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My Life Before and After Quadriplegia
by Gilbert John
Many years later, way beyond my traumatic accident, it was like a dream. Waking up the next day, I could not believe I was not able to move any of my body parts like I used to. I was overwhelmed by the pain around my neck. During my stay in the hospital as I recovered from my drastic injury, I asked all of the hospital staff if they had ever come across a book about a Native American with a similar story who could be a role model for me. At that time I did not know I was the first one to think about writing this kind of literature.
First of all, I did not know where to start. I just collected the information in my mind. I learned a lot being in the hospital with a diverse population of nationalities and hospital staff. Writing this book was always on my mind. When I talked with my mom and dad they never said anything negative. But my grandma was against it because of our Indian culture and traditions. Even though I had concerns about that, the book I wanted to write was in my mind all the time. For the most part I kept it to myself. I knew that some would be against writing a book about a disabled person, for that was blocked by barriers of taboo and myth.
I had a strong idea to continue writing, a second book about a quadriplegic who lives on the Navajo Reservation in a lonely rural area, where everything is all scarce and it seems like he has distanced himself from the whole society. Where even going to get a cold glass of water to quench his thirst seems like a mile hike. Even relatives live a long distance away. This area is so quiet and calm, he can do a lot of thinking about anything. Late in the afternoon all he sees is little dirt devils that swirl around, or sometimes a stray dog or two looking for scraps of food or coming by just to keep him company. They will be around to visit for a day or two, then they go away to someone else's house. Only toward the evening time does it seem routine and not like a dream, when family members come home from work late in the evening, and all they do is cook supper and talk with one another about what happened during the day. Around that time he is tired and wants to go to bed. Seems like during the daytime he is a watchdog looking over the property, not wanting to go to sleep. If the weather is cool enough, he wants to go in and out of the house constantly to see who is out wandering around.
Before this, or maybe he is remembering:
During the day, he lies in his hospital bed hopeless and motionless. He can't move or wiggle a limb on his body, of course, but at night he believes in his dreams that he's whole again, and is able to do anything without any obstacles to get in his way or barriers to hurdle. He can go anywhere and everywhere he ever desired. This is someone who owned a 554cc Honda 4-stroke midnight-blue sparkly motorcycle, which had a windjammer shield that protected him from the wind, rain and dirt. In the story, the motorcycle is a brand new beauty that he spends most of his time washing and polishing. Its chrome sparkles in the neon moonlight like a diamond in the desert, while he rides on his reservation where he grew up as a young Navajo boy. He rides down his reservation dirt road with all the lights turned on, looking like an unidentified moving object. There's always a gentle breeze toward the middle of the summer night, perfect conditions. The kind of silent night cruising anyone can imagine, nobody around to distract them.
But in the early morning dawn, he's back in his bed in the rehab hospital and everything is frozen once again and a day nurse who just came on duty comes to his room and wakes him to do his morning vital signs. Now he's wondering if his dream was really true, because he is thinking more about the outside than life in the rehab center. Thinking about his dream, wondering if he really was out and about riding his beautiful motorcycle.
His dreams are very vibrant, and as time passes this dream becomes even more intense. At first it's just a dream and he recognizes that it was from the night before, but suddenly one night he finds himself actually walking down the hospital ward. He is fully aware that he is walking down the walkway near the turtle pond and out the entrance of the hospital. His motorcycle awaits him. Magically, it is parked in the visitors' parking area not far away from the rehab hospital. He gets on his bike and goes cruising into the neon moonlight, not knowing which direction he is going, just following the traffic. The ride becomes so real to him that he doesn't want to come back to a populated area.
He wakes up in his bed at seven in the morning in shock that his dream was not real. He thinks only of this most of the day, not noticing if anyone comes close to him. He is lying there trying to concentrate, his hair is in his face and tangled into dreadlocks. The nurse comes in and says, "Oh, I'm very sorry. I didn't position your pillow last night. You were already sound asleep in your dream world. You slept with your hair in your face, it's all tangled up."
He says nothing, but he's thinking that his hair is tangled from the ride when he was out cruising the night before. One time he comes back still wearing his helmet and black leather bomber jacket, and he has to hide it in the hospital room closet because the nurses are going to wonder where it came from.
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