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Friday, May 13, 2016

Seething...


Some days life just moves along and it is what it is...interesting or exciting, fun maybe intense, sometimes stressful... etc. And after nearly 54 of life and living, often on the very edge of flaming out, I have learned that things rarely stay the same. Suffer through a bad stretch...no worries...the sun will rise and tomorrow is another day. So I have always acted accordingly....and mostly don't stress the small stuff. When one of life's major crisis's comes along I always seem to go auto pilot and do what I have to do. If there is a suddenly a tragedy or major crisis...I seem to just be at my best. 

I am not bragging...trust me it is probably that I have a great deal of experience dealing with such events: Losing my 3 closest friends and my very first "real"love (and girlfriend Debbie) in the very same auto accident. Compounding the shock and heartbreak was the fact that I had committed to going with them and backed out at the last minute with a lie....a made up excuse because I felt like I shouldn't go. Did that feeling save my life...perhaps, except I was abstaining from drugs and alcohol at the time and I was not the type to let a drunk person drive when I was sober. So I've always felt like my decision to back out and accompanying lie killed them and the innocent WWII veteran that also died when they crossed the center line of two lane Hard Rd (in Columbus, Ohio) and all four died. I carried that guilt around for decades....until I sought therapy for being sexually assaulted at the age of 12 and the story came out one day while talking to my therapist, who was treating me for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So I have been through a lot and usually manage to stay positive, creative, thoughtful, active and a lover of life....except that now I am struggling to do so. The last three years of surgeries (31 full blown operations), hospital stays (over 70 days), life threatening Infections that seemingly were immune to treatment, my normal terminal pain (a result of a severe auto accident at age 17) and finally the amputation in December 2014 of my right leg below the knee have taken away everything but the last shred of....HOPE.

Those medical issues led directly to financial ruin and ultimately all of this has moved me from a realistic yet positive leaning, a believer in God (or call it a Higher Power in the earlier days) to a realist who sees and thinks and feels intensely about the never ending darkness his life has now entered. 

As a teenager and young man I never trusted anyone, having been terribly hurt by certain experiences. But as I endured and learned and persevered....I continued to live... because I would not give in to the Darkness. I then slowly began to trust, to forgive and ultimately to truly love people for the very first time in my life. It was an epiphany and it changed me forever...I was so grateful for that change too because I had seen so many people struggle and give up...to addictions, to suicide, Insanity or they just went away in their minds...lost in fear, hate, mistrust or anger. I knew I didn't want to experience that again and felt free from those feelings for the first time in my life.

But now....I find myself drifting back...I talk it out, I'll share my feelings,I am honest and try to work through difficult times but I only find myself NUMB. But these last four years have been one long, un-ending NIGHTMARE. The physical pain is unbearable and treatments now are no longer effective. Even when I have done the right thing...tragedy prevails.

I am feeling my soul slip away...at first in tiny increments but now I go numb and realize later that I am shutting down emotionally, psychologically, spiritually as my physical body is beaten down by illness, injury and the subsequent treatment for those injuries/illnesses. I am beginning to stop caring.

Then a couple weeks ago a friend I have know since first grade or so takes his own life and that stark truth devastates me.I am one of those strange souls who can accept and understand his own suicide but never will "get" the suicide of others. I was very ill at the time and did not learn of it until several days later. My first thought was what if he tried to reach me, to talk, to vent...anything and I was unavailable because of my health. I would never been able to forgive myself. Turns out he did not try to reach ANYONE but his passing added another brick to my emotional tomb.

When I feel down...hard, unforgivable and lost I tend to find music that expresses these things. I lose myself in it and have often come out the other side feeling better for it. Here are two songs the I am lost in right now.




I

I Know people don't like to hear hard truths sometimes...it is easier to navigate life putting on a happy face. Sorry....not my style and quite frankly, finding a method to express this chaos inside is often the very thing that saves me. I am hoping for that result once again because the nightmares have returned and now I actually seem to be living them. Life has a hard, brutal side to it...and right now within me....it is winning.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Setting The Record Straight


Today I noticed as I was going through Facebook that there was a post, critical of President Obama' funeral attending practices circulating around. Of course these days, that in itself is nothing unusual. One of the reasons it criticized Obama was  because he had attended the funeral of Senator Daniel Inouye and that this was bad because the Senator was a Democrat and worse...A Liberal. Plus the President had the gall to actually shed tears over the death of this Liberal Monster, truly a super bad person!

