Tuesday, June 26, 2007


FOCUS OF CARE. Since taking an apparently unspectacular but fracture-effective spill on my mountain bike last Wednesday morning, I've been at the center of care--trauma care, hospital orthopedic care, family and church care, and prayer care. After fracturing my back, ribs, shoulder blade, and sternum in 16 various places, I've been tended to with prescription narcotics, a neck-to-waste back brace (my Ninja turtle shell), and careful, slow movement in and out of bed, up and down stairs, and out for brief walks, including hand-held strolls through our Rutherglen neighborhood. Frankly, all this attention has been wonderful and embarrassing at the same time.

PROFESSIONAL COOPERATION. I am so grateful for trauma technology and technicians. People I may never see again--who knows their names--tended to me so professionally from that first Striker board ride behind the ATV that pulled me out the trails, to the two EMTs from the Avon Fire Department who talked me through things on the way to Methodist Hospital; from the first trauma doc--Ed Barkes was his name, I think--who examined me and gave me my first assessments of extent of damage and assurances, to the spine team that put me through their paces and the MRI; from the guys who moved me from room to radiology to room, etc., to the two orthopedic nurses--Theia and Lori--who seemed to take me and my case with a sense of personal care. My life depended on people working together as a team across shifts and days and areas of specialization--people who studied and train and have committed themselves to healing, no matter the name or status of the patient.

REPRESENTING JESUS. Hearing from friends and parishioners during this time, I must say, is quite heartening, too. Many visited me at Methodist and some have visited me at home. My Free Methodist Bishop, Joe James, who rode with me in India, brought to the hospital a poster-size framed print of me riding my bike down a hill in India. He said he just wanted folks to know that I really do know how to ride a bike. E-mails and cards of encouragement are read and I pray blessing back to each sender. When I can respond to e-mail, I do. Sitting up with my Ninja turtle shell is pretty comfortable if I position myself just right (like now). The presence of the Body of Christ in the midst of pain is an assuring, winning presence, I assure you. Not enough can be said of this grace. It is a representation of the presence of Jesus, doing what He would do. And, behind and beyond this...prayer. I know that people who do not know me are praying for my recovery. That's awesome!

STERNUM PAIN. My pain is focused mostly in my sternum, with a secondary focus at vertebrae 5 and 6 in my upper back. The broken ribs, right shoulder blade, and backbone processes are background to these two trumpeters. The back brace keeps all of these immobile and limits range of motion, as well as holds me up from waste to neck. My neck is fine. My hands and arms are fine. My legs and feet are fine. My internal organs are fine, they say. But since so much comes together at the sternum--muscle, cartilage, ribs--this separation seems to be the focal point of pain. Moving from a lying-down to a sitting-up position is excruciating. So, we've borrowed a lazy boy recliner for my overnight sleeping and resting. I can manage to sit down, lie back, and sit back up--ever so slowly--without much pain.

ON MEDICATION. Of course, pain at this level is regulated to some extent with prescription narcotics and other medicines. Currently, vicadin (spelling?) is the prescription. But there were a number of others along the way from trauma center to release from the hospital. I have never been administered drugs of this magnitude before. But I now know what it's like to anticipate with hope the next possible dosage ("Is it 3:00, yet?"). I am coherent through these doses or levels of medication, but I do feel a bit spaced out. I am not at the point yet where cutting back is an option, but I pray that I will be able to cooperate well at the appropriate time. For now, I am dependent and grateful for whatever ethically-sound measures go into producing medicines that address chronic or intense bodily pain.

READING, LISTENING. I downloaded and I'm listening to the audio book edition of Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey during this time. I'm also listening to podcasts that I can update regularly: This American Life, WBH Morning Stories, The News from Lake Woebegon, Speaking of Faith, NPR Shuffle, NPR Driveway Moments, some podcasts from Slate, and New York Times op-ed pieces. At Rick Shelton's recommendation, I downloaded "Cloudburst," an acapella choral CD; it is outstanding. I'm not watching much TV. For all the channels and options available, TV remains largely void of meaningful content. I catch a bit of news or documentary every now and then. For Eric: Not Fox news, just the good stuff on PBS and CNN!

THE PROBLEM OF PAIN. I'm also reading bits of The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. This isn't the best book on the subject, but Lewis is always insightful (in his sometimes Englishly condescending, insulting, yet humorish manner). I am not having problems with God about this ordeal, but taking this time to think about pain theologically as well as experientially may be a rare opportunity. I hope it is rare! How Christian contemplatives assign meaning to pain is wide ranging and interesting. We have to be careful not to mislead or be misled at this very important point. Whether physical pain or emotional or relational pain, it is worth exploring Biblically-sound responses. New age folks tend to deny pain's reality, others deify it as a directive from God; some blame it on bad thinking, others blame it on one's sins. Being careful and caring at this point is as important as the trauma technicians' precision in diagnosis and plan for recovery.

I have more time than usual to respond to comments, so fire away (in a friendly way, that is)...

Photos: The top photo speaks for itself: "fair warning." The second photo is not me, it's Brandon B.; and it is not the bridge I wrecked on, but another one on the same trail. I've fallen off this one several times without incident; I've also sailed across it multiple times with a "Yippee!" This is one of two such bridges on an advanced trail at Washington Township Park in Avon, Indiana. I went off the side of the other one at its peak--the first time I'd gotten crooked on it in over 50 rides.


  1. Anonymous11:57 AM

    God's blessing and healing recovery to you! ~ marty

  2. Thank you and God bless you, too.


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