Bicyclists’ “Blackbox”


Wow! Great article with an amazing outcome (apart from the cowardly driver who left the scene).

I was struck 08-20-2009 by a motorist. A Blackbox camera would’ve been a great forensic resource.

As it turned out, the guy who hit me stuck around but had embarrassingly meager automobile insurance, so it was my own (yes, mine) automobile policy’s uninsured motorist coverage that benefited me. My outcome was C7 tetraplegia (paralysis from mid-waist down), and I dutifully joined the wheelchair brigade.

I urge all cyclists to buy and wear a good helmet, ride with your heads on the swivel, ears open, and to look closely at your own automobile (yes, automobile) insurance policies. Add or increase your uninsured motorist coverage ($500K min.).

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Five Years On


A year ago, on my 4th “Accidentiversary,” and just three days after my daughter’s wedding, I wrote a quick ditty because ditty’s should be quickly written on significant annual occasions. On that day (the written-ditty day), I regretted not having done anything that involved precision event planning, caterered sterno-heated foods, lots of people, happy jocular toasting, and tears. That day, friends and loved ones made their post-wedding exits, and work encroached. That night, I resolved to mend my ways next go-round. See:

All of which brings me to today – my 5th “Accidentiversary.”

At the risk of disappointing my host of “followers,” all eight of you, who are all wondering where their invitations are, I regret to inform you there will be no event extravaganza. However, a luncheon with sweet, heroic Alice is in the works.

Feeling compelled to write something – because dittys should be written on significant annual occasions – I do so, but find my thoughts are more than just a bit jumbled. So, in scribbling, let me simply proclaim my gratefulness – perhaps a bit more potently today than at other times – for an immense company of friends who have supported and encouraged me and mine through challenging times in ways, both visible and unseen (both equally significant): Alice, Auntie Sue, Auntie Di, my eight children, one daughter in law, two sons in law, and two grandsons, the John and Betty Marvin extended clan, the Clans Smith, McFadden, and Familj Jaderberg – domestic and abroad, Uncle Sonny and Aunt Chris, the WCHS Bulldogs, Virginia Cavaliers, FCA-ers, Virginia-Beta Phi’s, Cedar Brook Academy, Joni and Friends, Bowie PCA and Wallace Presbyterian families, CRPC family, Shepherd Center and Kennedy Krieger Institute, HCGH Wound Care Center (eewwww?) – Larry and Dr. Leuthke, most notably, Facilities PLUS and Merrill colleagues, Montpelier, Elkton / Trent Road, Sandy Cove and America’s Keswick communities, and so many others.

Thanks for all you’ve prayed, endured, put up with, given, done. Impossible to catalog. Of inestimable value. Especially you, Ooli.

I thank God that He has not broken this bruised reed, He has not quenched this smoking flax. He is with me, at work to banish dismay, strengthen and uphold me with His righteous right hand, and infuse pluck and vigor through the realm. All this, despite my callous, complaining, ungrateful inclinations.

And I thank God for you all. Believe and know how grateful I truly am.

My love to you all.

Nellie and Me After PT


Stand-DogThirty-five minutes in the “Stander” (imagine being seated, then unfolded, slowly raised to a standing position, and clamped into a Nordic Track ski machine). Now resting with Nellie supervising my warm-down. A picture of me standing not likely, as my britches tend to head south in a hurry. More like a Nordic De-Pantser. Modesty prevails. Well, OK . . .

See how I get in and out at (G Rated)

Watched Stage One of the Tour de France — ridden today in the U.K. So, my 35 minutes hardly a speck in comparison to four+ hours in the saddle, but, hey — it’s how I roll now. Allez!

