An Injured Writer

In my About Me series of blogs there is one called My Football Life that discusses some of the injuries I sustained in my teenage years while playing what is admittedly a violent sport. SPOILER ALERT: Over the course of my football career I tweaked (a mild hyper-extension) a knee, twisted an ankle pretty badly, received two concussions, shattered my left elbow, and broke my left wrist in three places. Doesn't sound pleasant, does it? Well, it didn't feel pleasant either!

But all those injuries happened many years ago and have since healed. Sure, there is a significant amount of arthritis that has developed in my elbow and wrist from their respective injuries that plague me still but it is typically in the form of stiffness if the weather changes abruptly.

But this blog is not about those injuries. This blog is about the injuries that I have managed to receive since becoming an adult, specifically those sustained since beginning my journey as a writer and how those wounds have impacted my writing.

Thanks to my decision to do a lot of my rough draft writing in Microsoft OneNote, each chapter of each book is marked with a creation date automatically. This allows me to look back, regardless of how much time has lapsed, and see how long each book took to be written. (You can actually find a breakdown of each book's creation duration in another blog - How long does it take me to write a book)

As I look back at those dates, I can see the influences of my more recent injuries in the lengths of time certain books were written. A prime example is my first book, The Ascension Legacy - Book 1: The Shamed Ranger. I started writing this book in 2012 but did not finish it until 2016. It took me over four years to complete that book, the longest duration of any of my books to date to go from start to finish. However, it was during this period that I suffered one of my gnarliest injuries to date.

It was Spring 2012, May to be more exact. I don't recall the specific day of the month or even which day of the week but I was at my 3rd son's soccer practice. It was likely a Wednesday because at the time, my wife and I were divorced, I was married to another, and I took my son to soccer practice most Wednesdays as a result of that situation. He practiced other days of the week and depending on the schedules for our other kids, I would take them to practices on other days too as my wife and I co-parented pretty well but I still feel like this was a Wednesday practice though I can't be certain after all these years.

The team was doing a small inter-squad scrimmage, meaning the team divided into two groups and was playing each other for practice purposes. One squad was a person short so I volunteered to help. It was not uncommon for me to help out in practices, to help run drills with the kids, practice with the kids, or whatever. I was still pretty active back then and in decent shape. In fact, I was one of the few parents who would stick around during practices so the coaches would often ask me to participate or to help.

Well, on this day, the ground was a little damp. It had rained the day before pretty good which meant there were pockets of soft ground still to be found. As we played soccer, I ran up and down the pitch with the kids, trying my best to keep up with them but not really knowing much technique since their soccer experience was my only soccer experience too.

And then it happened.

A deflected shot came my way. I collected the ball and began dribbling down the field. As the defending players caught up to me, I positioned myself to pass the ball across the field to a teammate. I planted my left leg. I swung my right leg across to boot the ball to my left. I swiveled my hips as my leg swept across my body.

The plan was for my left leg to swivel with the motion but my left foot had become stuck in a pocket of mud. My heel did not lift. My toe did not turn. My left leg remained locked in place as all 6 foot tall, 225 pounds of me swung to the side. There were some loud POPs in my left leg just before I was sent crumbling to the ground. I had collapsed fully down onto my left ankle. My left leg had folded underneath me as I awkwardly fell.

I sprang back up in an instant, partly from the shock of the pain and partly because I didn't know what had happened. I tried to walk off the field so the boys could continue to practice but immediately realized that walking normally was not an option. There was a significant amount of pain coming from my left leg when I tried to put my weight on it. I thought perhaps I had just twisted my ankle and continued to hobble out of the way.

After later going to the ER, several different specialists, multiple X-rays and MRIs, it was determined that I had shredded every muscle group in my ankle, bruised my heel bone by my free-floating ankle bone slamming down into it when the muscles that held my ankle in place exploded, twisted my knee, and torn a ligament in my knee. Oddly though, the torn ligament was torn lengthwise and not width-wise. This turned out to be an important distinction because my health insurance would not cover a surgery to repair the type of tear I had, meaning that I was left to live with a torn ligament that would never heal on its own and could randomly snap in half at any given moment or never. My knee is like a jack-in-the-box. Every step may be hiding a surprise that will jump out and shock me but I have no way of knowing which step that might be.

