I'll never take walking for granted again. 2013 was to be my year of great musical opportunities. But, all that was put on hold on April 6 while performing in San Francisco. I did a routine leap off the stage onto a crowded dance floor. When I landed, I discovered that I had blown out both kneecaps and torn a tendon. Plus, I was locked in a squat position and couldn't get up. Fortunately, there were 3 doctors on the dance floor who rushed over, unlocked my legs and kept me from going into shock. They called paramedics, who then took me to St. Francis Med Center. On Monday, April 8, surgery was was performed to repair all the damage in both knees. It's the kind of injury athletes are prone to getting. I've heard it happening with one knee-- but two? At the same time?
"I WANNA BE AROUND . . ."
I knew my injury was serious, but I didn't realize how serious until the surgeon and his assistant visited me in my hospital room. The doctor said, "Clif, we don't want to alarm you but, the last African American patient of mine that had your kind of an injury a year ago died suddenly 4 weeks after leaving the hospital." Apparently, fatal blood clots had formed in his legs, travelled to his lungs and caused a pulmonary embolism--killing him in within minutes of his arrival at the hospital ER room. "We don't want that to happen to you, so we'll be quite aggressive in giving anti-blood clotting treatment. We wanna keep you around a little longer!" Two big thumbs way up for that last sentence!
So, I was moved to Intensive Care where I remained for the next 21/2 weeks. Both legs had full-sized braces on them. I couldn’t move my legs on my own; I needed at least one person to help me. One of those anti-blood clotting treatments involved me giving myself a shot in the stomach once a day. It was a bit weird doing it at first, but once I started thinking of my stomach as a dart board, sticking a needle in it was no problem.
The hardest part of all of this was realizing that standing and walking would be impossible for me for the next 4 months. I thought of all the gigs I'd miss, all the money I wouldn't make and the possibility of taking yet another year just to get back on my feet and get back on the gig scene. Then, I noticed that my wheelchair had a name embroidered on its backside--"breezy." "How appropriate," I thought. I wanted this season of challenges to breeze by asap! I never ever imagined me having this kind of injury. Regardless, me and Breezy did quite a bit of traveling in 2013. I returned to gigging in mid-May while still in my wheelchair! On one gig, several band members actually lifted me onto the stage--Breezy and all! It’s nice to have friends who’ll do that for you.
At home, we had to make a lot of changes. I had a ramp installed on the outside steps and used public transportation for the disabled to get around--Outreach and RediWheels. Going up and down those steps was a trip because the ramp was much steeper than what was needed! Then we had to take the doors off of a couple of rooms just so Breezy could get through the doorway. Nurses came to my house a couple of times a week for physical therapy and routine chores like bathing me and monitoring my blood pressure. They installed a "porta potty" to make it easier for me to go the bathroom. Once I got tired of that, they showed me how I could crawl by scooting to the bathroom using my arms and upper body.
My special physical therapy at Breakthrough Physical Therapy began on a weekly basis in August. In September, I said goodbye to Breezy and began to stand and do some walking using a walker. In November, I switched to a cane. And, in December, I was walking unassisted.
It's been a long road to recovery--but I'm back! And looking back, I can see that 2013 did go by fast. Focusing on all I needed to do get back on my feet made the year literally breeze by. It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, but it did turn out to be a great learning experience for me on the art of patience and persistence – 2 things that just can’t be learned in a breeze.