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I started this memoir when I was a patient on Unit 58, Neuro Rehabilitation, of the Foothills Medical Center in Calgary, Alberta. Sunday, September nineteenth, twenty ten I wrote these lines, Dr. Manfred von Neumann was a prick. A very capable prick but a prick nonetheless. Manny, as he was known to his peers.” I typed them into an email and sent it to myself. I had no paper. And, at that time I didn’t trust myself to be able to actually hand write and then to perserve that piece of paper intact.

The lines were a harkening back to the one doctor in Trauma 71 who pissed me off. I never knew his name. But he reminded me of a Gestapo officer. Hence the Germanic name. It was in Trauma 71 I tentatively decided to write this memoir. It occurred to me one day that people might be curious about the real workings of a hospital’s trauma unit. So I began to pay careful attention to the goings on and what was happening to me. One day I happened to mention the idea to one of the residents, an attractive blond I will call Dr. Liz. She took upon herself to go around announcing to other patients and staff that “This is Lyle. He’s writing a book about his experience here.” After that I was commited to write this missive. This memoir has gone through a number of changes since that first line was typed. And, titles. And, waning and waxing of my commitment and my ability to write.

When I began to truly write this memoir in January of twenty eleven I optimistically thought I would have it written in a year, maybe two. It’s been seven years and change. It will be done this year, God wiling.

People have asked how can you remember all the dates and events. I cheated. I have kept a journal since nineteen eighty five. I record my thoughts and what’s happening, my plans, dreams, in well times and bad times. Especially in bad times. I have always taken a copious amount of photographs which I still have as visual reminders. I even went back to FMC and took specific pictures of the different units I was on. I have retained all the emails I sent since I opened my Gmail account. Over the first five years after my car crash I recorded all my appointments on wall calendars. I still have them. But even more important I paid particular attention to what happened and what people said to me. All this has equipped me to write a true account of what happened.

But, memory fades. I still remember specific events and actual words. For example, I remember that Dr. Bouchard asked me if I remembered him from when I was in the ER. And, I remember that Dr. Coutts told me that when she first saw me in the ER she didn’t think I would make it. I remember the dreams I had when I was in a coma. But, memory fades. I remember meeting people. I remember the purpose of the meeting. I even remember approximately what was said. So, many of the words attributed to doctors and nurses are put in there mouth to facilitate the telling of my story.

I have wrestled with the giving out of actual names of medical professionals. In the end I have decided to do just that. To reveal their names because to a one they were exceedinly competent and caring. Just remember that they may not have said exactly what I am telling you they said. Don’t hold them responsible for my fiction. Instead, salute them for their competence, caring, and capabilities.

And, now the Healing Journey Begins.

An excerpt from CRASH! Memories of a Healing Journey, Copyright 2017, Lyle T. Lachmuth, All Rights Reserved


Brandi’s Bequest

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I last saw Brandi when she was swimming with me in the VRRI pool. It was over the noon hour, January sixth, twenty eleven. She made the appointment for the swim at our last session just before Christmas twenty ten.

Brandi was the Recreation Therapist assigned to me by the CAR program. I still remember the first day I met her. Blonde. Bubbly. Bold. She charged into the room and introduced herself.

“Hi. I’m Brandi. I’m the Recreation Therapist assigned to work with you. I’ve read your chart from Foothills. It tells me a little bit about you. But what it doesn’t tell me is what you like to do for recreation. What did you do for recreation before your accident?”

“Not much. Walk, occasionally. I was really depressed”, I replied.

“Then before that what did you like to do?”

“Well. Bike. Walk. I used to jog but I gave that up years ago. I used to like to hike in the mountains. Sometimes in the winter I would cross country ski. And, of course, I used to love to swim. Pretty much anything if it was in the outdoors. Though I did like to play board games competitively.” I said.

Brandi said, “As you know the goal of a Recreation Therapist is to help her patients recover their health and functioning through the power of recreation. I am going to give you some homework. Would that be okay?”

“Sure. Not doing much right now. Other than coming here.”

“Okay. Here is a list of 75 recreationally related actitivies. I want you to mark an X next to the ones you’ve done. Then I want you to indicate the ones you want to do again by putting a plus sign next to them. Got it? I want you to bring it back for our next session.”

“Okay. Got it.”, I said.

“Well. Bye for now. See you next week.” She opened the door and held it open for me.

I limped along the corridor. Pushed the door to the waiting room open. Limped to the chairs along the windows. And, waited. And, waited.

Finally a voice said, “Are you Lyle?”

I looked up into blue, blue eyes. A face shrouded in blond hair. A face clearly belonging to a middle aged woman. “Hi I’m Sue your assigned Social Worker. Why don’t I show you the way to my office.” She waited for me to lever myself up from the chair. Then set off at a brisk pace out of the waiting area and through another door.

What the hell do I need with a social worker? I thought. I limped along behind her. She turned into a door off the corridor. Her office? Yes, her office. She sat down behind a government issue desk. The office was sparsely decorated. A calendar featuring mountain scenes graced the wall. A floral print occupied another wall. And, a bookshelf crowded with books, binders, and framed photos. The top of the desk was littered with papers, a telephone, and huge Himalayan salt crystal lamp.

“Close the door please. Sit down,” she said.

I eased myself onto an upolstered arm chair. I looked for a place to put my cane where I would not forget it. I was always forgetting my cane. I finally put the cane between my knees. And, clenched my knees together.

She began, “My job is to help you with the mental health challenges of reintegrating into your life. I’ll support you in any way I can. What kind of support do you need?”

Excerpt from CRASH! Memories of a Healing Journey – All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2017, Lyle T. Lachmuth