Eight Years

Eight years ago, today, my life was irrevocably changed in a matter of seconds.

It only takes seconds for two cars to collide and be crushed.

Eight years is a long time.

I don’t like to think about the actual day of the accident.

In fact, I don’t like to think about the nightmare of the first five years post-accident.

It was bad …. so bad.

It’s better not to think about it.

Nine surgeries are behind me.

I have a life again.

(Definitely not the same life I had before the accident, but a life outside of operating rooms and doctor’s offices.)

I live with chronic pain, but it’s definitely better than it used to be.

Some days are better than others.

For instance, yesterday my arm popped off and I emergency-texted Paul Newman.

He helped me to get my arm re-attached.

It wasn’t my best day pain-wise, that’s for sure.

I’ve learned many things from my car accident journey.

•  Having the best medical team for support is mandatory.  I need them, greatly appreciate them, and can’t imagine my life without them.

•  I’m stronger, emotionally and physically, than I ever knew.  I’ve been to hell and I survived.

•  I can (with help from my medical folks – particularly my physical therapist) “manage” my pain level about 70% of the time.

•  It’s better for everyone if I hibernate when I can’t manage it.  I crawl in a corner and hide until the worst is over.

•  I can learn to compensate for my damaged right arm/shoulder in a multitude of creative ways.

•  I can “fake it” well enough so when Average Joe meets me he rarely realizes there’s anything wrong with me.

•  Sometimes faking it is physically and emotionally exhausting.

•  There are things I will never be able to do again.  (I *think* I’ve accepted my new reality.)

Now, at the eight year point there are a few things on my mind as I look towards the future.

•  My biggest concern is the possibility of losing my physical therapist.

He has helped me more than any single other person.

I am grateful, indebted, and terrified of ever not having him in my life to help me.

Without him, I would regress to where I was when I met him.

It gives me nightmares to think about it.

I need him.


He makes me laugh and laughing is invaluable when you’ve got a damaged, painful, body.

•  Do I take a chance on a tenth surgery?

My initial reaction to this idea was a quick and resounding “no way”!!

But, Paul Newman has been wearing me down by bringing up this possibility repeatedly over the last year.

The idea would be to fix my bicep tendon so it can’t pop out of place at every little thing I do.

If the surgery was successful, I would regain some use of my arm.

The fear, however, is huge.

After all I’ve been through, I can’t imagine another surgery, recovery, etc.

And, if it isn’t successful, I’m worried about ending up worse than I am now.

Being able to shoot is not optional – it keeps me sane.

The idea of another surgery is one I’m not ready to make a decision on.

It is, however, something I’m willing to at least discuss as a possibility for “someday.”

•  I want to get a service dog to help me.

This is an idea I’ve discussed with friends for a couple years now.

backpack2It first occurred to me when I saw my chocolate lab, Mocha, wanting to “help” every time I went shooting.

She was obsessed with my shooting outings, as if she instinctively knew I needed help.

Mocha, the runt of her litter, wasn’t really big enough to be much help.

Recently, I’ve reached out to Newfoundland breeders to see about adopting a dog.

Newfies are huge, strong, dogs with extremely loving temperaments.

They’re lke giant, drooling, teddy bears.

The Newfoundland breed likes to have a “job” to do, and they thrive on being with their human.

I’m looking for a pup I can train to help with my specific needs.

If it works out and I adopt a Newfie, it will probably be the most loved (and photographed) dog in Orange County.

We will see ….

I will, of course, let you know if I’m lucky enough to add a new member to my family.

Looking forward –

I’m extremely grateful to my support network.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I’m amazed at what I’ve been able to accomplish, considering where my life was a few years ago.

I’m hopeful for a service dog to assist me.

I’m optimistic I’ll make further strides over the next year.

11 Responses to “Eight Years”

  1. Missy Stalcup

    I can see your evolution in the tone and content of “Twenty Four”. Do you ever revisit posts from five or six years ago?

    • Suzanne

      I really don’t.
      It was such a bad time in my life, I prefer to not think about it.

  2. Stephen

    Suzanne, I. AM. SO. PROUD. OF. YOU!! You are an amazing human being and I feel so lucky that I stumbled across your blog and have you as a friend. You have been inspiring me for years, and I know I’m not the only one. Also, I love the service dog idea! 🙂

    • Suzanne

      Thank you Stephen.
      I feel very blessed to have “met” so many great people through this blog. You are definitely one of them. Thank you for becoming my friend!

  3. Mj

    I can’t imagine the struggle of the last eight years but I do know that you have an amazing ability to photograph bum arm or not. I do understand the anxiety in making the decision to have another surgery and what the outcome would be. That would be scary for anyone in your position.
    On a happier note…A Newfoundland puppy? Really? OMG, I would be on cloud 9 if I was able to get one so I am hoping you actually do get a Newfie puppy to help you but also because I can hardly wait to see all the great photos you take of him or her.

  4. Suzanne

    Thank you.

    Yes, a Newfie puppy!
    Aren’t they the cutest thing in the world?

    I’m talking with a breeder right now. I hope it works out and that I have a new baby in my life soon. I really think I’m ready for a new love in my life. And, of course, the help a well trained Newfie could give me would be invaluable.

    Fingers crossed!

  5. Jan's Sushai Bar

    We’ve been around the block together a few times, haven’t we? I remember quite well what your state of mind and body were six years ago – you’ve come so far, my friend. SO far.

    Is there any particular reason you’re afraid of losing Paul Newman?

    I think a service dog is a marvelous idea! Is the OC not too warm for a Newfoundland, though?

    • Suzanne

      Yes, Jan we have been “together” a long, long, time!

      I’m afraid of losing Paul Newman primarily because I’m not his “normal” patient.
      He normally sees people who are hurt, have surgery, and recover.
      Most of his patients leave within 3-6 months.

      He doesn’t normally do long-term, forever-type, therapy.
      I keep hoping he’ll make an exception for me.
      (Because I’m so special????)
      So far, he has.
      I just worry he’s going to get tired of treating the patient who never goes away.

      The OC would be too warm if I planned to keep a Newfie outside. We would keep him/her in air conditioning when it’s hot/too warm. It would be able to swim in our pool and the ocean also when it needed or wanted to cool off. I’m pretty sure I would buy him/her its very own fan too.

  6. sandi

    I am so proud of you!!! I miss you dearly and wish we could meet at Cinnamon Productions for muffin. xoxo

    • Suzanne

      I’m proud of you too Sandi.
      We’ve both had some big setbacks to deal with over the last few years.
      I think we’ve both done a good job of overcoming them!

  7. nina

    Hi Suzanne, I think it’s a great idea re getting a dog to act as your ‘assistant’…I love Newfies – BUT these gorgeous dogs simply do not have a long life expectancy. I couldn’t cope with the heartbreak. Good luck.


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