Part I: Supersize Me
Almost three years ago, while camping, I bent over to pick something up off the ground. Pain stabbed me in the neck and traveled like electricity straight down to my toes. It almost brought me to my knees. But as swiftly as it had come, it dissipated.
Over the course of following days, my right shoulder really hurt. I tried massage, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, to no avail. I was even desperate enough to try chiropractic. (My apologies to those who believe in chiropractic, but defending all those low impact, soft tissue motor vehicle accident cases over the years really jaded me.)
As the shoulder continued to throb, my chin began to turn to the right, and lowered appreciably. I was contorted, but it was not purposeful.
My primary care physician proclaimed that it was a shoulder muscle strain and prescribed physical therapy. I spent years as a civil litigation defense attorney, defending personal injury and medical malpractice cases. I also knew my own body. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t listen to her.
I had recently taken the deposition of a treating doctor in one of my cases, and I was really impressed with him. He specialized in rehabilitation medicine. I made an appointment.
The doctor walked into the exam room, asked me to stand, and inquired, “Why are you holding your head like that?” I replied, “I’m not! This is totally involuntary!” After a few pushes and pulls with my hands, and squeezing his fingers as tight as I could (“Neurological deficit testing,” I said to myself), he declared, “You need an MRI. Today. I’m going to start making calls. Sit tight.” Within the hour, I was at Overlake Medical Center, in the magnet.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll let the MRI speak for itself:
Several physicians commented that my herniation was the biggest one they had ever seen. I jovially replied, “Hey, I go big or stay home.” A client retorted, “Tammy, there are some contests in life you don’t want to win!”
The following day I consulted with a surgeon. Two days later, I was in neurosurgery.
I am coloring in the background and making a short story long to impress upon you how serious my condition was. As a single woman, with no roomies or significant other, I needed EVERYTHING done for me after surgery. Meals, walking the dog, changing the sheets, standby assist when I walked or showered, housekeeping – you name it, for six weeks I could not do it.
Desperate and in need, I deployed what I dubbed “The Friends and Family Network.” My friend Darren posted updates on Facebook (love you, Darren!). People came out of the woodwork to volunteer for a shift.
Part II: Cardboard Calamities
Have you ever played “The What If Game?” For the uninitiated, it is a mental self-torture device; you think of every possible dreadful outcome of a potential course of action until you talk yourself out of it. As I began to allow myself to daydream about selling everything and hitting the road, The What If Game reared its ugly head. “What if I have a sudden, debilitating illness like the neck herniation, and I’m somewhere 400 miles outside of Cleveland and don’t know anybody? Who will take care of Boss Tweed and Olive? Where will my RV go while I’m in a hospital?” The What If Game worked its black magic on me for a time; I dismissed my quest as irresponsible and untenable based on all the tragedies that could befall me out on the open road.
If, if, if, if, IF! There’s an old saying in Mississippi, “If a frog had wings, it wouldn’t bump its ass a-hoppin’.” In other words, don’t waste your time and energy questioning things that will (most likely) never be.
Part III: The World-Wide Web
Here’s what I know: I have a network, and it ain’t courtesy of Verizon. The neck herniation taught me that in times of trouble, people rise to the occasion. But ladies and gentlemen, here’s the key: You must be willing to ask for and receive help! That is difficult for many of us, including me.
I am also a contributing member of the network. If you need me, I’ll be there. Call me in the middle of the night and say, “Bring a big rug and a shovel,” and I’m on my way. Want me to grab coffee too?
I am also building out and buttressing my network. My blog has been a great resource already. I have connected with people who share my interests and have offered driveways, acreage, and curbs for Nellie and me. RVing Women (joining), the Family Motor Coach Association (joining), The Eagles (joining), Newmar Owners Forum (joining), Sisters on the Fly (member), Tin Can Tourists (member) – my network is expanding and getting stronger.
In my experience, Perfect Strangers are also a part of the network. On many occasions in my life, a stranger has stepped up for me in ways I would have never expected from even a best friend. I am astounded time and time again by the inherent goodness and decency of most people.
Is the network my insurance policy? Heavens, no. I am not kicking off this journey thinking, “If I get into trouble, someone will save me.” That’s not what the network is about. I’ve got auto coverage, health coverage, pet insurance, extended warranties, pepper spray and a bat under the bed, great cellular range, RV coverage, AAA, an umbrella policy – and the peace of mind that: 1) I can endure and survive misfortunes that might arise; and 2) help will be there if or when I need it.
So here I go, jumping into the abyss. I have no idea what will happen, and isn’t that just delicious?