What It Feels like to Be Severely Injured

On a particular weekday during February of 2012, I had lost the keys to my home.

I lost the keys to my home, of where I had resided on the sofa, as I couldn’t afford the amount it costs to pay rent to live in the city of Los Angeles on my own. Since I couldn’t afford to own a vehicle, I was taking the bus on a daily basis. You know, that vehicle where Rosa Parks wanted to sit in the front and made a huge stink about it. I don’t know as to why anyone would ever want to sit on the front of a bus. It’s extremely embarrassing. Having each and every person look at you and walk by, while you’re sitting there in a suit. Everyone just knows you’re fake and that you don’t even deserve to be wearing a suit. They all know you are too poor to afford a car. So you get quite uncomfortable, antisocial, and you just want to hide. However, Martin Luther King Jr. did cultivate a revolution out of Rosa Park’s story. In my case though, this bus was an absolute embarrassment to the way I had lived my life. I couldn’t afford to live in my own place. I couldn’t afford to own a car. Hell, I couldn’t even afford to pay for gas.

I was left with absolutely no choice but to take the bus to work each day.

What makes matters worse is that I didn’t just have to take one bus to get to work.

  • I had to first walk half a mile from my home to the subway station.
  • From there, I would take an eight minute trip to downtown.
  • After I got off of the subway, I had to walk upstairs to catch another bus that took thirty minutes to me down the 110 freeway to a place called Artesia Transit Station. I have no clue what city Artesia Transit Station is in, but they recently changed their name to Harbor Transit Station.
  • I would then wait around for around half an hour awaiting another bus, that would drop me off right in front of my work. That bus took about twenty minutes to get to my work.
  • Then i would have to then spend the next eight minutes walking through the front of my building, all the way down to the end, exit the other side, walk down about a quarter of a mile down to gain entry to the next building, climb a flight of stairs, and then i’ll end up at my desk.

At 5:00pm, I would repeat this process, except I would be traveling in the opposite direction. This route sucked. And it sucked hard. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. With each ounce of passion that I could store in my poor little soul. Just to give you an example of how horrible waiting for the bus is… As I wrote this, I ended up waiting an hour and a half for the bus to go home because the first one was too early, the second one was cancelled, and the third one showed up on time.  Torrance Transit has got to be one of the worst public transit systems in California. From 5:00pm to 6:35pm, I stood around.  I waited.  I really did nothing.  I was just standing around typing out this particular post on my Blackberry Q10.  Then I had to wait for another bus, a subway, and then walk half a mile to get home.  I got home at 8:00pm today.  And I didn’t even eat anything all day.  Until I finally got home.

Well, one day, on this trip home, I ended up losing my keys.

Now, I have come to find that my keys had fell out of my pocket while I was on the first bus. Luckily, when I arrived at home, I was able to get into my apartment building because a car had left the garage at the same time. I went home. Safe and sound. For some reason, my ex had called me out of the blue and told me she wanted to go out and grab some drinks.  I was so in love with this woman for the last ten years of my life, there wasn’t any possible way I would turn her down. So, I agreed. I asked my roommate if he would consider loaning me the key to the front of the building. He agreed. He took off the key from his key chain and handed it to me. I inserted it into the top pocket of my blazer.

My ex then had called to inform me that she was downstairs.

I invited her up for a drink. We both probably had about two shots of this drink that I have absolutely no clue why I bought. I think people call it Hennessey? It wasn’t the good stuff either. It was the lowest grade. I mean, obviously I was poor.  I was taking the bus and living on a sofa. So it was really all I could afford. After we had our drinks at my home, we decided to visit a local venue by the name of Cafe Bleu, located on 6th and Alexandra in the heart of Koreatown, or Novel Cafe, located on Wilshire and Western. It was one of the other, but we ended up going to the other one next. However, I do remember what we drank. We each had 3 glasses of scotch at Cafe Bleu and 2 glasses of scotch at Novel Cafe. Scotch… oh, how I’m so in love with you. Thank you for making my life so bearable during the worst years of my life. You have always been there to comfort me when I have fallen so far from grace, and been there for me to hold my hand as I raised it up in victory.

So, anyway, by this point we were completely wasted, yet still functional.

2:00am was arriving as quickly as it could, and we would soon have to call it a night. Or… Would we? Being in Koreatown, we had the opportunity to attend venues much later than the proposed time when all the businesses close. We then decided to attend a Karaoke bar by the name of White NRB. We decided to play songs and sing. Sing quite horribly, may I add. Just to give you an example of how horribly I sing, women have to usually throw their clothes off at me just to get me to shut up.

We decided to drink more.

We ordered two bottles of this white pasty type alcohol which Koreans would call Makkoli, a type of rice wine, and Soju, which is considered to be the poor man’s vodka. I hate Korean alcohol.  I hate everything about it. There has never been a time where I have ever been able to remember anything I did when I drank Korean alcohol. Never. It has ruined my life.

