“Being paralyzed was a fact I couldn’t deny but didn’t let my mind admit.” A powerful exploration of navigating physical disability.
In this lyrical account, Linnell (Emeritus, Theatre and Dance/Univ. of New Mexico; Walking on Fire: The Shaping Force of Emotion in Writing Drama, 2011) examines the seemingly mundane accident that rendered him a quadriplegic at age 70—and the aftermath of coping and rehabilitation. The author opens with a family vacation in remote Baja, Mexico, in 2012, when he was in his final year as a professor. Stepping off a porch at their rental house, he fell down and destroyed his body. Drama builds early as the family tries to locate an ambulance, arranges an airlift to Albuquerque, and then maneuvers him to a spinal cord rehabilitation center in Denver. The positioning of the broken bones meant that he would likely remain a quadriplegic. However, Linnell also learned that he had an approximate two-year window during which he might regain some of his mobility. Any reader who has experienced protracted therapy for a paralyzing injury, or has watched somebody else experience such an ordeal, will recognize the universality of Linnell’s saga even if the particulars differ. Understandably alternating among determination, hopelessness, optimism, and depression, the author rejects the label of courageous. The real heroes, he writes, are his wife and the doctors and therapists who assisted him. Every chapter is filled with memorable analogies and metaphors, making Linnell’s journey to partial recovery a pleasurable intellectual experience for readers despite the horrors, fears, and winding mental path through rehab. “I fear I will be cut loose,” he writes. “This fear grows from a train of thought that says accident is punishment. I will be discarded; every face will greet me with a dismissive pity.” Because the author was able to visit with other patients in the rehab division, readers will also learn about the variations in spinal cord trauma. Following his departure from the hospital, the narrative focus shifts toward his wife, who battled the daily challenges of helping him at home.
A stunning account.