It was November 22, 2013. It was a cold, stormy night with expectations of 30 plus inches of snow in the coming days. It had been forecast as the worst first real storm we were going to experience that year. However, having grown up in the North we were accustomed to epic snow storms. When one hits, you’d better be ready. I had no idea this night that would catastrophically change my life forever.
My best friend Craig had come over for a night of fun and relaxation. After playing round after round of Tiger Woods Golf, we decided to call it a night, so we got dressed for the weather and headed down to my truck for the ride home.
On the way out of the basement door we were surprised to see just how much snow we were getting. The exit was covered and the landlord hadn’t cleaned the exit. It was getting worse by the minute. I took a few steps and my right foot caught some ice. I felt myself falling and I couldn’t stop myself! My right leg slid 90 degrees from my body, causing me to do the splits. My left leg wasn’t strong enough to hold me up due to a Military accident. I was injured during a field operation and had been receiving medical treatment for several years. As I was falling I started to move forward at an accelerated rate and the tip of my chin hit the top of a parking curb, the force thrust my head and neck back with devastating force.
I struggled to get up, even with Craig giving me a helping hand. I noticed that my legs were not working. There was something terribly wrong, I couldn’t get up!!
I handed my keys over to Craig and he opened up the apartment exit door. Assuming the prone position, I slowly crawled back in and Craig assisted me to the steps. I had a difficult time sitting, so I propped myself up against the wall and rested there for a good 30 minutes. The feeling and strength slowly came back, after a long discussion, I assumed that I had suffered a really bad case of whiplash, I got up and drove Craig home.
When I returned, I decided to take the weekend to rest up and put some ice and heat to help the muscles to heal up. On Monday, I was asked to play in a 8 ball pool tournament. I was feeling a little better, and was going completely stir crazy being cooped in the concrete walls of my apartment I decided that the remedy for my blues was a good night out playing a game I was passionate about and spending some quality time with great friends, yep…sounded like a great way to get me out of my apartment and my spirits up.
When I arrived I noticed my legs weren’t feeling very strong. Throughout the tournament everyone noticed the trouble I was having. Things were getting increasingly bad. After a lot of my friends expressed concern, I disclosed what had happened. Everyone told me to go to the hospital and go get checked out. Reluctantly, and against my stubborn Irish Frenchman nature, I agreed to do just that.
Living close to the hospital, and not knowing what was going to happen, I decided I’d go put away my pool cues. They are quite expensive. I brought them back up to my 5th floor apartment. Upon my return, I knew from my pass just 10 minutes earlier, that it hadn’t been cleared at all. This worried me for obvious reasons. I knew I had to keep close to the wall so I could have some support just in case. It made no difference and I slipped again and fell hard a second time!
As I lay in the snow bank, I realized that my leg function had been lost again. it was 1 AM. I was alone, in a snow storm and stuck in a snow bank. I had no gloves and no hat. I lost them somewhere on my way down. As I lay there getting colder, I thought to myself, “If I don’t take control of the situation I am going to freeze there and possibly die!” When I worked up in Northern Canada by James Bay, I had heard of stories just like this. People getting hurt snowmobiling and not being able to get any help or a rescue team not getting there in time to save them. I never thought I’d find myself in that exact same circumstance!
I had to take control and get myself to my truck. So I dug my hands into the cold snow and started to pull. Every inch of my back and neck had started to hurt even more. I knew if I didn’t get myself moving and to the warmth of my truck’s heater, the outcome was not going to be good for me! I kept thinking of my Mom, my Dad, my family and my friends. This was not going to be the way I go out. I did the only thing I could and kept pulling, pushing myself to keep going! In an hour I made it about twenty feet. I could feel the talons of Jack Frost just embedding themselves into my hands, my exposed hips, my face, my legs. I could feel my muscles losing energy to keep pulling but I had to keep going. No matter how hard it was, no matter how cold I was and no matter if the situation seemed impossible, i had to get inside my truck! Finally, after another 40 minutes, I was at the side of my truck. I was only a few feet away from safety.
All I had to do was get myself high enough to get the door open and pull myself in. I looked frantically for something to hold onto but there was nothing. I was going to have to get my legs under me and up! The car that was parked next to me was close and lower than mine, so I used it to pull myself up. I don’t know how, but I pulled myself into the standing position. I stood just long enough for me to reach over and open the door…eureka!!! Mission One accomplished. I wasn’t going to die alone in a snowbank.
I was covered from head to toe with large dense snowflakes. I looked like the Abominable Snowman. My hands were barely able to grasp, my body was aching and cold and my legs going into intermittent spasms. I had to get into my truck. I noticed the seat belt. I figured if I could pull all the excess out, I’d be able to wrap it around my one arm and pull myself up to the steering wheel, sit myself down on the floor of my truck and get myself in!
I used every ounce of energy I had to turn myself into an amateur contortionist. I somehow got into my seat, started my truck and awaited the precious, live-saving warmth. I was in, I was safe, but definitely not out of the woods. Not by a long shot! I still had to find a way to drive myself to the hospital. With no use of my legs, I had to think of something!
Ever since my Military accident, I had a cane in the backseat. I reached back and got it easily. Finally, something was going my way. I used it as my leg to press on the brake and gas, and I was on my way!
I got to the hospital and parked as close as I could to the doors. I let myself fall back onto the cold wet ground, closed the door and using my fob, locked it. I started to crawl towards the Emergency entrance. Half way there, again exhausted and freezing, a young man passing by noticed me. He offered to help me get a wheelchair and assisted me getting into it and into the ER.
The nurse that came to register me was a an old friend from my teenage years named Jenn. She kindly asked me what was going on and what was the reason for my visit. I informed her of what had happened in the days prior and she started her triage examination. When she touched the back of my neck, it felt like a thousand volts of electricity from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Her next words made my blood run cold, “Don’t move I’m pretty sure you broke your neck!” She scurried away and came back with a neck brace. I was ushered into the ER and then moved quickly to get an X-ray done. After a few hours of being poked, prodded and checked over by numerous doctors and specialists, it was confirmed. I was severely injured and my journey to recovery had now just begun!