Authors: Scott Martin,Coryanne Hicks
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Nonfiction, #Retail
Forward In Reverse
Martin and Coryanne Hicks
2013 © Martin/Hicks
This book is dedicated
to our family and friends for supporting us through this project and the
doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who gave us something to write
This is a true story, recounted from
memory to the best of my ability. To protect the privacy of others, some names
have been changed and personal details altered. Dialogue has been included for
story-telling purposes and, while the gist of what was said is true, it should
not be taken as a verbatim representation of the conversations included herein.
At the end of the day, this is solely my side of my story. Others may remember
it differently, but this is how I recall the events that transpired.
Art by Tatiana Villa
I looked around me and recognized nothing. The sounds, the walls,
the lights, the blankets, none of it familiar. There were machines to my right.
Giant monstrosities of blue metal making perfectly timed noises. Tubes snaked
from the mechanical contraptions to where I lay, disappearing down my throat. I
gaped as one of the machines to my right pumped up and down, mirroring the
motion in my chest. It was breathing for me.
Why is a machine breathing for me?
I thought in panic.
can’t I breathe on my own?
My eyes rounded on my surroundings, scouring them for answers. A
wash of pale walls, sterile lights, and white handrails along my bed, I drew
the only conclusion I could:
A hospital. I’m in a hospital
I tried to sit up, tried to throw these covers that weren’t mine
off. But my body wouldn’t obey. Fear clinched inside my chest. I tried to lift
my arm, move my leg, turn my head. None of it would work.
I can’t move!
I tried to yell but no sound came out. I was paralyzed. Mute.
‘Scott,’ a woman’s voice drew my attention. I quickly followed the
sound with my eyes until I found her. She was standing with her back to me, her
shoulder-length brown hair loosely tied in one of those elastic bands women
seem to love so much. The chocolate color of it contrasted sharply with the
hunter green monotony of what could only be a medical uniform.
Definitely a hospital.
The knowing brought me no sense of comfort.
What am I doing in
a hospital bed? In this room? With these machines controlling my lungs?
I looked to the woman in green, imploring her to hear me.
You must know what’s going on. Please!
The way she had said my name – so familiarly, as if she’d used it
a hundred times before – had to mean she was involved in my care. She wouldn’t
be in here if she wasn’t.
Please help me!
I begged, terror pulling at the muscles around my eyes – the only
muscles which still seemed to work.
Am I paralyzed?
Tears of despair
made my eyelids clench as I felt something slice its way through my gut.
I forced my eyes open further and stared hard at the woman, firing
questions at her back.
Who are you? Why am I here? How long have I been here? Why don’t I
remember anything? How did I get here?
‘You really need to see this,’ she said. From where I lay whatever
she was looking at was blocked by her form. I could hear what sounded like
women's voices cheering and shouting. Television.
I don’t need to see a TV. I need to know what the hell is going
on! Why can’t I move? What happened to me?!
I paralyzed? The thought of it made me nauseous. I couldn’t be
paralyzed. I was a trained athlete. A soccer coach and player in his prime
didn’t develop spontaneous paralysis. Real life didn’t work that way.
The last thing I remembered was playing a casual game of soccer
with the other coaches at the Nike Soccer Camp near Chicago where I’d been
invited to speak. I’d been fine, perfectly healthy –
No! I hadn’t been fine. I’d become sick. I could see myself curled
around the toilet bowl as an endless amount of fluid came up out of me; then
tossing and turning in a bed due to fever and chills. Heat exhaustion, I’d
thought at the time. I could remember visiting the ER and the young doctor with
stress beading across his brow. Heat exhaustion, he’d readily agreed. IV fluids
on a gurney in the corridor of the busy ER, a prescription for Tylenol, then
off to my mother’s house to spend the night because her place was closer than
mine. So I hadn’t been fine, but neither had I been paralyzed. How had a case
of heat exhaustion turned into
A startled exclamation came from the direction of the woman.
