Saturday, April 9, 2011


This week I achieved two, count 'em, two TRIUMPHANT EVENTS 

it may not seem much to you! But;
I spent all my life as an extremely self confident and highly gregarious extrovert. I have never been shy and speaking in front of a large audience is something I not only enjoy. But have actually sought out. At age 10 I bought a second hand guitar and taught myself to play. By age 13 I was playing in on stage in bars (had to lie about my age). And as a member of a rock band, composed of myself and 3 shipmates aboard the USS Parsons (DDG-33) where I performed on stage in front of thousands, all over the Western Pacific, I never once experienced STAGE FRIGHT...

So, on the face of what I am about to tell you, this mayn't seem such a big triumph. But after spending 4 years confined to a hospital bed, one of those years, paralyzed from the neck down. When I was finally able to bend my arm enough to reach up and scratch my nose, I called my wife into the room so I could show her what I was able to do. We celebrated that event. It was the first milestone in my recovery process.
This last Wednesday, after my physical  and occupational therapy sessions at the San Diego VA hospital, I encountered a challenge. A challenge of my psyche and my physical presence. How do I explain this? I'm really not certain. 
I had a craving. I had money in my pocket. It was lunch time. There was a wonderful aroma spilling out of the cafeteria. So as if by auto-pilot, my power wheelchair placed me in line to order a relief for my desire. FRENCH FRIES. 
Golden brown russet shoestrings swimming in boiling oil, until crispy on the outside, yet tender to the tooth on the inside. Lightly salted and still hot from the fryer. Oh my God, I wanted some french fries. 

 But as I got closer to the counter,  a sequence of doubts ran through my mind. First was the fact the sneeze guard was high enough that I would not be able to reach up and take my order from the server. Then there came the reminder that, my fine motor skills in my hands are still not what it needs to be, and I was likely to end up with a lap full of boiling hot french fries. 
And, "Would I be able to fish my money out of the pouch on my wheelchair?" What if I spilled them on the floor? Who would clean up MY mess? (I can't reach the floor from my wheelchair. It's too high). And there were probably 50 people online behind me. I wasn't prepared, emotionally, to handle anyone's impatient grunts, groans or remarks.  So, I pinwheeled my chair, and went to the curbside and checked in with transportation to get a ride back home. Hector, the dispatcher told me it would be about an hour before a ride would be available. So, I parked the rocket-sled in the sunshine and waited for my ride. But with each passing minute the craving for those FRENCH FRIES got stronger, became a covetous want, then an irresistible desire. And I found myself back in line, placing my order and watching the cook place the frozen potato strings into the basket and lowering them into he hot oil. When they reached the perfect serving temp, he heaped a huge pile into a small rectangular paper tray. And as I started to think "I'm gonna spill that all over..." He set the whole thing in the middle of a large paper plate. And when he set the plate on top of the counter above the sneeze guard, I was right. I could not reach it. And the cook being a man of small stature, couldn't reach over the counter to hand it to me. Hell's bells, Yao Ming couldn't reach over that thing to hand food to me in my chair. And at that very instant, a woman standing beside me inline, someone I had never met before in my life, reached up and took my order from the shelf, and carefully set it on my lap. I smiled and said "Thanks". But my gold frame aviator sunnies prevented her from seeing the tears of gratitude that welled up in my eyes. 

I wheeled myself to the cashier, and on the way, the heat of the fries radiated through the paper tray, plate and my pants into my skin. I was now really glad I hadn't spilled them on myself. Once at the register, there was a considerable amount of fumbling as I tried to get my money in hand. And even more so as I tried to replace my change. But no one said a word. When I reached the condiment stand, the salt was out of my reach. Actually, everything was beyond my reach. And as I was about to forgo the salt, I noticed a serving cart next to the condiment stand. And on a lower shelf of the cart was a large bin full of salt packets. Grabbing several, I mover to an empty table near the cashier and slaked my desire for my carbohydrates. And about half way though I noticed that the table had writing on it. But it was partially blocked by the napkin dispenser sitting on top of it. What I could see said "RESERVED FOR" and thinking to myself, that some hospital big wig VIP was going to be pissed that I was using her table, I pushed the dispenser to one side hoping to know the name of my new adversary. It wouldn't matter, even if it said OBAMA. I was having my french fries. But the name stunned me.
it said:
That's not my name. But it was my table. I just wasn't prepared to think of myself that way. YET.


Yesterday, Friday 8 April 2011 at approximately 7:30 am, in the Physical Therapy unit of the San Diego VA Medical facility, for the first time in almost 5 years;


Granted I was in a parachute sling, suspended from the overhead hoyer lift. But I stood up, none the less. My physical therapist, Leslie, remarked, just as I sensed my once so familiar perspective view of the world, "My God, you're tall."

