Down, but not out…part 2…

Although light was bleeding through the window blinds, I could barely see the trash can and the empty floor area. Struggling to breathe air as the seat belt continued to crush my stomach caused panic to run through my brain, full of the worst-case scenarios. Then, finally, understanding that being unable to respire was terrible as the human body needed air for life to exist, I did not know if mine would last much longer. Quickly I ran through the sequence of events in my head about what I had done and could have done, but I urgently changed my thoughts to the task at hand: escape.

It was hard to catch my breath, like trying to grasp a Vaseline-coated eel, and I feared passing out in this perilous, pendulous position. I continued struggling to gain freedom from my swinging prison, it was like an elephant sat on my chest, and I could not take in air. I tried again to climb the drawers, hoping to lift enough to find the elusive air I so desperately needed, yet I was unsuccessful. My heart was pounding as I fiercely tried anything to escape what I thought would be an extremely odd final resting place or hanging place, as it were.

In the chaotic panic, I forgot that when I tied something onto my body, I always used a quick-release knot as emergencies could happen anytime. However, in the relatively dark space, I had to find the rope’s end, which was the quick-release part of the webbing. So I hung like a Christmas ornament floating on the tree, I flopped around like a fish out of water trying to escape this sling swing. I was looking for the correct part to pull and release me from this jungle gym jail, end this mess, and rescue this day and me.

I found an end piece to the belt and pulled with dwindling strength the longer I hung, trying to breathe. The more I tugged in this pendulum position, the more I realized I had the wrong end, and I quickly began the hunt for the other piece. As I dangled in my dark office, my arms got heavy and reaching became challenging, meaning I needed a rest. I did not feel I had the time, but I stopped and took several slow, deep breaths to allow my muscles a brief respite. It was a struggle for this much-needed rest, but successful as I quickly found the other end of this makeshift seat belt and yanked on it with newfound vigor.

After my brief rest, I had a newfound strength, though it took some effort to free me from the not-so-quick-release knot I tied. Dropping like a rock, I crashed and hit my neck when I heard something click, scaring me as the sound continually echoed in my head after my landing. I crashed with my chest down, face and neck twisted to the right, and I feared moving as I was sure my neck had snapped on the way down. With no strength to move, I was terrified of shifting my body, as I knew neck injuries could be quite severe. A little after 3:00 a.m. I was flat on the floor and could not move because of my strength and my neck with no phone; then I remembered my smart speaker.

Pain radiated through my body as the fall was easy, but the landing was brutal as I fell on hard surface flooring. I spoke as loudly and clearly as possible with my face pressed against the floor and said, “Alexa, call 911.” Without haste, she replied with a devastating response, telling me she could not call Emergency Services from that device. I hated to call anyone that early in the morning, but this was what they called an emergency, so I said, “Alexa, call mom.” Her phone did not even ring and immediately went to voicemail, so I continued calling and filled her voicemail until the mailbox was full. 

So from zero dark thirty until six in the morning, I continued to call my mom’s phone, begging for help. I tried to call other people, but my smart speaker would not allow me to call anyone else. I began contemplating life and thought I had lived a good life and put plenty of positivity in the world, so if this was the end, I was okay with it. That was a little dramatic, I know, but I would be lying if I did not say that was precisely how I felt as I waited, tired and in pain. Stay tuned till next week to hear the dramatic ending of this vicious story. 

Your imagination is so much worse than reality.

Dangling over the edge…

I began seeing occupational and physical therapists twice weekly, making my schedule very busy. The common factor they felt was essential for my life was building my strength, as I was weaker than when I was swimming nine hours weekly. We also worked on the crucial transfers from every surface that I usually shift from, as stable transitions are vital. I needed to return to the pool as the water eliminated gravity, a ferocious fighting force against my land exercise.

I had been battling severe spasms in my legs for several weeks at that point, and no one had a resolution solution. The occupational therapist had no explanation, although she thought my makeshift seat belt was a brilliant and creative idea. On the other hand, my physical therapist recommended I speak with my doctor about attaining more muscle relaxers. However, while trying to ease the violent spasticity in my legs, I was unwilling to request more medication as I feel pills should be a last resort.

I was dealing with these violent muscle spasms on what felt like an hourly basis, causing black and blue bruises across my chest. With every move, I tightened the seat belt to prepare for an uncontrollable muscle convulsion that could launch me onto the floor. Muscle spasms continually through my body into my office desk and kitchen table, causing a green-blue bruise across my chest. Finally, I got to where I could feel when the spasm might happen and could prepare myself not to tip out of my chair. These spasms were exhausting, whether slamming my chest into a table or nearly thrusting me out of my chair onto the floor.

Doing the exercises for physical and occupational therapy was beneficial but very exhausting and time-consuming. Moving to Florida was a tremendous ordeal as this transition would be for life, meaning, foremost, finding all new doctors. This Floridian transformation was massive because I had to find civilian and VA doctors and find and set up para-transit for all my transportation needs. Then, of course, I needed the doctor’s note for the para-transit, and I needed the para-transit to get the doctor’s note; what a conundrum I was in. I also needed to find a grocery store, travel trip times, and make many phone calls to find various essential businesses and other necessities around my new town.

I was looking forward to sleeping that night, no matter how restless I was, as exhaustion filled every inch of my body. When exhausted, my speech slurred as my tongue felt like it was twice its size and caused communication complications. My muscles also weakened, and my thinking slowed as fatigue caught and crushed me like stepping on a bug, making sleep an urgent priority. Finally, I was so tired and weak that I slowly rolled into my office, shut down my computer, and turned off the lights to get much-needed mind-rebooting slumber.

My spasticity slowed as I lay my head on the pillow on my desk, yet I could not get quite comfortable. This consideration led me to loosen my seatbelt slightly, as it was too snug after having it tightly around my waist all day. I wrongfully assumed this experimental webbed belt could hold me if I had a violent twitch or a vicious twerk. The spasms picked up again, and in one sudden hard convulsion, my leg spasm threw me over the side of my chair, being held halfway to the ground by the loose belt.

So at 3:00 a.m. I hung by the webbed belt, so I tried to use my hands to climb up the drawers like a ladder, to no avail. The seat belt and my body weight squeezed me, making breathing an uphill battle that caused me to panic. My eyes quickly scanned the relatively dark area around me, trying to view my options as terror filled my brain while contemplating worst-case scenarios. Pinned by my office desk, filing cabinet, and a wall, there was no allowance or means of escape from this prison from which I was dangling.

As they say, I was quite literally hanging by a thread, though in this case, it was webbing tied as a makeshift seat belt. So, I had many thoughts running through my head, uselessly trying to encourage me on ways to get back into my wheelchair completely. Struggling to breathe, I knew that air was free, but the effort was not, and my breathing became more laborious. Be sure to come back next week and learn how I changed my prickly predicament, what injuries I acquired, and what happened next.

Oh, how wrong I was to loosen the seat belt.