I am certain all of us have thought at one time or another: When a health crisis comes into my life I will certainly be able to come back from it – better than ever! This thought was present in my thinking over the years as I trained as a runner and athlete. I felt that in the event of a major crisis befalling me, I would not only survive the event but come back better than before!
This hypothesis was finally presented to me in a “real world” moment when I was struck by a very large pickup truck while beginning my ride to the upper new port reserve on July 24, 2019. The truck made a left turn, crossed two lanes of roadway and slammed into me on the upper right torso sending me flying 25 feet in the air where I landed hard on my back and head on an access road to Placentia Ave.
The impact was so hard and so violent that I was totally unaware of what had happened to me. I remember seeing the large GMC red letters and the grill prior to the impact but little about the actual aftermath of the collision. I was in agony and knew I was badly injured. I was just not sure how much damage had been done by the collision.
The paramedics arrived in a relatively short time and began assessing my condition. They could see where I was in pain but little else was evident on the surface that would allow them to make any further decisions regarding what to do next. The decision was made to transport me to a trauma center where I could be more thoroughly examined for any internal injuries and subsequent treatment plans initiated.
The Trauma Center
I had never before been in a hospital or treated for a major injury, so this experience was all new territory for me. I was 3 weeks away from my 73rd birthday and knew I had survived a major life-threatening moment, but little else beyond the major pain I was experiencing on my right side and ribcage.
The trauma team picked up the evaluation and diagnosis of my condition upon arrival 15 minutes later at the ER. I was happy the paramedics had done such a thorough and careful job in treating me in the field as they comforted me the whole way to the center.
Anthony (my accompanying paramedic) provided little tests for me en route in order to measure my cognitive and neurological capabilities and seemed satisfied that my head had not suffered any major injury. My helmet had saved me from a significant injury. I later saw the back of the helmet after being admitted to the trauma center. It had been completely cracked which saved my skull from serious damage and my brain from possible long term injury!
The first comment I remember hearing the trauma surgeon say to me was how strong and conditioned I looked. That one fact may have played an important role in helping minimize the damage that could have been done during the collision. I was given pain medication starting with morphine for which I was most grateful.
The team proceeded to asses my medical history (which of course I had none) and begin the process of discovering if there was any internal injury, bleeding, organ damage, bone loss or breakage. X-rays proved insufficient so I was given a cat scan, which revealed the real injury I had suffered: 8 broken ribs on my right side and a surprisingly healthy picture of bones, joints, spinal column, organs and brain activity! My ribs were my “saving grace”. How strong they must have been to absorb such an impact!
The surprise for the trauma team was that I had been struck “flush” on my right side of my body by a giant truck while accelerating, thrown 25 feet from the point of impact while sustaining “only” 8 broken ribs! The miracle here is that with anyone else of my “age” there would have been severe consequences on BOTH the skeletal and neurological systems that would most likely have been regarded as life-threatening.
The team KNEW that I had dodged a bullet but could NOT fully explain HOW I emerged so fortunate in terms of long term injury and damage. The surgeon visited me on two occasions to check up on me and was most gracious and helpful while re-emphasizing the role my conditioning and strength had played in helping me avoid a permanent life-altering outcome.
The whole experience in the trauma center was made easier for me by the constant attention and care I received from the nurses and entire staff during my 4-day stay. They finally concluded on the fourth day that I could be released and given one last prescription for pain medication since I would be capable of caring for myself – even though I lived alone.
The physical and occupational therapists had to evaluate my condition and approve my release, which left me nervous since every time I moved it created chest spasms that were quite sharp and painful. Sleeping was an issue since my ribs were broken, so mostly I was on my back when I finally slept.
The clearances from both therapists came on Friday and I was scheduled for release on Saturday at noon. I was so grateful to all the professionals who treated and cared for me – they were truly my angels! I will NEVER forget them!
My stay in the trauma center had shown me that I WAS strong physically – and resilient mentally and emotionally. I had adapted to a new world requiring me to “come back” from the very thing that I had thought about over the years: MY life crisis!
Now I would face the fight of my life for I knew that it wasn’t just my body that would need healing, but my mind, heart and spirit as well. The test for my theory of being fit mentally, physically, and spiritually had begun with the impact of the truck on my ribs. I would now enter a new phase with my release from the trauma center. The unknown waited for me and I was scared!
I hope through the telling of my story you (the reader) will begin to see the complexity of life in a new way (and on a new level) and begin to appreciate the necessary importance of “taking care” of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually (your belief systems and values) each day of your life. Life is a gift – as is today – and what you choose to do with it is entirely up to you.
I will make the point in this series that fitness matters and getting weaker and deconditioned over time can cost you your life prematurely. I didn’t know it would take 73 years for me to arrive at “my story” but here I am anyway. I am convinced that through the insights I have gained – and am gaining each day – that it matters that I share them with you.
The articles to come will build a narrative for you that will illuminate some important “truths” that I have discovered – or will discover as I go through this process. I am not sure of my own future but one thing I am sure of is that this moment in time is critical for me and what I choose to do with it matters – to ME.
I hope I can make a meaningful difference through writing for you and sharing what I have learned (and will learn) with you my reader. The journey of life is just that – a journey of discovery. It is NOT a destination but of becoming. It is my hope we ALL become better – and healthier and fit – human beings as a result of what I started here today.
This is Part 1 of 3. Part 2 coming Friday!
Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach and fitness professional with over 25 years of experience. His passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii, where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.