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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Addition By...Subtraction


When one is recovering from a major injury/illness, they often have more then enough time to themselves to think about stuff. Way too much time in my case and I'll be the first to admit that sometimes my own brain is often my own worst enemy. Especially when your Doc is cautioning you not to do too much and it has been my habit in the past to do more then I should physically, often setting my recovery back in some ways.

This time around I have been a pretty good patient...I follow his direction and I've done what I'm supposed to do. As a result, I continue to have way too much time to think. I've found the key is to focus those thoughts on positive things and surprise, surprise...there are many aspects of this ordeal that are positive.

One subject I have pondered is the fact that in a way I have benefited by having this time without the use of my right leg.Yep...that's what I said...it is a good thing (in a way) to experience having just one usable leg for awhile. I imagine I'll appreciate the prosthetic a whole lot more this way! 

Like most people, I took for granted my ability to walk.I had to accept the fact that my leg is gone and though I am working and planning to get a prosthetic, the fact is there are no guarantees that I will be able to use one...there are times that prosthetics just do not take. So it was important that I grieve for the loss of my leg and accept this reality. It isn't being negative...it's being realistic and prepared.

In doing so I have found that it puts my life into an interesting perspective that I wouldn't have without losing that leg in the first place. So in a real practical way, I have gained much...by losing a leg.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Staring Into The SHADOWS...Looking For Light


Home again after another week-long stint in the hospital and I admit that I am not really sure how I feel about all of this. The feelings change like sand shifting in the wind. In a way...this latest hospitalization was different then the other recent trips to the land of Hand Sanitizer and Disinfectant. 

I actually went in not because I was sick or something had gone awry, like all the other trips...no I chose to go have a skin graft to the end of my stump. This visit was a major step in the quest to get into a prosthetic and walk again.

I have learned through hard life experience not to get too up or too down about stuff....especially when recovering from a major injury/illness like mine. Of course that is much easier said then done. But things can change so drastically and so quickly that one must hold back to a degree to protect oneself. That is not to say that I am not excited about finally making some progress here because I am. This is certainly a step in the right direction and I am beginning to feel more hopeful about the future.

It has been a fight at times to see the brighter side of an amputation and multiple infections but to survive one must search for what is often only a sliver of light and hold on tight when you discover it. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

It's all Quite Hilarious...Except When you're Crying.





Fighter....I am a Fighter, I FIGHT! Isn't that so? I should hang on, I should continue the fight...RIGHT!?

Quite frankly that is what this life is all about...fighting. Fighting for what you believe in, fighting to be one's best, fighting to divide and conquer, fighting one's way to the top, fighting for your rights....hell, some even fight for their right to die.


After my suicide attempt in 2006 and subsequent ongoing recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. And the daily battle in my head and my heart against the demonic nightmare of sexual assault as a young boy...that I realized that the word FIGHT had taken on an entirely new meaning for me.I learned that staying in the fight, as it were was no cliche, it wasn't a joke.


I figured out then and there that one must persevere, push on, hang together and fight whatever enemy we face at that moment: Be it illness, oppression or even those once forbidden memories that haunt us until the day we die..


Now I am fighting a completely different kind of fight...I am now fighting an unforgiving illness that to date has already cost me two years of my life, every dollar and asset I ever owned and lastly...my right leg, below the knee.


It seems from my perspective that this nightmare shall never end. It was then I realized that I am no longer Thom, no longer the person I always thought I was...nope now I am simply a BKA (Below the Knee Amputation). I'll own that title from now on...with pride and determination.

And considering all I have been through and witnessed with the suicide attempt, subsequent coma and drug/alcohol addiction...it is this latest fight, believe it or not that frightens me the most...It frightens me to my very core of my being.


I truly know the meaning of powerlessness...of having NO control over the things that are killing me from the inside out. It would be easy, I could see now for a person who suffers so to give in...to surrender to it...to quit. I would be less then honest if I said those thoughts had not entered my mind from time to time.


But I cannot, will not EVER give in. Why, you ask, why not just float downstream into a drug-laced oblivion and let the madness of disease eat me alive? Isn't that the natural way of things: We are BORN/Then we DIE.


Because their were two people in my life, both woman who set the bar so high when it came to fighting their illness (in both cases cancer) with such ferocity, dignity and fervor that I cold never soil my memories of them and our friendships but not fighting back against my own medical monsters.


