I woke up in the ICU wild-eyed and panic-stricken. My recollection of that exact moment is that I felt like a caged animal. Suddenly a shadowy figure – a woman -appeared, looking down and screaming in a thick Pakistani accent, “Don’t bite the tube! Don’t bite the tube!”
So, I bit the hell out of that damned tube.
And I continued to furiously chomp down on the foreign object until my vision became clearer. Next, I saw the physique of a man step forward; he aggressively ordered her away and proceeded to remove the tube from my throat.
Never had I felt so shaken! An inherent trust and realization that a battle had begun overwhelmed me, but I was ready to wage war! Little did I know that my enemy would ultimately be me: my entire being. And this completely unresponsive body would continue to work against me for quite some time...
That day was exactly 14 years ago, a few days after a car crash on December 18 that eviscerated my path and everything I thought I knew up until then. Every year, the date comes up and I vacillate between celebration of life and sitting in resolute morbidity. In recent years, using the practice of gratitude, it has gotten easier. But everyone who was with me that day in the desert, knows a great love was lost when he departed and the other two young men who were in the truck with us walked away from the wreckage mostly physically unscathed.
What more can be said? Oh, so much more…There are still questions and an air of mystery surrounding exactly what happened that day and a strange wonderment of how things lined up almost in preparation for what was about to occur. I sometimes think had I heeded the warning signs and trusted my intuition a bit more, things would have unfolded quite differently. But I’m hip to the fact that the, “what if‘s” lead to a horribly dark place.
Ten days later, an air ambulance arrived from Switzerland and took me from Dubai - my home, my work, my family friends, pets and the life I had - and brought me to the US for rehabilitation treatment. (Stabilization surgery was performed by a renowned surgeon at the hospital in Dubai upon the two broken vertebrae in my neck, using bone from my hip, wires, screws and a metal plate.)
The writing of this, is still somewhat troublesome, but ultimately I know that whatever I’m left with, whatever I’m feeling afterward, will be cathartic. I have to borrow a line from one of my favorite films, The Last Unicorn, where the main character laments, “I can never regret. I can feel sorrow, but it’s not the same thing.“
Stay tuned for part two...
Photo: A radiologist in New Jersey (ha!)