“Woof!” (Nellie)

Fearfully and Wonderfully Broken


On August 20, 2009, four years and five months ago, I enjoyed my last two-wheeled bike ride and experienced a real life-changer. Now a C7 tetraplegic, paralyzed from the mid-chest down, I have grown in my appreciation for God’s grace and mercy (after all, I could’ve been killed or much more profoundly injured). I have also tasted the richness of family relationships, other relationships established through the years, and the many shades of encouragement and support these friendships have borne. Living in a broken earth suit with limited physical abilities was at first very difficult as my identity, purposes, style, calling, and significance rested heavily on my abilities. I’m persuaded that independence can isolate, and that what amounts to diminished pride can be a good thing. My new normal has been characterized as a peculiar stewardship. My needs and dependence have deepened relationships with those who are close to me. And, they have brought me closer to those I knew well long ago but from whom I had grown apart. I appreciate, and can empathize more genuinely and experientially with, others who have met with deep difficulty. While I hope and pray for improved neurological function, this momentary light affliction is changing and refining me as I look to the Lord, endeavor to trust in Him, and live patiently in the “new normal.” Having once stood 6’4″, life now happens at 55 inches. Life, while at lower altitudes, is still very rich.

Father of the Bride Toast — Heidel-McFadden Rehearsal Dinner


Heidel-McFadden Rehearsal Dinner
Maggiano’s, Tysons Galleria
August 16, 2013

I was asked by Allie a few weeks ago to offer up the Father of the Bride Toast at tomorrow’s wedding reception, and had already been thinking of what I might say on this rehearsal dinner occasion.

In order to avoid being branded and ill-prepared and unoriginal public speaker, I resolved to come up with something fresh. But, some things, they say, never change and so having borrowed a bit from past rehearsal dinner remarks, I offer up my apologies in advance to those of you who were present to hear those.

Among many immutable laws of nature is this: Chuck in front of a crowd, making remarks = high probability he’ll cry. To those of you who will be unsettled by this I apologize again in advance.

This is the second opportunity I’ve had to attend a Heidel rehearsal dinner and wedding since Chip and Ellie were married and I was only a few months into life in a broken earth-suit. It was splendid to be a virtual participant through the magic of cell phones, video and Skype. Four years on, I find myself not often looking too far ahead with great certainty. So, it is doubly sweet for me to be here with you all in spirit and body, appetites at the ready.

When I first met Kenneth (a.k.a. Ken-Ken, or Ken-Ken McFab-Fab, or K-K McF-F as he later came affectionately to be known . . . even if behind his back), he struck me as a somewhat introspective, quiet man. It could have been that he landed in the midst of the Heidel mob during our mealtime tsunami. It wasn’t long before he seemed at ease, working the crowd warmly — both young and old. I observed him to be questioner and a listener. I was impressed by the range of his relationships, and his ability to dial-in to those relationships on a variety of constructive levels. More than the obligatory surface “Hey — How are you?” As he and I had opportunity to talk, I appreciated these qualities more.

In time, I came to learn Kenneth was a Virginia Tech Hokie. Perhaps not surprisingly and taking some license, in light of Isaiah 11:6 (. . . the VT Hokie laying down with the UVA Wahoo . . .), that proved to be no impediment. He even politely listened to my cover of the Univesity of Virginia Pep Band’s 1979 rendition of a Hokie-fied Ballad of Jed Clampett. See me offline if interested.

I appreciated — if only vicariously — his love for the outdoors, being active, clinging like Spiderman to sheer vertical rock faces, hurling himself out the doors of perfectly fine airplanes, and wandering around the Alaskan bush without enough bread crumbs. I noted these were things he and Allie enjoyed in common.

On one or two occasions we spoke about career alternatives in the Christian camping realm, and I appreciated his wanting to understand and carefully consider that world. I also came to see and appreciate his love for Christ and his desire (put in into action) to influence his many Burke Community Church minions accordingly.

In time he and I spoke about his affection for in Allie and his interest in having that relationship advance. I had some experience evaluating daughter-suitors. One or two of those evaluations went a bit rough early on, no doubt due to my youthful (merely) book-learned zeal and inexperience. When Kenneth and I intersected, we spoke very candidly, openly, and warmly — right? (looking directly at Kenneth) — and it was the case that his interest and intentions were in line with my paternal expectations. His respect and deference meant a lot to me then, and it was plain to see his treatment of Allie was that of a servant, not a self-server.

These conversations weren’t convenient either, as Kenneth circumnavigated the Beltway several times during or heading into rush hour traffic. He had to work hard getting to Laurel to have them.

Our culminating conversation calendared, he secretly met me in the neighborhood and drove us both to Long Horn where we enjoyed appetizers and a beer. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. He told me he loved Allie and wanted my permission to ask her to marry him. I happened to be looking down at that moment (having dropped my nacho), and raised my head to look him in the eye, and I replied, “No (emphasis on “No”) . . . prrrrrrroblem whatsoever.”