Christy was just 24 when she died back in the mid 1990's, after several lengthy battles with Cancer. She was my friend and I will never forget those days...the who notion of her dying was so incredibly impossible at the time. Yet die she did. We just could not accept that she was gone from our world.


 The other woman is A*****. Odlly enough I have never seen nor met her in person and probably never will. She is still very much alive and fighting her war against this evil and unforgiving pestilence called Cancer. We met through a mutual FaceBook Friend. I was drawn by her passion, her dignity and absolute positive determination in the face of such terrible odds as her disease progresses. I witness this only through Facebook posts, her own and when she is physically unable,those of her friends. Even as a detached witness...her response to her long, difficult fight humbles me to the very depths of my soul.

It is her determination that has led me to this place where I reside today and continues to educate and inspire me to fight on with humor, dignity and good grace. Certainly if she can maintain her love of life...her joy and sense of humor, then I certainly can as well?


Photos:Kathy Tomson


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fighting the FIGHT...of My Lifetime.


Yea, Yea...sorry to disappoint all of you who were just beginning to think that you wouldn't have to read any more crap from me on Shell Shock Serenade, well I'm still alive....Not necessarily kicking but kind of hopping around a bit like a human Pogo-stick!


I'll be honest, these last 2 months since my amputation have been very rough. Infection has reared it's ugly head again and I have spent nearly 20 additional days in the hospital fighting to save what I have left of my right leg below the knee. The pic below shows the intital affect of the infection.




So far we have been successful but it has not been easy. It is hard for me to spend time on my computer so these posts will be brief. I'll try to fill in more detail in future entries. 


But I am home now after spending 8 days in the hospital this last time and we are hopeful that things are getting better. K works on taking care of me around the clock basically and our life is pretty hard at the moment since she was laid off. Finding money for medication co-pays is hard so healing is made more complex when you don't have your Anti-Biotic on time. The intense pain doesn't help the situation either.


Injuries/illness I have found, isolate a person in a way that they feel alienated from their friends, family and society as a whole. And I am not talking about people not calling or visiting. Remember the old saying: "alone in a crowd?" That is the kind of feeling I am talking about. It is the disability itself that isolates a person and one can get resentful of folks who are perceived to be "normal". 


It's easy to say you're praying for someone, I say or write it all the time and really mean it. But at times, when everyone is always repeating it, well it can lose some of its meaning. Then I realize it is really up to me to change all that. I alone have the ability to not feel sorry for myself and understand that those folks can't really do anything else. They are helpless to change what is happening to me no matter how much they would like to. Only then can a person appreciate that it is just their way of showing that they care. And I am extremely grateful for them and their thoughts/prayers!


This is a delicate emotional dance we do as people recovering from illness/injuries. Especially when we are constantly running into road-blocks to that recovery and it begins to look like we shall never get better. People often lose hope at times like these and kill themselves just because they cannot see beyond their own pain & suffering. That is why it is critical to stay connected to God and those people who love & care about you.....that is what often works for me.


Don't get me wrong....I still hurt, I am still lonely and confused at times but deep down I know that I MUST LIVE and keep pushing forward...no matter what. 

I would not survive this fight without K-Sue...she is my EVERYTHING. Words cannot express the depth of my feeling and gratitude honey for all you do and all that you are...I Love you Babe!


Often...one has to force themselves to look at the positives: We are home, we have each other and our life together, no matter how difficult we shall move on...and the world, believe it or not....WILL TURN! 


I've got these 3 beautiful grandsons who pull me out of my funk every time I hear their voices or see their pics. They live in SC and I don't often get to see them...certainly not everyday like I would desire. But their existence in the world carries me through days when I cannot fathom living another second of such pain & heartache.

I will try and update Shell Shock when I can. Thanks to ALL of you who have contacted me, prayed and pulled for me...I cannot do this alone. I need my fellow soldiers in this battle and I am so grateful that you are all there for me....T

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

8 Days & Counting



Amputated leg update here. We have now been in the hospital for over 8 days working on Day #9. These have not been easy days...NO, not by a long shot.

I have had 3 surgeries in that time period. The pain has been incredible. I am not in a position to go on and on....it hurts too much to write.

We have a Wound Vac, which we will where at home with a home nurse too care for me IF the VAC is approved by Medicare. Huge If Man....if any of you have worked with Medicare before getting so called "experimental" devices approved for home then you know what I mean.


