Friday, February 24, 2006

Ground Zero

Dallas, Texas, September 14, 1985 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time: I fall and I break my neck. I am a quadriplegic, but I don't know it yet.

James calls down to me. "Are you okay?"

"I think so," I reply. I lie on my back kind of cocked on my left side, where I've fallen on some old ceiling tiles from the floor above, and my neck and shoulder hurt like hell. I can't move. What's wrong? I must've gotten the wind knocked out of me.

I hear James climb quickly down the ladder from the storage area and come to where I am lying. I ask him, "Am I bleeding?"

"No," he says.

Thank God for that. I was afraid I might have broken a bone or something.

"Roll me off my shoulder." I'm not really alarmed, yet, that I can't move. Must be the wind knocked out of me...

"They say you're not supposed to move someone if they've been injured," James says.

" I don't care. My shoulder's killing me."

"Okay..." James says with reluctance in his voice. He moves me off my shoulder and more onto my back. That feels better. "When you first landed, I thought you were dead."

No, I'm not dead, but something's wrong. I should be able to move. Give it a few minutes. It will pass. But as the minutes ago by, it doesn't get any better.

James asks me, "Do you want me to call an ambulance?"

"I guess you better." I am getting worried now. Something is wrong.

"I'll go next door and call," James says.

"Okay." There is no phone here in the warehouse where James and I have been working for the past few weeks. We are fixing up the place to have an office and a photo studio to work out of. When we had first started I had said to James that one of us was going to get hurt before we got done, but I had envisioned one of us stepping on a nail or banging a finger with a hammer, a broken arm at the worst. But what was this that I had I done to myself?

James got back. "They're on their way."

We both look at each other for a moment and then he looks away. I bite my bottom lip. It takes a long time for the ambulance to get here. I go nuts waiting for the paramedics to arrive. I'm plenty worried now. Where can they be? I thought ambulances were supposed to arrive quickly.

After what seems like an awfully long time, the ambulance finally arrives. It's been about 20 minutes but it seems like it's been two hours.

After what seems like an awfully long time, the ambulance finally arrives. It's been about 20 minutes but it seems like it's been two hours.

The paramedics come in and ask me what happened. I explain to them how I was working upon the second-floor mailing in a two by four when I lost my balance and fell. They talk some paramedic stuff to each other, and one begins to cut my shirt off, which ticks me off, because I really like this shirt. It's a long sleeve T-shirt with some Greek letters on the front. I don't know what they mean, but it looks cool.

They get the shirt off, put a brace on my neck, put me on a stretcher, and load me into the ambulance. It's really starting to sink in now; I'm seriously hurt. The paramedic that sits in the back with me tells me it's probably just a pinched nerve that it has happened to him before.

And so the story goes until I wind up on a Stryker frame in the hospital...

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