Be well. Be blessed. And be a blessing to others.


MsDarkstar said...

AWESOME on both counts!

I have tears of absolute JOY streaming down my face after reading this.

Keep on keeping on, my friend!

Kelly Combs said...

Woo-hoo! I am so proud of you. You know, Kurt, accepting help is a very humbling experience for a strong (physically & mentally) man like yourself. I know because I am a pretty strong chick myself, and I hate to ask for help. So I am super proud that you accepted help!

Stand tall my friend! (Oh, wait you did that too!).

God bless you!

Blue Ridge Mountains said...

My brother told me a few years back do not refuse a hand when someone offers it. I always have been very independent but now I say thank you for your hand.
Good luck to you on your journey

Betty Manousos@ CUT AND DRY said...

I def. admire you, Kurt you're a tough spirit, and I'm proud of you, my friend...yet accepting help is fine, never refuse a hand when someone offers it, as Blue Ridge said so well above.

Thinking about you fondly, and I'm sending you a big hug!


Thank you immensely for stopping by, it's always good to hear from you!!

Anonymous said...

That truly ROCKS Brother!
Rey B

Ms. A said...

Yeehaw and Yahoooooo! Congratulations! You know, KW, I'm not in a wheelchair, but I have to ask for help ALL the time in the grocery store. I'm vertically challenged and they always seem to put the things I need, where I can't reach them.

Karen said...

Oooh Kurt, you know how to make a girl cry.

I will never take a fry order for granted again... AND... WAY TO GO!!!! You've come a long way, baby... now keep at it.

Crown of Beauty said...

I came over from Stephanie's blog.

I read this post and a few others before it. Not many words... still letting it all sink in.

You will be walking again before you know it.


Olivia said...


Olivia said...

Olivia is actually Heidi (2 Thinks). I'm at a hotel and using my daughter's computer.

Megan said...

Tears of joy, friend! I am so very happy for you... and so thankful for your triumphs! :)


You are are an incredible inspiration, Kurt, moreso because I have worked with quads and paras so I know the trials and tribulations. It's so great to hear your triumphs!

I am overjoyed to the point of tears that you stood up.You're like a medical miracle, Kurt.

The first step to walking[and riding your bike] again!

Well done!

P. S Never be too humble to ask for assistance in the cafeteria. Everybody you meet owes you a favour,I'm sure they'd be honoured to repay, don't forget. :)

Our boy did good!

Wrexie said...


Dude, fries are good for YOU!
Great news!

Renee said...

Waaa Hoooo!! I am so pumped that you stood up! That is awesome news!! I'm even more happy that you went back for those fries!!

Anonymous said...

Good read K-dub. Makes me want to think twice before griping about anything. :)

Spiky Zora Jones said...

YAY...hey warrior man. I'm proud of you. YOU stood and that rocks. After 5 years? that is awesome, I didn't know you performed on stage. another reason to feel bonded to you. :)

Marnie said...

Woooohooo!!! I am so glad your ride wasn't ready for an hour. The fries were meant to be. I'm so glad you got them :0) I'm so excited that you stood up! That is the first of many times you'll be doing that xo

Gene said...

For all of us handicapped people your blog reminds us that we get by with a little help from our friends and a lot of help from our God. Keep pushing the envelope. I still believe that God has a day when you will stand and testify to what He has done for you. Your blog reminds me that I have promised to pray for that end.

Anonymous said...

LOTS OF LIKES for this blog post, congratulations my friend! =D I'm so happy to hear you're dong well...keep at it, you can do it :)

red.neck chic said...

My dearest Warrior...

Never am I too busy for you. NEVER! And - when I read this last week I gave you a good ol' Texas girl grin and a "yeeeee haw!"...

YOU are such an inspiration to me. You were when I read this the first time, you were WELL before that - you always will be. ALWAYS.

I'm SOOOOOOOOOOO excited for you!!!! And so - when I run up and give you a hug sometime - how far up am I going to have to look to see your smile?

I love you for you - am proud of you for who you are - and I am grinning 'cause you're a warrior.


Charlotte said...

Kurt - Your "Triumph of Will" actually deserves far more accolades than I can ever bestow. I am truly humbled by this post. Your my hero :}

Red Shoes said...

God Bless you, Kurt...

You ARE a winner!

You WILL make it!! As for receiving help from others, we ALL need it through out our life times.

I am proud to know you!

Don't EVER quit!


Spockgirl said...

The force is strong in this one... (holding up a french fry). I mean you too!

I do not like to ask for help... never have... mostly bgecause I didn't want to be an inconvenience, but, I am perfectly willing to offer it, and am glad of the lady who offered her assistance to you.

There is something to be said about having a hot plate of food sitting on your lap, especially if your legs are cold.

You rock dude!