Richard Kresse’s Life Testimony — Part 2a

Introduction

For those of you that have read part 1 of my story but could never find part 2 or 3 that I mentioned it’s because they are still being written. I have been going through a lot this last year after my last nearly fatal accident where I fell asleep at the wheel and broke both of my legs and totaled my dream car. Shortly after that, my father passed away from a stroke. It’s been hard to overcome the depression to get myself to push forward on writing these stories of my life. It doesn’t help that part 2 is the longest most complex of the three and thinking about translating that to the written word is incredibly overwhelming. Well, here we go…

Relapse

In the photos above just 2 1/2 years after the horrific crash that had me crushed inside the front of my vehicle, I recovered miraculously with only two issues that remained. One being my crushed airway which required me to keep a tracheostomy to breathe and of course horrific chronic pain from the trauma to my body.

I was so young I couldn’t get enough medication to kill the pain. So I quickly fell back into my old ways of using street drugs only this time to self-medicate so I could cope with the excruciating pain I felt every second of every day.

Look in my eyes in the photographs above, look deep… I knew what I was doing was wrong and I didn’t want to live that way, I never did... I was stuck halfway between addiction and coping with the damage I had done to my body and I didn’t know what to do or how to fix it. At this point in my life, I wished I wouldn’t have survived the wreck in 2006. I was desperate for a way to break free from the control the substances had over me and I now knew taking my own life could never again be a potential way out. I learned that the hard way.

My Ticket to Sobriety

I came into some money in February of 2009 and knowing that I would likely waste all of it on the substances I was using I decided to spend most of it on a motorcycle like the one you see below. I had been riding my motorcycle for 2 days since I purchased it and little did I know my “way out” was coming quicker than I knew. That night of the 2nd day my mother prayed her heart out about my drug usage and direction of my life and asked God would he please get me in rehab so I could get clean.

The very next morning I got up and was headed to Tyler, TX on a back road to purchase more of the substance destroying my life, the one thing it only took a single mistake to become a slave to for 7 years. Little did I know I was not headed to buy drugs but instead working my way to the Rehab my mother prayed for, just not the kind of Rehab we were expecting. The dealer I was heading to originally nor any other dealer ever saw me again and it’s staying that way.

My 2006 Kawasaki Ninja was identical to this one.

I was traveling at speeds between 100mph to 130mph on my 2006 Kawasaki Ninja and I passed a car that had a little boy looking out the window. I stuck my right hand out and waved to him as I blew past the car and continued flying down the twisty road.

On the last turn of FM2015 before it intersects HWY 271 a high gust of wind slammed into the side of my bike out of nowhere when I was leaning into the turn at over 100mph and no matter how hard I pushed into it I couldn’t overcome the wind to turn the bike so I lost control and went flipping end over end like a rag doll down the side of the road until finally my helmet struck a fence post and I broke my neck.

The woman and her little boy that I just had blown past saw that I had just wrecked and she pulled over to alert someone of the accident but because she had children wouldn’t get out of the car.

The next person to appear down this rural country road amazingly enough just happened to be my old DARS Counselors Secretary and she called 911 and stayed with me and even helped them load me into the EMS.

She pulled my wallet out of my back pocket to figure out who I was and a number she could call someone at. As well as kept saying my name and telling me to hang in there despite my not being able to hear her. I am forever grateful for her help that day.

Much time later during my recovery, I got to meet her in person and have her describe to me these details what the scene and I looked like. She told me I was just all tangled up with my limbs bent in directions they shouldn’t go, totally unconscious and taking short and very fast breaths of air over and over totally non-responsive.

The rescue crew told the woman that found me if I would have landed just a few feet in either direction that the barbwire fence would have literally cut me in half. I broke my neck the best way I could have broken it. Man God is good…

This is the helmet I was wearing that protected my head from being smashed in by a fence post.

I really feel like God just took a deep breath and leaned down from the heavens to blow me off the road to answer my mother’s desperate cry out to him.

Hanging by a Thread

The first two weeks I don’t remember anything in the ETMC ICU unit because the doctors had me chemically sedated so that I wouldn’t wake up and try to move my neck which was still broken. They were unable to do surgery and fuse my broken neck due to having chronic pneumonia and MRSA upon arrival to the hospital.

