Complacency, that’s what almost killed me this past Wednesday. Carefree, doing something I’ve done 1000 times before, without a care in the world, thinking everything would just be okay.
Let me tell you what happened, not so you’ll feel bad, or be like “Mike…! I’m so glad you’re okay!” Nope… I’m writing this so next time you become complacent or not as safe as you should be you step back and think.
Wednesday morning was an absolutely beautiful morning… Sunny, 75°, nice little breeze, and that perfect morning dew smell in the air. Had lots of work/stuff to do, but with it so super nice out, decided I’d go cruising around town with Caleb the super dog and a good book. We strolled down to Mantle Lake to find a nice quiet spot, but the weed wacker boys were noisily mowing/trimming the park, so we continued on down the bike path, eventually to the banks of the Presque Isle stream at Riverside Park.
Innocently enough I pulled my wheelchair up underneath this nice shady tree, facing the water… One of my favorite spots… A place I’ve gone many times, and got to reading. What a beautiful morning! Sitting there reading for a little while, and my phone rings… It’s my grandmother and I pick up and say hi. We chat for a little while, and I get coughing and coughing… A nasty little lung oyster wants to say hi to the sunshine, and I cough real hard and the top strap of my wheelchair let’s go and I start falling forward onto my wheelchair’s joystick. No biggie y’all think, just catch yourself, but the only thing is all my belly muscles are paralyzed, and I’m quickly teetering towards the point of no return. I throw my head and arms back… the only thing I can do to counteract the force, this movement forward, and sit there teetering… not moving forward, but also not moving back, just there 1 mm from complete safety, and 1 mm from falling forward onto my joystick and driving my wheelchair off the bank into the river. I fight like I’ve never fought, pulling my head back, straining, trying to get whatever motion back that I can, and I start teetering, teetering back to my wheelchair with a flourish, a flourish of energy and I’m there, laying there against the back of my wheelchair, and I’m alive.
I sit there stunned for a few minutes, still on the phone with my grandmother, and I tell her I have to go, and sit back and think about what just happened. I look down at the safety strap that goes across my chest that is now unattached on my lap, and look over at the joystick that is in 5th gear ready to go forward and fast, and the water that’s just a few feet away, and take in the gravity of the whole situation. Holy shit! I almost just fell forward and drove my wheelchair right off the bank into the water. I almost just drowned, I almost died, just like that. And then I got sick all over, and my body started tingling, and I had this incredible euphoria, but I was scared, but so happy because I was alive and everything was okay.
Crazy, huh? One minute, everything’s okay, just hanging out reading a book, and the next I’m almost plunging to the depths of the Presque Isle stream.
I call my father, and he comes down to Riverside, to help me put my top strap back on, and we see the Velcro is completely gummed up with a bunch of little dingle berries from my favorite wool sweater. I’ve known that the strap hasn’t been attaching as well as it once did for months, but always said to myself it was fine, I’d fix it tomorrow. But today, it was all gummed up, not working, completely useless, and it almost ended my life.
com·pla·cen·cy - “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect or the like”
So why did I share this with you… Not because I want you to feel bad for me. Not because I want you to say “oh Mike, I’m so glad you’re okay.” But because I want you to think next time you climb up that ladder you’ve gone up 1000 times before, or jump on your bike for a quick ride down the street without checking the brakes, or go for a rock climb on that rope that’s may be seen it’s better days, or jump in your car that just had work done to the brakes, and assume everything is okay.
DON’T! DON’T BECOME COMPLACENT! Don’t just assume everything’s okay. Take those extra seconds to double check that ladder, make sure everything is safe on your bike, replace that rope that’s a little too worn, and re-torque the lug nuts on your vehicle after service.
Because sometimes that’s all it takes, that small moment of complacency, to be that dude in a 500 pound wheelchair sinking to the bottom of the stream with a service dog tied to your arm swimming around in circles.
Scary thought, huh! But I’m totally awesome and okay and again have a new lease on life 🙂 YIPPEE!
Holy COW! I know you post this as a reminder to everyone to avoid that complacency syndrome we all get and its a fantastic reminder buddy! but most importantly… I am damn glad you are ok my friend!!!!
What a riveting story! Thanks for the reminder to avoid complacency.
Thank you for the reminder to always be mindful!!
You are amazing, Mike! Im so grateful you took the time to share your experience. I so admire your courage and insights. Thank you.
Glad you are Ok… have you thought of a cut-off switch linked to your belt/restraint that would cut power to the chair in the event of a disconnect?
Good idea, but I think this is such a small occurrence/probability if I stay on top of my stuff and that the cut off switch would be enough of a hindrance that I’d stop using it after a number of days of not needing it that I probably better just pay attention and keep the dingle berries out of my Velcro!
Nightmare I never get complacent about water, locking chair joystick straight away when fishing the idea of sinking to the depths gives me chills. Worst than that people thinking I had topped myself and had been pretending to enjoy life on the whole.
Mike during my 17 years as a quad I have made a ton of mistakes but the trick is to try not to repeat them.
Lock it down Mike.
I know! I would always be the worst to have people show up there, seeing Caleb swimming around in circles frantically and think that I did this to myself. Absolutely about the mistakes… I’ve made many myself, but try to learn from them each and every time!
Hello! Thanks for sharing!I’m an occupational therapist in Brazil and certainly it will help me to advise my clients not just about the possibility of such a thing like this happen, but mainly because of your reflexion and alert regarding conplacency that helps all of us!
Hey Denise, thanks for reading and responding… I’m a while away from writing and responding to my website, but I’m overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and responses. Take care and good luck with your work in Brazil!