“That’s How I Roll” Part 1 & 2
Posted by Adam Wright on April 10, 2010
(The following was written in Winter of 2009. The piece was later published as a two-parter in The Aquinian, and got “Honorable Mentions” in the Atlantic Journalism Awards.)
That’s how I Roll – Part 1
By: Adam Wright
I woke up in the intensive care unit after more than 10 hours in the operating room. I’m not a stranger to procedures, with over 40 in my life, but this one was the biggest and the riskiest.
The week before, I was rushed to the Montreal Children’s Hospital from my home in Bathurst, New Brunswick. Upon arrival, they took blood tests and told us the startling news. My CO2 (carbon dioxide) was up to 120, which would have made an ordinary person lose consciousness… or worse. The doctors were astonished that not only I was conscious, but also coherent. My breathing has always been bad, so I’ve adapted. But with CO2 levels this high, they feared the worst.
My ribs were constricting my heart and lungs, which were causing them to fail. I couldn’t believe my ears; I was going into heart and lung failure. With my condition, they would have to do something completely different, and they will have to do it fast. The first step was to give my lungs and heart a rest by putting me on a respirator.
The intubation was done while I was awake.
I was rolled into the operating room a week later. You could feel the nervousness in the air, even though the doctors tried their best to hide it. As I went to sleep, they began this ground-breaking procedure.
As I awake, I look around. I’m groggy from the anesthesia and the pain meds, and I’m full of tubes everywhere. As my family sees me awake, a sigh of relief goes to their faces. A nurse walks over and asks. “How are you feeling? Are you in pain?”
I nod a bit. She asks me “Where?”
I can’t speak with the tube down my throat, so quickly took a glance under the blanket and I wrote groggily on a pad of paper. She reads it out-
As I grin, everyone bursts in laughter. My family shook their heads laughing. The nurses were shocked by my answer; they didn’t expect a joke after a 10-hour, life-threatening surgery. But my family knew that was so something I would say. So as I lay in bed, trying not to laugh too hard with my sore body, the tension in the room was gone. My goal was accomplished!
It’s true, at the moment where things look the worst; I come up with something to brighten up the mood. Sure my body was sore, but why complain about the obvious. Besides, I don’t care how standard it is after surgery, having that tube lunged up my manhood wasn’t pleasant either.
Living with a disability, you have to have a sense of humor. The doctors had slim hopes of me surviving two months past birth. They’ve never seen a condition like I had. Even the I.W.K in Halifax couldn’t help me. But days turned into months, and I was still alive.
My first trip to Montreal happened when I was just three months old. The Shriners Hospital welcomed me with arms wide open, despite having a condition its doctor’s had never seen before. Later in life, I was finally diagnosed… with my own syndrome.
This rare bone and muscle disorder was never seen before, and would carry my name, the Adam Wright syndrome. It consists of my muscles and bones being constricted at birth. As I grew, things got tighter, which then needed to be corrected with surgery. Tightened muscles were released in my feet, knees, hips, neck, wrists and more.
To this day, I’m the only case in the world.
For the weeks that followed, I remained in the intensive care unit. The breathing tube was still in down my throat. With no television, and practically no food, it was hell. Not to mention the lack of caffeine! I counted the day since I had my last Tim Hortons coffee.
“Can you put some coffee through this tube?” I would write.
They thought I was joking… I wasn’t.
One of the worst parts of being in a children’s hospital as an older patient is the clowns. Now don’t get me wrong, I respect what they do, but when a patient says no clowns, it means no clowns. My mom would say, “He’s too old for them”.
It isn’t the first time I’ve been mistaken for a younger kid. When I was in the tenth grade, I went to this restaurant with my older sister Tammy. When we get there, the waitress sets us up at a table. She gives Tammy a menu, but not one for me. Then she kneels down to my level, and with a patronizing voice, she asks “Do you want a coloring book?”
Tammy’s face dropped immediately. Now, I could of gotten very offended, but I smirked, looked at her and said “No, but I’ll have a beer!”
The waitress didn’t make eye contact the rest of the dinner. Poor girl!
I would have killed for a dinner, even from that waitress, after a month in intensive care. Living on Popsicles and apple juice has its limits.
After nearly six weeks, the breathing tube finally came out. Although I was still on a Bi-Pap, a ventilator mask, it was good to be able to talk again. The first words out of my mouth were, “Tim Hortons coffee please!”