I had this bright idea that it wouldn’t be a problem riding a motorcycle with a tracheostomy I thought I could just keep my jacket pulled over it and everything would be just fine. The massive amount of drugs in my system was covering up pneumonia I had developed from riding a few days straight in the cold February air.

For those first two weeks, as you can see in the picture below, I was literally fighting for my life not to be totally consumed by pneumonia. My mother said the doctors weren’t sure if I was going to make it and when she watched me unconscious in the ICU the sound of my breathing she would never forget. Just constant gurgling from my lungs being full of fluid.

Me chemically sedated shortly after breaking my neck.

If you can’t see this by now..my mom is my HERO. The one person I’ve put through so much and she never left me or gave up until she got to finally see her son clean.

February the 27th of 2009, the day of my 2nd major accident was the last day I ever used… and I’m never EVER going back.

Waking Up

When I first came conscious after making it through pneumonia that nearly took my life I was very confused. It seemed like I was just living the worst nightmare imaginable. Waking up and being unable to move any part of my body and going through the worst drug withdrawals you could fathom all while being a prisoner of my own body and not being able to do anything about it.

Finally, after a week of various moments trying to piece my new reality together, I asked a doctor if I was paralyzed. His response to me was “what? you didn’t know??” Not everyone knows what a quadriplegic is, I know I didn’t know, my mom didn’t know, my sister didn’t know…nobody knew. Google is responsible for painting the picture of my condition because nobody explained anything they just expected us to know.

My last 2 weeks at ETMC were a nightmare because they had been trying to feed me solid foods daily even though because of my spinal cord injury I could not swallow so I was choking on food and drinks until finally a feeding tube was placed down one of my nostrils.

After 30 days since being brought to ETMC with a broken neck, they were able to safely take me into surgery and fuse my spine at C2 and C3 where it was broken and within 2 days I was shipped off to Baylor Rehabilitation in Dallas, TX to begin therapy.

My New Home

Baylor was a breath of fresh air and an amazing rehab facility but I didn’t know it at the time because to me every moment I was conscious was like living in pure hell. Because of this and the fact I was still going through intense withdrawals from the substance abuse(mainly Meth/cocaine), I asked every chance I could for pain medicine trying to deaden the reality I found myself in as well as make the drug withdrawals not so intense.

This behavior ruined my therapy and any chances of me getting better as I was constantly nodding off from the high doses of Oxycodone and other pain killers. My doctor looked at me one Wednesday during my team meeting to go over my progress and with my mother conferenced in on the phone he said to me “you're not going to amount to a pile of sh**”. I don’t hold that against him because at the time he was absolutely right.

I had been deemed NPO, which means no food or water by mouth since the last 2 weeks I was at ETMC in Tyler Texas and continued to be after transferring to Baylor. At this time I had already gone about a month or month 1/2 with nothing to eat or drink by mouth as well as periods as long as a few weeks unable to speak or communicate. After it was all over I spent around 2 months total with no food/water by mouth, or ability to communicate besides moving my lips and it was absolute torture.

Well, one day after the team meeting when my mother drove 2 hours to visit me I talked her into getting me some Arizona green tea because it had been so long since I had anything to drink and I wanted a drink so badly I felt like I would sell my soul for it almost and I gave my poor mother hell to get her to agree to go against the doctor's orders.

After she had left for the day I woke up that afternoon with a hose running down my throat and into my lungs as they were pumping the gallon of green tea out that I silently aspirated. Every time I heaved it felt like motor oil coming up and you would have thought I would have learned quickly to listen to my doctors but I didn’t…

Are Kidneys Important?

Due to my green tea episode they had to put me on a bunch of antibiotics to ward off infection from everything going into my lungs. I remember whenever they went to administer the first dose of Zosyn by IV the walls started to melt and slowly drain down like running paint and I heard a loud voice echoing in slow motion saying “Riiiiiicccccchhhhhhaaaarrrrdddddd… are you okaaaaaaaay? I was allergic to the antibiotic and what I experienced was like something only from a movie.

