For the most part I live, by choice, in a small world. I have always been a very private person. Of course that changed quite a bit 12 years ago when I became a quadriplegic. I have a nurse that comes in every morning for 2 ½ to 3 hours. She helps me with my morning hygiene, gets me dressed and in my chair ready for the day. I retired seven months prior to my accident and the greater majority of my time was spent pursuing my love of the outdoors. I still find time to continue the recreation activities that I love. But almost anything I do now has to involve others and it’s still hard for me, at times, to ask for help. Much of my time now is spent on the computer writing blogs and placing information on my website. My wife calls me a “mouse potato”.
Last week I got an e-mail that awakened me to a harsh reality. The sister of a friend had given my name to a friend of hers, who had a friend, who in turn had a friend whose husband had broken his neck while in the water off a beach in Hawaii. He had been stabilized and they were looking for information about rehabilitation hospitals on the mainland. I did all I could, giving information, sending information and offering myself as a resource. I was shocked to find out their insurance did not cover an air ambulance flight to return them to the mainland. If she could secure a large amount of money the plane would come then. His wife was overwhelmed, struggling to try and get the money together and make the decision of selecting the best rehabilitation hospital.
This event awakened some frustrating and painful memories for me. I also broke my neck while standing in waist deep water. I had to be transported by boat from the island of St. John which had no hospital, to the island of St. Thomas. As I fought for my life in the hospital my wife was in shock trying to make arrangement for my return to the US mainland. The air ambulance refused to leave Florida until my wife had $15,000 in hand. We had a Visa card with a line of credit of $5000. We always paid our entire monthly bill on time and saw no reason for a higher line of credit. Even though she contacted the emergency number on the card, they were unwilling to increase our line of credit after hours. If we had had a platinum or gold card the plane would have come right away. If you get nothing more from this blog, know that you should not leave the US mainland without a platinum or gold credit card. Thirty-six hours later I finally arrived at the hospital in Syracuse New York. The next six months until we returned home remain like a foggy dream to me.Unknown to most vacationers there is a condition that exists on many islands and some mainland beaches called Shore Break. This hazard is created by the configuration of the ocean bottom leading up to the beach. When conditions are right, such as wind direction and wave speed etc. waves can break very close to the shore and in a vertical (straight up and straight down) direction. Anyone caught in that type of wave risks the possibility of serious injury. This condition exists on many of the beaches in Hawaii and a law in Hawaii requires warning signage be posted on all beaches where Shore Break exists. One of the dangerous things about Shore Break is that it is undetectable by the untrained eye. There are several beaches in the Virgin Islands where no signage warnings exist. If you were going to be in the surf make sure you research your beach before you go.
The terrible experience of this husband and wife I’d never met was a gut wrenching reality check for me. Scenarios like this are taking place a umber of times every day. Why must all these additional demands be placed on somebody who is already facing a catastrophic challenge? We live in the United States of America. Why must anyone want for assistance at a time like this? Members of our government would never find themselves in this situation. Why should anyone else? Why shouldn’t every person in America have the same care available to them that is available to our members of Congress? Why should anyone far away from their home who has suffered a catastrophic accident have such additional demands placed on their shoulders? What are we missing here?