1.

It Could Be Worse

(Reminder: Odd numbered chapters will be the material-corporeal-clinical recovery. Even numbered chapters will be the supernatural ones.)

 

It really sucks when the best thing you can say about your life is that it could be worse.

Things can ALWAYS be worse! And for someone, somewhere, they certainly are and we should all definitely keep perspective of this in our darkest hours.

But each person hearing my story, which was doled out multiple times a day; when someone noticed my scarred face, inability to get up, hold a spoon to eat, or saw me tear up at the thought of being confined to a perpetual state of suffering for as long as I lived, gave the generic, classless, thoughtless response: “OMG! You were lucky!” referring to the close proximity of paramedics at my moment of impact and the close proximity of a hospital and that I had survived.

My life was OVER and I did not consider getting hit in the face by a truck to be “lucky”.

Lucky is when you discard 4 cards in five card stud and get a flush or a straight. Lucky is when you hit every green light on your commute to work.

Lucky is when you almost get hit by a truck in the face, NOT when you get killed in the street!

Indeed, it could’ve been worse…

Those paramedics could’ve wanted tacos instead of burgers that day or had a soccer-mom-mini-van in front of them in the drive thru, preventing them from reviving me within minutes of being killed.

Pastor Tom could’ve been getting new tires at a shop up the street instead of the American Tire shop on the corner where the accident occurred.

Oh. Yeah…

Did I forget to mention Pastor Tom was on the corner because he was waiting for his new tires to be installed.
Yep. The man who pulled my body from the burning muffler was only there due to his tires being out of stock and delivery was delayed a day.

The accident could’ve happened near my home, instead of my office, making the hospital far enough from my ground-zero to not make it to ICU in time.

It would’ve been worse had I not been identified, too.

My ID and office briefcase were jettisoned from my motorcycle making ID’ing me nearly impossible. Lo and behold, my son’s best friend happened to be at the same intersection at the time of my accident, which is unusual since the kid lives nowhere near there and rarely goes to that neighborhood but had a DMV errand to run on that same corner that day. Because my motorcycle is nearly one of a kind in my neighborhood, he recognized me instantly, in spite of EMTs and police vehicles and personnel blocking all view of me, to say nothing of the mangled condition of my face.

“Hey, Brandon,“ he phoned my son, “I think your dad was in an accident and is lying in the street with paramedics.”

Because of this other miraculous coincidence, my son and girlfriend were at the hospital as I was being admitted to ICU. Otherwise, they’d not known why I wouldn’t be home for dinner.

 

So keeping true to my word to you, the odd numbered chapters of this text will pertain to the material-worldly-physical features of my death experience and recovery.

You can skip the even numbered material chapters if you only want the cosmic-supernatural stuff, but I think the material phenomena of the experience really enhances the supernatural and vice-versa. I’m just gonna tell the story as it happened. You can draw your own conclusions.

 

So to summarize:

  • I turned right out of my office instead of left for the first time EVER.
  • A Good Samaritan pastor was on the corner to defy convention and pull my body from under the truck.
  • Two paramedics were 60 yards away at the FRONT of a drive-thru
  • The hospital was a life-saving distance from my impact
  • My son’s best friend was at that intersection at the time of the collision

Lucky, huh?

My body injuries were:

  • Glasgow Coma (stage 3)
  • 10 broken ribs
  • Punctured lung
  • Life-threatening lacerations on my face and head
  • A spinal complication that would not be realized for seven months, resulting in 14 hours of spinal fusion surgery
  • Severe structural damage to the face and skull
  • Nerve damage to the left leg
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
    • Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)
  • Death

 

100% of stage 3 Glasgow coma BFDP[1] patients die. I was a RP—Reactive Pupil[2] patient and only 42% of them live! My head was swollen to the size of my actual bike helmet. My ten broken ribs punctured my lungs.

I could not breathe on my own so a tube was inserted into my mouth, down into my throat and into my lungs and oxygen was fed into me by a machine.  I could not swallow or… well… anything.