This kind of stuff makes me sick because it is blatantly ignoring the truth about this great American and others but it distorts history as well. In our country today we must stop judging people solely because of their political leanings. In doing so, more often then not we let our emotional hysteria distort and even obscure the TRUTH. Certainly this is true in this particular instance.

Senator Inouye served his country honorably as a US Senator from Hawaii for nearly 50 years. Yes he was a Democrat but did you know that as a young man he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Bronze Star and other decorations for Valor in WWII as a Captain in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd RCT is one of the most highly decorated units in US Army HISTORY! One of this man's closest life-long friends was fellow Combat Veteran and US Senator Bob Dole...a Republican who served honorably and even ran for President.
Daniel Inouye Official Photo 2009.jpg
The Unit itself is truly remarkable as were many of the brave young men who filled it's ranks. Like Sen. Inouye, members were 2nd generation Americans of Japanese decent...a group that was extremely unpopular following in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Many had family members who were detained in relocation camps, often for the duration of the war. Given the opportunity to enlist, the future Senator volunteered into the 442nd and saw service in the European Theater until he was seriously wounded late in the war. The Unit was not initially trusted to fight the Japanese for fear they might find it difficult to kill members of their own race. In truth more loyal and dedicated men would be hard to find ANYWHERE. These were some real BAD-ASS Soldiers, as good as we had in combat in any Theater...European or Pacific.

Young Inyouye and his unit first saw action in Italy and then later was transferred to The Vosges Mountain region of Southern France where in April of 1945 he  was terribly wounded in action and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in that fight. His wounds resulted in the amputation of his right arm. So he served the rest of his life as a disabled Veteran as well.

My point in stating all this (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Inouye) is to remind us all that we cannot define a person because of the political party they belong to. It certainly does not define the type of human being they are and certainly does NOT in this man's case. He happens to be someone that I have always admired for his character and determination....RIP Captain Inouye.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seeing In The DARK

 Blonde sur Fond DorĂ© by CORNO
I have discovered that long illnesses/recovery periods can actually have a kind of half-assed fringe-benefit in that they can give even a very busy, tight-scheduled person a forced moment of pause...some time too think, to feel....perhaps reflect. I'll admit at this stage of the game I have had WAY more reflection/thinking time then I could ever truly use. I know that this time has allowed me to see what I really appreciate in life and how I could perhaps take better advantage of certain opportunity and yes even adversity. I do see adversity...Yea PROBLEMS as potential opportunities to do life better then before. At least learn from my mistakes....

I never remember a point in my life when I did not have a passionate love affair with art...particularly painting...on canvas, paper wood or really anything. Oils, acrylic, watercolor even forms of mixed media. I tend to lean toward Impressionist works, modern painting along the lines of Matisse, Picasso and my new favorite Canadian artist Corno (Joanne Corneau). I also enjoy the work of an artist I went to High School with Cathy Frick whose paintings of Poppies particularly enchant me. 

Honestly I don't know how I would have survived these past three years of hospitals, surgery, rehab and extended periods of time in bed without my love of art and reading. I spent hour after hour enjoying both for days on end. I'll cop to watching much more television then before but I also enjoyed these other pursuits. 
Blonde on Black by CORNO
My world took on a different hue, I began to see things for other perspectives and to start challenging things I took for granted for years. It is like injury inverted the entire world and I began to see and feel things from the inside-out or from the down-side....up. 

It is one way I can justify what initially felt like a terrible loss of time....Planet living time....the search for TRUTH Time. To me, there is little more criminal then wasting time on the planet. I truly believe we exist for a reason...not just to take up space or suck air.
 Anyway...I want to take time now that I have launched a bit back into posting here on SSS again to share my Vision, the angle in which I perceive things and persevere. Here is to seeing in the Dark and feeling without Touching...

