With one ton of hay resting on top of my head and neck, my breathing became labored, and I wondered how long I could stay conscious. Twice a painful tingle crossed over my face, and I feared suffocation. I was rapidly losing the ability to take in oxygen. Twice I begged, “Please God, let me stay.”
I knew my request meant more pain, but what I loved most, my wife and my two sons, were on the other side of that chasm of fear. Only by stepping right into fear and pain would I reach them again. Never before had I experienced so much pain. I began counting. “One. Two. Three. Four. Please God . . . “And then again. “One. Two. Three. Four. Please . . . ”
I don’t remember anything after the Life flight until I awoke from surgery surrounded by my wife, my parents, and my siblings. The doctors began to paint a mental picture for us of what my new life would look like. I didn’t like it.
“When do I see my boys?” I asked. It didn’t seem to merit the doctor’s attention. “When do my two boys get to see me?” I asked again, more emphatic, more pointed than before. My doctor cautiously responded, “Chad, you’ve got a tube for oxygen, a tube for liquids, and a feeding tube. You can’t breathe, drink, or eat on your own. Not to mention the hospital has a policy that children under eight cannot enter the intensive care unit; besides, I don’t think you are in any physical shape to be seen.”
I did not realize it at the time, but my face had been severely traumatized during the accident. It was a Hollywood make-over gone terribly wrong. In addition, I was a virtual network of tubes, monitors, and IV’s. The doctor was right. My two little boys would have undoubtedly been frightened at the sight.
Seeing my frustration, the doctor made me a deal. “Chad,” he said, “If you can teach yourself to breathe again, even for a short period of time, drink 2,000 cc’s of liquid without it going into your lungs, and eat 1,200 calories without choking in a 24-hour period . . . then, and only then, will I move you out of the intensive care unit, and you can see your two boys.”
In my whole life I don’t think I worked harder, and with more focus than I did at that time. Every day was like a marathon, pushing myself past what I felt was possible. It had to be possible. I had to see my boys. It was that intensity, which pushed me past the pain and the fear that taunted and toyed with me. In my mind there were no
options. I would complete the impossible task the doctor had given me.
At each failure, it seemed that something new was developing inside of me. It was a strength that I didn’t know I had. Just as I had done while trapped underneath that one-ton bale of hay, I began counting. “One cc of water. Two.Three. Four. Please God . . .” And then again. “One cc. Two. Three. Four. Please . . . ”
Not only did I need to swallow the food and liquid, but I had to keep them down. With all of my focus, I would compel my body to relax enough to not vomit or reject the nourishment that I was taking in. After I was certain that the liquid and food were settled, Shondell would note the calories and cc’s on a log. At the end of each day I would calculate how much closer I was to my goal.
Twelve days later at 9:30 PM, Shondell dialed the doctor’s home and held the phone to my ear. “Doctor Ryzer,” I declared, “I did everything you told me to do. I want to see my boys.” Doctor Ryzer kept his promise. Within thirty minutes, he was at the hospital, releasing me from ICU.
It is in our moments of pain that passion shows itself. True desires become clear. Passion becomes a fire burning inside, stronger than any external flame. It is passion that fuels our ability to pass through the pain and fear that would paralyze us.
Human beings have two huge emotional fears. One: We fear failing. Two: We fear physical or emotional exposure. To escape the emotional pain of those two fears, human beings tend to create ways to deflect the situation. Sometimes we tell half-truths to cover our failures. Sometimes we create diversions by blaming others for what is happening. Sometimes we avoid people, or situations all together, that make us look bad. We hate for others to see us fall or see our weaknesses, our places of vulnerability.
When the doctor gave me my checklist, I could have found ways to fail gracefully. Who would blame me? Look at what I’d been through already. I was weak and overwhelmed. But, I knew that even if I failed, and even if I was totally humiliated, and came up wanting in the end, I had to try with every ounce of me to make the goal to see my children.
Fear fueled my passion, and it was with that passion that I fought and won.