THE CLOAK OF HOPE
The Boston Medical Center was going to be Tony’s new home away from home for the next few months until they shipped his broken body off to some rehabilitation center for people with spinal cord injuries. That was the deluxe plan anyway and he was going to have to make the best out of a bad situation or die trying. The bizarre accident involving his car, black ice and a stone wall had left Tony physically shattered. He had no feeling from the waist down, but the doctors were very optimistic that once the swelling and inflammation of his spine subsided that he had a really good chance of regaining some feeling in his legs. How much, if any, was still uncertain, but Tony wasn’t willing to give up that easily. He really had no choice in the matter did he? When was the last time you were in a hospital where you saw a partially paralyzed man trying to escape the cold, sterile, confines, by dragging his non- working appendage’s behind him in a bitter battle for freedom? Seriously, it wasn’t like he could stand up, change his clothes and walk out of there. He was dependent upon just about everyone for everything and that really sucked. On the brighter side of gloom and doom, Tony regained almost all the mobility in his arms and could now feed himself, brush his teeth and shave without having to depend on someone else to do it for him. Tony had a new luxury room complete with a day spa which thankfully was about as far away from that horrid sterile imprisonment called ICU as it could be.
Tony’s surgeon, Dr. David Pressman, had become his confidant, healer and most importantly, his friend. Together, they made plans for all sorts of fun filled activities like; daily visits from a physical and occupational therapist, a mental health consultant and even a glorious, ever so humbling, sponge bath. All that was missing was a tanning booth, but he had already put in a verbal request for that. Funny thing though, that rascally doctor never participated in any of these exciting, memorable, events with him. He was the lucky one, the one who actually had a real life, a life with no restrictions or limitations, a life that when all was said and done could be classified as a pretty great, fun, purposeful life. Tony, on the other hand, thought his life sucked out loud and it didn’t matter what words of encouragement well- meaning people said to him in an attempt to change his way of thinking because he hated his life with every fiber of his being. Tony had become an extremely angry, bitter and sometimes rancid person and he didn’t give a rat’s ass about it either. Tony hated life, he hated God, he hated people, but most of all, he hated himself. He took so much of his anger and despair out on his family and he continuously bitched and complained about how unfair life was and why he had to suffer like that. What did I do wrong? Why me, what did I do to deserve this?” Luckily, Tony was blessed with a beautiful, caring, compassionate and loving family who could see right through all of his pain and anguish clear down to the honest, friendly, kind and loving man that he sincerely really was.
Tony’s rotten attitude got a much needed major overhauling after a very special visit from a beautiful, sweet and understanding little girl. She quickly cracked and eventually tore off the shell that held the real “Tony” prisoner. Soon he would begin an epic journey of enlightenment, strength and courage that would carry him back to the land of the living and show the world that he was . . . absolutely nothing. Tony became a grandfather at the relatively young age of forty eight when his eldest daughter gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl named Renee. The bond between the two of them was instantaneous and Tony knew their relationship was going to be a special one. He could feel it, but couldn’t explain it, he just knew it. What a blessing it was to be a young, physically fit, grandfather who looked and felt like he was only in his mid- thirties. Best of all was the fact that Tony and his wife owned a two family home and his granddaughter lived in their upstairs apartment with his daughter and her husband. What a great feeling it was to be able to see her every day. Being a grandfather who was young at heart, mind and body, meant that he would be able to run, jump, dance and play with her for a very, very, long time.
Apparently the Universe had other ideas because Tony’s accident crushed and destroyed that dream in a matter of about twelve seconds. A week or so after Tony was taken out of ICU and stored in a “normal” room, his wife and daughter brought Renee up to the hospital to visit him. They felt it would be good for both of them. It took every ounce of determination Tony could muster not to break down and sob when they brought Renee into his room and she looked at him joyfully and shouted out; “Papa!”