During those events, because of the allergy and being on too much uneccessary and very toxic psych drugs my kidneys failed and I began blowing up like the Pillsbury doughboy swelling on every inch of my body as well as turning bright red all over.

I had been misdiagnosed as bipolar years before because of the street drug symptoms and the insane amount of meds they prescribed for it aided in my kidneys just giving out and failing completely. So they discharged me from Baylor Rehab. and admitted me back into ICU at Baylor hospital across the street.

Upon admission to ICU my Creatinine or Kidney toxicity was a 6.8 and I believe the normal level shouldn’t be above 1.8. The nurses repeatedly flushed saline into my G-tube or feeding tube and just kept repeating this after stopping all the Psych medicines. Within my 2 week stay, my Kidneys started functioning again keeping me from having to go on dialysis.

How Low is Rock Bottom?

During that 2 weeks a lot of things happened that made me start thinking about everything I was doing. First of all, I was angry at everyone but myself for the shape I was in. I blamed everyone but myself. I thought how could God really be real and love me if he let this happen to me. I was beyond confused.

While I was in that ICU I couldn’t sleep for the entire 2 weeks. I was in some kind of state of insomnia and had to watch 3 people die right next to me and listen to their families scream at the top of their lungs “No!! Lord, please don’t take him!” Person after person in the bed right next to me was just gone and those memories will haunt me forever.

My attitude changed drastically after witnessing the deaths of these 3 people, one of which was younger than me who also had a motorcycle wreck but wasn’t wearing a helmet.

On my last day in ICU at Baylor, I finally fell asleep after 2 horrific weeks and it was so incredible…. I dreamed I was walking next to Jesus Christ. I have never had a dream like that in my life and when I awoke I felt a peace like I hadn’t ever experienced before.

A doctor came over to the hospital to see about readmitting me back into the rehab and I begged and pleaded with them to take me back and give me another chance. I promised I would try so much harder than before and assured him they wouldn’t regret it. After everything I just witnessed I began to realize just how fortunate I really was.

2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Times a Charm?

Just before they were about to transfer me back over to Baylor Rehab on that same day they did another swallow evaluation on me as I failed at least 4–5 times prior and aspirated the fluid into my lungs. This attempt I got news that was so wonderful to me I couldn’t see straight. I was overflowing with joy. Two months of no food or drinks by mouth and they finally approved me to eat and drink again!

The horrible part is I always drink a ton of fluids as my norm but when your Kidneys fail your thirst gets intensified out of this world.

I had tried literally everything known to man from lying, manipulation, tricking hospital staff anything I could think of to get someone to give me a drink of water I even challenged the hospital board that I should be able to make my own decisions despite being paralyzed but nothing worked and thank God that was over!

First Major Miracle

Now if you knew the whole history of my life you would know this isn’t the first miracle I was blessed with. However, it was the first where I felt God make his presence known to me. As I was going through my daily therapy now and actually participating I had to be pushed everywhere by someone because my paralysis was complete and I didn’t have any motor functions in my arms or hands to be able to get myself anywhere on my own.

You see, I was raised and brought up to believe in God and Jesus Christ but when this accident occurred I had no idea what I believed. I had no idea if he was real and I was so low with the condition I was in I didn’t want to believe he was because nothing added up at all.

I had no relationship with the Lord aside from claiming to believe. I had been saved as a child multiple times but this is the point where things began to shift in my heart and I began to learn that God is a living God that we can actually have a relationship with.

After beginning to realize day after day that nothing was coming back and therapy wasn’t going very good I started thinking about what kind of life I’m going to have now. I kept seeing patients everywhere driving powerchairs around and being mobile and I thought to myself if I just could move one of my arms then I could drive one of these chairs around and then I know I could still have some kind of a semblance of a life.

Up until that point, about 2 months in I had not prayed one single time or tried to talk to God even once. At the lowest point in my life where I couldn’t go down any further, I thought about the dream where I was walking with Jesus Christ and I broke down and I prayed.

