Shark Bite Would Have Been Easier to Handle: Because I Can
Narrowly Avoided Leg Amputation
On a cross-country family vacation trip, a mother of three is critically injured in a highway accident. The long road of her miraculous hold on life and the rescue of her left leg from amputation is the story of her book.
From a Runner to a Cripple
Before, author Janet Oberholtzer had two functioning, similar legs. Now, her left calf looks like a cartoon depiction of a tree trunk chewed away by humongous-incisored beavers. A tiny portion connects the top to the bottom before the tree topples. Actually, it is even more like what a log would look like if a router dug a 6-inch swath done to dowel width. The miracle is that the bottom is still connected to the top and that the leg works. Really works.
At many times, the owner of this leg would have disagreed with that characterization “working.” Janet Oberholtzer went, in a second, from a runner to a victim – a car crash victim with so much blood loss and injuries that her life was touch and go.
This book is a very honest description of her days before and after the accident. Janet does not gloss or euphemize about herself or her spectrum of reactions (the morphine hallucinations she remembers vividly show the side effects of that pain-killer. As if having enough pain to require morphine is not more than enough for anyone to bear.) She reports her fears and eventual trust and gratitude for all the health care professionals who helped her in California and back home. The reader roots for her physical recovery and is rewarded with slow but amazing results.
Janet is a person who asks why? She did so from childhood, which started her on her spiritual journey away from the Mennonite church in which she was raised. After sustaining life-crushing and life-changing injuries in a vehicle crash, the author re-examines the meaning of life and who God is, concurrent with all her physical rehabilitation. It is a repeat of adolescent existential angst, nonetheless, for Janet Oberholtzer, working on body, emotions, and spiritual concerns seemed to be a package deal. All had room for healing and growth.
Janet walks the reader through her thought processes and the emotional swings of depressive episodes. This is not casting for sympathy – it is a factual report. Anyone in her situation must grieve the loss of her old self. For Janet, this was a revelation. Also, it appears that even before the horrific accident that Janet suffered with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This would have been difficult because there was no widespread public knowledge of this condition when she first endured it. It seems to me that Janet’s interpretation that God gave her the hints to become a runner – meaning be outdoors, in the light of the sun – makes sense as it helped her needs.
Janet’s spirituality is turned upside-down. She describes listening for God and not being sure when a response comes. Also, her questioning the value of organizations, churches, denominations and their platforms of beliefs versus trusting one’s personal intuition and inspiration. Which has more weight? She shared few snippets of information about the Mennonite life of her childhood and how she and her birth family learned to respect each other’s choices.
Additionally, Janet is honest about how the challenges impacted her thoughts and feelings about her husband. Through her recovery process, she needed to let go of fairy tale expectations of the perfect marriage partner, especially that a spouse should be able to read the other’s mind. I appreciated her candor in sharing this.
Every once in a while a bit of her wry humor sneaks in. For example, Janet shares that in her new life of more physical limitations, she uses books and the computer and “enjoyed the journey learning in every area of life (except NASCAR and vampires).”
I recommend this easy-to-read book about an adventure no one would wish for herself. Not surprisingly, it ends with Janet’s continuation of her physical and spiritual and emotional journey.
Photo and text copyright 2013 Maren E. Morgan.