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December, 2008 Journal

It is hard for me to believe it has been over three years since I've written anything. So many things have changed during this time.

I finish my internship at ECU in Greenville, NC at the end of June 2005. Michelle and I bought a house in Charlotte and moved there for my physical medicine and rehabilitation residency. It was very special for me to return to Carolinas Rehabilitation for my residency because this is where I did my rehabilitation after my injury. I left Carolinas Rehab April 25, 2003 as a newly injured third year medical student. I returned July 1, 2005 as a doctor who had already completed his internship.

Unfortunately, the excitement and happiness of starting residency disappeared quickly. In March, towards the end of my internship, my skin was scraped on both sides of my bottom from a transfer board. Due to many different factors, these both turned into severe pressure ulcers. Seven weeks after I started my residency, I was in the hospital on IV antibiotics and going to the operating room to have them both cleaned up.

I ended up taking three months off. I was very bored in the beginning, but then I began to work on a research project. I had never been interested in research before, but I learned that it can be interesting. I also learned the importance of taking care of oneself. The pressure ulcers worsened because we were given some bad advice along with other factors that were out of my control, but there were still things I could have done better. First and foremost, I should have seen a wound care specialist.

I returned to work in December of 2005. It felt great to be back on track again. I started back with three months of outpatient rotations, and then in March of 2006, I started my spinal cord injury rotation. This was an incredible experience. Since my injury, I was able to empathize with all of my patients on some level. With my patients with spinal cord injuries, I was able to empathize on almost every level.

Michelle and I used to often wonder why my injury could not have been one or two levels lower. Every level in the cervical spine makes a huge difference when it comes to function. For example, my injury is at C5. This is the highest level that self feeding is possible. People with C4 injuries, cannot move their arms at all. On the other hand, people with C7 injuries can live independently. We used to say if only I was a C6 or C7. After about half way through my rotation, we stopped saying that. As a SCI physician/motivator, my level of injury is perfect. If it was any higher, I probably would not be able to practice or if I could, it would certainly be much more difficult than it already is. Because my level is still considered high though, there are a large number of patients who have more function than I do. This means there are very few who people with more severe injuries who can say, "I can't do x,y, and z because I don't have as much function as you." This definitely helps me motivate people.

This rotation confirmed what many had already told me. I was going to become a spinal cord injury medicine doctor. I still tried to get the most out of the rest of my rotations, but I knew after this one that I would be doing a spinal cord injury medicine fellowship after my residency.

Something else exciting happened during my residency. Michelle and I had boy/girl twins! Gracey Halyn and Saul Mason were born February 26, 2008. We have been very fortunate that they have been healthy since they were born. They are also fortunate because they have the best mom in the world. Michelle has somehow kept the house together, which included a move to Pittsburgh, and has been incredible with them.

The four of us, along with our four dogs, are currently living in Pittsburgh. I am doing my SCI fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I am having a great time so far, and I am getting a great education.

I have been very fortunate the past three plus years because the VA has met almost all of my needs. They have provided CNAs, nurses, and even helped pay for a van that I can drive. This has allowed me to keep all of my donations in my fund. The fund is used to help others with spinal cord injuries. I hope to soon be able to give grants for various things including voice-activated software, equipment /home modifications, and scholarships. I want to help others with spinal cord injuries succeed because there is life after injury.

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