01 May que onda
Long ago, in a land far away… like November 2016 in Humble, Texas… I made a decision to take a vacation in Nicaragua with some of my favorite people from BIG Power Yoga. Now, to some, this may not appear to be an act of monumental significance. But, I was arriving in place in life where I was moving from a space of contemplation to one of action. I rolled the dice, electing to commit to the vacation with a woman I had only been dating for a short time. The stars were aligning. The Magic 8 Ball of the Universe was saying “it is decidedly so…” I made a leap of faith.
When April 1st rolled around, I was the proverbial kid in the candy shop – heading to paradise for a week, with the coolest of the cool, to do yoga and surf. The first sunset was breathtaking and dinner with my fellow travelers was sublime. I was so stoked to sign up for surfing lessons that night and took the first available slot for the following afternoon. The next morning, a few of us decided to go to the beach before the surfing lessons and have some fun in the sun. We rented boogie boards. I selected one with my lucky number 42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything.
This particular beach had a shore break. The waves crashed directly on the beach. We were in the water for a short period of time and not having much luck catching a ride. So, we moved closer to the shore. I paddled for my first wave, got to the crest, and realized I had made a critical error. “¿Que Onda?” in Spanish, literally translated, means “what wave?” In the colloquial sense, it means “what’s up?” This one wave (what wave?) was what’s up. Then down. Hard. Really fucking hard. And it nearly killed me.
Frankly, in many ways, I am blessed to be alive. I was pulled out of the water before drowning. But, if others had not been with me, I am not convinced I would have made it to the shore. As I was ground into the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and flipped violently multiple times, I felt the fear of death for the first time in 43 years. I could barely move, but I had the sense to lift my head out of the water. When I was assisted up, all I could muster was “I need help.” But, that was an understatement. I was in excruciating pain.
I stumbled to the beach with some assistance and writhed in agony for an eternity until the ambulance arrived. I was comforted by an American doctor on the beach, and am eternally grateful for his soothing words, even though I couldn’t open my eyes to see his face. I was placed onto a backboard, bounced across the beach and put in an ambulance. We had to travel 20 minutes over a dirt road to get to the clinic at the resort. Total misery. I kept telling myself to stay grounded, as if I was in any shape to get up and dance.
Thank the Lord, quite literally, for the pain medication at the clinic. I was examined briefly, placed in a neck brace and shipped off once again in the ambulance to head to the public hospital in Rivas. I do not recommend the ER in a public hospital in a third world country. They took x-rays of my neck and shoulder, all of which were negative. But, I had numbness in my right arm, substantial pain in my neck and both of my shoulders, and had what my compatriots described as a small cut near my eye. By the way, that “small cut” turned out to mean the whole left side of my face had been removed by the volcanic sand. FML.
I will spare you the details of the ER and what ensued over the course of the next 6 hours. When I was discharged, we went to a local pharmacy, bought all of the pain medication and headed back to the hotel. Every single part of my body hurt like a motherfucker. I couldn’t move more than a centimeter. After consulting an orthopedic doctor who was on the trip and another physician in Houston by telephone, I made the decision to come back to Houston at the earliest possible opportunity to get checked out. We flew back a day later.
Fast forward a month. I still have substantial pain. I have lost some strength and mobility in my right arm. My left shoulder is still in flux. And, I have a damaged cranial nerve which is causing numbness and irritation in my face. I’m not sure whether my injuries will be permanent or where I will end up medically. But, I know pain intimately. And, I know fear.
In one brief moment in paradise, my life was turned upside down. I share this story not to tell you to live life to the fullest because you never know when it’s your time. That’s certainly true, but not the moral here. This is a love story. One about a group of people who have stepped up in my life to take care of me. I am eternally thankful for Erin Moore, Nathan Herrington and Nick Zogg. These individuals are pure love and light. They showed me what love is – being there to help a friend in dire need. The same holds true for my family. My mother is sitting on my couch right now and has been with me since I came back to Houston. This story is about my daughter Claire who said to me “Daddy, I love you so much. But, saying that doesn’t really say how much. I can’t even put it into words.” Same here, Lovey. To the moon and back.
I am blessed to be alive. I love the people in my tribe. I can’t wait until I can hug them all. You know, when my arm works better. Namaste.