Sunday, December 25, 2011

John 9:3

There is a character in the movie Forrest Gump, named Lieutenant Dan. In the story Dan looses his legs in the Vietnam War. He expresses his anger towards God for keeping him alive. It was that very same thought that kept going through my head as awoke in a hospital bed in the University of Colorado Hospital.

When I wasn't thinking about why I was kept alive, I was thinking why did this happen to me? Did I not pray every night? Did I hold my self from using profanity? Did I not strive to follow what I believe to be God's teachings? Why, why, why? Perhaps this clip from the film, Chinese Connection starring Bruce Lee more describes the manner of my questioning.

As soon as I came to a state of consciousness, my brother, Fatu, was there. It's crazy to me that he got there so fast, as I don't think I was knocked out for more than a day but as I look back in my facebook posts, the first entry comes on Wednesday December 15, 2010.

My brother and I have a pretty tight bond as brothers go. When we were little we used to rent video games and attempt to beat them during the rental period. This involved somebody playing the video at all times for 48 hours straight. The trick was when one needed to sleep the other took the controller. Once the person who had the controller could no longer hold his eyelids open, he reached over and awoke the other who was sleeping right next to him. The other would take his shift.

We always played better when we were both awake because for some reason we were blessed to be the ultimate video gaming compliments. One of us was blessed with supernatural hand eye coordination, to do the most difficult combos in the universe. The other was blessed with the fastest finger (useful for Blanka electricity, E. Honda hand slap, Chun Li legs of fury, etc.) and a puzzle solving brain. We've been on thousands of adventures like King Koopas flying ship, Shadow Moses Island, the Outworld, etc.

I am so grateful for him being able to spend Christmas with me. He missed his family very much and sacrificed some precious moments to be with me. Having gone through something very similar, he was able to give me comfort and advice that not many people could. We were able to look straight into my arms, with the crimson red muscles and starch white tendons, and laugh. We made jokes of playing guitar on my tendons. He even made a video of my 2010 Christmas, using a song that is very appropriate for my line of thought ( Dear God 2.0 by the Roots). I just barely noticed it this Christmas Eve. Check it out!

Thankfully Sturgeon, the company I Ws working for, paid for my sisters to come. Many of my Uncles and my Aunty were able to come to Colorado and console and uplift me. I am thankful for them. The Matagi family always seems to pull together stronger in tragedies. They have done an excellent job when my mother or father, due to health and parole restrictions respectively, have been unable to attend to their children.

A couple of nurses, Ruby Turner of the burn unit and Jaque Hartnett of the rehab floor, stand out in my mind as awesome nurses. They both had the ability to not only attend to my physical needs but to do so with love as a motivation. Except, there was this one time when Ruby put my IV in my foot and got it all infected. Lol I forgive you Ruby.

I have many brothers from other mothers. Many belong to the IBEW. In particular there were Chris Johns, Josh Wanrow, and Brian Martin who came to my succor. Chris Johns even flew from Utah to visit an injured fellow lineworker whom he had only known for four years. He sacrificed time away from his wife and little girl to be with me. I have also a whole family in Kremmling, Colorado, the Carpenters, who probably have said hundreds of prayers on my behalf. They came down to give me hope.

There are so many who helped me last December that if I named them all, it would read like Santa's list of good children. Many could not make it to Colorado but I could feel their love through Facebook and sending gifts. I appreciate each and every single one of your contributions to lift me when I didn't want to live.

I recently posted that I was not happy or thankful to have survived on Facebook. On December 15, 2011 my little immediate family of sisters, in-laws, brother, mother, nieces and nephews had our Christmas party. It was a moment in time where I was thankful to have been there. I thought if I had passed away I might have been able to be there in spirit but I couldn't have interacted with them. For that, I am happy.

John chapter nine tells a story of a blind man being healed by Jesus. The disciples ask whether it was the blind man or the blind mans parents who had sinned and caused his blindness. Jesus responds in verse three, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Perhaps in my case I can make a substitution for the last word "him" to "his friends and family." In my case instead of being cured from a disability I was allowed to be blessed with a disability so that, "the works of God should be manifest in [his friends and family.]" This gives me some insight to my question to god, "why did you keep me alive?" I am here to witness the works of God be manifest in my friends and family.

Just maybe a part of the reason I'm here is to see a friend fly from Salt Lake to bring me some Bula. Perhaps I needed to see the good in people to cheer for an injured guy who is laying in the hospital. Maybe I need to witnes someone bringing a No-Handed Bandit some SmashBurger. It's very conceivable that I'm here watch someone serve another in a way that they are unable to serve himself like feeding him some pizza.

