Part 1: The Injury
Hi, my name’s Tommy, I’m 35 years old and I live in Austin, Texas.
When I was 21, I was hit by a vehicle that was crossing a solid double yellow lane on a two way road. I tried my best to maneuver myself out of the line of the path of the vehicle that day, but it happened so fast I wasn’t able to avoid hitting the car. The impact bursted my first lumbar vertebrae into a bunch of pieces. One of those pieces lodged itself into my spinal canal, tearing the fascia of my spinal cord wide open and paralyzed me from the waste down. Here are some images to give a fuller description.
I remember it being a beautiful warm summer day. I was excited to drop by a BBQ to say hi to some friends. I was planning to head down to the beach after that to meet with some more friends and ride down the coast. I got thirsty on the way and decided to stop down town to get a bottled water.
All of the sudden a car jammed across a center divide, a solid double yellow line.
At a blink of an eye my whole world changed.
Trying to understand what happened at this point was not an option. To know I would be living an entirely different life from this point on. A life that I did not
choose, but a life that I would have to learn how to navigate.
I woke up here, in the hospital.
My Dad was looking over me as I was unconscious. My oldest brother, an Army Sgt. who just got home from the war in Afghanistan / Operation Enduring Freedom, taking the pictures.
When I woke up I was given a poke test to see if I could feel my legs. I was told I was paralyzed from the waste down and it was unlikely that I would ever walk
again. I’m here in this picture trying to maintain the positive composure that I always had throughout life, trying to understand the words that were just spoken
to me. I kept thinking, “I just turned 21 eight days ago. It’s going to be alright.”
Two days later after the swelling went down, I went in for surgery to repair the bursted disc. I had a T11 to L3 5-way fusion, as well as two titanium rods and
eight screws installed into my back.
This is an image of the scar after the staples were removed.
Several months later I was home. Unknown to me, I would be battling this trauma for quite some time to come.
I was so happy to finally be able to spend some time with my German Shepherd, Schatze. She made me feel like everything was okay.
Part 2: The Aftermath
18 months later I was lifting my knees and started to learn how to walk again in my walker. I would use my upper body to drag myself around and place my legs
where they needed to be with my hands. Unfortunately, the plastic knee high AFO braces I wore to stabilize my legs began to tear into my skin.
My legs would always be swollen from the way the spasticity and the plastic braces met. I just worked through the pain. I didn’t realize there was a problem
until this MRSA Staph infected boil popped through my skin.
Looking at this now, I’m not entirely sure how I thought his was okay, but I did. I just stuffed it into my leg brace and strapped down the fastener and fought
through it, like I grew accustomed to doing.
I was sitting in limbo for several days at the hospital waiting for a team of infectious disease doctors to tell me if the infection had reached the bone. I was in
a room with bio-hazard signs, sealed off from the hospital, being prepped for an amputation. I remember the Doctors looking genuinely concerned. Thankfully,
after a couple weeks in the hospital, the IV antibiotics did their job and my foot was saved.
Another MRSA Staph infection that had healed up here. Another huge dilemma, tons of antibiotics and a week in the hospital, I was okay.
Part 3: Self Reflection
This really began to eat away at my motivation to want to try to walk. I became a recluse and found solace in tempur-pedic bed, video games, movies and TV. I thought at least if I was in bed, I wouldn’t have to suffer through all the issues I had been dealing with, with my legs.
My ego wouldn’t let me go back to the wheel chair. My anxiety and PTSD from the crash wouldn’t let me go through any more surgeries. I felt stuck.
This was really hard for me to deal with because I had come so far and now I couldn’t find a way to make any more progress. Learning how to walk in the limited way that I had learned with the braces as cane was a huge hurtle. It felt like fight or flight. I was going to live again or I wasn’t. I had to try as hard as humanly possible to walk again was the mindset I had. It got me walking. But now, I didn’t know what to do. I had entirely no idea.
The intensity of the fibromyalgia pain I was feeling in my legs, back and arms made me feel restless. I started rubbing fuzzy stuffed animals from my feet up my legs, up and down, over and over again to try to heal the problem. I was told in the hospital that this would be a method of correcting the nerve signal. Let me tell you, this made me cry. Most things hurt a lot but nerve damage, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, whatever you’d like to call it…it just strikes you right the core of your being. It is beyond hurting or pain. It is flat out suffering and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. This sets a tone that makes recovery incredibly difficult to pursue.
When I was learning to walk, I would always use my arms to “monkey” my way around. I began to lift myself up in my walker and I used plastic AFO / leg braces to keep my feet from flopping around. My legs were very weak, but I began lifting my knees every day in bed and the movement would gradually get better as I would sit for hours, thinking the same thought, “please move.”
In the walker, I’d grab one leg by the pant leg and lift it and drag it to where I wanted and let go, using the leg brace to do most of the work. I’d transition from that to shifting my hip and get the leg to swing like a pendulum until I knew it was going to land in the right place. I’d let my hip down and try to inch my way forward for that next step.
