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A Dent in the Wall


I have been staring at the dent in wall for sometime now.  It is just simple dent really.  It has to be less than 1/8th of an inch deep.  Paint still covers it.  Most people wouldn't notice the dent at the foot of the stairs.  Wouldn't give it a second glance.  Today I can't take my eyes off of it.  I guess that is because the dent was made by the top of my head slamming into the wall.


Two years ago I crashed down that flight of stairs.  This tumble, preceded by a dog in dress and me in crew socks on slick wooden bare stairs, left me with multiple rib fractures, a bloody collapsed lung, and laceration on my head that ended my days of shaving my head for fashion. .  I had a hundred plus sutures zigzagged on my skull, and I bleed out several pints of blood that needed to be replaced.  (A sincere and humble note of gratitude to all blood donors anywhere on this planet.  Your gift of blood saved my life.  You guys are heroes.)  When the paramedics arrived I was, so I am told, not really conscious and laying in a pool of my blood.  I do remember - or at least I THINK I remember, waking up briefly saying something inane like "I'm fine really.  Just help me up so I can stir the soup." before I blacked out again.  I do remember a kind and skilled paramedic who must have known me telling to stay still, calling me first Dr. Ferri then Ric, and then sternly demanding that I stop moving.  I imagine I was trying to see if I could move my legs.  I have a very fuzzy remembrance of thinking I am not cut out to be a quadriplegic.  Well so it goes.


The really odd thing about death for me is the fact that I have escaped it so many times.  Sometimes I get philosophical about it and wonder "why", but mostly I just snicker and take a quick peek over my shoulder looking for the next plane to drop out of the sky on my head. These things happen you know.


I don't remember much after the fall.  After two years it is still a haze of blood, pain, and morphine.  Actually, one of the big issues that bothers me is that I don't know what I don't know.  This time is very loosely rattled in my mind and I can't sort out fact from fuzz.  Maybe that is a good thing.  God's way of getting us through a tough time by pulling down the shades on memory. 


Here is what I do know.  I take too much for granted.  I "solider on" past these events in my life and do not give them the notice they deserve.  I am a 55-year old man with the bravdo of an impulsive teen.


When these types of events happen and people write about them many readers anxiously await for the fallen's epiphany and insight gained from such a horror.  Honestly, I have none to offer.  This lack of insight may just be trauma fatigue.  I have been through a bizarre trajectory of events where bleeding into a lung comes across as almost playful.  In a short period of time I test HIV positive, I am at the WTC on 9/11 and barely live, all three parents die within weeks of each other and out of the blue, my drinking becomes my life, my husband of 25 years, 11 months, and 3 weeks drops dead, I drink more, I get arrested, I get sober, I meet sociopaths and embrace them as friends, I get unsober, I get sober again, my lungs keep collapsing from 9/11 inhaled grit, and I am air lifted to a big time hospital in Boston, helicopter taking me to said hospital nearly crashes in route,  and so forth. 


When placed in context a dog in a dress with soup on the stove that needs stirring as I lay sucking wind doesn't seem like such a big deal.  But the point is that it should be, and that is what I need to learn.  Maybe that is why I am staring at the dent in wall.


Dents can be fixed.  Sometimes people can't, and the best you can hope for is honoring that and moving on.  I have choices.  My life can viewed as a can of lima beans on sale because the can is dinged or as a privilege of survival.  So maybe I do have insight after all, but I don't think so.  I am much too practical.  After all, who the hell wants a dented can of lima beans? 


Show Comment(s)

Comments on Richard Ferri, PhD, ANP's blog entry "A Dent in the Wall"

Thanks for putting into words what seems to be also my life experience. I'm already dented, but I refuse to be lima beans! Thanx!


Wow man you have been through a lot. I am glad that your full plate didn't break under all that weight. I hope all is getting better with you, and hope that the future brings you continuing luck. I would say buy a lottery ticket but it may jinx you by doing so . Any way take care for now and thankyou for your story.


Thank you for acknowledging and informing us that there will be no "Hallmark" moment here...that's refreshing in itself.

….Humans get dents. We get hurt, damaged and broken. We heal. That is a cold skeletal summary of our life here and now, so to speak. I empathize. It seems odd that you are still sane after so much and so all-at-once.
….I suspect that we suffer like no other species does. This indeed might be a better way to distinguish us from the 'lower' species, like our dogs. Canines in pain, in physical distress, even in agony, slip away with little fanfare to die alone or in the company of their natural predators. Can you think of animals with any greater need to belong to someone, and be with someone than our dogs? They experience pain quietly, without echoes, without trumpets. We are different – there is our upper mind – the frontal cortex which elaborates, rotates, replays, intensifies, and manipulates our simple (although frequently excruciating) pain into 'suffering'. I don't think dogs suffer, at least not the way I am explaining it or meaning it. They do not hold onto their pain and create social trauma from it. We do. Maybe, and I really mean 'maybe', instead of feeling deficient for not still suffering from these horrors of physical and mental trauma you survived, you should be at peace with having interrupted the mental processing, the remains, the echoes, the remembered pains.
….This frontal lobe processing is also of course the seat and source of our highest cultural achievements - poetry, theater, music, philosophy, law, science, service, healing and many others. The ability (or compulsion) to remember pain, embellish it, and relive it (a.k.a. suffering) is the same abilityas that which gives us to write love sonnets, to thrill at the sound of the soprano, to heal the sick and feed the poor, to comfort the dying, to think like Plato or, in other words, to be our best selves: to be human, and all that it means. I am glad however that you seem to be able to live in the good spots and let go of the suffering, as we all must learn to do. That's living well (anyone would agree) and it is to be trusted and taught to others, just as you are doing here (and very very likely elsewhere, even everywhere you go, as well as here).
….One last comment on the phrase “This tumble, preceded by a dog in dress and me in crew socks on slick wooden bare stairs...“.
First the thought of you in nothing but crew socks running down to stir the soup reminds me of the MasterCard commercials - “it's priceless” - but I won't write out the whole fantasy script [A new dress for the dog - $35; RalphLauren Egyptian cotton crew socks $18; gumbo ingredients flown in from New Orleans - $200; competent local paramedics - PRICELESS!].
Second, dude, stop putting the dog in dresses. It ain't natural: if god had wanted dogs in dresses s/he would have given them better shoulders for spaghetti straps (and isn't it forbidden along with everything else in Leviticus?).
…. Finally, thanks for the insight about your (so-called) lack of insight, the provocative observations, the images (really, you running to stir soup in nothing but crew socks, the dog clothing....) and the fact that you come back to write so often, so regular, so well. Thanks.

You've been through a lot, more than most - but you got through it because you are you. And you are you, because of what you have been through. I try to let myself feel my pain these days - I never used to. I tell myself its ok today to feel bad / sad / lonely / sorry for myself - and sometimes it takes me a really long time after the event to feel it. Really feel it.

Thanks so much for your post - I had to read the thing about the dog in a dress a few times - just to make sure it was what I thought it was....

Like I am the only one who has a medical crisis when their dog does drag? Come on now, I ain't that stupid. Bet it happen a lot more than anyone lets on.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Ferri published on February 21, 2011 1:32 PM.

"It is Never Just HIV": The debate that never happened was the previous entry in this blog.

The Wall is the next entry in this blog.

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