That process of doctors, tests, etc., took me nearly two months. During that time, I was still trying to work, to drive, to participate in things with my kids. It was super painful because nobody knew the extent of my injuries and some of the first doctors I went to failed to properly diagnose the issues, leaving me with the false impression that I could still be doing what I was doing.

Needless to say, I was still experiencing substantial amounts of pain during this time and was in no mood to do any writing. Technically, I had not started writing at this point but it was something that I had been considering. This injury delayed that start because I could not focus on anything but the pain until a few doctors later we uncovered the full extent of my injuries.

By the end of June, I had been commanded by my most recent doctor to not drive, not walk, not wear a shoe on my left foot, and to pretty much stay at home with my leg elevated for the next two months while taking some powerful pain medications. I continued to work during this time but between work, the pain, the pain meds, and still trying to be part of a family, my writing adventure's start remained delayed.

In September of that year, I was allowed to return to work but had some serious restrictions on my physical activities. These restrictions and the progress in my healing allowed me to finally start my writing. At first, the writing was slow. I scrapped and restarted several times my earliest attempts at starting. I was still trying to find my writing style and refine the story's introduction. Eventually, I settled on an approach that I felt fit me and the story.

Progress was still slow however. For the last few months of 2012, I was physically restricted in several ways but work and family still limited my writing. As we moved into 2013, my physical therapy began to rebuild my injured leg and muscles. I would end up going to three different physical therapists off and on for nearly two years before my leg was considered fully rehabilitated. Going to PT multiple times a week every week for months did not help my writing. I can't say that it hurt it but it certainly did not do much to create more opportunities for me to write.

It was not until after I had finished all of my therapies and had been given a full release by the doctors that I started to find more time to write. Of course, during this period I also went through a divorce, lived alone for a spell, and began traveling for work more. All of those things also created more time for me to write.

Between 2017 and 2019 though, I had an explosion of writing. I wrote a total of seven, yes 7, books in that period. I was healthy. I was happy. I was traveling a great deal for work. I had loads of quiet opportunities in which I could focus on my writing and nothing else. There were even many days where I was home and could write because everyone was gone to school, jobs, or whatever and I could write in peace.

And then came 2019.

By 2019, my first wife and I had remarried. Our time apart and in other relationships made us realize how much we cared about and missed one another. It was and has been a happy reconnection that we continue to share and appreciate still. Our kids were happy. We were happy. Our families were coming around to it. Things were looking up. I had been accomplishing a lot of writing. I had started the publishing process for The Ascension Legacy - Book 1: The Shamed Ranger with Newman Springs Publishing with an expected release in early 2020 (that would later be delayed to mid-2020 due to issues on both sides of that deal).

My wife and I bought a new house in 2019. We moved in the weekend of July 4th. Our youngest son's baseball team, that I helped coach, was in the state play-offs the following week. We went to the tournament, enjoyed some success, but ultimately ended up getting knocked out before the championship rounds. It was a great experience but during that tournament I suffered another setback.

During our son's team's playoff run, I spent a great deal of time in the batting cage warming up players before each game. The team had 4 coaches but our main coach was also being treated for cancer, a vicious, unfair disease that would later claim his life sadly. His diagnosis and treatments prevented him from being very active in the hot Texas sun which meant the rest of us were in charge of getting the boys ready to play. One worked with the pitchers and catchers. One worked with fielding. I worked the batting the cages.

Over the course of the 3 days we stayed in the tournament, I estimate that I pitched somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 to 2,500 balls. At some point around Day 3, I started feeling an intense pain in my right shoulder. I was struggling to fully raise my right arm, to throw with any real force, and pretty much everything on that side hurt. For the next few days after our elimination, I found it difficult and painful to move that arm. I suspected that I had pulled a muscle in my shoulder or something and it just needed rest.

Fast forward to October of that year. I was out in our front yard with my youngest son and my nephew who is the same age as that son. They were throwing the football around and asked if I would throw them some balls so they could practice running routes and defending receivers. I made a few throws and then came a pop in my shoulder. I dropped my right arm down to my side, declared my involvement over, and rushed inside the house to find an ice pack.