I’d be in supermarkets to try and get around on my own. I’d make it to a certain extent, but then I would inevitably fall. People would rush over to help me. I appreciated it at first, but at a certain point I would say thank you but tell them that I had to figure this out. That I did not need any help. I would wiggle around on the floor and try to use every piece of my body, my arms, my chin leaning against my walker, whatever I could to get myself back up again. I would repeat this process until I could do it without the walker and transition to a three pronged cane. I fell more often, but my legs were getting stronger from it. It was embarrassing, but I knew I had to do this.
I eventually made it to using just a single pronged cane. I was heavily compensating with my hips and shoulders, but I had done it. I had started walking with just my leg braces and a cane.
As you can see in the pictures above, the leg braces began to rub against my leg and it really became a problem. The spasms in my legs cause my feet to curl. My right foot fared a little better since I mentally focused on recovering that foot a lot more often than I did with my left. With my left foot, I have 0% upward movement beyond being able to move the toes slightly, so for the most part any spasms that come push that foot down and it creates a very rigid angulation to that foot which then really jams my talus bone (that bone that sticks out on the outer side of your foot) against the hard plastic leg AFOs. Let me tell you, this hurts.
These last images are the result of MRSA Staph infections that I kept getting from getting small cuts on my foot from the braces. So as you can imagine, with all that, I began to feel very passive and didn’t really do anything or a very long time. I realized, something had to change. Something most definitely had to change.
There is no way that I could continue to live like this, to continue to endure what I was enduring. That is why I began researching alternative natural health remedies to fix what I was experiencing. Holistic remedies, organic whole food healing, herbs and vitamins. Natural stuff, of this world and from this earth. I’ve learned there are things we can do to help ourselves. How our bodies are incredibly connected to the earth from a biological stand point and in relation to nutrition, organic and holistic healing methodologies. What I was coming across was wildly fascinating and gave me hope.
I learned from Dr. Mark Hyman, there are 100 Trillion cells in the body. 10 Trillion of those cells (10%) are the make up of our body composition, bones, hair, organs, teeth, the blood that flows through our veins, etc. 90 Trillion (90%) of our body is made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other micro organisms. So if that’s the case, and the plants and things that come naturally from the earth are made of up the very same thing, there must be a connection. If these natural organisms from the earth are incorporated into plant life as well as 90% of our bodies, then surely, most definitely, this has to help my body recompose and adjust itself into better alignment with improved health. That this can bridge the gap that I need and give me the biological, physical and mental head start I need to pursue other avenues of well being, like the intensive and aggressive physical therapy regime that I need to adopt to get ahead of my injury and symptoms.
As I continued to research, I began to change the things that I put into my body. Later sodas, sugary pastries and junk food. Hello avocados, whole organic vegetables, beets, purple cabbage, squash, fish oils, vitamins and minerals. I started to feel better, physically and mentally over a just the short period of time after this change. I began to become aware of an increased mind body connection. That what I eat directly and completely effects the outcome my body has in engaging in the type of processes that it needs to fix itself. Maintaining healthy body chemistry, gene expression, and all sorts of really great and fascinating things.
I realized, this can happen. I can get better. Not only can I get better, but what I learn along the way I can share with others. I can maybe help other people as well? I’m selfless at times and it feels hard to help myself for that reason. It’s easier for me to be positive, motivate and help others than it is to help myself at times. But maybe if there is a deeper purpose here, then I feel I could search for the motivation I need.
We focus so much on the idea of separation in this world. The idea that the socio-economic norm is to focus on ourselves, to do well in school, get a job, get a home for ourselves and then do nothing more than procreate all of these things for ourselves that we can enjoy. Part of my understanding is that, the people who came before us in this world, our ancestors, if that’s how they operated, well we wouldn’t be here. It’s not a sustainable way of living. People before us lived in communities and helped one another in every facet of life. I feel like we need more of that in the world at the moment. This is the exact sentiment that lead me to putting up this website.
I think a lot of people in this world are improving and becoming better individuals each day, searching for growth and self improvement, and most importantly love and support. Searching for ways to live a more compassionate life and help one another.
The internet is a huge factor here and may be single handedly the largest contributor to what allows the world to potentially change for the better. The world’s heartbeat. There is a lot of negativity out there for sure. Old habits die hard, but I believe people will soon understand that the most basic human instinct is to love and to be loved. Whether that’s in the form of a simple compliment you get on a photo you have posted, a virtual pat on the back when you’re feeling down, a helpful and/or motivating piece of information you come across, or a real tangible human element of love in the form a relationship formed between two people meeting as some result of intertwining and intermingling of these elements. So many people are changing their lives from the things that they come across on the internet and the support the are receiving.
This website is just doing my little part. If I could find a way to get this online, having gone through what I had gone through, I absolutely had to share what I’ve experienced. It also maybe the largest driver in allowing me to help myself as well. I hope this website can make a difference in someone’s life. Thank you for reading this.