Kenneth’s face blanched a bit before regaining its ruddy swarthy color. We laughed . . . OK. Maybe only I laughed.

Our conversation then ventured in a number of directions — all at least semi-serious topics, even the smaller print “In sickness, and in health” possibilities. I appreciated those exchanges (even though he left me with the check), and was again grateful for his viewing this prospect as a servant, not a self-server.

It is sometimes true that you can judge a man by the company he keeps. So might it be said that you can judge a man by the parents and family he comes from. Recognizing the limitations of human agency, but that God ordinarily achieves His ends through means which are sometimes relationships, as Alice and I came to know Bill and Carol better, and have learned of (and now met) the siblings, I appreciate Kenneth even more.

Now onto Allie. When I first met Allie, she was very close to her mother . . . .

It wasn’t long before we were very good friends though, and her creativity, fearlessness and athleticism began to bubble up.

Hair like a Muppet, thunderous thighs, fearless in the face of stampeding chickens, consultatively pushing the envelope in play house, sandbox and dirty laundry closet hygiene, creatively combining free-fall with salad-plate landings. Later a tumbling aerialist with prehensile toes that could wring the balance beam before flipping, spinning, catapulted landings were “stuck.” Able to shag to Carolina Beach Music. A talented car radio in the driveway air guitarist and or lead vocalist (best songs were Don McLean’s American Pie and Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend). Disciplined, hard-working, and a player-through-pain. Able to adapt to circumstances: gymnast and piano student gone abroad, turned ballet teacher and church pianist. Tenacious. Dutiful: surrogate mother to 4 younger siblings while Alice and I were in Atlanta the better part of three months. A lover of Christ and the relationships He finds for her.

Through high school and off to college, her artistic abilities were honed and developed as photo-journalism met Helen Keller, River Citeeziens (Music Man), and Ariel (The Tempest).

Having grown up in a Christian family, many of her presuppositions were put to the test but emerged tempered, not torn to pieces.

And, young men began appearing on the radar.

As Allie’s father, believing I had a role to play in her relationships with these “friend-boys,” I insinuated myself into those relationships. Sadly, my involvement wasn’t always appreciated. Many times I feared that what had been a treasured father-daughter relationship would be hopelessly unraveled. But you know, God is good. He kept both of us soft. And our continuing friendship has proven to be a very favorable climate in which we would later ponder an ever more serious relationship with a certain Hokie.

Kenneth, I appreciate your determination, perseverance, respect and friendship. And I am grateful to the Lord for his work in your life. I trust and believe you will lead and care for Allie tenderly, taking as your model Jesus Christ who gave himself up for His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:25-32

Allie, I love you and am delighted for you to marry Kenneth. I have no doubt you will adorn him wonderfully. Ephesians 5:22-24

God bless you both.

Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

Dominoes, Pigs, Vacuums, and Providence Unfolded


An adaptation of some early December correspondences, and a follow up to our January 7th post of a similar name.

In August 2013, I learned that a long-present (since the Spring of 2012) sacral-coccyx (think rear end) pressure sore, to which we wheelchair-rangers are especially susceptible, had deepened to a critical point. I had been trying to manage this independently (not always effectively) before finally seeking professional wound care. In January 2013 I was prescribed Prednisone, an immuno-supressive steroid, for another condition. Over the months, the sore remained uninfected, shallow and generally “healthy.” Doctors hoped a gradually tapering dose of Prednisone, along with pressure management, would permit healing — even if slowly. Given a combination of these and other factors, several of which are mutually complicating, and despite my attempts to relieve pressure on and around the area, skin graft surgery was set for December 9th.

There were in fact three surgeries. The first was a reversible diverting colostomy, the second a same day skin-fold prep procedure, and the third, on December 17th, a final skin fold procedure. I now euphemistically refer to my surgeries derrière as a two-stage life style lift, complemented by a holiday bonus colostomy (nervous laughter).

