TARZELL FITCH'S SPINAL CORD INJURY
I'm Tarzell Larfeatte Fitch. My story has highs & low, it goes from light to dark & dark to light & light to dark and back to light again. I am from Amherst County Virginia & I am currently 32 year's old. I was born May 15, 1986. I'm paralyzed with a C-7 Incomplete Spinal Cord injury due to an Automobile accident on June 4, 2005 while traveling with two childhood friends.
Let's start from the beginning...
I'm the youngest son of Charlene Virginia Fitch & Tarzell Turner. I had four older brothers (now 3 because one is deceased). My journey as a child was a very challenging one. Me and my brothers grew up very poor. We had no running water, cold nights & obnoxious activity occurring nearly every single day. My mother made our lives as best as she could with the help of my father. He wasn't a failure, he just had a complicated way of doing things. With the support of my grandmother, my mother was able to send my older brothers to live with her because she had issues with responsibility. Each of us as children had to figure out the best way to find happiness with reality being as tough as it was. My siblings looked after me on many nights & days. They didn't go to school because they had to look after me based on how I was to young to be alone, but when they left my life changed. I was then a only child so I learned about life outside the house.
Finding Meaning in Life
The vision of seeing how our lives were sent me into a cycle of terrible ways. Growing up in the Mid 80's & 90's on into 2000's, I became dark, but I grew back to light. My mindset was on a level that I know wasn't the correct way to live, but survival was the only goal. Life had been stressful in so many ways but maturity at a young age definitely helped me figure out my life was meaningful. As I adjusted into sports and finding a new joy it was great momentarily, but my struggle wasn't over because as a teenager I had to provide for myself. That means I was responsible for purchasing my own school clothes, pay for haircuts, school supplies, and even had to help cover the bills at times and sometimes fully because life was not as cozy as I wished. But I accepted it and did what I needed to do, but I went on a wrong path DEEPER and DEEPER and DEEPER down a different route. It was not where I needed to be... While knowing this I continued, but I knew I was smarter than the actions I was involved in.
So I found a small job working with my father around 15 years old. It taught me skills other than what I had already learned on my own: machine skills, planning, fearlessness (while knowing danger is real) chainsaw skills, & learning to work out of situations. That lasted for a while, but I felt I should just walk away from that and go hang out with friends. I did not necessarily party because I was never the person that needed to party all the time. My goal was to be financially stable and try to make sure I was able to maintain.
As I continued to learn about life, I didn't realize what the world really had to offer. My family was fully aware by the time I was 17 years old that I was involved in the wrong lifestyle, but it felt as if I was far too gone at times. Even though I never liked my life's actions. With the push and pull of effort, I went from dark to light again. Trouble found me or maybe I found it. Having to be homeschooled for a period of time created mental adjustments to sit on my mind. As school became a priority for a moment, I was able to graduate Amherst County High School CLASS of 2004.
My next plan was to look into Motorcycle Mechanic Institute, but i started to work a New job at David Smith Timber before I started to work at Amherst Milling company. The Job was very appreciated and it was a new chapter because I was only 18 at the time, so I was changing my ways positively. Over a course of nearly a year I worked at Amherst Milling company. While i had planned to enter into the Army, I had went to see a recruiter just to speak about the opportunity because i needed to change my life completely.
How I sustained a spinal cord injury
As I met several times with different recruiters, I finally made the choice to join within the next month but that never happened. Life changed to darkness on June 4, 2005. As hung out with a group of homeboys, there was drinking and smoking occurring as everyone seemed to be just having fun. I had not planned to be out all night because I needed to get home for work the next morning. I had suggested to a buddy drop me off at home, but a plan had already been made that a lady friend needed to be picked up. But I needed to go home because my job was imperative to me. The suggestion was made to just ride along and after the person was picked up I would be dropped off on the way back.
We never made it off the road. As we were traveling down the back roads all control was lost of the vehicle. We went off the road & I didn't know what was going to happen but it was happening. As I remember I was not able to get out of the vehicle because the door was stuck. My body was feeling weird, it started to relax and I slumped in the seat. As my friends asked me to get out of the car i responded I can't move. I was the only one injured, which was a shock to everyone but I needed help. So I had to be pulled out because I immediately knew something was wrong with my legs. I couldn't control my legs as I was let down onto the ground near the edge of the road.
New life with spinal cord injury
My arms weakened as I was sitting up. Everything relaxed & I fell back able to move my arms to get myself back up into the sitting position. The cops & ambulance were called. In that moment I knew my life was over & I was not going to live. I just knew I was going to die. My chest was getting tight. I remember waking up in the nearest hospital Lynchburg General. My family and all other loved ones were standing around me praying and crying. That following morning i was transported by helicopter to UVA hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. There were a few hours I felt myself going into a mental meltdown because it was clear I had a lot of injuries. So as I was given an IV and information about what was wrong, I was sent up for emergency surgery.
