Life In The Slow Lane...
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San Diego, CA, United States
This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Class Dismissed

I was terrified as Aimee and I stood outside a portable classroom at a local high school today waiting for the third period to start. High school kids shuffled their feet in small cliques on their way to class. Nearly all of them looked down at their ipods as they spoke.

The other day one of my old therapists from rehab contacted me and asked if I'd like to attend a presentation to high school students about brain and spinal cord injuries. My therapist said that I didn't have to speak, only watch and see the program in action. I agreed.

Moments after the bell rang, Aimee and I walked into the classroom. It was like stepping into a time warp. I haven't been in a high school classroom for sixteen years. The chatter, the laughter, petty squabbles were all I could hear. My stomach felt uneasy.

We sat near the front of the class. My therapist gave a presentation on brain injuries and spinal cord injuries before introducing the first speaker; a man who at the age of seventeen was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. From the center of the room, the man spoke about his injury. He spoke about his recovery and having to adapt to no longer having the use of his legs. He was confident. He joked about one of his ex-girlfriends accidentally touching his condom catheter. His presentation was inspirational. The students asked questions. They asked about sex, driving, and accessibility. As he spoke, my former therapist asked if I would like to speak. I agreed.

Next it was my turn. I stood at the front of the class and talked about the fall. I said it was something that I did almost everyday, that I never once thought that I would wake up like this...I flashed the class the picture on the cover of the paper. I saw some of their mouths open.

I spoke for about ten minutes. My voice quivered. My thoughts wavered. They laughed a few times. At the end, they asked me questions. They asked if I had any loss of appetite since losing my sense of taste. I said no. Another person asked if I had surfed yet. I said yes. The last question was about the scar and the skull. And that was the end of the presentation.

I walked back to my seat. Minutes later class was dismissed.

I walked out of that classroom feeling great; still a little nervous but I felt like I had done something for the greater good.

I thought about the week since this whole article has been out. I had never expected anything to come from it. I never thought that it would be the spark that was needed to do those things that I wanted to do, to help and to try and prevent one person from going through the same; to prevent one family from having to watch their son or daughter sit with a blank look, watery eyes, and a caved-in head.

This is my opportunity. I need to take it.


  1. I still remember when a classmate's grandpa came in to talk about his heart wrenching experiences in WWII. And another guy that had no voice due to throat cancer from smoking. These guys have stayed with me for over 15 years and probably will for always. I don't know what it is. I think as a kid, it made me think of the paths on which people have come into my life, you know? It was an awareness that people have dramatically different pasts, but I still felt connected.

  2. I only remember one speaker in high school. She was in a wheelchair and spoke about drunk driving. It's ironic, and somewhat sad, but I was aloof to her message. I have to keep reminding myself, as I am sure that lady in the wheelchair did, that it is more important that people hear what could happen if poor choices are made than it is to try and convince them to do anything.

  3. I just read your article linked from a desert fete. Thanks for sharing your story. I got a helmet for my birthday in December, after a good friend crashed and ended up in the hospital. Its time to take my cool new helmet out of the box and wear it each and every time.

  4. I'm glad you are taking the opportunity!! I read your story today for the first time. I heard doubt in your words, about your future. I wanted to tell you to keep going, don't give up and believe you can still accomplish everything you want to do. It looks like you are doing a good job of telling yourself that. You are changing lives for the good. Try to remember all the good! Take Care! I hope I get to meet you someday.