There were multiple contusions on my face and head.  My 3rd vertebrae was damaged, but this was not detected at the time and would not be realized for seven months resulting in 14 hours of spinal fusion surgery. My left leg was so twisted and misshapen that it required an ankle-to-hip brace just to keep it “straight”.

When my son and girlfriend arrived at the hospital they could not see me as I was in emergency ICU care. They were met by a priest.

They were asked to sign consent forms relating to death arrangements.

When they first laid eyes on me, my girlfriend of 11 years, Janete, fainted.  My son, Brandon, took it in and tried to process this person, his father and close confidante and very good and trusted friend and mentor, dying.

Again.

For the second time today.

 

THE PERFECT STORM

My TBI was a DAI. This is one of the most severe forms of TBI and is when the white and grey layers of the brain shear (rip) due to the force of an impact. Over 90% of DAI sufferers never regain consciousness and of those who do, most remain significantly impaired[3].

While I was comatose, I had dozens of procedures performed to sustain my life and repair me. I do not remember anything that took place, including the ankle to hip brace. I was in a coma for nine days and awoke on my birthday.

My loved ones were told there was less than a 30% chance I would wake from my coma and there was no way to anticipate what my condition would be: they were advised I was going to be severely impaired and IF I ever woke, I would likely need constant care as long as I lived; such as feeding and machines to move my bowels and bladder.

They were also told that my face was so damaged that even with extensive plastic surgery; I would be visibly and grotesquely scarred for life.

My girlfriend, the woman I was a partner in life with for over a decade, entered into a denial state, replying, “Oh… OK. So he’ll be getting up soon and we’ll take him home. That’s good.”

To which my son and her daughter both looked at her in disbelief and cried out, “OH MY GOD! DID YOU NOT HEAR WHAT THE DOCTOR JUST SAID?”

Her denial was a psychological protective mechanism to prevent her from going into a state of shock until she would be able to accept the realities.

 

 

Happy Birthday

I woke from my coma nine days later on my birthday. When I awoke, Janete fainted as her denial evaporated since I was alive,

I remained in ICU for twelve days.

When I woke, I had no memory and did not know who they were, who I was or even where I was. I didn’t know what a hospital was, or life, or death or anything.

When the circumstances were explained to me, I nodded my head politely as if someone told me about the weather.

I was unable to comprehend these concepts but had an intuitive sense to calmly say the right things, such as, “Oh. Ok. That sucks. I hope everything turns out alright. Thank you.”

Since it was my birthday when I woke from my coma, my little family brought cupcakes with candles and balloons and sang me happy birthday and took pictures and a video. I nearly look like I know what is going on in the pictures and video but in truth I had no idea what was happening. I didn’t know what a birthday was or who these people were, but instinctively knew to smile and say thank you.

 

A nurse asked me if I knew my name and I said yes but couldn’t produce one. She asked me if I knew who the woman in my room was and I didn’t want them to worry or to look stupid so I said, “Yes. She’s the queen.[4]” in spite of never having pet names like darling, princess or ‘queen’ in our relationship. It just seemed like the right thing to say and I didn’t want these nice things (people?) to worry and saying the right things seemed to put them more at ease. I didn’t want to be a source of worry or fear so I went along with things best I could.

I felt like an alien who woke up on a strange planet.

My second night, I turned to this ‘girlfriend’ person and said to her, very privately, “Don’t leave me here at night! These nurses and hospital people do very strange things to me when I’m here alone! Please don’t let them!”

In my barely, semi-conscious state, I am sure I was delusional and felt the surgeries and other procedures performed on me at night, like a catheter, were alien-abduction probing.

The tenth night, or so, I asked my visitors (son and girlfriend and her daughter), “What’re you guys doing in London?[5]

What I find most fascinating about this is that I was cognizant to find it curious why they were in London but not curious as to why I was in London! And I didn’t “believe” I was in London. It was as sensible and certain to me as being a human being and not a squirrel. What I couldn’t fathom was why and how they had all gotten to London so quickly! I wasn’t even sure what a “London” was, yet it is where I perceived I was!