Kids are exactly like cats; curious with a need to know everything. Renee was no different and she couldn’t understand why Papa had all these tubes coming out of him. Of course she needed to examine them and everything else in the room with a “hands” on approach. She brought a long anticipated smile to Tony’s face as she carefully snuggled up next to him so they could both watch the television and drink some juice together. There was no shortness of love here and she accepted the reality that Papa couldn’t move his legs like it was no big deal. The real issue was that Tony couldn’t accept his situation and he was the one who couldn’t deal. The waterworks that rained down after she went home were nothing short of torrential. Emotionally, he was hurting like he had never experienced before and guilt, regret and sadness left him in a realm of loneliness and despair. “What the (expletive) am I going to do?” He screamed out loud, maybe a bit more loudly than he meant to. No sooner had Tony finished spitting out the last cursing syllable when something foreign sparked to life from deep inside him. He wished that he could explain how or even what it felt like, but he couldn’t think of any words that would appropriately describe what he was feeling. A cloak of hope wrapped itself around him like a long, lost, friend and in one miraculous moment, he was transformed from an empty man into a man full of “I want my life back!” Watch out world . . . ready or not, here I come!
Tony had to create a plan of action, one that was going to lift him up beyond the stars and set him free. Tony’s wife just happened to be a Librarian so he asked her to get him as many books as she could about the power of positive thinking and the Law of Attraction. He read every book like a madman and memorized and practiced all the self-help exercises that he could possibly get his hands on. Tony’s physical and occupational therapy sessions became more frequent and pushed him to the breaking point. The breakthrough Pain was sometimes unbearable, but he faced and conquered each one with the determination and courage of a super hero. The more deliberate action he took, the more he felt a positive shift in his strength, attitude and energy. Pretty soon the assorted diabolical machines that were attached to him were being permanently removed and so was he . . . to the rehabilitation center, that is. Tony’s relocation went smoothly and his workouts at the new facility became more painful and intense. That was fine by him because he was hell bent on becoming stronger in order to be the ultimate grandfather who would someday be completely capable of physically playing with his granddaughter. Early one Sunday morning just after eating breakfast and right before his morning meditation, Tony received the biggest, most inspirational boost of encouragement he could have ever hoped for.
As he was reaching for his MP3 player on the table next to his bed, both Tony’s legs started to get that pins and needles feeling you get when your body parts fall asleep and then wake up. It took him a few seconds to fully realize the extent of what was happening, but when he did, he thought his heart skipped a dozen beats or so. “I feel something, I feel something!” Tony kept repeating as he pushed the call button to the nurse’s station. His nurse Julie came in with her usual smile and said; “Morning Tony, what’s up?” His heart was racing and like a little kid at an amusement park he pointed to his legs and yelled; “Julie, my legs, I can feel something, it’s intense, almost like a burning sensation, like pins and needles!” Julie looked at him and he could see her eyes open wide as she realized what he was telling her. “Are you sure about that, are you being serious?” She asked him as though he were a child. He answered her back with one word. “Completely!” Julie told him to hold on and that she was going to get one of the physicians on duty. As Tony waited patiently for Julie and the doctor to come back in the room, the pins and needles that were tormenting his legs combined forces with a deep throbbing and he started to panic. Julie returned to Tony’s room with Dr. Lee, whom Tony had met before and then the hundred questions game began. Dr. Lee took something out of her pocket and said to him; “Tony, tell me if you feel this?” It was unbelievable; Tony was feeling everything she was doing to his feet and legs. Tears were running down his cheeks as he hollered; “Yes, yes! I can feel it all!” Dr. Lee turned to Julie and gave her a laundry list of medical tests she wanted performed and other Neurologist’s she wanted called. “We’re going to find out what’s going on Tony, but unfortunately I can’t give you any solid answers until we run a few tests. You’re going to be a very busy man today.” Those were Dr. Lee’s parting words as she left Tony’s room obviously deep in thought.
