Saturday, February 19, 2011

For Aaron

One year ago today, you found yourself lying in the intersection of Fairview and Mercer, having just been hit and thrown off your Ducati motorcycle by a car that blew a red light. You immediately knew your leg was broken.

What you didn't know was the full extent of the damage you suffered in that moment of another driver's carelessness: three fractured vertebra in your neck, two fractured vertebra in your lower back, a fractured tibia and fibula, a torn ACL, PCL, MCL and meniscus, a concussion and a lacerated liver.

The nurses weren't joking when they told you to lie still at the hospital. You were extremely lucky that you weren't paralyzed, or worse.

You had just gotten into running, going out for regular five-mile jogs and lifting weights. You were just about to start a new job. You had to trade both for a leg brace, crutches and $150,000 in medical bills.

You spent four months off your feet, letting your devastated leg heal. You crutched, wheelchaired and scootered around everywhere. Sometimes, your roommate carried you to make things easier.

A knee surgery repaired the ligaments in your left knee, but the knee still alternates between aching, hurting and going completely numb on any given day. It will never be the same. You will never be the same.

By the time I met you, you were walking around just fine and starting to ride your bike — as in bicycle — again. Your motorcycle was totaled in the accident, and you thought it best to stay off motorcycles for a while. I had no clue you'd been injured so seriously several months earlier.

I had just run my first 5K, and you told me that you didn't think your knee could handle the impact of running. Again, not knowing the extent of your injuries, I said you wouldn't know until you tried.

So you tried. You ran your first 5K in late October, and you absolutely smoked it in 23:32 (7:35 pace). Your knee hurt, of course, but you ran farther and faster than you thought you could.

So you kept going, joining me on runs around Green Lake and along the Burke-Gilman trail. You started riding your bike to work more often than not, putting in some serious miles thanks to the 15-mile round trip each day. Your legs became strong again — really strong — after so many months of being unable to use them. You put most people with perfectly fine knees to shame.

At Christmas, my mom asked us to go around the table and talk about a few things we were thankful for in 2010. My brother said he was thankful for finding a job; I said I was thankful for paying off my debt and for getting into running. The first thing you said was, "I am thankful to be alive."

Here you are, one year later, alive and well and then some. You just ran a sub 22-minute 5K at a pace that I can't even fathom running. You're planning to ride your bike down the entire Washington-Oregon coast this summer. You even have your eye on a marathon.

You've come a long way from Fairview and Mercer.

I'll never know what it was like for you to wonder if you'd be able to walk, run or ride again. I only know that now, you're seizing every opportunity you have to push yourself, physical obstacles be damned, because you can.

The biggest obstacle I have to overcome before I go running is my natural inclination to lie on the couch and eat cheese all day. You, on the other hand, never hesitate when I ask you to run with me, despite your bad knee.

You didn't even blink before agreeing to run into freezing Lake Washington on New Year's Day. Barely a moment passed between the time that I, on a seven-mile run, asked you if you'd like to run eight miles instead, and you replied, "Sure!"

I was a total wimp on that run, by the way, and you never complained once. You helped me keep going when I thought I couldn't. You inspire me to be a doer, not just a talker, and to make the most of these healthy legs I have because I may not always have them.

It would be so easy for you to sit at home, be inactive and blame it on that terrible accident, but you don't. You know that life is too short and too precious to give it anything less than your all.

It would be so easy for you to spend your days being angry and resentful, wishing things had been different a year ago. There are some things you just can't change, but you are always in control of how you live your life each day.

My hope is that you will keep moving forward, pounding the pavement and pedaling to wherever it is you want to go, and all those things you can't change will fall quietly behind you into the distance.

I am so proud of you, Aaron. This is your life. Keep living the shit out of it.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, your writing is incredible and what memories you stirred up in me. You brought me to tears reading this Devon. As Aaron's mother, the pain in my heart was as severe as the pain Aaron went through (different pain of course). At our table at Thanksgiving, I too could only say that I was thankful Aaron was alive. He is amazing, strong, grounded, and always lives his life making the best decisions and living it to its fullest. I could not be prouder or more thankful that he has made of his health and life what he has today.

    Thanks for the story - I am going to save this. I would like to send this into NW Running Magazine so others could read it. You are both amazing, wonderful and inspiring. Thank you. hugs.


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