Friday, June 02, 2006

At The Wrong Place, At The Wrong Time

I awoke from a coma, thinking I was in the southwestern part of Russia. I had no idea what I was doing there, and to add to my confusion I had no idea why so many friends and family members were also in Russia with me.

In reality, I was in the Intensive Care unit (ICU) at Breckenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas, the result of having been shot, point blank in the head, during a convenience store robbery. I was the victim of a violent crime, being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Before that infamous night, I thought I was invincible and immortal. Life was good for me. I was a 19-year-old pre-med student at the University of Texas in Austin, well on my way to fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon. I had a beautiful girlfriend (Sharon, my high school sweetheart) and I thought life could not get any better. How wrong I was!!

On that eventful night, February 18, 1981, I had to fight simply to remain alive. The three criminals who shot me thought I was dead, and after arriving by ambulance at the hospital very few people there believed I would be alive much longer. The police quickly transferred my case to the Homicide Division as they, too, thought I would not survive.

My neurosurgeon arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night only to turn around and go home, thinking I would be dead before the morning arrived. When he returned the next morning, surprised that I was still alive, he told my parents that he needed to immediately take me into the operating room for delicate brain surgery. However, instead of giving my parents any reason for hope, he coldly stated that there was a 60 percent chance that I would die during surgery, and if I did survive, there was almost a 100 percent chance that I would not be able to comprehend, communicate, or be a positive member of society again.

I beat the eminent neurosurgeon's odds and survived the surgery. I was still paralyzed on my right side, could not speak, and was confused. But I was alive.

After three weeks in Austin, I was strong enough to be transferred by jet ambulance to a Rehab Hospital in Houston. Once there, I continued to make slow but steady progress. However, after several weeks I was tested by a neuropsychologist and once again my life changed forever. She said, "I know you have goals of returning to college, but judging from the results of your test, we must be realistic." She implied most strongly that I would never return to college. I was furious and thought, "Lady, who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do? You do not even know me!" Right then and there I made returning to University of Texas my number one goal.

My goal was not an easy one. I had to learn to walk again. I had to learn to speak again. I had to learn how to do small things that most of us take for granted like tying my shoes, getting dressed every day, taking a shave, etc. But this time I had to learn to do it by using only one hand.

However, after one and a half years of extremely difficult work my goal was reached. I returned to the University of Texas. When I was first injured, very few professionals believed that I would survive, and even fewer thought I would ever return to the University of Texas. None thought I would return to Plan II, the Honors Program at the University of Texas in which I was enrolled on that eventful night when I was shot. I surprised everyone when I resumed my university studies in none other then Plan II.

After four years, I graduated at the top of my class, receiving such honors as Phi Beta Kappa, Dean's Distinguished Graduate, and Summa Cum Laude. After graduation from the University of Texas, I married Sharon, my high school sweetheart, who stood by me, giving me encouragement and love throughout my ordeal. Then I continued my education in Graduate School, obtaining my Master's of Social Work from the University of Houston.

Even though I was very proud of all my accomplishments there were times I felt very bitter. Once, a friend asked me to watch him play basketball thinking I would enjoy myself. Watching him play only upset me because I felt that had I not been a victim of violence, it would have been me playing instead of watching in the stands. I was constantly thinking "What if." I guess not enough time had elapsed for the process of grieving. Before I was shot, I could do at least 500 things extremely well, but now I could possibly do 200 if I was really lucky. I therefore thought to myself, "Am I going to concentrate on the 300 things I can no longer do or on the 200 things that I can still do?"

At that very moment, the answer was clear. I was going to make my life positive and focus on what I still had and not on what I had recently lost.

Grief is a funny thing. It affects us all. Whether you are shot in the head, mourning for a loved one whom has just passed away, or facing a divorce, grief is extremely painful. No one expects to experience these losses, but I have come to realize that they are part of life. It is true that overcoming grief takes much time. However, with the correct attitude I believe that most everyone can overcome it. It is like the old saying that says: "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." As I thought about this, I decided to make myself a tall, delicious, glass of lemonade.

Michael Jordan Segal
©2001 All rights reserved - used with permission.

Michael Jordan Segal is a social worker at Memorial Hermann Hospital. An author and a well sought after inspirational/motivational speaker. His "miraculous comeback" story has been featured on national television and magazines. Mike has had stories published in "Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul," newspapers, booklets and ezines. Mike married his highschool sweetheart, Sharon, and together they live in Houston, Texas with their daughter, Shawn. For more information and to contact Mike please visit: 

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