I know this is supposed be my KC Royals blog, but I’ll probably not start back up until Spring Training.
Today, I’m posting something that I had written 11 years ago on the 30-year anniversary of when I acquired my disability.
THIRTY 41 YEARS AND STILL (not) KICKING
December 18, 1998 – (edited Dec. 2009)
Today I celebrate
thirty 41 years as a person with a disability. At the time of my automobile accident, I was a sixteen-year-old kid who certainly didn't want to work too hard in school, or think about the future. Like most kids, I really just wanted to have some fun. Then at the age of sixteen, the day after I got my driver's license, a mother's worst nightmare happened... I had a very serious automobile accident. I wasn't drinking... I wasn't driving fast... there wasn't another driver involved... no passenger distracted me... no pedestrian or animal that I had to dodge... there was just me, a slippery road and a very steep hill. But of course, it WAS the other guy's fault!
Luckily, I was knocked out and don't remember anything about that evening... one week before Christmas.
Three daze (days) later, I woke up in the middle of the night. It was dark. I couldn't move my head (didn't know I was in traction). Couldn't feel my legs, (let alone move them). I was confused, bewildered, terrified. I thought someone was torturing me. They had me tied down and wouldn't let me up. I didn't know who they were, or why they were doing this to me. I yelled for help. I screamed bloody murder. A nurse turned on the lights and I said that someone had me tied down and wouldn't let me move. She told me that I wasn't supposed to move... that I had a bad car accident and was in the hospital... that I was in traction so I wouldn't move and hurt myself even more... that I needed to stop yelling a waking up the other patients. I said, "Oh my God. Tell the other patients I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother anyone. I was just... a little... confused."
I asked what I did to myself. The nurse said the doctor would talk to me about it in the morning... that I needed to just go back to sleep. But I was still confused... why couldn't she say what happened to me. I then realized that besides having no movement in my legs... I couldn't FEEL my legs... I just knew they were gone... amputated... they had me tied down so I couldn't see they were missing. The nurse assured me that they were still there. But I couldn't feel them... they must be missing. I said, (being from Missouri and all) "Oh yeah, SHOW me." So she lifted one of my legs to show me. I'll be damned, she's holding up one of my body parts... and I don't feel ANYTHING. I was shocked... confused... had MORE questions... was told to hold them for the doctor in the morning and she left.
I had always been a "pronie"... I was very accident-prone... if something happened to one of us boys, it usually happened to me. I was laying there flat on my back. I tried to raise my arm in the air... and it fell back onto my face... I tried it again and it fell on my face, again... I tried it a third time with the same result... being rather quick to pick up on things... I decided to not try that again. I just laid there and said to myself, "Steve, I don't know what you did... but this time you really fucked up!"
The next day the doctor came in and told me that I had a skull fracture but more seriously I had a blood clot in my spine that had to be removed or it would have killed me. So I thought to myself... that's cool, I'm not dead and that is the reason why. I asked why I couldn't feel or move most of my body, and he told me that the blood clot (and the subsequent removal thereof) damaged my spinal cord. I thought to myself... the good news is that I'm not dead; the bad news is that I'm paralyzed... I didn't like this good news / bad news joke, at all.
Before the doctor left, I asked if I would be back up on my feet in time to start training for football next year (as if I was a talented jock or something). He said that most likely I would never walk again... ever. So that was the end of my brief career as a tackling dummy. After everyone left I thought... for the first time in my life... gee, I wonder what the rest of my life will be like. I made a mental list of all the things I probably wouldn't be able to do anymore... then made a mental list of the things I probably COULD do... I decided the things that I could do were more important than the things that I couldn't do... I made a decision right then that, for the rest of my life, I had to focus on the things I could do and not worry about those I couldn't do. As time went on, there were things on the couldn't-do list that I figured out ways to do them... and a few things on the could-do list that didn't pan out. But after a while I misplaced these mental lists but kept the concept of not worrying about what I physically couldn't do, and instead focus on exploring different ways to do things.
Thirty years. What a long strange trip its been. What have I accomplished... nothing special... but a lot more than some people may have expected. I got the feeling that people expected me to crawl into a corner... curl up and die. Suddenly, I was "special". People acted like I was Wyatt Earp... you know... the old TV western. The theme song was: Wyatt Earp. Wyatt Earp. Brave, Courageous and Bold. And why? Because I didn't fold my hand... I have played the cards dealt to me.
I've never been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I have learned to work hard with the tools I have. I caught up with my class in school after living 6 months in three hospitals. I completed a goal I had before my accident of earning my Eagle Scout Award. My service project was a life long endeavor to teach others that a person with a disability can (and should) be just like everyone else. I was the first person in a wheelchair to graduate from my high school. I went to college and graduated with a three-point average (not bad for a quad who also has a perceptual problem). I was the first person in a wheelchair to graduate from my college with a four-year degree. I was stunned when everyone, including people who didn't even know me, gave me a standing ovation on graduation day. When it happened in high school, I understood that all these kids knew me before I acquired this disability and they were proud of me. When it happened in college, I became very cynical. Was it so far fetched to think that a person with a disability could be successful? Why is it that when others do something its expected of them… but when I do, its so astounding that I can?
To this day, I try to preach that I am many things... a man... a sports fan... a husband... a dad... a sexual human being... a friend... a voter... a driver... a consumer... a bowler... a wanna-be comedian... a pain in the ass... a dirty old man... and... a person with a disability. Having this thing called disability is but one part of me.
Please celebrate life with me on the
thirty 41-year anniversary of the day I acquired this thing called disability.
-- Steven A Hurst