Monday, February 22, 2010

Pain tolerance

So apparently I had cut myself pretty bad last week in two places. I didn't realize the extent of the wounds till my friend was shocked to see them and I had to put neosporin on them because they hadn't healed fully yet. Both my mom and he were both surprised that I hadn't noticed earlier.

I thought about it, and I realized that pain isn't really an issue anymore. Everything is just relative now, so after experiencing severe nerve pain and autonomic dysreflexia, everything else is simply unnoticeable.

This also got me thinking further into issue. What exactly is pain? Yes, of course it is sensory information sent to our brain from various parts of our body. But is it really an issue? Pain may cause things to be uncomfortable, but do they make them impossible? When physicians and therapists would examine how high I could lift my right arm, they would always ask, "Can it not lift any higher because of pain or because of weakness?" My answer would always be weakness. If it was painful, would I be complaining that I wasn't able to lift it at all?

Now, all this sounds all pseudo-macho. I am aware of that. But my mind is entering weird territories. There are many times in our life when we do not do something because it feels uncomfortable, or it is unknown--not because it is impossible. Why do we do this? If we are capable of taking the plunge and doing something, then why do we let fear hold us back? Eventually, we will look back and think, "Well, relatively, that was simply nothing. I could have easily done that. I should have done that." So, in celebration of this relativity that surrounds the choices that we make, I contend that we should go ahead and not let anything hold us back. Fear, pain, worry--these things are all in the head. Get back into the real and make things work for ourselves.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wheelchair pullups attempt 2, 2-16-10

Wheelchair pullups attempt 1, 1-28-10

Random Thoughts (written 2-2-10)

Some Random Thoughts, Brought About By Various Events

People: they come and go. The only entity that will always remain by our side is God.

I've learned a lot of things over the past eight and a half months. It has shown me the capacity of certain people's hearts. The people who I would always laugh and hang out with, suddenly disappeared. These are the people who I had imagined I would be friends with for life. Some people who I hardly knew, however, reached out to me in ways that I could not have imagined. For some people, sacrificing their time and efforts is not hard. I truly commend and am thankful to these people.

Four months post-accident, I decided that I was finally ready to sell my car (aka “my baby”). After waiting and working hard for years, it had been the first car that was truly mine. It was a manual and no one else in my family could drive it. When I told my parents I was prepared to sell it, my mom told me that there are two things I shouldn't be attached to in this life: houses and cars.

My mom always has a way with words that makes me see things in a different perspective. In addition to houses and cars, I think one should not be attached to people as well. Don't jump in and start singing “Heartless” by Kanye West to me. I of course believe that it is great for someone to be attached to their family. One should also love all other people and creations. But people have a way of leaving us. Sometimes, they leave this earth. Since all things belong to God and must return to God, it is only natural. Some people drift away in this world as well. People get engulfed in their own ambitions and pleasures so that they are unaware of others. Some people also cannot be trusted. Yes, I know this sounds hypocritical because I am attending medical school this fall, God-willing, but I think even doctors cannot be trusted. They are not God.

We should only love all things on this earth to the point that if they are gone, it will not devastate us. Otherwise, it would seem like we are worshiping these things.

When all things are gone, we still have God. “All things” refers to people, hopes, objects, physical abilities, dreams, etc. Many people pray and do things ordained by God. But do we truly trust God 100%? Do we rely on our friends for emotional support? Do we rely on our doctors for healing? Do we think that because we work hard, that good things will automatically come to us? These are things I am thinking about now. Feel free to discuss.

My 7 month anniversary (written 12-23-09)

I had written this article for on 12-23-09:

My 7 month anniversary

Ah-ha! I got you with the title, didn't I? No, unfortunately for me I am not married. I cannot relate to Boonaa Mohammed and I have not experienced the male version of Spinsterood. However, I write this because it is the seventh month anniversary of my second life.