I must tell you I was, have been, and am still occasionally quite anxious about all of this: procedures, recovery, possible complications, recovery, healthcare administration, insurance, things back home, returning to work, colostomy management, etc. Suddenly, all these anxieties, certainly understandable, were considerably louder than my oft’ proclaimed confidence that, until my time is up, God will uphold, care for, protect, preserve, heal, and deliver me. Positions easily asserted are put to the test when placed under the knife.

God, knowing our weaknesses inspired Paul who wrote to Peter Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.. And to the Philippians “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.. Centuries later, The Westminster Assembly would craft its Shorter Catechism (with which some of you may be familiar): Q. 98. What is prayer? A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

And so, I have prayed. Others have prayed and wished well. For God’s grace and favor on surgeons (two), nurses, and medical staff administering care. That there would be no surgical complications. That wounds, incisions, etc. will heal quickly, and for freedom from infection. For contentment during a long (for me) period of inactivity – away from home and during the Christmas season. That my time away from home will provide Alice rest and refreshment. That the full outworking of all these plans, events and variables will result in greater independence (self-care, mobility, effectiveness at work, etc.). That I will be back to work in January, as planned.

And God has graciously provided. Procedures have been carried out without complication. I have spent five weeks post-op in hospital and skilled care facilities convalescing. The food, though experimental, hasn’t killed me. House is still standing. Lovely heroic wife is more lovely and heroic than ever. Kids and dog are in good health. I was able to use accrued leave, so as to avoid filing for Short Term Disability. My homecoming date, once scheduled for January 15th, has been pushed back to the 18th. And, my return to work date is tentatively projected (aggressively but hopefully) as January 20th.

Hoping you’ll have found this ramble to be encouraging.

Dominoes, Pigs, Vacuums & Providence — Musings, Mutterings & Meditations on Wound Care


I recently watched the televised tipping of a single domino whose toppling triggered one of those mesmerizing extended clickity-clickity chain reactions. I thought to myself, “It took some extremely patient guy with extremely steady hands eighteen hours to set his dominoes in place, only to see them reduced to rubble in under three minutes.”

Many of us seldom give a thought to our health. When synced and operational, all systems are go. Each system like a domino, deliberately designed and placed. Their collective arrangement a yet more complex system. Each domino has a designated numeric value, a specific shape, size, weight, and occupies space in relation to all the others in an intentional, intelligent way. We may go years convinced that our physiological dominoes, intelligently designed and placed, resting on their narrow short edges, balanced with precarious centers of gravity, are somehow or another immovably anchored to the floor. In no danger of upset. Ever. During these days of wine and roses, these seasons in the sun, we are like a domino designer who doesn’t realize or who will not admit that the slightest instability within, or any energy randomly and disruptively introduced from without (an intruder), will send his finely tuned complex system into (perhaps sudden) decline.

A spinal cord injury (SCI) patient’s essential physiological dominoes are skin, digestion, respiration, circulation, and the immune system. Wound care (think skin-domino) is an ongoing concern for SCI patients. A wound’s onset is usually associated with sustained pressure and resulting lack of blood flow (think circulation-domino) to a particular area — pressure sores. Wounds can also be caused by the skin coming in prolonged contact with an unpleasant erosive, such as diarrhea — incontinence sores (think digestion-domino).

Not infrequently, wounds are located on SCI patients’ “posteriors.” Having been able to adapt to my injuries, and return to work, most of my day is spent in my wheel chair, seated. For this reason, I affectionately refer to my posterior as the “money-maker.” Over the past four years, I’ve sustained both types of wound. More recently, I’ve been on a year-long wound care quest to manage one of the second type, located in the coccyx region where the sun don’t shine. Its onset in August 2012 was in a particularly yucky way in a particularly tricky location.

After several months trying to self-manage, this rank amateur admitted the need for professional help and began to frequent the nearby wound care center (not surprisingly, my lovely heroic wife was miles ahead of in this awareness, and greatly relieved when help arrived). And, under professional care, the wound began to show signs of improvement.

Things became a bit more complicated in January 2013, when I was diagnosed with temporal arteritis, an acute inflammatory condition affecting the temporal artery (think circulation-domino), which left untreated can lead to blindness. A biopsy of my left temporal artery confirmed the diagnosis, and required an incision along my left temple where Johnny Quest met Hogwarts. My graying, rakishly Race Bannon-like hairline was soon complimented by a sporty Harry Potter lightning bolt scar.

