By: Brian Elliott
Time. Time is a funny thing. A second now is the same as a second tomorrow, yesterday, in the future, or year’s back. Same can be said for hours, years, decades, centuries, etc. Time will not slowdown nor speed up, and no matter how much we plead we cannot stop or go back in time. All of us have something we wish we could go back and do-over or undo in our lives, probably several in fact. We don’t get the luxury of going back for re-do’s in our lives, no matter what happened time will go forward. Time never stops. Not for one second. One thing is for certain as time keeps moving, there are lessons that can be learned. Some lessons only take once while others take longer to learn, hence “Should’ve learned the first time”. That is the catch. How do we know what the lessons are and what do we do with these lessons? I think we should share them. No matter how big or small. A little extra education never hurts and it is these life lessons that will make an impact.
As parents and schools are about to release the young out into the wild for a few months there will undoubtedly be lessons to learn and share. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done to ward off bad outcomes, no matter how much prep, precautions, and skill are involved. Unfortunately this is life and we don't always get what we want. I know that I never wanted to become a quadriplegic. Honestly never even crossed my mind as a possibility, didn't even know what it meant. Let alone, that it would be the result of my own actions and from such an ordinary and innocent activity. I was just going to hang out with my friends after work. "See you later Dad, be back sometime later tonight". How was I to know I wouldn't and couldn't go home again for months?
July 27th or 28th, 2005 I began working on some of those lessons. I say the 27th or 28th because I honestly didn’t know what day it was, or even where I was. Only things I knew were that I couldn’t speak loud enough to be heard and I couldn’t turn to look over and see my family sitting beside me. The last day I almost fully remembered was Friday, July 20th and I was hanging out with three of my friends on a pontoon boat having a few drinks before heading back to a party in Tecumseh. Now I was laying on a hospital bed and couldn’t speak because I had a tube down my throat. I couldn’t even turn my head because I had a cervical spine brace aka “Halo” on. Not to mention that I couldn’t move my legs, arms, or torso. In fact, I could no longer feel any of those parts of my body if someone touched me. Sometime during that Friday evening July 20th, 2005 I took my last steps. Even though I don’t remember it, I know those last steps were right before I dove off of the pontoon boat. Right before I hit my head on the lake bottom, crushing cervical vertebrae and severing my spinal cord in my neck. From that moment July 20th until the 27/28th I still only have flashes of memory, a few moments of time here and there. Time had basically disappeared for me. However, it steadily ticked for all those around me and the lessons were stacking up.
Immediately after and in the time since, there have been many lessons that can be taken away from my experience and I am passing just one very simple lesson on to you. A lesson I have shared with others and will continue to share. However, I ask in return you remember my story, my lesson, and share it with people. Here is the lesson, plain and simple. Think First, Feet First. I want that to sink in, just like I sank in the water before being pulled up off the bottom. Think First, Feet First. Anytime you or others enter any body of water for the first time. Please, please, please enter the water with your feet first instead of diving. Yes that means even jumping off of your own docks, boats, swings, etc. in places you have been all your life. Lake bottoms shift and change with tides, tree limbs and logs float around lurking under the surface. If the worst that happens is that somebody breaks an ankle, I’ll take it. Trust me you’ll be thankful when considering the alternatives that could have happened.
We never know what the future has in store for us. Especially any younger people out there. You aren't as invincible and indestructible as you think/feel. Trust me. Think First, Feet First! As a reference, the human spinal cord has a consistency similar to Jell-O. That is how sensitive your body's information highway is, doesn't take much to nic or damage something as delicate as Jell-O. Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Information Pages reports there are at least 11,000 new SCI’s each year and 82% of those are to males. Ages 16-30 are the highest per capita for SCI, where about 56% of SCI occur. I fell into each of those stats, I was a 20 year old guy when I had my diving accident. During my 3+ months of inpatient rehab at U of M in 2005 there were six people with SCI’s. 5 male and 1 female, out of the 5 males, 4 of us were in our 20’s and all 4 of our SCI’s were a result of shallow water. Statistics don’t lie and time waits for no one. Make the best of your time and the lessons that come along the way. While you get ready for summer activities, please remember and take my lesson: Think First, Feet First!