Jolted, I looked over frantically to see what caused her outburst. Enormous,
round eyes were staring back at me. Her mouth was parted slightly around the
‘oh’ that was still dissipating on her lips like a puff of smoke. I returned
her startled gaze with a pleading one of my own.
Please tell me what’s going on. Am I paralyzed? Am I going to die?
Just tell me. Please!
Waiting as she opened her mouth to speak was like watching a
turtle emerge from its shell. Slowly, carefully her lips began to form words. I
mentally held my breath, feeling another repugnant surge of bile when I realized
I couldn’t do it physically. All I needed to hear were four sweet words: Scott,
you’re not paralyzed.
Say it. Just say it. That’s all I need to know.
When she finally did speak, it was thirteen words, only one of
which I had asked for.
‘Good afternoon, Scott,’ she said, now calm and composed. ‘You
were asleep quite a while.’ She paused for a brief moment, a smile stretching
across her face until it became almost giddy in its exuberance. ‘I'll be right
back.’ And as quick as that she twisted towards the door and strode
purposefully from the room.
Though I didn’t recognize the face of the man who came into my
room next, his white lab coat, suit, and tie made one thing known:
I squinted my eyes and focused on the somber line of his mouth,
the grave set of his jaw, the narrowness of his brown eyes; studying him as if
something – anything in his countenance could give me a clue as to why I was
here. Though not tall, he seemed so broad – expansive; overshadowing all else
in the room like a mountain rearing amidst a forest – as he leaned over me in
my hospital bed. He placed his left hand on my right shoulder and bent at the
waist so as to bring his face comfortably into my view. His tone was cool and
confident as he spoke to me, carrying the foreboding weight of titanic truths
hard to tell and even harder to hear. I forced my eyes to stay fixed on his
face, told myself I couldn’t hide from what he had to say. Whatever it was, it
had already passed and I could only fight to stay afloat in its wake.
it can’t be any worse than what I’ve already imagined. Can it?
‘Hi, Scott,’ the doctor said. ‘I'm Dr. Henrickson. You've been
very sick, and had all of us very worried. This he said with an earnestness
that shone in the recesses of his eyes.
He really was worried for me,
I realized and was abruptly overcome by
gratitude at having had my care fall into his hands. For a flicker of time, I
felt a blessed moment of reprieve from my fear and anxiety and swooned on the
comforter of trust. Surely with this doctor watching over me I would be safe.
Dr. Henrickson wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.
‘But you have made it down a very long road. The tube in your
throat is providing you with air and is connected to this machine.’ He gestured
to the blue,
monstrosity which I had already determined to
be my source of oxygen.
‘The other machines have been necessary to keep you alive and may
remain so for a little while longer. The ones you can’t see are the pulse
oximeter which has been monitoring the oxygenation of your blood, an
intravenous drip to keep you hydrated, and the dialysis machine which has been
taking the place of your kidneys.’ He paused and took a breath. I felt my mind
rock and sway the way it might moments before sleep.
Intravenous drip. Dialysis. Keep you alive.
Dr. Henrickson’s words replayed
across my mind, cycling like a broken tape caught on the scene of the
I was dying. I had been heading towards death,
and I might be still. These machines were the only things keeping me alive.
‘I want to tell you about why you are here and why you are
I despaired. For all I knew everything below my neck was currently
wrapped in gauze.
‘You contracted a serious illness, Scott. One which nearly killed
you. We refer to it as Toxic Shock-Like Syndrome, but the official name is
Group A Streptococcus – GAS for short. It’s a bacterium most commonly
recognized as the cause of strep throat and impetigo, but in its invasive form
it’s been known to cause diseases such as scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, and
necrotizing fasciitis. In the throat or on the skin, the bacteria can reside
unnoticed or with only mild symptoms and discomfort, but in rare cases such as
yours, it’s able to infect the blood, muscle, fat tissue, or lungs and can
rapidly become life threatening. As the disease progressed, your system went
into multiple organ failure and shock. We were forced to put you on full life
support in a medically induced coma for the past month.’
