I can’t do it (Excerpt from The Memory Box)

“The superior [person] makes the difficulty to be overcome [the] first interest; success only comes later.” – Confucius

After my car accident I spent nearly four years as a patient in four hospitals. During that time I focused on one thing: healing. One important aspect was my physical self. What was clear was that I needed to strengthen my body. I tried running, but it was impossible as I suffered from hemiparesis — half of my body was paralyzed and lingered behind with each step. I couldn’t do it. So what did I do?

Here’s an excerpt from a chapter from my forthcoming book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain. Please enjoy, and I welcome you to share your comments once you’ve read the excerpt.

“The tax return was $500. Despite having little money and no source of income, there was only one way to spend it. I couldn’t run, but I could pedal. I could pedal. I knew I could pedal; months of riding the stationary bike a the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital proved that. I needed to buy a bike. After visiting three or four shops, and looking at a few dozen bikes, I finally settled on one I believed to be the best deal for the money. It was a black BRC mountain bike that was on sale, leaving just enough to buy a helmet. Somewhere along the way I heard a statistic that 75% of traumatic brain injuries happen to men under 24 years of age, and 75% of those came from falls off of bicycles. It was frightening to think about re-injuring the brain, so a helmet would be mandatory. When I got it home, I threw on the “skid-lid” and pedaled around the subdivision and a neighboring one. I could do it! I was ecstatic.

The next day, after breakfast, I put on some shorts, the Freddy Frog Diver T-Shirt, some running shoes and filled a water bottle. I mounted the bike and rolled down the driveway. Gravel crunched under the knobby tires and the sound changed as the gravel transitioned to pavement, becoming a constant hum of a particular frequency that changed in pitch depending on the energy transferred from my legs and feet to pedals. Picking up speed, shifting gears, the wind felt cool on my face. My legs were fresh as I turned a corner and began to climb a gradual hill that lead to the main road.

As a kid, I rode to F. R. Haythorne Junior High once or twice; it’s just over 7K to the school and the same back home, so about a 15K route. I rode west on the narrow shoulder of a quiet secondary highway, then turned north on a busier four lane highway where the shoulder was comfortably wide. The route then turned back east along a busier road that led into the hamlet of Sherwood Park but I felt safest here, as there was a sidewalk. Finally, it was one more turn to the south along the same roadway on which I began the ride. That’s the route I planned to follow.

I was so excited about the bike and the ride that I barely felt anything until reaching the school and started heading back home. Then my legs began to burn as I pedaled up a merge ramp. My butt was suddenly saddle sore. My mouth had grown dry. Pedaling was more and more difficult and my breath laboured and lungs burned. A trickle of sweat rolled off my forehead and into an eye, stinging, and blurring vision. Leaning forward on the handlebars caused my hands to fall asleep; they tingled and grew numb. I shifted in the narrow seat, and changed the position of my hands. The sun shone hotly and the temperature seemed to rise a degree each second. I felt I was going to die; it was certain. I was out of water and wanted to stop.

“There’s a gas station just ahead,” I thought. “I’ll take a break and buy a soda.”

Then another thought ran through my brain: “If I don’t keep going then I will be defeated.” I recalled a poster I’d once seen of a woman running on a trail in the green hills and the caption that read: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” I dropped my head and kept the cadence constant, although every cycle required a larger effort. Only 7Km to go….”

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to his book, The Memory Box.

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