Monday, December 8, 2008

My SCI Journey (Updated May 20th 2012)


     I finally got the E-mail today I’ve been waiting for, letting me know my book is officially published & AVAILABLE NOW. (Woohoo!!) It will be available on as well as Amazon Europe in Paparback and Kindle / E-Book format. Anyhoo, I hope you like it & if you know anyone with a spinal cord injury that it might be able to help, let them know it’s out there!.. I wrote this book ultimately with hope that it might help in some way anybody who is or who’s loved one is dealing with SCI right now. My wife Keleigh and I would have loved to have had a book like this in the early aftermath of my accident because it would have given us some idea of what we were in for. Being completely in the dark was in a lot of ways, the worst part. My blog below has now become a brief summarization of the events of my accident & some of the events since. While writing the book I was actually able to uncover quite a few memories & feelings that I forgotten. It was good and bad. I am very happy to have finally completed it.

     ONCE AGAIN: MANY MANY THANX to every one of you for your support!! CHEERS!! ;)~

Part One - The Accident

Hello. My name is Mark Hall. On August 8th 2007 my life took a violent turn that changed my life perspective & those of everyone around me FOREVER. I'm an Ironworker/Welder & that morning I was on my way to the "jobsite of the day" in Palm Springs Ca. when I was involved in an auto accident. Trying to catch up on some sleep I was laying down in the back seat of my beautiful truck while one of my co-workers drove. A few miles out from the jobsite he fell asleep & drifted off the freeway. The police report stated we blew through the guard rail, hit a 3 foot wall that caused the rear end of the truck to rise up & jump/flip over a 30 foot deep wash. Once we landed on the other side we continued to flip end over end & took out a small tree before the truck stopped. Somewhere along the ride I was ejected. When I arrived at the Palm Springs Desert Regional ICU, the initial diagnosis was I had a broken neck at the C4,5 & 6 levels 'complete',broken back, fractured ribs, fractured pelvis & a collapsed lung. My hot wife was told that if I survived, I would be paralyzed from the neck down, I would never be able to breathe without a ventilator, I wouldn't be able to eat without a feeding tube, & I might possibly have brain damage. For the first 2 weeks in the ICU I remained unconscious while my body went into shock & battled multiple life threatening complications. I was on maximum dosage of 2 separate medications to raise & stabilize my blood pressure. My heart rate rose & fell, & I developed a bad case of pneumonia. During this time period the best assurance the doctors would give my hot wife was that they were doing everything they could but gave no guarantees. All of this while she was 8 months pregnant with our third little girl. Doesn't really get more pathetic than that. At the end of the 2 weeks something very strange & heavy happened. After 2 weeks of stress & uncertainty my hot wife had finally reached her limit. While sitting by my bedside that night, she laid her head on my chest crying & begging me to fight my condition. She begged me not to leave her this way & reminded me how much our girls need me. She told me I promised I would never leave her. After leaving the hospital that night she quietly confided to a friend that she may have just lost her husband that night. Meanwhile I was in my own private hell. Literally. During those first 2 weeks even being unconscious, I can vaguely remember everything being blurry, confusing & chaotic. Then one night everything went silent & I found myself standing at the edge of a pond or a lake. I couldn't move at all & it was very dark, but as I looked around I saw these little gargoyle/alien/demon looking things sitting on the water here & there. At first there seemed to be only a few, then the more I looked around I realized they were everywhere. Millions of them. They didn't make a sound but I could see them breathing & blinking their eyes. I was trying to figure out where the hell I was. Then I felt someone/something standing next to me. I still couldn't move so I couldn't turn to see what/who it was. Now I’m not going to say it was the devil because I don't think it was. It was however a very very dark presence. I've never been afraid of much (sometimes to my own peril) because I always thought that if it can't kill you or get you thrown in jail it's not worth worrying about, much less being afraid of it, but I can honestly say the situation I now found myself in scared the s**t out of me. The thing standing next to me didn't make a sound but I could feel it communicating with me. I had half jokingly said in the past that when my time came to cross over to the afterlife I would either go to a good place where I would meet all my friends & relatives who'd passed on & wait for my hot wife & little girls to come join me so we could all play together forever...OR...I would go to a dark place where I would meet a "congregation of enemies" from the past & exact my revenge for eternity. Either way, I win. I thought. Now I had this thing standing next to me saying (without talking) "Are you ready?...Talk your s**t ready?...let's go"...The only way I've been able to explain what I was feeling at this moment is to imagine yourself standing on the edge of a 1000 story building looking down, & at your back is a firing squad zeroed in on your head. Everything I'd ever done had all lead to this point & I was going out through either direction. This was it & I was paralyzed with fear. I couldn't talk but it didn't matter because I wasn't going to talk my way outta this anyway. All I could think of was NO, I'm not ready. I don't wanna leave my hot wife Keleigh, I don't wanna leave my little Raven & Willow. I haven't even got to meet my new little daughter Lily. All I kept thinking was no, no, no I'm not ready. Then outta nowhere I looked down and kneeling by my right leg was Keleigh. She was looking up at me crying and begging me not to leave her this way, that my girls need me and to please fight. She said you promised me you wouldn't leave me and please fight. The only person in the whole universe who I needed to reach me at that point was right there with me. I was finally able to talk and tell her yes, OK I'll try. The next morning I regained consciousness. Now the heaviest thing about this experience was that it scared the s**t outta me so bad that I didn't even want to talk about it for a couple of months. When I finally did talk to Keleigh about it, looking back, we realized that everything she had said to me that night I had heard word for word. Being where I was that night, in short she had literally saved my life. Now some of this may sound hokey to some, and to them I would say F**K YOU. I know the difference between a bad dream and reality and this was quite real. I have never been a religious type. I've always thought that religion was intended to give one a sense of hope, but for the most part in my life it had only served as a set of rules on what I'm not allowed to do. Unfortunately growing up, most of the examples around me of 'Good Christians' were bad people. And those were the ones that made the biggest impression on me. Give it whatever name you want, God, Jesus, Allah, The Great Spirit. My Creator was watching over me this whole time. The day I saw the pictures of my accident for the first time, I realized there is no way that I should have survived. But I did. Now there's not a day that goes by that I do not say thank you for the day, my hot wife, my beautiful little girls, my friends/family and my life. My life/journey is a work in progress. There is a reason for this. Stay tuned...