Website of artist CORNO: http://cornostudio.com/

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Today's Reality



I knew back in the late Autumn of 2014, before my right leg amputation that there were going to be many adjustments that I would have to make and things I would have to adapt to once I became an amputee. But even I'll admit that I still was not even close to being prepared for the reality of it all. That's OK, life is like that...rarely can we anticipate all potential situations when dealing with the potential of adversity.

Here is southern Michigan this week it has been terribly cold with below zero wind chills. I never even considered what extreme cold weather would feel like in the stump of an amputated leg with it's battered and severed nerve endings. Needless to say for the first time in my life I am truly considering the implications of moving permanently to a warm weather climate, at least until Kimmi retires. Then perhaps we could split time. She has always embrassed the idea of living in warm weather...I was the reluctant one. But now I am given to re-considering that stance. 

I cannot even begin to describe the extreme, electrical shock type pain one feels in frigid air, even with the limb bundled up warmly. I never expected this...I knew of Phantom pain, which in my case has gotten much more severe lately and leading to my latest surgical procedure. Unfortunately it remains almost debilitating at this stage. Honestly there are few things as odd as feeling terrible pain or tingling in a foot that no longer exists. But it truly feels like it is there and it really, really hurts.

This week we should start the process of getting fit for a new prosthesis, more permanent and sophisticated and hopefully it feels more natural and trustworthy. We shall most certainly have more on that later, until then....


Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Amputee and How Golf saved Him From HIMSELF


I realize that it does sound like a bit of a stretch to say that Golf somehow "SAVED" a person from anything...yet in my particular case it is more true then not.

Technically I am a RBK Amputee....as in I had a Right leg, Below the Knee amputation. I lost my leg a year and a half ago as a result of a badly broken ankle in an accident at home that subsequently became badly infected and eventually the only real choice was to amputate the leg 6 inches below my right knee.

This medical nightmare has now gone on for more then 3 years and in certain ways continues today. I had my 31st related surgery 2 weeks ago to clean up some scar tissue and remove several Neuromas (tumors that form at the end of the severed nerves in the stump) and spent a couple more nights in the hospital.

Simply stated this has been by far the most traumatic and difficult experience in my 53 years of living and I would be less then honest if I didn't admit that it pushed me to the very brink of my endurance: physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

I went months without being able to walk without crutches, walkers or wheel-chairs. I was not what I would consider a super active, always moving kind of guy but I was definately active. I really started to miss my freedom of movement.

Not only were there physical limitations related to the surgeries but the infections nearly killed me. I was a very sick man for nearly two years and I often wondered if I may not have been better off dead. Seriously....when you have nothing but time on your hands and the pain is nearly un-endurable plus you are so sick with fever and weakness it's natural to wonder why am I fighting this.

Naturally I searched for reasons to keep moving on and one of those became my desire, my determination to golf again.

I had started golfing again at the age of 50 after not playing for 25 years or so. I live on an island on an inland lake in Southern Michigan that has a nice little 9 hole course right in the middle. 
I had hurt my back and had several surgeries in the early 1990's and thought that I would never play again but I met a local golf teacher and he helped me scratch together a game that I could live with.

Just when it started to be fun and a daily ritual to go out at dawn every morning in our own cart and play 9 holes...I got hurt. It truly looked like I would never again play the game I learned to love a second time around.

But then I started to wonder why I couldn't play. Lots of folks play sports with prosthetics. And so the motivation, the obsession began to take over. There were many sleepless nights, tormented with pain and a rather bleak looking outlook o life when I rescued myself from the abyss with thoughts of the smell of freshly mowed greens, dew on my golf shoes and the luxury of having the entire course to myself while I golfed through sunrise after sunrise.

Though I didn't get my prosthesis until late June of 2015, I managed to get into the groove of playing fairly quickly though I couldn't play more then a few holes at a time. I am a member at this course and help out sometimes so I have the flexibility to play when I can.

The only limitations right now are financial because let's face it...golf is expensive and when you play often (as in every day) it runs equipment down rather quickly. Plus I still need to re-build my game...basically from scratch and lessons this time around are just not in the cards...I cannot afford them. 