Sorry I cannot hang around longer but I am played out. Until we meet again.....T

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Waiting & Wanting.....to HEAL


Well hello my Shell Shocked Friends, I'm just checking in with a brief update on my recovery from right leg amputation surgery. Y'all getting sick of hearing about it yet, haha?!

It is hard to sit right now and frankly I am not supposed to. It's quite painful as well. I want to let everyone know how I am but I will refrain from sending the raw pics of the wound...it's nasty.


And right now it is exceptionally bad. We found out today that I have a a rather large, infected Hematoma on the outer-side of the stump. It is buried deep in the leg and very hard to get to. Doc E basically did an impromptu office surgery, taking out staples, irrigating and digging out the infected mass. Not fun.


When the first question out of Docs mouth is: "Did you double up on the pain meds before you came"? You know you're in deep dodo....especially considering I hadn't taken ANY Pain meds! 


So we are back on Anti-Biotic and K has to clean this sucker out and pack the wound, then wrap it TWICE each day. Not Fun Folks!


So I am Hanging Tough and frankly I am more determined then ever to kick the hell out of this infection and get walking ASAP. 


Be back around soon, love Y'all!


Painting By Picasso


Monday, November 24, 2014

Ready & Willing


I cannot believe it, I am freaking HOME! And I feel less bombed out, less sick and messed up then after any of the other major surgeries I have had at day #5. Now the pain is way more concentrated and INTENSE (and they say it's normal and expected for awhile) But what can you expect after having your leg chopped off! 

Thanks to the magnificent Docs Etrl & Gorman and the wonderful staff at BMH, you totally ROCK! These are incredibly gifted and very special men, I owe my life to them. 

And to my friends and family, thank you so very much for the thoughts, well wishes and prayers....you folks are the best!

K and I are settled in and I am getting used to life as an amputee. We are looking at about 6 weeks until we get fitted with the first prosthetic.

I am ready to get on with life...TOMORROW. Tonight I am exhausted and ready for bed...good night all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Other Side of SANITY



The time is drawing near....so near that I can literally feel FATE breathing hard on the back of my neck. The unthinkable, undo-able, the beyond consideration...has become cold, calculating reality and the intentional design of tomorrow's surgical Tea Party at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

What a flowery bunch of literary BULLSHIT that just was. TRUTH IS I am having my right leg cut off about 6" below my knee and  I feel like I have dropped off the edge of the sanity cliff into the Twilight Zone. And I am just fortunate enough to have dragged K-sue with me. And not only is she not kicking and screaming...she actually seems USED to this MADNESS....what a lucky little sucker I am, eh?!

We have been down this path so frequently in the past that we actually have an unspoken game-plan we use to help us prepare for what may turn out to be a rather lengthy stay in Hospital, nearly an 80 minute drive from our home.

I just re-read what I have just written and my initial reaction is I wish I felt half as confident and together as I make it all sound. Truth is that I'm spinning cartwheels at 10,000 MPH in my brain and my heart feels permanently lodged in the back of my throat. 

In some strange, inexplicable way this surgery that always seemed impossible to me is really going to happen. I will walk through a door to the hospital tomorrow on two legs and will leave one there forever when I depart a few days later. That is if Doc E shoots down my morbid obsessive desire to have the bones preserved so that I can bring them home with me for permanent display. And Yea...I'm pretty much serious about it and I have already been told countless times how freaking sick that idea is. I suppose that in some way or another, that is why I like it. Yet I am seriously doubtful it will actually happen so let's not waste any more minutes on the subject for TIME, it seems is getting short.

And that is no joke, my friends. For some time there has been this invisible Hour-Glass that I am distinctly aware of running short of sand. There has been an unspoken, undefined urgency to everything I do.I am not sure why but it is as if there truly is a real possibility that the curtain, as it were could forever close on this particular story....The Story of MY LIFE.

I am not trying to be morbid here and I am not trolling for sympathy. I think it is perfectly natural and for the most part healthy that one would consider their own mortality when having such a serious operation. Even though it 'tis one of the oldest know surgical procedures performed by MAN...the amputation of a limb no longer able to do it's duty.

All in all I am as prepared as I can be. Physically I have gotten as healthy as I physically can. Emotionally and Psychologically I am ready and fully understand and accept what is going to happen to me tomorrow. And Spiritually I know I am prepared to face Fear Itself and I am not and will Never Ever be Alone.