At this time, I am happy to be alive to witness all your Christlike acts towards me and at this season to each other. May we continue to attempt to be like Christ not just this season but always. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Love you guys!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One Year on the Road out my Personal Physical Hell

Today marks a year on this road. I've trod it alone sometimes other times, with a shoulder or two to lean on. I am thankful for all the shoulders that have been lent for me to lean on throughout the journey. The road started in a small town called Kremmling, Colorado. I had been working there for a few months.

The day before, December 12, 2010, I had been in Atlanta, Georgia visiting a friend. I returned quickly from the Denver International Airport, so I could rest up for work the next day. As usual, I prayed, kneeling on my bed, for safety. It is a dangerous trade, my brother had lost his right arm two years prior. A mistake, in other lines of work, sometimes ends up getting you fired but in linework it can result in death.

On December 13, 2010 6:00 am, the alarm went off starting a normal day. At least I thought it would be normal. The other apprentice would be back today and I was extremely grateful because my foreman and I had done some scary stuff the week before. When I saw the other apprentice at the power company yard, a huge smile came on my face and a sigh of relief came from inside. We warmed up our trucks and drove them to our normal breakfast spot, The Moose.

I ordered my usual breakfast, French toast combo. Everything continued to go according to normal, until about 11:00 am. The apprentice and I, an apprentice also, are up about 30 feet in the air and he recieved a message on the phone that said he needed to be in Salt Lake for a meeting before the board. He needed to leave early that same day to get there on time.

Here I was working as a two-man crew on 14,400 volts. We had set the pole, before the other apprentice left. Now I was to move the primary wire to the new pole. My foreman would help by using another bucket truck to lift the wire as I guided and tied it in to the insulator. The next step was for me to cover it with rubber hoses and a blanket. Once that was done, I felt a relief. I felt safe. The rest of the work could be done at a safe distance.

After lunch I ascended in the bucket. It was cold and rubber gloves made my hands even colder. I assumed the situation was safe because of my rubber cover and I felt like my minimum approach distances, the distances recommended by OSHA to be safe to work at near high voltages, would not be breached. Before getting to my working position, I called down to my formen, "Can I take off my rubber gloves?" An answer in the affirmative caused me to rejoice. Class 2 gloves were difficult and stiff to work with, especially in the cold.

I cut one secondary supply service, wires at the voltage used by the customer, into the transformer with no problem. We had jumpered these light pole services, with long jumpers, to supply the street lights with power the Friday before. I remember being a little nervous about how to cut the wire while holding both sides of the wire. Then I remember looking down to throw the scrap piece on the ground. My foreman was cleaning all the scraps below the pole so I didn't want to trow it on his head. I looked over my shoulder to the truck, thinking I could throw it near the bed so he wouldn't have to carry it far. That was all I remembered from inside the bucket.....

My memory kicked back in, I barely opened my eyes. I realized I was on a stretcher being carried. Then I could hear a chopper. I asked, "Where am I?" A man's voice responded by asking me my name and address. I began to respond, "Samoana Matagi." He asked me again and pain started to permeate from my hands. I screamed, half irritated by being asked the same question, "SAMOANA MATAGI!" Then I started moaning and screaming. A man's voice kept asking me questions. I moaned and screamed till blackness.....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wipeout depression

I had thought of making this blog in a sequential order of events but I decided to just write on subjects that come to my mind. One of the subjects that came to my mind this week was a television show that helped me through some tough times. But first I wanna write about some of the hard times.

On January 29, 2011, I left the University of Utah hospital. The full reality of what had happened struck me like a knockout blow in a UFC match. I slept on the couch in the living room upstairs because in the winter time the basement gets extremely cold. Depression began to set in.

My breakfast habits stayed the same as they were in the hospital, Apple Jacks every morning. I spilt drinks all over the place. The milk jug hit the ground several times. That would have been the only thing I would have ate all day if my sister hadn't encouraged me to eat more. For some reason eating meat was not only a physical challenge but also a psychological challenge as well. I couldn't figure out why but smelling meat cooking made me nauseous. Selesitila, my sister, would make some fruit plates, consisting of grapes, oranges, and strawberries. Sometimes I would put the plate on the couch and lay down next to it, licking items off the plate. I joked with my mom and sister that I was an animal.

I would sleep all day and night. The only times I would get up were to eat, toilet, or take medicine. My body temperature was hard to regulate. Extremes seemed to be multiplied. The cold outside seemed many times colder and when the heat came on I would sweat and complain to "the landlord", my sister, that it was too hot. One time the homecare nurse came and I just slept the whole time she was here. She was extremely bored and kept asking if I was going to take a shower. I laugh at it now but it was difficult.