Though I am finally getting on top of the infections and am able to walk/function pretty well on my artificial leg, all swing movement/stance has been completely thrown into disorder and I need help to learn to swing properly and most importantly, safely. After three years of hospitals, surgeries and countless treatments of every imaginable kind, my wife and I are flat busted due to huge medical expenses...especially early in my illness. We are slowly surviving but there isn't really money in the budget for golf equipment, lessons or a membership. 

But my wife Kim is my biggest fan and pushes me to play golf every day even when I don't feel up to it which is often. She more then anyone, myself included was first to see the value of playing as often as I was able.  

I am so grateful to the game that gave me the motivation to get up in the morning and get back on my feet and go outside...it has worked magic on my attitude and greatly improved my physical condition.  Now as I recover from another surgery I still find myself chomping at the bit to get back out there and play. A I did this past Christmas and New Years Days.

So let's get this snow out of the way and maybe I'll be fortunate to get to play again soon...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Is Life Anyway?!


It recently occurred to me that a blog started basically about recovery that then took a hard turn into one covering sexual assault, PTSD and salvaging life from such ordeals has now transformed into an amputation life type blog. I get it now....it's a blog about LIFE blog! How about that?!

The fact is the story of Shell Shock Serenade has always really been about living and most importantly....TRUTH. One man's journey...one person's search for Truth. In my humble opinion after 53 plus years of living, that is the purpose of life anyway...The search for TRUTH. After coming to that conclusion I figure the Nuns at Ohio Dominican would sure be proud of me now, haha. But seriously, when one experiences so much adversity, pain and heartbreak....almost as a matter of course, he must find some way to rationalize all this. 

For me the typical spiritual rational that it's God's Will no longer makes sense...truth be told, it really never made any sense but at one time I was so desperate for answers that I latched on to that explanation. For many reasons, way to numerous and complex I won't go into them here. But that life is a journey, a search for answer's with no promises, no expectations...was far easier to accept when one is enduring the seemingly un-endurable. 

Perhaps the Truth is select Humans are made to suffer and life is an experiment to see just how much one particular man can take before he cracks and takes his own life. 

On the other hand, another Truth may be the exact opposite....select humans experience so much material success, seemingly without effort and their life is an experiment to see how much good fortune, riches and rewards, etc before that person succumbs to greed and selfishness then self-destructs. 

Now I'm not saying any of this is true or what I even believe but that is the nature of a journey. It makes one think, causes them to look at life from multiple angles and reflect back on every experience. I can at least feel like a participant if I see it in such a way as opposed to being a victim of circumstance.

The fact is I am sure that I will never know the answer until this life is complete...or at least this stage of it.

Such is one person's perspective at one specific moment in time....particularly when he has had little else to do except put all of it into words and share it with others.

After writing all of that...I want to change direction here and mention that someone that I care a hell of a lot about is having his left Kidney removed tomorrow morning at the Cleveland Clinic. Cancer was diagnosed last week and the hope is by removing said Kidney they will get all of the Cancer and stop this thing before it gets worse. I'm thinking about and praying for you Brother! 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shadows Rise...The Fog Begins To Clear.


I'll cut to the chase....the meeting with the Doc today went pretty well. The staples came out (I can't really repeat what I was saying as they actually were removed...It FREAKIN' HURT!) and I can begin to start wearing my prosthetic in small doses and work my way into a more comfortable fit.

We will get fitted for a new socket in a couple of weeks and we will be trying a vacuum seal as opposed to the big, bulky rubber outer sleeve. I am excited about that for a couple of reasons: First, the vacuum will provide a much more secure and consistent fit and that will be a great deal more comfortable. Comfort in such a way builds confidence in the leg. Secondly...it is a much more streamlined application...lighter, more flexible and yea, it just looks more BAD-ASS then the old foggy set-up I have used up to this point.

This is a totally new set-up for me so I don't even have a clear idea of exactly what it is and looks like. 

So stay tuned over the next few weeks and we can experience this adventure together. 

Peace OUT!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Perhaps Tomorrow Then...


Another year added to the "legend of the Broken Ankle" saga. I broke my ankle 3 years today in the kitchen of my home, getting in caught in a throw rug while making a bagel for a late night snack.