About ten days in, my son, Brandon, was encouraged by the physical therapist to get me to squeeze a ball or even try to toss one to me from a foot or two away. I agreed to the request to play catch and felt a bit insulted that they were treating me like a child; asking me to play catch like a good boy. But when my son tossed this soft round thing to me from two feet away I watched it bounce into my head, unable to gauge the timing to even raise my hand to it.

Brandon asked me, “Dad, do you remember home?”

“Of course…”

“Describe it.  Tell me what the front of the house looks like.”

I could not.

“Describe your bedroom; the door, the walls, your bed… you know…”

I could not.

I could get a sense of what home was and I knew I had one, but all the details were inaccessible to me.  The things I couldn’t remember had no sensation of being forgotten.   Instead, they were simply not there, as if they never were.  I literally could not remember things. Like they never existed to me at all.

    Never wake a man from a nine day coma without espresso on hand.

 

This accentuated the feelings of isolation and of fear.  Fear that I could be trapped this way.  Even though it was like not knowing these things to begin with, there was also, simultaneously, feelings of loss of them.  Very contradictory.

There were more simultaneous sensations:  A sense of inner encouragement and achievement while doing an action yet, equally a sense of despair and sorrow with the unavoidable awareness that my limitations were not something I’d ever encountered before!

 

Other people came to see me too.

Men I played tennis with every week came to see me. I didn’t know them but it was depressing that all these people felt so sorry for me. I didn’t know them or me or what tennis was, but I was capable of feeling embarrassed. There was this unanimous sense that whatever I had been was quite great and now I was this lump of flesh with no hope or future. And I agreed!

Many of my clients came to see me and many cried and prayed and said such kind and wonderful things to me, “Please, Scott, stay strong. You saved my life and gave me hope when I thought my life was over. I would never have made it though my (divorce/addiction/grief) without you. Don’t leave us. We need you.”

These pleadings and prayers became sustenance to my body and mind as I felt a powerful need to not let them down[6]. They all saw me as an inspiration of strength and perseverance and I could NOT let them down and deprive them of triumph and hope (whoever these strangers were)!

I didn’t know who this Scott guy was they were lamenting over, but it was tragic and made me cry each time. It felt like someone had died; never to return. Like this person abandoned these people. People who seemed to like, love and rely on him. They were all so… grateful.

Whatever I had been or done had made quite an impact on everyone and I felt like a colossal failure for being unable to remember such important things and people.

   awake day nine. Death is a great way to lose weight! Lost 34 pounds in coma!

 

I was not in pain.

I had very little body awareness at any time. I was not hungry or sleepy or thirsty or really aware of any bodily needs. I was virtually numb; aware of my physical form and discomfort from lying down or sitting up too long, but nothing severe. My prior self was annoyingly energetic and restless, yet I was confined to a bed constantly and I did not feel a need to stretch or expand. My bodily waste was all mechanized: my food was through an IV and my waste was through reverse ones!

I wanted to stand and walk because I saw these other humans doing this walking thing and it looked easy and fun. When I tried to stand, I fell. My motivation was two-fold: I wanted to be self-reliant and independent and I felt ashamed of being a burden. I began to feel urgency in improving simply to not be a source of pain, fear and worry to these kind people, though I could not remember them, I felt love for them; sort of like a muscle memory—a reflex—that was simply present. Loving them was the only thing I could feel emotionally and I felt sympathy for their worry and concern and self-loathing for being the source of it.

This made me want to try…

 

In about twelve days I was able to form and express thoughts and told my loved ones, “I do not know if it is humanly possible to ever get beyond this. I only know that if it is, I will. I do not know if I will ever walk again, but I know that if I can take a single step, it will be truthful evidence that I can take two. I do not know how far I can go, but I’m going to find out.”

Please do not mistake my seemingly inspirational words as being pronounced with vigor or pride. I was broken and could barely speak. In the movie-version, this would be a close-up shot with swelling music to accentuate the moment, but in real life it was a weakly mumbled statement and in NO WAY did I feel strong, motivated or shoe-commercial motivated!