It’s kind of like that girl you met at a party, that you knew you shouldn’t take home, but did anyway…

And the next morning, you don’t have the time to kick her out of your home when you leave for work.  Because it’s 6:00am.  You need to rush out of home or you’ll miss your bus.  So you just leave her in your bed and rush off to work. Then when you come home, you notice that… 

  • Your cereal box is empty.
  • There are cereal crumbs all over your bed.
  • Your laptop battery is down to 47%.
  • This girl just perused through hours and hours of countless information on your Macbook.
  • You end up feeling like those three poor little bears that Goldilocks decided to do a home invasion on.

You spend weeks crying over the horrid decision you made.   Or at least that’s what I do. Well, anyway, after a while, my ex started acting like a (insert nicest word for bitch possible here, since I do not know of any. Will immediately take any suggestion edits to replace this word) to me. She started talking about how I was a total loser (she used much harsher words), told me that I was an embarrassment, and then started pushing me away.

At that point, I blacked out.

I can make the assumption that we had got into an argument and I decided to walk home, but I wouldn’t ever be able to state that to be true or not. Anyways, it was 4:00am-5:00am, who really knows. I ended up at home. In front of my apartment building. With absolutely no idea how to get in. I was so intoxicated and unaware of my surroundings, I had thought that I didn’t have the key to the front of my apartment on me. Then, I started to slowly regain consciousness. Instead of checking my pockets, I decided that I would hop the fence to reach the other side. Wearing basically a full suit, dress shoes, and being intoxicated like no tomorrow. If I were to guess, I’d say that my fence is at least 10 feet tall. Probably 12. But I never actually decided to measure it. Well, anyway, I climbed up and decided to jump down.

The first time I had jumped, I landed on the wrong side of the fence.

What kind of moron jumps on the wrong side of the fence you may ask? I have the answer for you. Me. So, I started to gain a little more consciousness as the adrenaline from hopping a fence started pumping through my alcohol filled veins. I decided to make a second attempt. I jumped. I landed. I fell straight to the ground.  I thought the fall was nothing. I wasn’t in pain. So I decided to try to stand up. This time, I fell straight to the ground again. I laid there for the next five minutes, without a clue as to what to do. Eventually, I decided to crawl myself back to my apartment. I crawled up two flights of stairs, pushed upon the door to my home, and crawled to my loving sofa, and passed out.

In the morning, my roommate had exited his room. In shock, he inquired as to why I was still home.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” He asked. “What? What time is it?” I replied. He said something like 8:00am. Those days,I was normally waking up at 6:00am just to get to work on time. Anyways, I started to regain consciousness. I had remembered that I had taken a major leap of faith. I looked down at my leg. I saw a huge bruise as my foot was tilted out of place. Then I started to cry. “I broke my leg!” I started to whine, like a little baby. “How?” he asked. “I hopped the fence and I landed wrong. I broke my leg and had to crawl upstairs.” I said. “Dude, didn’t I give you the key to the front door?” he asked. I paused, started padding down my jacket I was still wearing, and replied “Yeah…”, whining more than I was before due to my stupidity. “Dude, you’re such a mess. You idiot. What are you going to do?” My roommate inquired. “I don’t know.” I responded. “Call your mom.” He said. “OK.” I replied. So I did. I called my mother. I cried for like twenty minutes, being the momma’s boy that I am, telling her that I broke my leg. She was in Hawaii. There was absolutely nothing she could do. I have no clue why I even called her. Maybe it was the alcohol?

Well, anyway… She told me to call my grandma. So I did.

I told her that I broke my leg. She decided to have my cousin drive her to pick me up. From there, she ended up in my home, had brought me some kind of crutches to use, and I tried to get downstairs. Actually, they weren’t crutches. It was one of those walkers that elderly people use in hospitals to assist them in walking. I was in excruciating pain. Pain like no tomorrow. I have no clue how I even made it downstairs. But eventually I did. As we were in the vehicle, I had told my cousin and my grandma that I needed to go to the hospital. Don’t ever try to tell an old Asian lady what to do. When she makes a decision, she is set in her ways, and fully committed to do as she pleases. So, instead of driving me straight to the hospital, my grandma had decided to drive me to Orange County to an acupuncture place. She forced me to get out of the vehicle to enter his office and to speak with him. So I did. He played with my foot for a bit. Told me he couldn’t help me, much like I expected prior to arriving, and referred me to a foot doctor. Once again, I got back into the vehicle. Once again, I had stated I needed to go to the hospital. Once again, my grandma was set in her ways and she was going to take me to the foot doctor.  So, basically, I ended up at the foot doctor. He made me hop at least 200 feet to the X-ray machine he had, which for some unknown reason had to be at the very end of the other side of his office. If he was a foot doctor, shouldn’t the x-ray machine be in the front of the office?  Not the back?  Clearly, someone didn’t know a single thing about ergonomics… He took x-rays. Then guess what he did.

He told me that he couldn’t help me either, so he referred me over to the hospital.

