The Power of Your Health

May 16, 2011
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If it were, “a can of Spam a day keeps the doctor away” I’d do that too. There is not much that I wouldn’t consider doing to maintain my heath, because I know what it feels like to have it taken away from me.

Photo taken from Ryan’s hospital bed during her last stay.

So many people think that the obvious tragedy about having a spinal cord injury is that whole not-being-able-to-walk part, but that is absolutely not the case. There are so many potential complications that feed into not being able to feel things like pain or temperature and spending your days constricted into a metal frame in a position in which bodies aren’t supposed to live in. Poor circulation, fragile skin, invincible attitude. These are the things that helped get me to that place of darkness where I was taught the most valuable lesson of my lifetime thus far.

Two years ago I became unexplainably ill with bacteria slipping and sliding throughout my bloodstream. The obvious culprit: a pressure sore. However, it wasn’t until several months later of lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and confiding in the spiders that occasionally pranced across that the doctors realized that there must be something more to it. Several tests and invasive surgeries later, it was learned that my pelvic bone was infected and the real culprit had been a chip of bone that had become a home and haven to any and all bacteria in my body. Once doctors discovered this America, it was only a matter of time for allowing my body to heal.

Eight months later, I was good as new, or rather as good as I was going to be.

My body had healed and was left remarkably unaffected, minus the loss of muscle tone and disorientation of being horizontal for so long. However, it was my brain that still had some healing to do.

I have never been so afraid of anything in my life. I have otherwise done a very good job of keeping fear out of my life and being able to accomplish things with little fear of strangers or darkness or monsters of any kind. But now, everything was different. I had just spent almost a year living a life that wasn’t worth living. Day in and day out in a bed with little company and no one to understand it. I was never sure of when I was going to heal or even, more dreadfully so, if I was going to heal at all.

With the memory of my illness and the intelligence to know that I don’t get a “Get out of jail” card just for having that experience, I became so conscientious of my health down to every breath I took in, every time I choked a cough, and every time I felt any less than absolutely perfect. These standards are incredibly hard to achieve on a daily basis and I soon became overwhelmed with the notion of maintaining good health.

Still today I struggle with my health; however, not in the physical sense for I have been hospital-free for over a year now. Mentally and emotionally I have lived the part of someone without their health and I still feel the effects of that every single day. Not to say, necessarily, that I live in fear, but rather that I live with subtle reminders of those days staring at the ceiling. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely moments where I am stopped in breath and heart when I think there may be something wrong with my body, but for the most part, those moments have given me a much greater sense for life and living.

I know exactly what it feels like not to be able to get out of bed, so I make sure that I do it every morning with a smile—even for my current, daily 3AM swim practices.

Author: Ryan McLean