Last night while out for dinner and drinks, my wife Heather made a comment: “I see that you’ve been writing again…”
“Yeah,” I said as I sat more upright. “I found this website called ‘One-Minute Writer’ that poses a daily Writing Prompt. I’ve been pretty steady [writing something every day to the prompt]. But today’s prompt had me drawing a blank… for the life of me, I couldn’t think of what to write, so I skipped it.”
Still put off with myself for not coming up with something to write, I reached for the tall glass in front of me and took in a mouthful of dark winter ale, swirled it around, and swallowed.
“What was the prompt?” Heather asked.
“Odds,” I said. “The context is ‘In what way have you beat the odds?’” After a pause, I continued on. “When I think all the way back to childhood, I don’t think I ever had to ‘beat the odds.’”
Heather stopped me. “Yes you have,” she said. “Your accident… You beat the odds then.”
The accident! She was right.
“The accident,” as it had come to be known due to the sudden impact on my life, was back in the year 2000 when I had fallen on glass. As the glass had shattered, a large fragment cut into the outside of my left leg just below the knee and severed cleanly the Peroneal Nerve, instantly cutting off all feeling and movement from that point down. Adding insult to injury, as I had attempted to break my fall with my left hand, another piece of glass severed a nerve in the pointer finger.
Five hours of nerve grafting surgery was performed. A good nerve, one serving little functional purpose, was extracted from my left leg and grafted into the severed nerve area on the same leg and, a smaller piece, in the finger. After I was zipped back up, the doctors refused to answer questions about whether I could ever run or play soccer again. They would only tell me that I should start getting feeling back in the leg in 9 months to a year. Movement would take far longer.
Doctors wouldn’t say directly, but I knew back then that great odds were stacked against me from recovering to my pre-accident condition. Their goal had been to get me to function normally in life again – which included walking and being able to use my left hand like I had before. Never mentioned was a return to sport, let along competing at a high level. Those questions had been brushed aside time and again before I finally realized the seriousness of what had happened to me.
Now at the restaurant with my wife, the more I thought about “the accident” and “Odds,” the more I remembered just how hard I had worked at recovery. It wasn’t until 9 months after surgery when I had started getting trace feeling back in my leg and a year before I could move my foot even a millimeter, the nerve regenerating ever so slowly.
It would take an order of years before I could run again, and even then I still did not have full feeling or movement in the left leg and foot. This is something that to date has yet to return; it never will.
During this time, I had worked hard at recovery and been so successful that I had, in a sense, evened the odds. Continuing with physical therapy and then cycling and wrapping my foot up to walk – doing whatever I could – I eventually turned those odds in my favor so that years later I would excel, with life being back to normal, the accident a distant memory without lingering complications.
So when Heather said, “Yes you have… the accident,” it made me realize that me forgetting the true impact the accident had on my life was, in a sense, the ultimate reward for having beaten the odds so thoroughly that they too have disappeared from thought.
It was odd that I should forget.
I drew another fresh swig of ale. It never tasted so good.