Never Walk Again

Today I went to see a neurosurgeon. My foot drop returned in full force on the right side after some improvement and my rehab doctor and I couldn’t figure it out. So, I had another MRI (listening to ’90s music while the machine examined me with its all knowing magnets) and a neurosurgical associate gave me his professional opinion.

Judging by the severity of my injury he said it was surprising that I’m walking at all. He said he sees people with similar injuries that remain paralyzed, that are in constant pain and rely on heavy doses of narcotics to cope. He said, “Looking at you, you would never know that you’ve suffered such a serious injury.”

But he also said that given the nature of the injury and the time that’s elapsed it’s likely this is as good as it will get as far as nerve recovery goes.

That’s the scariest thing a doctor has ever said to me.

Of course I’m grateful that I’m walking. That I can once again walk through the forest, clamber across the beach, explore nature in all its splendor. But I never doubted that this day would come because no one ever told me: “You will never walk again.” Apparently, they were thinking it.

If someone had said that to me three and a half years ago I would have given up. I would have languished among the blankets on my bed. From the moment I woke up from surgery I believed I would be walking right back into my old life in a matter of months. That time frame stretched and stretched until it broke and I realized I couldn’t keep waiting for things to go back to normal. This is my life now. And it’s good. It’s incredibly rich and textured with the understanding that comes from enduring great suffering.

Maybe I will never feel the grass on my feet again. Maybe my soles will never be caked with dirt and rough from walking barefoot across the earth. Maybe I’ll never again climb to the highest branches of a tree and lounge among the leaves. But those are memories I will cleave to like the very air I breathe. They will sustain me when I’m overcome with doubt.

And when I’m scared that all the pleasures of the world are behind me I’ll remember: They thought I’d never walk again.

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