The journey started. I was in ICU for about 6 days after surgery with a halo brace screwed tightly to my skull. Friends and family came to see me and be next to me. My life was just not going to be what I was used to and there was going to be no point in living. I just did not like my situation. As doctors came in to tell me what type of injury I had, I was not prepared. To be told "Mr. Fitch, you are paralyzed & you have a high level spinal cord break. Your Bones have pinched and cut into your spinal cord. The injury is going to leave you unable to feed yourself, unable to dress yourself, unable to give yourself a bath. You will need a caretaker for the rest of your life."
learning how to navigate my new life with spinal cord injury
It was NOT GOOD, I started crying. I was hurt, I was not even a person anymore. All the things I had overcome but now my life was over. So I went into a deep depression. I was hiding my energy inside but i did not care about life. I was dead inside. So i started to make plans with God. I would Pray and try to make deals with God. I'd ask if he would forgive ME for all my sins that I had committed to others in the past. I'd ask God to please make ME healthy & strong so that I could walk and get back to how I was before my accident. It was always me making deals with God trying to find a way to get better. I would tell God I will do better, I will not ever do nonsense or silly stuff again... Just please make me 100% healthy again. "I'll do anything that I need to do for you to make me healthy." I've gotten upset with God and ask "why" everyday because I felt I was being punished for my very bad choices and hateful actions that I did over time. My life completely changed. I was down in my soul. I was empty. After my time at UVA Hospital, I was transferred to KLUGE also known as KCRC so that I could get some time to heal and receive tips and more for rehabilitation. It was embarrassing to have a stranger give me a bath, having to clean me up after i went to the bathroom on myself, needing to get a catheter put in to urinate when needed because I was going to the bathroom on myself every other hour ruining my clothes while in rehab. It was just so much to think about. Is the nurse upset and is she talking about me amongst the other nurses at the station? Am i making them each wish i wasn't a patient because they're tired of helping me and cleaning me up so much? Bladder issues, stool/ bowel issues, bath time, feeding and dressing me because i was helpless until one day I woke up and was able to move my arms out of nowhere. The hospital sent in doctors to see me because I was moving my arms and they didn't expect it to happen. The halo brace was removed from my head. My breathing was never a question, so they took me off the oxygen & were happy that I never had to be given a Tracheostomy / Trachea
Praying to God
The doctor said it seems to be that your Injury is not complete, it's actually incomplete- a C-7 Incomplete. It would be a long road. So as the following days came and went I would move around little by little until i was able to push a manual wheelchair forward. But my hands were not working at all, I could not work my fingers, I couldn't open and close my hands, I was not able to point or control objects enough to hold anything. So I went back to asking God to fix me. I was back to trying to make deals with God. My spirit was broken, I was not wanting to be in a wheelchair. My life was not supposed to be happening this way. It became moments when I would stay in the bed at the rehabilitation center and cry because I was going through a life changing situation that I had no control of, but I had a lot of time to think and brainstorming to myself daily just breaking things down. Reality was there, it was happening so I need to start to adjust immediately. Nearly a month after my injury I was clearly understanding I am going to have to make my life great no matter what the circumstances are. I'd been frustrated with being a burden to the nurses. I know humans are human and each person is different but everyone has bad days. I asked for help as little as possible because I was focused on making an effort to be independent. My heart and soul was empty. I'm not myself, I don't know what I am going to do about life anymore. What will my LOVE life be like? Will I be seen as not great because of the wheelchair? Does it make a woman in particular view me as not worthy because she might not want to deal with me because she's embarrassed about my wheelchair? Will she think that my wheelchair is something she doesn't want to be associated with? What about childhood friends? Will the people I grew up with view me in a different way? Do people feel sorry for me and see me as a weakness when they are around? What will my life be like when I go home? Will I be placed into a special place because nobody wants to put their life on hold to adjust for me? Who's going to be honest and what will I need to do about everything that matters in my life? It was a continuous round of questions about everything on Earth. I'd cry to myself or I would cry when I saw old photos of myself standing. It reminded me of what life was like. All the hurt just weighed down on me it created an unfathomable amount of depression. I'd laugh at jokes but I knew I truly didn't find it entertaining at all. As I was beginning therapy I was not happy. I was thinking of what I wasn't able to do. It flamed into angry moments of not wanting to talk to the doctors or nurses because they had no idea what I was feeling. They were walking and skipping around but they could not relate to my pain. Therapy was like a jungle of emotions & I was not able to move a muscle at times. I was getting stronger very slowly. The independence was what I missed and I needed it back. As I was finally discharged from KLUGE, I was happy but drained inside because home was now a new obstacle. How will I adapt to home in a Wheelchair? I'd need so much help for about a year. And then things started to get better & I started to move better. I'd gained some confidence in myself. I'd become more active and more focused. My independent journey was not completed, I was still far away. I understood I had to adjust immediately or I would be miserable.
My new life with a spinal cord injury
Currently, I'm still in my wheelchair but I am able to cook, clean, vacuum, do dishes, laundry, make beds, get on my riding lawnmower and cut my grass, I got my driver's license nearly 4 years ago and I am able to drive. I've not given up on living. I've just had to adjust to life's unexpected change. My poker hand obviously wasn't as bad as i thought. I've learned business and I've turned my life into a success. I've tested my hand at many things: music, car repair and selling, DJ/ Disc Jockey, and currently I am building a Logging Tree Service company. When I had that car accident, I didn't know how much I would change from the back seat. No seat belt and traveling with a friend who was drinking and driving. I still think about walking every single day. It's on my mind as I type my story. The doctor said I'd never be able to feed myself, dress myself, etc. He didn't mean it in a negative way, he thought he knew. I'm steady, exercising, stretching, eating correctly, and getting on my exercise bike and strapping my feet to the pedals. Using Forward motion of the handle bars to rotate the pedals. My life is not over absolutely not , And it's definitely not what i thought it would be. I've had some wrong left turns - wrong right turns - misread the name on the street signs a couple times - and made a few U turns - and an accident. I would love to walk again. I've started to stand with a WALKER to put weight on my legs. I am trying. My family has adjusted to support me and a few friends have been with me through a lot. I'm in a wheelchair, I am paralyzed but I'm still living. Life is not what i planned It's BETTER than I could've planned. My injury is high level C-7 Incomplete. Please do not ever give up on yourself and please don't drink & drive. Please don't travel with anyone else who's drinking & driving either. Be AWESOME Life is MAGNIFICENT.