Mar 19, 2005

All Alone and Fighting to Live

Back in 1978 I was a swimmer on my High School swim team at South Houston High.

Each morning I would wake up at 5am to get ready for swimming practice before school. At the time I admired Mark Spitz and wanted to be the 1980 olympics.

I did the butterfly stroke and anyone that is familiar with swimming knows that you start off the starting blocks and shallow dive in the pool. The starting blocks are on the shallow end of the pool where the water is only 3ft deep.

On 14 November 1978, I was practicing and as I dove off the starting blocks my foot slipped and I went in headfirst in 3ft of water. I felt something wrong, my head hurt, there was a lot of blood and could not move. I didn't remember much at this time but I was taken out of the pool on a backboard by my team mates.

My next memories were being at the nearby hospital and feeling cold. I was naked on a stretcher and remember wanting to be covered. I could hear people and see people but I could not speak or move.

I remember a doctor saying "Really? Is he still alive?!" and someone else saying that there was nothing they could do for me that I was supposed to be dead.

I had broken my C1, C2, C3 and a bone called my odontoid.

The pain was terrible and apparently I could not stay conscious for long. I think they used a term "in and out" later to describe my condition. Saying that my body is shutting off and I won't live.

The next memories I had was of wind and for a moment or so I thought I was going to heaven. I was in fact being transported on Houston's LifeFlight helicopter to Hermann Hospital.

It was there that I remember hearing my mother and father's voices and hearing my father cry after being told that I was alive but would not make it. I was hurt so bad and was trying to move or say something and I just couldn't.

My mother had begged to see me and asked the doctor if I could hear them. He said "no". I remember him telling them that honestly I had no chance for survival through the day. He explained that the extent of my injuries were just too severe and that it was a miracle that I was even alive at the moment.

I remember my mother asking the doctor if I was in pain. He answered her and both my father and mother broke down sobbing in tears. They didn't want my passing to be painful.

I tried everything. I tried to move and couldn't. I tried to speak and couldn't. I remember at one point noticing the heart monitor and trying to see if I could somehow control my heart rate so that someone would notice me. I wanted to fight. I wanted to live and I felt completely helpless. I felt that people were giving up on me.

Even as I type this, the memories bring back such a deep sadness and loneliness that I simply have no words to describe. I didn't want to be left alone and people were talking as if I was not there anymore as if I was already dead. I had to fight back.

The days, weeks and months afterwards are much of a blur, morphine does that to you I suppose. It took two weeks for me to communicate and when I did I was so drugged that people wondered whether I was brain damaged. I vividly remember hearing a doctor explain that no one should have much hope that I would be like a vegtable and paralyzed from the neck down at best. I lost all track of time.

It would be almost a year before I could walk around. Everyone smiled. It was all a miracle, there was no other explanation.

To this day I have two scars on my temples where I had a halo brace and I can't turn my head all the way to my shoulder, but Im alive and well and Im grateful that no one gave up on me.

Like most of you, I don't know Terri Schiavo, but there is a small part of me that can empathize with her. I know how it feels to be alone and I know all too well that dark sad place where she is now. She is alive and she is fighting. The simple fact that she is alive is all the evidence one needs to understand that Terri has not given up. Please don't give up on Terri.

What Terri needs is people who love her, care for her and those who won't give up up her. Terri may never come back from that place where she is at now, but she needs to be given the chance.

Neither Judge Greer, the State of Florida or the Supreme Court have any say in this matter. And no one has the right to play God in this matter or deny Terri the right to live. She has committed no crime. This is Terri's battle and she needs both our prayers and our compassion.

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