So now, I had to hop back into the car, take a trip for another hour back to Los Angeles, and go to the hospital LAC/USC. Then, I had to wait around for hours on end in the emergency room to get checked in for a doctor to see me. Hours on end. After spending hours on end. Dying in pain. Excruciating pain. Finally, I was able to see the Doctor. They decided that it would be in their best interest to x-ray me prior to seeing what they could do to resolve my problem. The doctor came out and informed me to lie on this table. So I did. He told me to lay my foot out as straight as possible.  I told him I couldn’t. I told him it hurt too bad. He told me that I had to. So I tried. I failed.  I told him it was impossible. He told me to do it again. I succeeded.  Then I cried. I cried for the next thirty minutes. Pouring my eyes out. Thinking back on things, I don’t know when I cried more. When my ex had originally left me back in 2006 and I was overwhelmed with emotional heartbreak. Or when I had to lay my ankle straight from the excruciating physical pain I was in on that cold unwelcoming table.

Little did I know, I would soon encounter two hours of eternal bliss.

I was injected with the most amazing drug on the planet. Morphine! Oh. My. God. Morphine changed my life! Never have I ever been so happy or immune to pain. Never have I ever wanted to talk to anyone about anything. I started blabbing away as I lived in a bubble that I considered to be heaven on earth. I was in love. In love with everyone in the hospital. Everyone who I encountered within those two hours. They were all my best friends. Then, the morphine wore off. My diagnosis had arrived. I had broken two bones in my ankle, one in the front and one in the back. My ankle was so swollen, they couldn’t perform surgery at that time. Instead, I was put into a cast, which made me cry again, then sent me on my way. I never knew I could cry so much! I didn’t know that there was so much salt and water inside my body. Well, anyway… I informed my employer that I couldn’t attend work. I was granted a thirty day leave of absence.

A few weeks later, I had to undergo surgery.

My ankle was cut into on both sides.  (I still have those ugly scars to this day, and will have them forever more.) Two thin metal plates were stuffed into my leg. About 5 screws were placed on both sides to hold the plates in place. I was put back into a cast. I got home, I had gone to bed. Then the drugs wore off. My leg felt as if it was burning! I was screaming! Shouting! I felt my body was on fire! I felt that something wrong happened during the surgery. I took seven norcos in a row to ease the pain. I called my grandmother. I told her I needed to go back to the hospital. She wouldn’t pick me up until the next day. In the morning, I went back to the Emergency room. I waited around for hours. The hospital inspected me. They told me that everything was fine. I went back home, however not empty handed. I was given another prescription for more Norcos. After my thirty day leave of absence expired, I was forced to come back to work. I had to scour through everywhere to find a car pool buddy. Eventually I did. Thank God I have such amazing friends. Who knows where I would be in life without them. I walked around at work in crutches each and every day. For the next two months, I built a lot of upper body strength. Until I was finally healed. Then my life was back to normal. Then I never worked out my upper body again.

During the loss of the use of one of my legs, I had attained a newfound perspective on life.

  • No longer was I the bitter angry old man who had despised everything.
  • Slowly, I learned to begin to appreciate my life.

I was able to identify who my true friends were: 

  • The ones who stuck by me while I was disabled.
  • The ones who brought me food or kept me company or had conversations with me when I was all alone.

I was able to appreciate the small things in life, like:

  • Being able to walk.
  • Being able to run.
  • Being able to shower.
  • Being able to go where I wanted to when I wanted to.

What I was able to appreciate the most, out of everything, was being able to walk and hold a drink at the same time. While walking on crutches, this is probably the hardest thing in the world to do. I mean, cooking on crutches is pretty intense and nearly impossible. But walking while holding a cup? Absolutely impossible.

Unfortunately though, as I looked through the list of people who had helped me at a time of my life when I was physically disabled…

There was one person who was never there. My ex. She claimed she loved me. She claimed I meant something to her. She claimed that I was important to her. But her actions showed otherwise. To understand that I didn’t mean as much as she had stated I did to her. To reflect back upon the last decade of my life where I had ruined other relationships and was unable to start new ones, because I was still undeniably in love with her.

I finally had what I needed in my life to finally be over her.

  • I was finally free from the trap I had encased myself into.
  • I was free from the years of self-mutilating misery I had put myself through.
  • I was finally free from the trap of being madly in love with a woman who wasn’t right for me.

Who knows. Maybe if I had never broken those two bones in my ankle, I would have never been free from the depths of hell that I had dug myself into… With nothing but thoughts of depression and anxiety for how horrid my life was without the so called “love of my life”. Maybe today, I would still be a bitter man who hated the world for the turmoil he had to experience throughout his whole life. Maybe today, I would still just be that person you avoid at all costs, who spreads nothing but toxicity and hate in the world.

But, it did happen.

I broke two bones in my ankle. My life changed. And here I am today. Sharing my journey of the most physically painful, yet eye opening experience of my life. Here are some pictures: This was immediately after I had left the hospital.

My friend Jamie decided to write on my cast and draw on my toe.

My friend Dave decided to take a few minutes out of his busy day of driving Lamborghinis to drop off a Mexican burrito to me.

Here’s a picture of the best burrito I ever ate in my life.

Here’s a picture of Dave with his last car.

And here’s a picture of my first night out after a full recovery.

Each day, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have such amazing friends.

Originally posted on Quora.

Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.

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