Days passed and my arm did not feel better. I contacted my primary care physician who referred me to another doctor who referred me to another doctor. The process of bouncing between doctors took a couple of weeks but each of the doctors recognized that my injuries were beyond their scopes of treatment and escalated me to the next level of specialist. It was a necessary process but one that took time, time that was painful for me but had to be done.

After nearly three months of doctor visits, scans, shots, drugs, etc., it was determined that I needed surgery. I had torn the ligament that my shoulder rotates on in the socket in several places, torn some cartilage in my shoulder, partially pulled my bicep off the bone, and my shoulder blade had some bone spurs that were digging into and tearing the muscle in my shoulder ever so slightly.

Needless to say, throughout this period of time my writing was an absolute minimum. It hurt to move my right arm, to prop it up on my desk or keyboard, and simple tasks such as typing or pressing buttons on a game controller still caused me a great deal of pain. Even with the drugs I was given, working on my computer or iPad was very uncomfortable and could only be tolerated in small increments that I needed for my job which meant I couldn't tolerate it enough to do any writing.

In January of 2020 I had surgery on my shoulder and arm to fix the many issues. Exactly when each injury occurred and under what scenario was still open to debate but I felt confident that the foundations of the injuries, if not the injuries themselves, stemmed from the play-off tournament and the few minutes in the yard with the football was just the straw that broke that camel's back.

After my surgery, I was in a sling for several weeks unable to utilize my right arm. It should go without saying that no writing took place during this period but for the sake of clarity, no writing took place during this period. And as with my leg before, I spent about 3 months in physical therapy after things had healed enough to come out of the sling.

Still, not much writing was being done. My arm was sore for a long time going through PT. Between work and PT, I didn't do much writing so that I could give my arm a rest. By the summer of 2020, my PT had ended, I had been given a full release by my doctors, and my arm was starting to feel normal again. Of course, we had a few other things going on like the COVID lockdowns, our 3rd son and his wife moving to California, a nephew joining the Army, three pregnancies within the family, the release of my first book, and my second book starting its journey to being published. It wasn't until the end of 2020 that I was able to resume writing.

That writing window was brief too, only lasting about a year. I had managed to finish one book during that time and start a few others but my lack of focus kept me from making much progress on any of them. Then came the birth of our first great-niece followed by the birth of our second great-niece followed by the birth of our first grandson. We were spending time with our growing family, attending baby showers, sitting around at hospitals while they were in delivery, visiting with the newborns, and just in general oohing and awing over each precious baby. We also celebrated the marriage of our 2nd son, our nephew's graduation from Army bootcamp, and our youngest son starting his senior year of high school. We just seemed to have a lot going on that distracted from my writing (not to mention my post-grandson birth addiction to Apex Legends).

I spent much of the next year between mid-2021 to mid-2022 being a devoted working and family man during the day and a dedicated gamer during the night. It wasn't until mid-2022 that I started to think about my writing again. I used my iPad while I watched TV with my wife to make notes and do research for some of my stories. I wasn't creating content exactly but I was trying to do more prep work than I had in the past to build a more complex and involved world for my new books. I was trying to grow as a writer and evolve my writing style into something bigger and better.

And then it happened (again).

November 2022 saw me working on multiple projects for my job with one being really demanding compared to the others. I spent an entire weekend working 17-18 hours a day each day from Friday through Monday. After that intense period of time, my right arm began bothering me again. I feared I had aggravated my old wounds and tried to find ways to adapt to let that arm rest but the pain continued. Eventually, I was forced to go back to the doctors again for more MRIs and tests only to discover more torn tissue in that arm. This meant more "take a break", "rest that arm", "take these meds", and "get some PT" that has now bled into 2023 and continues to limit my amount of writing.

Getting old sucks! Getting injured sucks! Being a writer that is getting old and injured really sucks!

I have plans to resume my writing in earnest in 2023 but it all hinges on me being able to stay healthy long enough to accomplish that goal. Only time will tell. Here's to 2023 and hoping that I may find time, opportunity, and health to achieve my writing goals.

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