“Dear God, I know I don’t deserve to ask you for anything with the horrible life I’ve been living, and all the things I’ve done wrong. I don’t even know if your really there and you hear me…but I see all these people driving these power chairs around and I know if there was some way I could drive one too then I would still be able to have some sort of a life…God would you please give me back the use of one of my arms so that I can drive one of those chairs and I promise I won’t ask for anything else back… and I know I don’t deserve it but I would be so very grateful. Amen”

At that particular time, both of my hands, fingers, and wrists were curled inward because of constant spasms in the muscles and were drawn inward towards my chest and completely flaccid. Within two days of my request to the Lord through prayer for the use of one arm something miraculous happened.

Driving my chair with one of my Amazing Therapists!

My fingers and wrist on my right arm released from the spasm that was drawing them up and almost immediately I realized I was able to move my fingers and my wrist on my right hand, not long later some of the muscles in my arm and right shoulder began to work too and within less than a weeks time since I called out to the Lord for help, I was driving a power chair independently which was exactly what I asked for.

In my last few weeks at Baylor Rehab, I had been nicknamed “Speedy” from driving my powerchair full speed everywhere and nearly drifting it around corners. I even managed to wreck that too and drive it partly up a wall one day. It was an incredible feeling that's so hard to even try to describe, gaining that freedom that is.

If you're going to drive fast…wear a helmet!

Now 12 years later I still have the one arm that I asked for but God did something even greater for me than I could have imagined and that was restoring enough muscle function to be able to walk on my own two feet without assistive devices.

This road however was still barely traveled and God wasn’t done with showing me that he’s really here and listening.

Telling on Myself

Not too long after those miraculous events, despite being totally thrilled out my mind about the muscle recovery in my right arm, I was still facing severe withdraw side effects from the drugs. This led me to talk to one of the hospital Psychologists and I totally broke down while talking to her because I spent almost the entirety of 7 years high out of my mind on strong mind-altering street drugs.

So not only was I having to learn how to cope and deal with being paralyzed I was having to learn how to live all over again without drugs. I had no idea what normal felt like anymore and that feeling terrified me. Even worse the drugs have you so under the control of them I actually was totally convinced that the only way I could do or achieve anything was to make sure I had enough of the drugs first.

Those are the kind of lies those chemicals are telling you and why I never wanted to be involved with them in any way. My mistake was trusting my best friend to not do me any harm and I didn’t even know what I had even done until days afterward. I finally Google’d one of the street names for Meth which in this case was “ice” and even though I was very angry at my best friend when I realized what I had actually been harrassed to use but by that time my lifelong values and morals were out the window because I was already hooked.

Tough Love

The Psychologist after uncovering all of these details then reported them to my treating Physician at Baylor Rehab. My doctor was a wonderful man I highly respect but in order to try to preserve any chances of me not staying an addict he took away 100% of my pain medicine except for 2 Vicodin a day.

My perspective of the situation was different and no matter how I tried to convince him he would not change his mind. I explained that I was not addicted to pain pills or pain medicines of any kind. I was addicted to illegal street drugs and that I needed the medicine he and I agreed to after I came back from spending 2 weeks in ICU.

To paint the picture clearly I’ll remind you just a couple of months before that I fell off a motorcycle doing 130MPH on a country road and went flipping end over end 80 something feet until my helmet struck a fence post and I broke my neck. I was in SEVERE PAIN.

But that Doctor loved me enough and cared enough about me to make me suffer through it so that I would know that I could do it. Skipping ahead a little I just want to mention this very same Doctor actually cried when he saw me walk into the rehab facility a year and a half later on my own 2 feet without a cane or any assistive devices.

People just don’t get to come back from where I’ve been. I was so mad at him during the time I had to make due and suffer it out with just 2 pain pills all day but down the road, I understood why he did what he did and I thank him for it.

Last Month at Baylor Rehab

My last month at Baylor Rehab was nothing short of difficult despite the freedom that I had been blessed with. I still had to be gotten out of bed with a lift and placed into my powerchair but once there could freely drive wherever I wanted to go. With the miracle I had been shown after my desperate prayer I remained hopeful that I would continue regaining movement. After weeks of therapy, however, I was trying my absolute hardest the only thing to change was a few muscles in my legs were trying to fire but they just didn’t want to do much.