 

When I would fall asleep in the hospital I would wake up in the dark and my conscious, aware brain could not help but remember where I was and why I was there.   And it would be paralyzing.  And you work so hard to “shut off” the dark, hopeless thoughts. 

Think of other things, fantasize of recovery and a future or being restored to yourself as if it were all just a bad, bad, horrible dream. If you’re fortunate you drift back to sleep.  Thoughts of Janete, Morgan, Brandon, Cody, sister, clients, associates; healthy and normal… it is comforting and simultaneously lonely as you are painfully aware that if you were gone tomorrow they would live and eventually be productive and happy without you.  They would eventually adjust to a world they live in where you had died- and you feel insignificant and abandoned and then… alone—so, so alone.   Not “lonely”. That’d be easy… but “alone”. 

Since this tragedy I feel alone ALL the time, even when my son or Janete is right next to me.  I feel like we are not together because I am in a different place.  Our bodies are near to each other and we might even be talking or sharing a movie or meal together, but they are nowhere near where I am; we are so many millions of miles apart I am on a different planet and in a whole other galaxy… And I love them.  My God… it’s not even love… it’s so much more and total than “love”.  I need them and need them to need me too.
And I am trained, educated and so experienced philosophically and spiritually that I am well aware of how illusory and self-invented these feeling are; nebulous, abstract, illusory. I KNOW this… but this pervasive feeling and immersion into the awareness of alone and separate-ness is beyond what I can “know” or even “feel”, it is a part of my existence. 

I share this in an attempt to validate the injured, sick, dying person who is reading this. IN an attempt to give some inside perspective of what your loved one is going through and may not be able to communicate to you.

And these feelings of hopelessness and despair are NORMAL. Not only are they normal, but they are good signs you are thinking well and improving. You’d be a freak if you WEREN’T feeling hopeless. Stay the course…

 

At night, when visiting was over and I was alone in this sterile room of one window with what I thought was London outside, I contemplated my reality. I made rational, sensible conclusions that if I was to be a source of worry and fear to those I loved, I was going to…

exit.

 

RATIONAL SUICIDE?

I was not emotional or upset or hysterical in this conclusion.

I was calm and private.

I was reasonable and practical.

My girlfriend and son were young and I refused to limit their lives with having to care for me, never being able to fully live because of me. I decided, calmly and rationally…

to exit.

 

It was the right thing to do.

            Sure… they’ll hurt over it for awhile, but over time they will move on and be free and I will become merely a tragic memory. She will find a man to live and travel and make love with and my son will continue his life and get married and have children and a career someday and I will be this dark “episode” in their lives. Death is a part of life and the world keeps spinning around and the sun comes up and goes down, regardless if I, or anyone in particular, is here, or not. They will move on. It is best to let them go so they can repair and live again. The sooner the better…

And I imagined their futures: without me. Birthdays I’d never attend. Anniversaries I’d never make romantic and grand. Adventures I’d never have with my amazing, grown son. Grandkids and a beautiful daughter in law I’d never meet. And they would all grow older and occasionally come across some memorabilia that brought me to mind and cause a tear or two to drop as they wondered for a moment… what if…

And I heard myself argue back, yes, they will move on and you will become that great, inspiring man who had a sad and tragic ending. They will remember you with fondness. The only alternative is if you somehow, miraculously rise from these ashes and resurrect yourself. That’d be quite an amazing feat. Then you wouldn’t be remembered for what you were, but would continue this lifelong legacy of representing strength, perseverance and triumph. If you come through the other side of this, you become a living example of triumph over tragedy.

And that was the moment.

 

That was the moment I decided to fight to live and give my greatest gift of all. To become a medical miracle and show, by example, that life is a choice and you do NOT have to play the cards you are dealt!

 

I decided to press on: if this thing’s gonna beat me, it’s gonna have to KILL me to do it. I will make this tragedy EARN and WORK its ass off to take me! I will exhaust it! I will make it work so hard it’ll just give up, confessing that it has met its match. I will make killing me so not worth it!