Temporal arteritis is treated with Prednisone, an immuno-supressive anti-inflammatory steroid (think immune system-domino) of which my rheumatologist grumbled, “At its very best, Prednisone is a horrible drug” (not exactly a ringing endorsement). An intruder in my case, though the lesser of other evils, one of Prednisone’s side effects is its retarding the body’s normal healing processes, and so my wound grew no smaller. Neither, thankfully, did it grow larger. Visit after visit, the professionals would exclaim, “That is one good looking wound!” while taking a picture for the record. Over the months, my Prednisone dose tapered from the initial elephant gun 60 mg. dose, to 50, to 40, to 30, to 25, to 22.5, to 20, to 15. And so, my wound began again to grow gradually smaller.

My impression of the professionals is that they’ve never met a wound whose treatment they didn’t want to “innovate” (translated: mess around with for research and notoriety). I once had a pressure sore treated with electrical stimulation. Yes sir. Two electrodes, left buttock, on either side of the wound. To improve blood flow to the area and speed up the healing process. My picture made it into the ranks of medical text book photos. I knew I should have gotten that gluteal tattoo of a 53-tooth chain ring with “CFH Loves AMH!” in the middle.

My current wound has been filled with acellular porcine (as in pigs) skin tissue that is intended to encourage the further closing of a wound. Like a rehydrated pork rind, it was characterized as a scaffold onto which the wound bed tissue can grow and be supported. The results weren’t “Ba-dee, ba-dee, ba-dee . . . That’s all, folks!” Porky Pig fine. But I did start to snort when I laughed, couldn’t wait for truffle season, and had a strong urge to sit on a frying pan.

After unsuccessfully treating the wound using reconstituted bacon, more advanced dressing combinations and changes were the order. Even after rededicating myself to obsessively dutiful weight relief and position shifting throughout the day, these did not achieve a desired result. And so, technology took center stage.

The woundcare experts next referred me to the makers of a negative pressure pump that marries vacuum physics with an airtight seal bandage. The pump exerts negative pressure, creating a vacuum which, by way of a flexible hose connected to a specially engineered, heart-shaped bandage, draws increased blood flow (think circulation-domino) to the wound area.

I received this high-tech hickey unit on St. Valentine’s Day. Present for the reveal were my new best friends, Dave the pump sales guy, Mable, the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) R.N., and Beenie, another VNA R.N. specializing in wound care. Beenie was cheery, portly, of Asian-Indian descent, raised and educated in the U.K., and sported an East End lilt. We all paraded into my bedroom with eager anticipation. I transferred from wheel chair to bed, rolled onto my side, dropped my shorts backside to half-mast, and clinically exposed the wound. As the professionals took their places bedside, I imagined myself the subject of a new reality series “Wound Care Nannies,” or perhaps a medical drama, “SCI – Wound Care.”

Upon seeing my sacral coccyx wound, and as we discussed a wound care plan, Beenie declared, “Mr. Heidel, we’ll determine the best strategy. We will heal this wound. From your behind to my mind. A true butt-mind meld.” Her declaration, confidently spoken at the time with an evangelical tent meeting fervor, in fact has not yet come to pass.

And so, we soldier on waiting for my Prednisone dose to be further tapered, and discussing ever more seriously surgical options, followed by a weeks-long period of flat in bed recuperation. While convalescing under severe ergonomic constraints, working little if at all, and tempted to worry much, may I . . .

. . . (T)hank God and marvel I am fearfully and wonderfully made. His works are wonderful — I know that full well. I have also seen and know that one can be fearfully and horribly broken. Not what I’d have scripted. But, His ways are beyond my full comprehension. Like Aslan, He is not safe, but He is good. Though He — the Good Shepherd — appears hard to me at times and for seasons, I know He is not only good, but the fount and measure of goodness. In this season, I will seek Him, look to Him, and having failed at times, I will return to Him. Though He may have injured me, He will bind up my wounds. Though I be torn to pieces, He will heal me, for He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalms 23; 139:14; 147:3; Job 5:18; Hosea 6:1; Philippians 4:12,13; Westminster Confession of Faith 5 (Of Providence):1,4,5