3 years, 31 operations and nearly 60 nights in the hospital later and I am recovering from yet another surgery. This lasst was to clean up some scar tissue in the stump but typically once the Doc got in there he discovered some serious issues regarding tumors growing at the ends of several of the severed nerves in the leg...these are called Neuromas. Naturally they had to come out making this a much more serious and involved surgery then we had planned for. Actually at this stage of the game I am used to these kinds of surprises. So a potential outpatient procedure became 2 nights in the hospital. Plus I wouldn't come back from anesthesia so I scared the hell out of everyone involved. 

So I see the Doc tomorrow and I am hoping it won't be long before I can put my prosthetic back on. I have to admit I have gotten used to walking on two legs again, haha. We will update later and I hope, as I always say here that I will continue to post more regularly.

Honestly this 3 year ordeal has stolen some of my spirit away and I search for it yet I still haven't found what I am looking for. Perhaps tomorrow then....

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Long, White WAIT


It is the day after Christmas 2015 and I so want to be able to write regularly again. It seems that with the trauma of the last 3 years went my ability to concentrate my thoughts enough to write coherent sentences, to coordinate and process my thoughts. It bothers me because there was a time that it was an important part of my life...sharing my self, my thoughts and feelings with others. I know it was healthy and frankly it just felt good to vent that stuff in a positive and creative way.

So much of my life these days seems to be merely surviving...just hanging on from day to day with little to nothing to look forward to except the continuous adversity and accompanying suffering. Pain has become much to familiar a companion and I swear through the corner of my minds eye....my second sight senses HIM stalking me....threatening me in the menacing manner that only DEATH has perfected. It is a continual Mind Fuck and I cannot out-run it any more. 

Strange that in real life I no longer have the ability to run...it is representative of all the limitations I bear these days. I cannot fly...no longer do I feel the strength to fight so naturally I just....WAIT...WAIT...WAIT. And I am no more patient a man today then I ever was....

Painting: Caspar David Friedrich - Cairn In Snow (1807)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oh YEA Alice....He is ALIVE!





I am truly alive my friends. I often wonder how I've survived these last 30 months or so. Really I do...Why is that you may wonder? Because there were quite a few moments where my continued existence seemed more and more unlikely.

I was a very sick fellow...the infection had literally taken over my body and would not relent no matter how many doses of Anti-Biotic I consumed or took through IV. I survived nearly 30 surgeries...60 some days in the hospital...nearly 2 years of being unable to walk properly or not at all.

No I do have that ability but only with the help of a "below the knee" prosthetic.

I fell in a fluke accident in February of 2013 and severely broke my right ankle resulting in emergency surgery the following day. Shortly there-after it became infected and the next nearly three years have been a total and complete nightmare from HELL. The leg was amputated in November 2014 followed by more infection and over 15 surgeries and a months worth of hospital stays in 7-9 day increments.

Today I have had my prosthetic for almost 2 months and it is great...a great, painful, intense, terribly difficult pain-in-the-ASS but I am happily grateful for the mobility none-the-less.

I will do my best to re-connect with the world and continue to post. I really would like to share this story in all the detail....but it will be hard. This my friends was and continues to be BRUTAL. 

I would be lying if I did not admit that the experience has changed me...hardened me, molded me and I will never be the same. I literally have altered my beliefs about the universe and the CREATOR because of it.

Frankly my perception and opinion of my fellow human beings has changed as well...and for the most part I was humiliated, hurt and disappointed by what I experienced.

One or two close friends rose to the occasion and helped to pull me through...I never would have survived without K-Sue. She was and is my angel...my everything and she never left my side no matter how vicious life became...She is a hard-core Human Being and a real life saver.


I learned many a hard lesson about what caring for another human being truly meant.I was unprepared and found that my beliefs were inadequate to deal with the intense, terrible reality that confronted me.I hope I have changed and am a better person for it today.

I discovered the hard truth that I was using "I'm praying for you" to get out of actually being there for people who were hurting. It was an excuse to avoid showing up for real and as a result I came to totally mistrust people who were always quick to say they'd pray for me but then I never heard from them.


I will try and elaborate more thoroughly in regular posts but I suspect I no longer believe what I thought I believed. Hellish experiences
and endless, never-relenting horror will do that to a person.


So Hello friends, the few who are still around....I am looking forward to joining the world again!