Thank you Readers of Shell Shock Serenade for letting me blow off a wee bit of emotional steam these last twenty minutes or so as I embrace the Folly of written self-expression in an attempt to whittle away a few minutes time keeping my mind and hands occupied.

So long for a few days and we shall see you all when we meet agin on the other side of SANITY.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The RECKONING

Nameless and Faceless By Ishrath Humairah

A-Day (Amputation Day) is this Wednesday November 19, 2014 at Noon. I suppose I am as ready as anyone can be who is making a conscious decision to cut off one of their legs just below the knee. Yea, I'm being Coy and trying to be cute and yes I know it really isn't my style. But what else do you say about this kind of thing?!

There are all the "right" things to say about being positive, having faith in a good outcome and saying this is all for the better. In my case those things are all basically true (at least MOST of the time). But in all honesty it is such a surreal experience to be having. I have been through a great many difficult times and have endured my fair share of chaos and hardship and this amputation surgery in many ways is just another experience.
Vincent Van Gogh
And then it isn't like anything that has ever happened to me either. Sure I put on a brave face but the truth is this frightens me some times when I think about it. I'm OK with that...there is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of fear and this kind of surgery certainly is a big enough deal to justify a few fearful moments now and again. I'd be more concerned if I wasn't afraid.

But this is truly the first step toward a new beginning. We have honestly exhausted all the realistic alternatives....6 surgeries in 15 months is enough. This will be surgery #7 for this ankle that was broken in a fall at home on February 9th, 2013. The nerves are damaged beyond all hope of recovery or repair. Having Neuropathy makes it even less likely that another Fusion Surgery would heal properly. Plus I have had an ongoing infection, more or less for the last year and a half.



Vincent Van Gogh

The time is now for a major move and Wednesday at Noon is when it's going to happen. I am ready to face the FEAR and fight for my freedom from this pain and torment. The day of RECKONING is here...at long last. And just in case the worst possible scenario happens I can honestly say that I gave this life my very best and that if it truly is my time to die that I died sober, with my family and friends I love theoretically by my side every step of the way.

I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me and my family through prayer or just let us know that you are thinking about us. Several individuals have helped us get through this difficult time with rides to the doctor's office 90 minutes away and in other ways that we will never EVER forget. My Friends are THE VERY BEST, God Bless ALL of you!

We will see you on the other side of Amputation. And then my focus will be on what type of art-work to have done on my prosthetic Leg...Modern or Impressionist!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Future Beckons.

By Claude Monet
It 'tis a blustery, cold, windy November day and I find myself sitting here shaking off the fever and fatigue of infection, just wishing I had the energy and stamina to go outside and work in the yard. This is quite an odd time period in my life because I feel an unspoken pressure to do things with my "real" right leg for at least ONE LAST TIME. 

I want to walk around the Island (or small Island as we call the abbreviated road loop on the NW side of Iyopawa Island) at least one more time. I want to try and golf as much as I can in case the worst happens and I am no longer able to walk after surgery. Unfortunately I haven't played more then a hole or two at a time in the last 40 days or so because I am just too ill and hurts too dang much.

I don't really know how to feel about all of this or what to think. Nothing in life (at least my 52 years of it) prepares one to make the decision to cut off their own leg...no matter how necessary it turns out to be. 

It is a time where I find myself playing a great many mind games and not feeling overly hopeful sometimes for a really positive outcome. The sacrifices and difficulties of the last year have conditioned me to expect adversity and embrace failure. This is not typically the way I usually am...

I feel so poorly that in reality I don't question the decision...it's just that I don't want to be in the position where I have to decide in the first place. I don't want to be a part of any of this but the truth is I do not have a choice. I have to move on and this is the situation that I am in so I must find it within myself to push through all the crap in search of a better, healthier life on the other side.

There is a great deal of uncertainty right now and dealing with all the unknown makes it even more difficult because I can't possibly know what to expect. I've never walked into a building in my life and left several days later without a leg. The idea itself is surreal and confusing...it haunts me just to think about it, not to mention actually prepare oneself for such an experience.

I feel as though I am moving slowly into a rather murky future where each step is an adventure with misfortune and chaos lurking behind every shadow. So be it then...I'll certainly be there to move off into the mist and see what awaits me beyond the shroud of uncertainty and doubt.