Part Two - Life After The Accident

I spent 7 weeks in the ICU at Desert Regional in Palm Springs Ca. The first month or so I could only communicate by blinking my eyes. It was extremely frustrating for all involved. During this time I hadn't yet realized the gravity of the situation. I wanted to to eat, drink, scratch my nose, change the channel on the damn TV but I couldn't move! No one had come out & actually told me "you're paralyzed" yet, but I was starting to figure out something was very wrong. My wife was by my side everyday. Our friends & family dropped everything to watch our girls Raven & Willow which made this possible. On Sept 9th (a month into my stay) Keleigh took a quick trip upstairs & gave birth to our 3rd daughter Lily Rain. They babysat her too. I had a steady stream of family & friends visiting, as well as a stack of get well cards almost everyday. Some from people I've never met. This is the kinda stuff that kept me going. The doctors, nurses & therapists in Palm Springs were great. On October 4th I transferred to Loma Linda to begin the rehab portion of my hospital stay. This was the hardest part for me because I was finally coherent enough to know what the situation was & I was tryin to get my head around it. My Mom came by every morning to hang out with me all day until Keleigh came in the evening. It helped alot because I was never alone. Eventually I was cleared to start eating real food again but with no appetite I basically lived on yogurt, a pile of pills & reruns of Quincy everyday. The "Intensive Rehab" phase of my recovery was a struggle just to sit up in bed without passing out. The therapists were great at Loma Linda. They tried their hardest to get me to work but I was so weak physically and mentally that I never really gave it the effort required. The nurses were all pretty cool too. They tried their best to make me comfortable and definitely made the stay more bearable. The Doctors on the other hand were robotic drones who seemed to take pleasure in poking, prodding, waking me up when I finally managed to fall asleep, & having conversations with each other about me, in front of me, like I wasn't even there. With the therapy I did receive I started to notice a little improvement here and there but every time I mentioned a positive improvement to the hospital staff I always got the same look of "well that's great but you're clearly still in denial". By the time my "parole" date had arrived (7 weeks later)I was definitely in better shape then when I had arrived but I was still very weak, bed ridden, and I still had my halo on. During my stay in Loma Linda my wife Keleigh was juggling Med-i-cal paperwork, SDI paperwork, taking care of our daughters, finding us a house to move into when I got out, and getting a crash course in how to take care of me once I returned home. In the years before the accident I was the sole provider for my family and the prospect of me suddenly becoming an infant and piling everything on Keleigh's shoulders was a scary concept and we were diving in nose first. On November 20, 2007 I returned home on a gurney. The whole concept of life after the accident suddenly became very real. I could go on and on about all the crap thrown our way during the first year but I will save it for my book. :) Suffice it to say it was an unending series of tests and surprisingly we came out on top somehow. I would prefer to focus on the extremely positive milestones that occurred instead. On February 22nd I finally had my halo removed. I had had it on for 6 1/2 months. I had been told that a second surgery would almost certainly be needed to fuse the back of my neck, but after viewing the x-rays the Doctors discovered my neck had somehow healed itself and no surgery would be needed. GOOD NEWS! I went to see my original Doctor a couple weeks later for a follow up and was asked what plans I had in mind regarding further therapy. I had heard from a friend about a place in Carlsbad California called Project Walk. They specialize in aggressive exercise based therapy and have had amazing results with most of their clients. I told him this is where I wanted to go. He responded by telling me that Project Walk was a scam that offered it's clients false hope and was only interested in taking my money. Needless to say this only served to convince me that Project Walk was the place for me! He was wrong about everything else that I wouldn't be able to do so as far as I was concerned he was probably wrong about this too. His attitude was basically get used to your wheelchair, take these pills and shut up. We had called Project Walk to inquire about their program requirements and were put in contact with Hal Hargrave and the Be Perfect Foundation. That night Hal and his son Hal Jr. who is a SCI survivor and Project Walk client came over for a visit. We had hoped to get some first hand knowledge about Project Walk as well as some tips on transferring to the vehicle from the chair and back among other things. I mentioned what my Doctor had said earlier that day and as we talked we realized how similar our situations had been at times. We discussed the lack of support from the medical community regarding recovery and how frustrating it was. We absolutely refused to accept our situation and were willing to do whatever is possible to work towards a full recovery. We were absolutely FLOORED when Hal mentioned that the Be Perfect Foundation was willing to sponsor me as a client at Project Walk. In March 2008 I took a tour of the Carlsad facility and could immediately tell by the positive vibe that this was EXACTLY where I needed to be! I started in April with movement in my shoulders and very little in my right arm. Ever since the accident I felt like I was doing time in a dead body. Now after just the first month I started to show improvement in my upper body. By September I had improved enormously with just arm and leg work. I had gained substantial return in my arms and actually was able to voluntarily lock my legs out. It was a HUGE accomplishment! Once again I'm so thankful to the Hargraves and the Be Perfect Foundation for sponsoring me at Project Walk (and PW trainers) because they are saving my life! 