I hated toiletting. My first time toiletting, my mother had to help me by wiping my butt. That was a very low point psychologically. I felt so humiliated and so sorry to her for making her do such a gross thing. I started using the bidet then to dry off I would place some toilet paper on either the tub wall or toilet seat and squat down over it to dry off. Finally, I called for help to a fellow bi-lateral amputee named Jason Koger. He helped me out greatly as I learned how to wipe using hooks.

Showering was another difficult operation. A nurse would come over every day to put shampoo in my hair and wash my back. On Saturday I tried to shower by myself and ended up just laying in the tub while the water came down on me. It was therapeutical in that I started laughing at myself.

My blanket became my room, I stayed there when I was awake only leaving the couch to receive visitors. My brother visited on the weekend. Felicia, my little sister, and her family also visited. They had been installing new doors. I love to see my niece and nephews and would come out of my "room" to hand over my iPad so they could play games. Having my own child would have been a great motivation to continue trying to live on. Since I don't have a child I turned my mother to my motivation. She had a difficult time waking up and I turned that to my purpose for living.

Still, I continued depressed. Only moving for very few purposes. Five days into this cycle, I finally hit a change of pace. Wednesday became a day where I would do a lot of psychological work. A ride was arranged for me to go to burn group therapy and see my psychologist. This helped a lot in my depression. My brother would attend group discussion and I used to cry alot. All the group attendees would hug me and encourage me. My psychologist encouraged me to go do activities. In fact I had been invited by Lenny Torres, the Elders quorum president, to go to a Jazz game. I told my psychologist I didn't want to go because it was too cold. He, Justin MacKenzie, strongly suggested I should go.

It was cold, but I went. It was very liberating. I cheered my guts out and ate a burger and drank a coke. It felt so good to actually be able to do something on my own. At home, while I was staying on the couch, one TV show that I began to be a huge fan of was Wipeout. I would be very depressed and turn on the TV and these people would be running in an obstacle course and bam go flying in the water or mud. It was soooo funny that I would smile or laugh. That might be the only time I would smile all day. My cousin, Rebekah Walker, told me she would use it to help her kids when they had nightmares. Here try it, it works.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Remember Remember

Today as I walked through the University of Utah Hospital and everyone one was greeting me with huge smiles, waving hands, and warm hellos. I was headed up to burn group therapy. The morning plans didn't include an allotted time for group, as I had stayed up late the night before editing, rendering and uploading.

The excitement of putting up a new video for my web channel, , somehow always seems to wake me up early. Thus was the case this morning, as I woke after six hours of sleep.

I started my normal routine: first check for e-mails and new Facebook posts, then mosy around for a few minutes to motivate myself to don my prostheses. On a video morning the normal routine is to check how the render went so I run upstairs to see the final product. A little disappointment comes over me as I notice flashes in the video.

Curses foiled again! The upgraded editing system can't handle some spots in the video. I had seen this problem the week before and it cost me six hours to re-render it twice. The LAN-line phone rings. I rarely answer this phone as it is a little difficult and generally calls are for the other members of my household. My mom picks up and it's for me.

It's Kirsten, a facilitator for Burn Therapy Group. She's wondering if I'm coming to group. "Depends," I tell her, "If you need me there?" I tend to get motivated easier when others are motivated for me. She says, "Well I don't need you here but I have a patient who wants to meet you." That's good enough for me and I say, "I'll be there but late." She says, "That's ok because he has wound care till noon." I promise to be there at 11:30 and begin uploading my video and leave.

This makes all the difference in the world with my attitude. "Someone wanted to meet me!", I think to myself. I know the man is an amputee on both arms and legs. Beaming with excitement, I arrive at the hospital. My positive vibrations make all the difference in the world. People seem to wnt to greet me. It reminds me of a song by Bob Marley, called Positive Vibrations.

You see the day before I had a negative vibe about me. I felt people were treating me wrong. Anger came quickly to me while driving. I wanted to flip people off but no middle finger. Today my positivity overflowed.

I met Will, a quadrilateral amputee. Looking at him reminded me how far I had come. I realized that I need to write a blog so I never forget. Losing hands to me is like losing a longtime friend. Actually, it's more like losing a family member. I fear forgetting how good life was with hands, like the memory of a decease loved one fading slowly. So I wanted to write so I remember, remember my hands. But not only that, also the tough, successful, and joyful times without hands.

Will you called me inspirational but I think you are inspiring me. Also Ova Afo, thanks for the encouragement to start this blog. It's something I always knewI should do but I haven't been doing!