I started this memoir when I was a patient on Unit 58, Neuro Rehabilitation, of the Foothills Medical Center in Calgary, Alberta. Sunday, September nineteenth, twenty ten I wrote these lines, “Dr. Manfred von Neumann was a prick. A very capable prick but a prick nonetheless. Manny, as he was known to his peers.” I typed them into an email and sent it to myself. I had no paper. And, at that time I didn’t trust myself to be able to actually hand write and then to perserve that piece of paper intact.
The lines were a harkening back to the one doctor in Trauma 71 who pissed me off. I never knew his name. But he reminded me of a Gestapo officer. Hence the Germanic name. It was in Trauma 71 I tentatively decided to write this memoir. It occurred to me one day that people might be curious about the real workings of a hospital’s trauma unit. So I began to pay careful attention to the goings on and what was happening to me. One day I happened to mention the idea to one of the residents, an attractive blond I will call Dr. Liz. She took upon herself to go around announcing to other patients and staff that “This is Lyle. He’s writing a book about his experience here.” After that I was commited to write this missive. This memoir has gone through a number of changes since that first line was typed. And, titles. And, waning and waxing of my commitment and my ability to write.
When I began to truly write this memoir in January of twenty eleven I optimistically thought I would have it written in a year, maybe two. It’s been seven years and change. It will be done this year, God wiling.
People have asked how can you remember all the dates and events. I cheated. I have kept a journal since nineteen eighty five. I record my thoughts and what’s happening, my plans, dreams, in well times and bad times. Especially in bad times. I have always taken a copious amount of photographs which I still have as visual reminders. I even went back to FMC and took specific pictures of the different units I was on. I have retained all the emails I sent since I opened my Gmail account. Over the first five years after my car crash I recorded all my appointments on wall calendars. I still have them. But even more important I paid particular attention to what happened and what people said to me. All this has equipped me to write a true account of what happened.
But, memory fades. I still remember specific events and actual words. For example, I remember that Dr. Bouchard asked me if I remembered him from when I was in the ER. And, I remember that Dr. Coutts told me that when she first saw me in the ER she didn’t think I would make it. I remember the dreams I had when I was in a coma. But, memory fades. I remember meeting people. I remember the purpose of the meeting. I even remember approximately what was said. So, many of the words attributed to doctors and nurses are put in there mouth to facilitate the telling of my story.
I have wrestled with the giving out of actual names of medical professionals. In the end I have decided to do just that. To reveal their names because to a one they were exceedinly competent and caring. Just remember that they may not have said exactly what I am telling you they said. Don’t hold them responsible for my fiction. Instead, salute them for their competence, caring, and capabilities.
And, now the Healing Journey Begins.
An excerpt from CRASH! Memories of a Healing Journey, Copyright 2017, Lyle T. Lachmuth, All Rights Reserved