchor me back into the real world. The most poignant moment took place late one night; close to New Years. We were both sound asleep when I found myself grasping that branch; dangling off the edge of the waterfall. I look to see Chase's face and terror written on it. Without warning the branch gives way and I wake up in a cold sweat, my fight or flight senses running overtime attempting to take control of a situation that occurred months prior. I woke Kate up with my thrashing. This had become common place as my mind attempted to stitch together the events I had unconsciously blocked out. She whispered softly to me that I was O.K. It was a dream, and I am safe at home. She asked me why I thought I started having these panic attacks after meeting with Dr Ross, and I had no answer for her. She continued on to tell me of some of her worse days in Baghdad, Iraq. Kate is a sufferer of PTSD as well. She lived the life that most people will never experience, and that is a blessing. We had told each other our horrific stories of patients we have cared for, but this was different. It was a different level of intimacy that I wasn't prepared for. She told me that the reason I'm suffering from these attacks now is because there is an end to my suffering in sight. In order to prepare for the closing call of this unfortunate act in the play of my life, my brain had to get the events in order. Yes, it's going to be painful, but it is going to be worth it.}

That last line. That is some of the most concrete truths that I have ever had told to me. Life is painful (at times), but it is worth it. Anything I have ever decided to do, if it was going to be worthwhile, it was a fight to achieve. Becoming a paramedic was painful; aside from the seemingly unending clinicals and ride time; during that time my marriage ended, my son was taken hundreds of miles away from me, and I felt like I had hit rock bottom. Yet, looking back, the decision to become a medic led to that marriages end, which led to Kate being in my life. It was painful, but it was worth it. 
I can say the same about becoming an amputee. This has been the single most terrifying time in my life. I have lived years in uncertainty. I have dealt with setback after setback. I have lost so much...and I would do it all again. I lost my leg and gained my meaning in this life. I am meant to serve as an example, an advocate, or as the fine people at Stanford dubbed me "persistently disruptive but in a good way." I lost a part of my body in order to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a patient. I have treated thousands of people in my career, but I had never taken into consideration what it meant to be a patient. Now, I have a profound respect for the "other side" of medicine. The fear, the doubt, the anguish of the unknown. Yet I know now that It is going to be painful; but it is going to be worth it!


  1. Joe: again, you've nailed it. Thanks for putting your experience into words. It's both different & the same experience that I & who knows how many amputees (& even able-bodied folks!) have had. My own latest panic rises as I struggle learning to ski...and I thought I got that out of my system in 12+ years of therapy! But a new skier-friend in a wheelchair (who is a phenomenal skier after 4 years) told me he spent 2 years getting past the panic skiing brought to the surface.

    I guess our only way out is through. I'm so glad you're in my company on this journey. Cheers! ~Liz

  2. Very well said. I look forward to your book.