You see, exactly seven months ago, I was involved in an automobile accident that left me completely paralyzed from chest down. After an almost-dead heart rate, a traumatic brain injury, an array of broken bones, severe nerve damage, a coma, a bout with pneumonia, and several months in the hospital, I thankfully sit here now and am able to reflect. Because quite frankly, I do not have much else to do. Bouncing back from the accident has given me what I refer to as this second life.

Most of my time now is spent in the guest room on the main level of my home. I think to myself, “What did I do with my first life?” I want to believe that I lived fully and without regrets. Who doesn't want to believe that about themselves? I had great friends, I was having fun, I was doing the occasional humanitarian service here and there, I was a part of several clubs, I was tutoring my friends in science classes, I had my dream future all laid out in front of me, etc. In reality, I believe that I should have done more.

Now when I speak to and observe the actions of the people around me, I want to
grab them by their shoulders, shake them, and ask them what they are doing. Well, I can't usually reach their shoulders to shake them unless they are sitting down or they are six years old, but that is an irrelevant point.

Before, when I had the ability to walk freely and go wherever I wanted to go, what did I do with it? Nothing extraordinary. I was not thankful for the ability to freely move around and I took it for granted. Looking back, I was selfish and self-centered in this regard. If I could go back in time like Marty McFly with the knowledge and experiences I have now, I would try to use my efforts in things that would actually benefit others.

I have realized that this body in this life is simply temporarily loaned to us. If someone let me borrow his car, I wouldn't drag race in it. So if I was loaned an able body, why wouldn't I take care of it and pay back the Loaner by doing good things? Thinking back, there were many things I could have done in my college town of Athens, Georgia. I just started listing the things I could have done, but I deleted it. I'm sure we can all think of some things that we can do right now, no matter what condition we are in. Studying is not an excuse to be self-involved and avoid furthering the well-being of others, although I apparently thought it was; working is not an excuse; even being handicapped is not an excuse. We have been given things, no matter how trivial they may seem, and we must use them. We cannot be selfish. We cannot think that we are not being selfish, either. “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Jeans... say what?

It's about 1:45 in the morning and I'm trying to sleep. My mind is wandering to something I was talking about with friends earlier. More on that in a minute.

A random thought now. One of the simple joys in life? Jeans. People don't realize how amazing it is to just slap on a pair of jeans. They go with everything. Heck, I used to sleep in them sometimes. Some of my college buddies can tell you about a pair of jeans that I referred to as my "Sunday jeans". They can either give off the message, "I don't care," or, if they're nicer (and out of my league), they can say, "I shop at Express and stuff and I know style. You don't. I wear nice jeans and you wear old jeans that don't fit." For a while, I wore shorts or sweatpants like my fellow patients. In the hospital, thats what my therapists taught me how to put on. It was kind of annoying to even get those on. (Try pulling your pants up while you're sitting, without lifting your butt up). My occupational therapist said she'd teach me how to wear "normal clothes" when I was in inpatient, but we never got to it. So, while in outpatient therapy at Shepherd and after about 6-7 months of looking like I was preparing to run through the streets of Philly in my sweatpants like Rocky, I decided one day to just put on a pair of my old jeans. Some of the more "fitted" jeans (not skinny jeans, mind you) were kind of hard to put on. But I was able to put on some jeans. And they felt great. To me, it was a big step in rejoining "normal society". It was a simple pleasure. Please don't ever take it for granted.

I got to thinking about that memory because I was talking to a few friends today about how I wish I could put my contacts in. I told them how it's a real pain to have to lean over the sink to wash my hands, so I just use hand sanitizer. I don't need a sink to put the contacts in my eyes, but I also don't want my eyes to burn if I still have traces of hand sanitizer on my hands. I'm remembering the part of Fight Club where Tyler Durden burns the narrator's hand with lye... and it's not a good mental image that I want to mimic with my eyeballs. So, a goal of mine is to get physically good enough to stand (somehow) in front of the sink and mirror to be able to put my contacts in and not look like a dork with my glasses. It'll feel great when I can do that. Simple pleasures man, simple pleasures.