Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What About Research?

Someone asked me if I've been to the Rutger's Keck Center, here in NJ, in response to my recent blogs. The Keck Center is dedicated to finding a cure to paralysis. Dr. Wise Young is the Founding Director, and holds open house sessions, where he gives updates on their latest research. Dr. Young also pioneered a SCI research program in China, due in part, to all of the restrictions and set-backs in the field, here in the USA. I've been following his work since my accident.

Here is what I wrote, in response to the suggestion to attend Dr. Young's lectures:

I haven't been to the Keck center. I live in Freehold, which is not far from Rutgers, and would really like to go. Every time I've considered it, it somehow falls through. I try to keep up to date with "cure" info through the Care Cure forums & other websites, like the CDRF. I have a lot of respect & gratitude for Dr. Young and other researchers in the field. I'm just at the point where I can't see any practical implications for myself. I'm sure people will not have to suffer from paralysis, some day, and that's certainly worth fighting for. I just don't think that there's much probability that, that "someday" will be anytime soon.

I've always been a planner. I thrived on organization and time management, and owe a lot of success to those skills. In college, I wrote papers weeks before they were due. As a teacher, I would plan out my entire sequence of lessons, for the year, for each grade level (I taught art, grades1-5), in August. In fact, the Friday before my accident, I had been working on lesson plans for an "art night" exhibit that I was planning for what would have been the following year. I still have file folders in my file cabinets, marked "2005, 2006, & 2007" with projected budgets and vacation plans. It's my planning that kept me focus and gave me the peace of mind in always knowing (or so I thought) what was around the next corner. Having control (or the illusion of control) reduced my stress, because I always felt prepared. Unfortunately, it's those rigid, perfectionist type qualities in me, that make is so hard for me to deal with my accident. I went from being a borderline "control freak", to having almost no control over my life, whatsoever. Learning to "go with the flow" has been a tremendous struggle for me. My accident shattered the illusion of control, I thought I had, and opened my eyes to the reality, that all the preparation, planning and effort in the world meant nothing, at the end of the day. Most people can't even begin to grasp the reality of how fragile their lives are, because it such a scary thought. It forces us all to realize how powerless we are, to so many aspects of life.

Not knowing, when, or if I'll ever be cured, is terrifying. The prospect of living like this for decades is unacceptable, to me. It's funny (well, to me, and my warped sense of humor) but, I can remember setting a sort of "time line" for myself, during my stay in Kessler. Ten years, has been the limit, in my mind, since that day. I thought, "I'll try my best to be strong & give myself ten years, to be patient and see what science will bring. If they do find a cure, I'll still be young enough to fulfill my dreams, and if not, I'll have given enough to feel satisfied with my effort." As morbid, or crazy as that time line might seem, it has served as a light at the end of the tunnel for me, and given me something somewhat tangible to deal with. I guess, it's been my way of giving myself the illusion of control over my life, even though, deep down I know anything could happen. Having a limit, gives me a tiny bit of comfort. Although I don't have a specific game plan, for what will happen when I hit that ten year marker, it's just my attempt at creating a goal, that I can focus on. Here I am, at the halfway point, of my illusionarytime line, and I don't feel as though researchers are realistically any closer to curing me, than when I was injured. It makes me feel like there's a very bleak future awaiting me. Without a cure, that means I'm stuck living with what I have now. What I have right now, doesn't seem nearly enough, to want to keep struggling, for any huge length of time. Even the thought of five more years, seems near impossible to me, at the moment. Yet, if I knew 100% that, let's say, on June 1, 2018, at 3:00pm, I'd be up and moving, and caring for myself again, I know I'd have the strength to hang in there. Even the worst criminals get a definitive sentence, and know what to expect of their fate. Right now, as far as I know, I've been given a life sentence. My sentence could potentially be shorter, but no one can give me concrete answers, and the current conditions are horrible.

I realize, I'm looking for answers that no one can give. I know that no advice will solve my dilemma. I don't really know what it is I'm seeking, in terms of help. Honestly, I just want some one to save me, and make this all go away, or for me to wake up, and still have it be the morning of June 4th, 2005. I know that's not going to happen, but I guess, I also want the average person to hear my pain, and stand up and fight for me, and everyone else with paralysis. I want people to open their eyes, and change their priorities (by putting finding cures and alleviating suffering at the top of their lists).

Related links:

1. Keck Center- http://keck.rutgers.edu/center/center.html

2. Just A Dollar Campaign- http://www.adollarplease.org/

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