Over the next few days, a plethora of medical tests ranging from pictures, prods, pokes and zaps were performed on Tony and the feeling in his legs continued to improve. The preliminary results showed that the nerves within his spine were starting to re-fire and the nerve endings were taking the brunt of it. This is a religiously slow process and can take an enormous amount of time to complete its voyage. The exact amount of feeling he was going to get back in the lower half of his body was still yet to be determined. At this stage of his healing journey, he was grateful for what was happening and hopeful for what was yet to come. Tony continued with his meditations, positive affirmations and multiple forms of land and aquatic therapies to assist him on his road to recovery. He was moving his legs more and more as each week passed and it wasn’t long before his doctor served eviction notices to the catheter and other implements of necessity that he really thought were going to be his lifelong friends. His physical therapy sessions shifted courses and now the intention was to get him to stand on his own and eventually walk again. One night after a long, strenuous, day of pushing his physical boundaries, Tony laid in bed exhausted and worn out when a simple thought presented itself front and center. That thought was; “I did this on my own, I remained positive and I believed. I held on to hope and believed in myself and the powers I had within that I could make anything happen.” Of course the talent, skill, time and dedication of his doctors and therapist’s played an unprecedented role in Tony’s recovery and he would be forever grateful to all of them, but they could only manipulate his body as far as research allowed. Tony had to dig and dig deep to find the strength and courage to see this through as he could have just as easily quit and faded into nothingness. It wasn’t a God, saints or angels that allowed this; it was him, his positive attitude and the power of the Universe that everyone is born with that gave Tony new life.
The day Tony stood up on his own without any assistance could only be classified as a self- activated miracle rebirth of a once condemned man. That was the starting gun and Tony ran, well, figuratively anyway, as fast as he could to win the race against what was once said could not be done. One month later and with the help of a walker, Tony slowly, but steadily, walked out of that rehabilitation center on his own two legs. He knew that his battle was far, far, from being over, but he had learned to face adversity head on and give it the proverbial middle finger. Tony’s family celebrated his accomplishments by having one hell of a cookout and it suddenly dawned on him that he was free. Tony shared a burger with his granddaughter followed by a piece of watermelon and knew in his heart that someday he would be able to run around and play with her just like two best friends. Tony’s life had drastically changed and he accepted that, but it still didn’t make it any easier. To think that it’s something that you can just simply get over and forget about then you’re sadly mistaken. It scar’s you and scars you badly and for eternity. His goal was; not to think about all the things he had lost the ability to do, but focus his attention on what he could do and work with that. He would have been lying through his teeth if he told you that he never got depressed or shed some tears over how his life turned out, but he was only human. Sure, he was a human who had to undergo more pain than twenty people probably do in their lifetime and he was not ashamed to admit he still questioned why? He was physically and financially ruined and almost had his home foreclosed on twice because he had to wait for his disability benefits to finally come through. They depended on his wife’s salary to live on and it wasn’t easy. Tony’s daughters helped out as best they could, but they had financial obligations to fulfill as well. They were living in a nightmare, but at least he could walk and they had each other.
Nearly three years have passed now since Tony’s life changing accident and during that time he has experienced and had to undergo; seven more surgeries to correct the damage to his spine, two separate blood clots in his left lung, a staph infection that nearly killed him on Halloween night and years of physical therapy. Through it all, he has adhered to his philosophy of staying and living positively and being thankful for all that he has. He can drive, swim, walk and play with his granddaughter as often as he wants to and he has learned how to modify and change a variety of things so they will work for him. Tony wanted to believe that he had fulfilled his quota of pain, despair and sorrow to last him through his next three lifetimes. He doesn’t believe in God anymore and becomes extremely agitated when people try to convince him that it was God who got him through his ordeal and who healed him. If it was God who got him through his misery and suffering, then God could have prevented the accident too, but he didn’t so Tony believed that only the power of positive thinking and his “cloak of hope” had generated enough energy to help him manifest all of the healing he accomplished. He had no idea what the future held for him, he was just happy to be alive . . . and be the best grandfather in the world.