I truly did NOT feel strong or that I had a fraction of a chance of being even remotely restored to anything even similar to being self-reliant again. I was not brave. Nor strong. Nor positive. I was spiteful!

I was determined to make this murderous criminal of my life have to work nonstop to keep me enslaved and if it got drowsy, I would bludgeon it in its sleep!

I was going to KILL death.

 

I was terrified of living confined to a bed, unable to think and feel. I began to sense that the cornerstone of my identity had been my near superhuman ability to think and to feel. That the only thing that made people different from animals was our wide ranging ability to think and to feel.

I was not motivated to live on because of bravery or fearlessness or even hope—no. I was determined because I was in absolute terror of continuing the way that I was. I would try till death, merely to avoid a life of suffering.

See, I did not, and do not, accept suicide as an option. I had seriously considered it when I was twenty-eight, kicking dope from 12 years of hard core IV meth addiction, but it crossed my mind that I might try it and, with my luck, screw it up, crippling me and making me a bed ridden, vegetable with no way to end it all—trapped and imprisoned by this selfish act of suicide gone wrong!

Nuh-uh! No way!

Suicide is not an option to me because, even though I could not recall my spiritual beliefs yet, I had an intuitive awareness that death is no ending. That you continue on in some form or manner and that no matter how bad something is, it could indeed be worse!

It is often said that death is the worst, but, no. It’s not.

Suffering is far worse than death and I was terrified of living on in an even worse state than I was. There seemed no option but to try.

I wished and prayed for another option as trying seemed to be a causeless, useless notion, but since I seemed to be living on, breathing in and out, for an undetermined amount of time, I better get on with it and try to get the fuck out of this mess.

I had to try to make it… better.

And if I could make it to better than I could go farther. I decided to see where the end was. Where was the limit to my restoration? The point of no return? Where was the wall? I wanted to get there and see what was on the other side.

 

 

This may sound motivational-speaker-inspiring but this is NOT how I felt.

I was NOT positive. I was NOT encouraged, inspired or hopeful. I figured I was delusional but since I kept waking up and breathing, regardless of not wanting to, I had nothing else to do but to try and get the fuck out of bed.

The days were becoming long as I was now only unconscious twenty hours a day instead of twenty four. Then it was awake for five and six hours each day. And these stretches of time were eternally long.

I was alone much of the time as loved ones could not sit by my bedside round the clock ignoring work and other responsibilities to sit by the bedside of a man who could not even play checkers or converse.

I was getting bored as the only thing to occupy my time was this TV thing in my room that showed these really fake people doing really insignificant things. The only other distractions I had was hospital staff trying to get me to take drugs, which I refused. That and these worrying loved ones who came for hours when they could. I begged them to stay more but was racked with guilt over it as I imprisoned them out of their sense of duty.

The rest of each waking moment was spent in an anguishing awareness that I had once been this living, vibrant thing and was now just taking up space… forever!

The hospital staff discovered I was depressed and tried persuading me to take anti-depressants. “Why?” I asked. “Will they make me forget I was hit by a truck in the face and I’m in a hospital, maimed for life? If not, then no thanks, I’ll pass on the drugs. But I tell you what, the moment I STOP being depressed about my circumstances, please drug the hell out of me because THEN something is seriously wrong!”

The staff thought I was… uh… difficult.

It is fairly common knowledge that hospital staff are very drug-oriented because it makes patients more docile and easier to deal with. Thirty percent of behavioral meds administered in a medical setting to patients are NOT for the patients, but for the staff to have an easier time in their work.

I was in the hospital for one month; twenty-eight days to be exact. When I was released I was nowhere near capable of caring for myself. But since insurance had mostly maxed out on the in-patient care, it was time to go home.

 

 

 

 

[1] Bilateral Fixed Dilated Pupils

[2] Pupils respond to light

[3] Wikipedia and other sources

[4] This is elaborated on in the supernatural account.

[5] This is elaborated on in the supernatural account.

[6] This is elaborated on in the supernatural account.