Personal Physical Trauma: What I’ve Learned

I sat on the stairs with my hands covering my mouth, in state of shock.

I was sitting next to pieces of my teeth.

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Dan was walking by at that moment and asked, “Are you okay Mike?” “No” was my reply, still trying to process what just happened.

The Event

We were a few weeks from opening the hospital and I had some time to go out and eat lunch with my family.
It was winter so I had my heavy jacket on and, as usual, put my hands in my pockets and made my way up the stairs.

I was “jogging” up the stairs—you know, not just walking the steps, but going up quicker, when the tip of my foot caught the very top edge of the 6th or 7th step. Without anything to block my fall and because it happened so quickly, my face met one of the steps.

No blood or bruising. No broken jaw. But I can still hear the sound of bits of my teeth clattering across the step as I instantly knew something very bad happened. And I turned around and  sat there, covering my mouth, shocked I just ruined my teeth. The pain wasn’t searing, but a dull presence. Like nerves were exposed, but not being poked or prodded.

Two hours later I was in a dentist’s chair. He took photos and began work. I had the dubious privilege of being Workman’s Comp Case Number One for my hospital. As the weeks and months went by and the shock wore off I decided if there was any reason for this to have happened, I will find it. Here’s what I’ve learned from experiencing my own personal physical trauma.

Life Can Change Instantly

This was my first personal (and so far only) lesson in the nature of sudden trauma. Whenever I tell people the story I am amazed once more at just how quick the interior of my oral cavity changed in a split unpredictable second.

I’m no paranoid. I’m not overly careful. But I must share: cherish health and wholeness if you have it. Take risks, but don’t be stupid. Life has a way of sometimes going slow and other times very rapidly. When I see someone in the hospital who has just fallen off a horse or a ladder, I now realize their lives will never the be same, just like mine. Before you make that quick turn at a stop light or decide to jump over that barrier consider possible consequences.

It’s a different ball game altogether when it comes to emotional or mental trauma. The effects are similar: life is different. I think of the sudden loss of a loved one taken from the world quickly or traumatically and the hole left in the lives of those who remain. What happens next?

After the Shock, Life Returns to a “New Normal”

After getting the crowns in my upper teeth, I had get used to feeling that extra bulge inside. It was strange and different. I ended up with 3 root canals and spent a lot of time in the chair as either the dentist worked on me or the endodondist drilled and filled.

I will say, my trauma didn’t leave me disfigured. No one can tell when I smile I have a couple of crowns right up top in the front. Many more traumas aren’t that way—they leave scars and parts of bodies are gone or look nothing like they did before. It’s shocking to experience, feel and see. But life adjusts.

If you’ve experienced a trauma – physical or emotional – you might notice there comes a “new normal” where emotionally you adjust. This body of ours isn’t going to be the same and there’s not much we can do about it. I personally believe I get a new body in a while anyway. But life goes on and normal becomes, well, normal. We humans adjust.

Others Can Benefit

Finally, a lesson I have learned is that you’re reading this. Others can benefit from a personal trauma if you let it happen. I’m writing this blog post to help you find your way after a trauma if you haven’t yet. You can share your story with others who might have been through the same thing.

For my trauma, I also use humor. I tell people a funny way to see my accident is I once heard someone say I must have been smiling when I hit because there was no blood or broken bones. And yes, I laugh because it’s funny to think that could have been possible—unlikely, but possible. Trying to find something funny helps but I also know it’s not always possible. That’s just me.

I hope you never have to experience a trauma, but more likely, you will during your lifetime. I hope these points can help.

I’m Wondering: If you’ve experienced personal trauma, how have you handled it?