Month?! I’ve lost a month?!
‘During this time, the necrotizing fasciitis – you might know it
better as “the flesh-eating disease” – caused the skin on your hands and feet
to become gangrenous.’
I closed my eyes, wishing I could cover my ears – wishing I could
un-hear everything I’d just heard. It was already too much to endure:
flesh-eating disease, a month in a coma,
wishing I could get away from it all.
No more. Don’t tell me anymore.
he was still talking, forging ahead, his stern yet sympathetic tone saying, ‘
have to hear this, Scott. I know it’s hard, but you must listen.’
‘In order to prevent it from spreading and eventually killing you,
we had to amputate.’
His tone hadn’t changed; the pace of the words spilling from his
mouth hadn’t slowed, but as my eyes reopened to this new horror, his final
words seemed to echo, vibrate, and swell to several times their natural size.
I found his face, gall turning my gaze distrustful.
Dr. Henrickson pursed his mouth and glanced away from the
expression he saw lacing my eyes. ‘We were forced to remove your hands up to
your mid-forearms and the front part of both feet.’
For the first time I gazed down at my own body, straining to see
around the off-white pallor of the plastic tube obtruding from my mouth. And
instantly wishing I hadn’t.
My arms rested outside the beige blanket, nestled against the
shallow swell of my abdomen. What had once been two well-muscled biceps were
now nothing more than sagging skin and bones. One at a time, I traced the
course of each of these disproportionate, emaciated limbs, following the ridge
of my humerus as dread twisted its gnarled fingers around my stomach, dipping
over the indent of my elbow as my eyelids tried to close in fear, continuing
over my forearm where my radius and ulna were two folds in the fabric of my
Nothing. My arms ended like an unfinished sentence. Cut off. A
cushion of bandages covered the amputated ends like partially eaten lollipops,
rewrapped and saved for later. I stared at the space where my hands should have
been, silently willing them to materialize out of thin air and make this all
some terrible magic trick. If Dr. Henrickson was still speaking, I couldn’t
hear him, only the incessant ringing in my ears. For innumerous, horrific
seconds, it was just me, this trilling in my ears, and that open, oppressive
space by my waist where my arms were meant to be.
How could you?
I thought, the words a soft, vehement hiss in my mind.
My eyes drifted close, trying in their own way to shield me from
the unbearable weight of my shock. A tremulous voice, pitched with dejection
and grief, offered a whispering internal moan:
How dare you save my life
then leave me with nothing to live for.
How was I going to play soccer with no feet? How was I going to
coach my team? All those recruits I’d just signed – my first season with my own
recruits – how could I train them if I had no hands or feet?
Dr. Henrickson’s voice reached out to me from somewhere distant
and irrelevant like a meddlesome neighbor always looking over your fence to
comment. I kept my eyes shut and mentally shook my head.
No more. Please, no
more. I can’t take any more.
‘Scott, I know it’s hard to accept these things right now, but you
have to understand if we hadn’t done the surgery, you never would have
survived. The disease would have killed you. I believe that you only did
survive because you're a fighter and were in excellent physical condition.’
I let his calm, affirmative voice waft over me like an assertive
breeze, pushing me where it wanted.
You never would have survived. Never
would have survived.
I had survived.
My life was irreparably altered but now all
I could think was:
have been dead. The disease should have
I supposed that in comparison the loss of a couple limbs seemed
Ah, but the pain of it was still too sharp to ignore. I thought of
soccer and my team of college players waiting for me back at the University of
Wisconsin’s Eau Claire campus. What would they do now that their head coach was
‘You're past the most difficult part. Now you need to heal. You
and I will talk more after the intubation tube is removed tomorrow or the next
day.’ He squeezed my shoulder and straightened up so all I could see was a
white sliver of him from the corner of my eye. His lab coat swishing behind
him, he turned to look over the machines I was attached to – the machines I was
depending on. He checked this, tapped that, and jotted a few things down before
returning his attention to me.