Every day I got on an automatic cycle machine that peddled for me and I would try my hardest to try to overpower the machine and peddle on my own. After many days and much work I was only able to do that with just my right leg, my left was still very flaccid.

By the time I was getting ready to be discharged home we had seen enough movement to return in my legs to where I could very carefully stand up in one place doing almost all of the work with my right leg and transfer to different places such as from my bed to my powerchair. Totally needing assistance to do so of course.

I still did not have enough strength and control to take a step or even begin to think about walking or even twisting to the side without great assistance. I actually caused a nurse to drop me because I thought I could twist and transfer into a different wheelchair after a shower one day. I was crushed by the thoughts sinking in that I would never be the way I was before.

Good Times

One day at Baylor Rehab we had very severe storms come into town as well as a tornado right in the area of Dallas, Texas. The protocol for such was to get every patient in the building huddled together in the center of the building on each respective floor. I was on the 4th floor and as we were all gathered closely together by the nurse's station you could sense the fear in everybody as nobody was talking.

The rain was just pouring down and the skies were black as coal. Suddenly a large crash of thunder and lightning hit shaking the entire building and right at the moment it did that I screamed “C’mon with it!” as loud as I could and everyone just busted out laughing. It was awesome to be able to make everyone laugh during a tense and scary situation such as we were in.

Another great moment that I’ll never forget was during lunchtime at the Rehab hospital. Baylor has amazing food so good it becomes a highlight of your day. Well, the worst part about being on a floor where everyone is paralyzed is you have to sit in your room smelling that delicious food just calling you for over an hour most days as the techs scramble to get everyone fed.

One day when I had one of my favorite meals waiting for me I just couldn’t take it anymore. I could smell those chicken tenders with white gravy and the best fries and mashed potatoes I’d ever had besides my mothers and I just had to do something to get to that food.

So I carefully drug my arm down the armrest to get to the buttons to control the wheelchair and I elevated the chair as high as it would go and I drove up to my tray on the side table and leaned forward and knocked the lid off of the food with my face. It was game on now and I didn’t hesitate I went full-on faceplant into the food and didn’t stop until I had finished the tray.

After I was done I started heading out of my room into the hallway and ran into the tech coming to feed me. My face was covered in mashed potatoes and gravy and he looked at me and said “No, you didn’t??” and I responded “YES, I DID. And it was GOOD!”

Doing Hard Time in the Pen almost Over

Four months is a long time to be away from your home and family. I spent so long at Baylor Rehab those Nurses and staff and other patients became like my family. I felt safe there because I knew they could take care of me. The thought of going back home to try and live had me in a state of absolute terror. I felt like I was institutionalized like the man that spends life in prison and can’t adapt to the outside world because he had been there for too long.

Thankfully I had my real family so I made sure to get photos with my adopted family at the Rehab before preparing to go on my way to live with my parents and be cared for by my mother.

Many people tried to talk my Mom out of taking me home and putting me in a nursing home instead and I’m so thankful for her strength and courage because I know I wouldn’t have turned out as good if I was in a facility.

I’m so grateful for the staff at Baylor Rehab, they made that place wonderful.

On my very last day at Baylor Rehab, my photoshoot day, I accidentally acquired another nickname besides “speedy”. As you can see in the photo directly above I have a blanket lying in my lap. This was because they had just given me a shower prior to taking the photos and they didn’t feel like it was necessary to get me fully dressed just for that so they threw a blanket over me.

Well after completing our little photo shoot I was headed past the nurse's station headed back to my room and part of the blanket got pulled under the wheel of the powerchair and all of a sudden the blanket was gone. Right next to the receptionist with at least 20 or so people standing around.

I freaked out and took my one hand I could move and tried to cover myself as the receptionist is yelling “Everybody quick! Throw money at him!” which only drew more attention to me naked in the middle of the busy hallway.

Then one of the male techs yelled back “No! Make him pay us!” as he tried to get the blanket out from under the powerchair for me. Unfortunately my last day there I also got dubbed as “the naked man”. I guess you can say I went out with a bang!

Continued on Part 2b…

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Richard Kresse

Richard Kresse

Incomplete Quadriplegic on a mission for success.