On June 30th an SUV slammed into me while I was out training on my bike. I was airlifted from the scene and spent three weeks in hospital, and now, almost three months later, I am still getting around on crutches and in a wheelchair. If all goes well with my medical appointments this week, I am hoping to be able to start walking again and making the long journey back to being a marathon runner and Ironman triathlete. I am determined to get there, if only to spite the orthopedists.
I suffered multiple serious injuries and nearly died. But there is nothing like a near-death experience to make you count your blessings … and I am blessed in very many ways. My family, friends and colleagues have been there for me, in great ways and in small, at every step.
But the real surprise has been the kindness of strangers. I experience great kindness every day, very often from complete strangers. They open doors for me, help me across the road, carry coffee for me — all the things that you take for granted, but can’t do when disabled. Not only has this made me determined to be a kinder person (and I hope I am, at least, not unkind), but it has opened my eyes to the goodness and decency of ordinary people. In an age when the media message is about the disintegration of civil discourse, I have to differ and proclaim that civility is alive and well. Also, at a time when some say race relations are at a low, my real-life experience is that the very kindest people to me, consistently, have been people who do not look like me.
Throughout this period, I have felt at peace. While I have my “moments”, I have generally been in good spirits. It is quite ironic that the same year I conquered the athletic challenge of my life, the World Marathon Challenge, I also have spent months in a wheelchair. But I often say that both experiences are just chapters of the same book, because I am using the same mental disciplines in my recovery that I used for the seven marathons.
This starts with gratitude. I am grateful to be alive to see my boys to maturity, and to have the possibility of a full recovery. The outcome could have been way, way worse. I am grateful for the amazing medical care I received, and continue to receive, especially through National Rehabilitation Hospital, one of the medical gems of the Washington area. And I am especially grateful for the love and support of so many, from my family to — as mentioned above —complete strangers.
This leads to a sense of belief. My religious convictions make me believe that my life was spared for a reason. I also believe in my colleagues — to run the business while I cannot. I believe that I will make a full recovery and — against the odds — return to the ultra-endurance athletic events that gave me so much exhilaration in my late middle age.
And, I had a relationship with pain from racing that well equipped me to deal with the terrible pain of the injuries. I have learned to acknowledge and honor pain, put a number on it, and then set my eyes on the horizon and move on. It was very helpful to have the power of opioids to get me through the worst patches, but it’s even better now that I no longer need them.
I hope none of you ever have to experience serious disability. But I have to say, in some ways, I am grateful to have had this experience, which has changed me, hopefully for the better.
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Jonathan Terrell is the Founder and President of KCIC. He has more than 30 years of international financial services experience with a multi-disciplinary background in accounting, finance and insurance. Prior to founding KCIC in 2002, he worked at Zurich Financial Services, JP Morgan, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.Learn More About Jonathan