Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Embracing The Pain

So I asked this guy I  interviewed the other  day, as he showed me the pictures his buddy took of his leg on his cell phone, "how did you handle the pain?"

The pictures I clicked through on his phone were grim.
His leg was broken in three places with two bones sticking right up and out of the leg, one bone sort of dangling, broken in half.
Plus the the side of his leg  years old or so.
His leg was sliced open and you could see inside.
It was a view I rarely see except in the Medial Examiner's photos, post mortem.
This guy was still alive, he was  24 or so.
I marveled at his composure for someone so young who endured such a horrible experience.

I know I'd be screaming for help or I'd black out, but I sure as spit would not have the composure the airlift crew, witnesses or ER team.
Yet I'd looked at his tox screens, his blood alcohol levels.
And he was clean on the meds, and under the limits on the alcohol.
Which really isn't conclusive because by the time test are done in cases like these, the blood alcohol content drops and not all substances are tested for in the lab.
And none of that mattered anyway because he was not at fault.
The guy who hit him was.
The guy who hit him, the DEF said, told the police he was blinded by the sun while this young man was legally walking during the day through the one and only cross walk, with a light even,  in the rural town  where we met.

I got almost my questions answered, all my investigation done, it was time to leave.
I just needed to know one more thing.
Not a" why", rather... a "how."
And for me, it was purely personal.

"How did you handle the pain?" I asked him as I looked one last time at the xray of the leg now contained in a cast covering the wounds and what I saw were a huge rod, pins, plates and stitches.

He was a country boy, a good old boy, a tough kid raised on blood sweat and probably, minimal tears.
I am always curious about pain because I see it all the time, feel it myself every now and then. And each person handles it differently.From what I'd seen on the pictures, I figured his his pain level was about 50 on the 1-10 scale.

"Pretty bad huh?" he asked, as he leaned over my shoulder and looked at me staring at the picture.
I nodded and waited for him to answer my question. There was a long silence then he said this:

"Well, can't say I didn't scream at first. Man I was cussing at everyone. Then I saw one of my buddies was upchucking  and another was crying and people all around me saying I was gonna' be okay and then I thought, I ain't so sure about that. So I kinda realized maybe the pain was my friend and  might as well dive into it because as long as I felt it, I was alive."

That's when he said, he settled down.
He said he knew the pain was there, he just "moved it aside in my head", because he said he had no choice. He said it's not like the pain wasn't there. He just knew fighting it would make it worse. So he said, "I just sorta' embraced the pain, ya know?"

 His demeanor was so calm, by the time he reached the ER the doctors asked him over and over, "what drugs did you take, how come you're so calm?"  Thus the multiple tox screens.

"Impressive," I told him. Though it was much more than that.
I thought of all the whining I do when I am in pain.
And then I thought of what I consider pain -- emotional or physical -- is really nothing compared to his at that time.
Not like having a bone stick out of your leg.
Or having to endure countless rounds of chemo,  cancer,  fybro,  kidney stones, heart disease, gastro problems, arthritis,  endometriosis, arthritis, ALS, scoliosis, I could go on forever.

It is time now to get ready hit the road. I have yet another another injured person to see...
someone so hurt they can't come to the attorneys,  so the attorneys send me to them.
I consider my job a privilege, a blessing and major eye-opener.
And whatever pain comes my way, I will embrace it.
Just because I can.

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