Recently I was rear ended in my car! I was minding my own business, slowing behind a vehicle that was indicating to turn right when that screech of braking wheels makes your shoulders rise in anticipation of the thump, a glance in the rear view mirror confirmed a Masda was in my truck.
I witnessed Emily’s traumatic spinal cord injury as her mother. It was more cruel than I can express, my inner sustaining flame that nurtured my positive psyche was extinguished initially and an empty sad black hole replaced it. My black hole consumed all the daylight, consumed all my worldly understanding , all my thoughts were strained, as I witnessed Emily’s loss and grief, witnessed her gently accept that she was paralyzed, immobile, quadriplegic by an oblique sports fall.
Two years from her accident I question why is change and acceptance so hard?
I have been helped by reading the Sydney University – counselling and psychological service information sheets. One pamphlet instructed me to think about change as a process with stages:
- The situation. Observation of the place I am at and that I want to change.
- Get motivated. Scribe my goals; maintain my diet and exercise, maintain my positive nature, stop struggling to accept our new normal.
- Action – make my goals happen. By hard work I practice mindfulness, realizing the past is over, the future is not written so the present is where I should be.
- Maintenance – live. A real case of walk the walk don’t just talk the talk. I practice what I aspire to be. When I become mindful I realise that the way to accept change is to enjoy today.
- Relapse recycle. There are days when I re-evaluate our new normal post SCI in our family and wonder about life’s meaning and worth. Then I bring myself back to my goals and get on with enjoying today.
I still battle with the question “why” but due to its unanswerable nature it has to be acknowledged but placed carefully to one side, discarded in favour of better questions. Where am I in the stages of change? There is no right or wrong. It is just about being realistic about where I’m at.
Emily has returned to post-graduate studies, she travels to Sydney University on the bus. Emily continues as a volunteer at Taronga Zoo using community transport. She displays her resilience everyday. My ultimate aim is to live not constantly aware that life changed on 1st Feb 2012.
On my clamber towards acceptance of my new life, my path will alter but my journey is not toward goals that are clever or complex. One goal is simple – living post SCI, accepting the ever evolving changes, coping and moving on with a strong sense of worth, purpose and a smile! A big smile.
Emily has increased her physiotherapy sessions. We now attend for three hours of fun packed exercise and stretching. Afterwards we return to the car for a late picnic lunch whilst diving home. Today we were enjoying cheese and pickle rolls listening to FM radio tunes. I passed Emily her Jazz apple and remarked how delicious and crunchy they tasted. I chatted amicably to myself before realizing that, rather like Sleeping Beauty, Emily had inhaled an apple shard and was silently choking to death.
Our outreach physiotherapist had recently taught me the assisted cough maneuver, her instructions were clear but unfortunately we hadn’t practiced them in a vehicle traveling over speed bumps while each individual was safely strapped into their car seat facing front. It was at this point I placed my foot heavily on the brake and started walloping Emily across her back.
I asked the rather pale, gasping for air, Emily if she could have alerted me earlier to her demise. “Could you make more noise, wave a hand but never choke quietly.” After our emergency stop and several hard thumps, Emily started laughing. When she caught her breath she couldn’t stop chuckling at the thought that I would have driven home completely unaware of her predicament, singing, car dancing and happily chatting to the radio.
Postal delivery vans and council refuse trucks have informative notices for the car behind alerting drivers of their frequent braking. I would like a sticker on the back of my car to alert anyone not three full car lengths away that I may brake heavily and frequently during CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. My sticker would alert other road users that In the case of an emergency the passenger will be dramatic, causing the driver to be erratic.The choking rescue viewed from a car behind probably looked much the same as my usual car dancing routine. An alternative approach would be if my car rego reflected my driving ability at times of drama –