May 11, 2008 – About two years ago, I died on the operating table – technically, a few times.
My camera crew, Paul Douglas and James Brolan, and a young army captain we were following, lost their lives, as did an Iraqi translator, killed by a massive car bomb.
One of the hardest parts of healing, I’ve since learned, wasn’t learning to walk or run again – it’s been catching everyone else up with the journey from victim, to survivor.
I can’t really blame them.
These pictures of me create a lasting impression, so loved ones and coworkers have had a hard time knowing when to stop coddling me. If you’ve ever had a trauma victim in your family, you know what I mean.
Doctors have found the key to recovery is attitude, from the moment you open your eyes in that hospital bed.
A Navy Seal put it best, in a note he posted on his Bethesda Naval hospital door. It read: “I’ll have a full recovery – that’s the utmost physically my body has the ability to heal. Then I will push about 20 percent further, through sheer mental tenacity. If you’re not prepared for that, go elsewhere.”
In other words, leave your pity at the door.
I think the other assumption some people have about trauma patients, and combat troops, is that we’re scarred for life in our heads and hearts. Even some friends assume I’m plagued by nightmares and flashbacks, all the symptoms of the dreaded post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Newsflash: You can go through hell and end up with some of those symptoms, yes, but you can get rid of them. It’s not a life sentence.
Dispelling the flashbacks for good can be as simple as talking about them, saying out loud, “Yeah, that shooting/bombing/car crash gave me some nightmares. I keep remembering it, feeling the blast like it’s happening now.”
When people who are haunted by these things DON’T talk about them, that’s when the problems start.
How did I avoid getting PTSD? I talked my head off, and then I wrote everything I could remember.
Even if you went through hell, trust me, you can leave it behind. I’m living proof.