March 2010:
So many things have happened since my last update it would take me FOREVER to type it all out. I will just summarize the year 2009 by saying the positive experiences OVERWHELMINGLY outweighed the negative and my family and I have all come out the other end stronger, closer & happier than the year before! My recovery is coming along very well. Never as quickly as I'd like but it IS happening and I couldn't have come this far without the support of everyone around me. THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU to all of you! :)

My 7 year old daughter's story about my accident:

My daughter Raven had a school project called creative writing. She decided to write a short story about her life. We didn't even know she was doing this until she came home with it the other day. It's one of the heaviest stories I've ever read and it was written by a SEVEN YEAR OLD...

Raven Hall

One time I was living in Murrieta. One morning my Dad was in a terrible car accident on his way to work. My Mom woke me up very early that morning. My Mom dropped me off at my aunt's house in Riverside. My mom thought she would pick my Dad up from the hospital but he was too hurt to get picked up. He wasn't even awake, so my aunt took me and my sister Willow to my mom in Palm Springs. We stayed in a place called the Hanson House that was next to the hospital. I had to live there for two whole months. It was hot and a small room with two beds and no TV. I cried there because my Dad was in the hospital. One day my Mom took me to see my Dad for the first time. When I saw him he was in bed with tubes in his mouth and a tube in his nose, he also had tubes in his arms and a halo to keep his neck still. He couldn't talk yet or move but he could blink his eyes and I could tell he was happy to see me. My Mom said not to be scared but I wasn't because I could see he was still my Daddy. That night my Mom had my new baby sister, her name is Lily and she is very cute. Now my Mom and Dad were both in the hospital. It was hard to have both my parents in the hospital because I'm used to having my parents taking care of me. My auntie's and Grandma took care of me and Willow while my parents were in the hospital. One day my Dad came home from the hospital. He was in the hospital for four months so I was very happy to have my Daddy home again. He told us he couldn't move yet so he couldn't give us big hugs like he did before so he would have to give us a bunch more kisses instead. So everyday we still get a lot of kisses from Dad. One night a nice boy named Hal and his Dad came to our house to visit us. They told us about a place called Project Walk. Project Walk helps people get better who are in a wheelchair like my Dad and Hal. Hal and his Dad said they have a foundation that could help my Dad go to Project Walk. It's called Be Perfect Foundation. My Dad goes to Project Walk now and is getting better and stronger. He can almost wheel himself around now and almost squeezes me tight when he hugs us like he used to. My Mom takes care of us all now until my Daddy can again and our family is all together again, so now I am happy .