Saturday, July 26, 2008

speedbump on the road to recovery

I'm 9wks into my recovery. The initial prognosis was that at wk 12, I would be carrying half my weight on the leg and taking short unassisted walks. That's all been pushed back. In wk 7, we found an abscess on my knee, right at the incision site from one of the surgeries. Two wks after the crash, they had to reopen my knee, loosen the screws, and tap my leg farther up onto the rod to shorten it about an inch. That site, that's the one that got the abscess. I went five wks without so much as a fever, but overnight I spiked 101F and swelled up so much I had to be carried around in a wheelchair. It was excruciating. I was bedridden for four days overall, sleeping intermittently and sweating and crying quietly. It was miserable.

The doctor drained about 30cc of fluid out of my knee that came back infection-free. I got some relief from that almost immediately. The incision site had to be reopened, cleaned out, and packed with gauze to allow drainage and regular cleaning. Turns out the infection was MRSA, so now I'm on daily IV antibiotics. I have a central IV line in my arm so I can administer the antibiotics at home, and I have an open wound under a bandage that people dig around in three times a week. Still, I returned to the office yesterday, having worked from home most of the week. It felt good to get out again.

It sucks, and it's set me back a couple weeks in the overall plan. Still, I have to acknowledge that God has taken care of me and my home. This will pass. My body will fight this off. I will have an appreciation for certain very difficult parts of life that were foreign to me before. I've learned a new compassion through all this, some understanding of what chronically sick people endure. That was new to me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spring Vacation gone sideways

I accompanied my wife on a vacation these last two weeks. We went to a two-day camp of the California Superbike School ( at Virginia International Raceway ( I got this tuned-up little Kawasaki Ninja 600, setup for my weight and wearing new race tires. I rode that thing as fearlessly as I've ever ridden anything. I got passed by people, and I passed people who are semi-pro racers. I learned so much. My wife learned so much, too, and had a great time. I kid you not, I rode hanging off the side of that bike like a crazy man. I just wanted to go faster and faster, and they taught me the tools to do it safely and efficiently. Fantastic time.

Two days after the camp, we were back up in the GA mountains on our own bikes. I remember being a full day and 90 minutes into the mountain part of our vacation, feeling confident and controlled and full 15mph faster on the same roads I had trained on before going to camp. It was cleansing and free, and I remember the sound of the tires humming instead of groaning like they used to. It was fantastic. Then I remember hearing "Mr Beamon, can you hear me?" and opening my eyes to find a medic, a deputy, and three riding buddies.

I'll be brief as I can on the details, but I've been experiencing
a sort of slowly-developing perspective since the crash (a high-side into a ditch by a rock wall). I remember feeling a lump on my leg and a pain in my back, and I hurt pretty bad. The narcotics veiled all but a few details of the next 24hrs. I remember the traction splint, the ride to the hospital, the catheter, and a group of friends in the pre-op room. A couple days after the surgery, I was basically lame and had a lot of swelling and chest congestion. I was frustrated that I couldn't move my leg on its own or roll over on some of my bruises. Most of my body did not really hurt unless I was straining to use something specific. Nine days post-crash now, I breathe okay and get around on a walker. My only pressing pains are bruises and swellings that prevent me from sleeping on my side or coughing or whatnot.

What has surprised me most has been how my own mind has only gradually ingested this. 38yr old male in one-vehicle motorcycle crash, left the roadway into a rock embankment and ditch. Found unconscious and not breathing. Five breaks to right femur and pelvis.
Significant bruising to groin and thighs due to 3-4 pints of internal blood loss. Four broken ribs in left back with punctured and partially collapsed left lung. 4hr surgery to implant rod in femur was successful, but post-op fever prevented blood transfusion until 3d post-crash. Following the transfusion, patient progressed and was released 6d post-crash to home physical therapy with a walker.

It was four or five days in before I felt "lucky to be alive", before I really understood the tears and expressions of the friends who came to see me. I thought "I broke my leg", but reading that summary about Steve or Dawn or Bob would have made me nauseous. The size of this is only now becoming clear to me. I realize that if I hadn't been riding in a group, I might have never woke up in that ditch. I've got around 6mos of physical therapy to rebuild my leg, and I hope to be grateful for every day of it. That'll come and develop with time, I'm certain. I hope to write more about life and music in the time while I'm not out riding. This summer will afford me some good quiet time.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I hate radio.

I've been reading a lot about music lately. Articles about mixing for vinyl instead of CD, recording on tape instead of computer, the death of pop, the death of rock (again), the usual stuff. My interest in music drifts a bit. People say someone's music really "reaches" them or helped them through some particular angst. I've started reconsidering exactly what level of mystic contact or emotional appeal I attribute to a work of art.

See, I grew up playing in a rather progressive (for its time and location) church band. Being part of a group that practiced and performed different songs every week is a unique way to grow into the art form. I'd say every musician needs that at least once in their life, being part of a cover band or party band or some such act that has to keep up with the radio. You really know your craft when you can do it different ways, and that applies as well to things other than music.

So I got into this band called David Crowder Band a couple years ago. Good stuff. "Illuminate" was a terrific album and an exemplary collection for any first-time listeners to DCB. These guys get the whole internet, modern multimedia thing better than most bands. Youtube videos of Ted Nugent sitting in at their barn studio to record a song for the "Remedy" album. Hand-drawn maps of the studio and charts of songs. A "Grow Your Crowder" fan site dedicated to David's beard. It was the music that got my attention first, though. Quirky, vulnerable songs with intimate lyrics. Unafraid. Totally unafraid.

I hate radio, cliche as that sounds. A few of my favorite albums could barely be played on radio. DCB's "Illuminate", mentioned earlier. Radiohead's "Thumbs Down" webcast. A particular Violet Burning album called "A Stranger In This Place: an experiment in vibe". That album is what I'm talking about. VB is an 80s-influenced indie rock band, but they recorded some of their most beautiful songs live-to-tape with hand percussion and dialed-down instrumentation. The timing's a little shaky. Percussion parts come and go midstream. It's live and vulnerable and spontaneous to a degree. There are intros so quiet I can barely hear them on my iPod at work, which totally won't work on the radio. I'd like to say I support my local Christian radio station, but I don't now and never have. I'd like to say I support my local college station. Let's be honest; most of them are just weird for weird's sake. What I'd rather say I support is indie artists who play quality music in an honest way.

I believe, deep down, that music is an art form and an expression of creativity. I experience a certain flavor of stage fright that I believe clarifies my point. I'm not a very good singer, to be fair, but I'm honest about that. I have no problem singing in front of 200 people. On a 12" stage at a coffee shop, well enough. In front of two people on a sofa, not so comfortable. It's very easy to accommodate for weak artistry with volume. Picture how much trouble men have "communicating" with women. Talking quietly on the sofa stereotypically spooks us, but karaoke in a bar does not. You should see my guitar gear; talk about a mid-life communication crisis.

So I'm dealing with this idea of starting over as a musician. I'm considering guitar lessons to get some input from outside what I already know. I'm constantly looking for open-mic nights, but I never go. I can sing, after a fashion, but it is more important to take the listener along than to impress them. Honestly, most of us will never have Christina Aguilera's pipes. (You don't; deal with it.) I think that I've already gotten the whole loud thing. I do that really, really well. I even do Quiet really well, when it's loud. I have been really out of touch with my quiet side for about a year now. My spiritual life, my music, the friendships I've started since coming to Atlanta. It's all been loud, very marketable and radio-ready. I look forward to doing Quiet quietly and actually saying some things sincerely.