Everyone laughed, again I wasn’t joking.
Then came the day I finally got to see what they did to me. Holding a mirror to my chest, I was going to have my first look at this ground-breaking procedure. The nurse slowly took off the bandages. When the bandages were off, I couldn’t help but be in state of shock.
Because my ribs were compromising my inner organs they removed some of them, along with my sternum. I saw my heart beating over my skin. I slowly put my fingers on it, and started in disbelief. Feeling it throb under my fingers for the first time was scary at first, but it quickly became really amazing. Who else can do that? Seeing and feeling your own heart is the most amazing feeling. My life literally is beating beneath my fingers.
Of course, I thought about the stares I would get with my shirt off. I already got enough stares. Young kids stare the most, because they don’t understand. They’re curious.
One time I was on the walking bridge with Tammy and Dad. As we went along, all of sudden this kid on a bike stops in front of me. He looked around seven years old. With his mouth open, he just stared. It was an uncomfortable moment.
I roll my wheelchair closer to him. He’s still frozen. I go to him and say “BOOO!” I’ve never seen a kid bike so fast in my life. Tammy and Dad burst out laughing, and I feel more than a little satisfied.
That’s How I Roll – Part 2
After two months, I was out of intensive care, but still in the hospital, Two months away from your home, it starts to get to you. Back home, my little sister Isabella was at school. I only saw her once during my time in the hospital, but I was so grateful.
My mom arranged for her to fly to Montreal, and it was a surprise. When I saw her come in the room, I immediately broke down in tears. I hugged and kissed her. I can’t imagine how much she was worrying about me when I was in Montreal, it broke my heart.
Isabella stayed with me for a week. We played video games and cards in my room. Surprisingly, there were video games in the hospital. That was a positive. I always try to find the positive.
Like there are some positives with being in a wheelchair. Great parking, no need to buy shoes every year, and no I don’t need walk up flights of stairs. The people also treat you differently. This can be a double-edged sword, as some tend to be too nice, almost condescending. I hardly do it, but it does come in handy however.
Like one summer, before a trip to Moncton, I went to Toys’R’Us to buy a new water-gun. Looking at all the different options, I ended up buying the biggest, most expensive one.
It had a blast with it in Moncton, but after the trip, I didn’t really want it anymore. I went back to Toys’R’Us to try my luck. I put the water-gun on the counter with the receipt and said “I would like to return this.”
The clerk looks at me and asks if there was a problem with it. I look down with a frown and lift my hands up.
“With my poor little hands, I can’t pull the trigger,” I said, in a broken voice. I slowly looked up, and she was already in the cash register getting my refund. I thanked her and quickly stormed out before breaking out laughing.
Ok, I know, it was horrible of me! But it’s not like I use the “pity card” often.
Three months later, and no amount of pity could get me a cup of coffee. I’m sure I once asked if they could fly me in one from New-Brunswick.
Soon after though, I was finally set to leave. When I got home, the first place I went was Tim Hortons of course, then I went back home. Finally back in Bathurst, with my family and friends.
Looking back to today to this surgery, I still get emotional. It was one of the most trying times of my life. I was so close to the end, and many times, I just wanted to give up. Getting through it would have been impossible without my humor.
Humor not only got me through that surgery, but it’s how I live my life. Sure I may seem quiet, but once you get to know me, that changes quickly. Folks who know me call me sarcastic smart ass. It’s really a big compliment.
The campus first saw that side of me last year during the faculty strike/lock-out. During the student march, I had a sign that said, “This strike has crippled my education.” I thought it was hilarious, and the best part was the reactions. It got a lot of laughs, although some were not sure if they should. I say to them, yes it is OK to laugh. That my point. It’s ok to laugh and use humor. If I can laugh at myself, why shouldn’t you.
Today, I’m in my second year here at STU, taking Journalism. I love writing. Writing to me is a form of expression, with no physical limits, prejudices, or judgments. The writer’s mind and heart is what the reader sees.
Writing is my voice to the world. In everything I write, there’s a piece of me in there. From my assignments, to my TV Column in The Aquinian (shameless plug!), the reader gets a glimpse of my personality.
A big part of my personality is my humor, as you can see. It breaks the tension, it eases the moment, and it makes people smile. Most importantly, it shows the people who I really am.
Well folks, that’s all from me for now. Thanks for reading. This is Adam Wright, and that’s how I roll