10/10/10, the day that single-handedly changed my life

By: Scott Pettigrew

I have never seen so much blood before. Patiently waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I lay motionless on a cold slab of October concrete. My college teammate has a shirt balled and pressed tightly against my open chest to stop the bleeding. It is roughly 1 a.m. on a weekend and ‘urgency’ does not seem to be a familiar word to the Erie County Medical Center. Nearly an hour goes by before help arrives. “Am I going to make it?” I asked the paramedics. One would assume the answer to such a question would come in some form of a comforting yes (whether it is true or not). Although, a blunt, “It’s not looking good,” is the response I received. Perhaps the truth is what I needed to hear. I did not think I was going to die just yet but I did not think I was going to live either. So here I lay in a status limbo where only time will tell. It is not quite at this moment when one’s life may change, it is when death is accepted.

It was a long ambulance ride. I remember the sirens, glares of flashing lights, and the clinks and clanks of medical equipment jarring around from the pothole-infested street system of Buffalo. The stress and panic emitted from the paramedics did not leave much room for any type of comfort to exist either. At this point I am hooked up to IVs, extremely cold from blood loss, and the shaking is uncontrollable. The pressure in my chest is immense and notes of pain take off like an orchestra crescendo. My heart must be punctured. This is when the magic happens — today, I know I am going to die. The day of 10–10–10 to be exact. I was staring death in the face and I was in checkmate. Acceptance. Time would be wasted if energy were used to worry, regret, or say ‘what if’. The clinks and clanks stopped. The sirens stopped. The lights stopped. The only thing that was happening was a trip down memory lane as my brain processed information at a million miles an hour to reflect back on everything that made me happy in life. It was very peaceful, euphoric even. I thought of family, friends, strange things, funny things, but most importantly little things — acknowledging the complexity of life on the smallest scale. It was fascinating. I have never felt so content as I was ready to leave the world. The wound was too close to my heart for proper pain medication so this experience was not drug-induced.

It was real, very real, and single-handedly changed my life.

Of course, one’s life cannot change if they do not live to reflect on such an experience. I am sure many people have accepted death but unfortunately succumb to it as well. After x-rays, scans, and countless doctors in and out of the room, it turns out the blade missed my heart and lungs by a few millimeters. “If there is one place in the center of your chest that could be stabbed without hitting any vital organs,” said the doctor, “they managed to do it.” So now I am thanking my ‘lucky stars’ or some may call it ‘blessed’. Although, giving credit to a deity is not my cup of tea. I am no more ‘blessed’ or worthy of life than elementary school children facing a gunman. I put myself in such a situation, I was extremely lucky to make it, and all I can do now is learn from it and make a change. And a change I made.

Now, do not get the wrong idea. I take full responsibility for being in the wrong place at the wrong time but I was not a gangbanger looking for trouble. It was a typical bar scuffle without any prior interaction but I happened to be the victim of a gang member working towards affiliation, which was gained through the expense of someone else’s life. I definitely had room to improve myself but I was a peaceful person rather and got along with most. So these changes started more so from within. I began by tweaking and finely tuning the knobs of my life like a control board operator. Some switches needed to be turned on while other parts of my life had to be left behind. My mindset was realigned as I started to look at myself in the mirror. I was enlightened and a rise in consciousness began. The little things became the most important things. A new foundation was being created and I was excited to lay each brick down one at a time the way I wanted to. Before, a path was already paved with such neatly placed bricks. All I had to do was continue on and please others by being the person they wanted me to be. I attempted to break free from this path once before college but weakly gave into the pressure of a scholarship athlete. Not anymore. I am stronger than ever.

As time went on, physical changes began to reflect my mental shift in consciousness.

“When you don’t cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, became possessed by thought. A depth returns to your life. Things regain their newness, their freshness. And the greatest miracle is the experiencing of your essential self as prior to any words, thoughts, mental labels, and images. For this to happen, you need to disentangle your sense of I, of Beingness, from all the things it has become mixed up with, that is to say, identified with.” — Eckhart Tolle.

I am no longer the same person I was before and it has become evident to others. The ego begins to fade along with material possessions. Impressing others loses worth and I could care less what the numerical value of weight I could bench press, squat, run a 40-yard dash in, etc. In exchange, the passions that were previously shadowed are now more a part of me than ever; expressing myself through music, art, photography, and love!

I also began taking care of myself like a mechanic would their sports car. Juicing vegetables daily for two years straight has done wonders along with a whole foods diet. I have not been sick or even had a sniffle since. My energy level has never been higher and sleep has never been sounder. I also make time for yoga, running, and workout daily to get the blood moving. Learning is more exciting than ever. I love to read and study the depths of science. Oh, and exploring! Whether on the road or in my backyard, I am always searching for an adventure. All of this paired with healthy thoughts has put me on top of the world. Although, some changes were not easy. Removing people from my life needed to happen. It is sad to say that some were family members and friends but negative energy wants to drag you down with it and will take its toll. One must accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. So I fell in love with positive, caring, accepting people and surrounded myself with them. When one truly understands how fragile life is, the right and wrong way of living becomes apparent.

As my time in Buffalo was coming to an end, I wanted to wrap this portion of my life up with a bang. I planned a month long road trip out west immediately after graduation — just me, myself, and the open road. What a great time to reflect, explore, and expand my horizon as I slept in a tent for 30 days straight. From the Rockies to Glacier, Tetons to Yosemite, Joshua Tree to Zion, and so many others in between, I racked up over 8,000 miles and well over 100 hiking miles throughout 15 national parks. I encountered bears, elk, moose, bison, rams, wild horses, antelope, and wolves as I traveled along canyons, mountains, caves, waterfalls, and desert! From freezing among glaciers one day to running out of water in the Mojave the next, I was enlightened by discovering all principles of life, morality, respect, and peace lie ubiquitously in Nature; no other forms of teachings are needed.

Unfortunately, during this trip I was informed that my Buffalo teammate had passed away from a heart condition. Of course, it was a hard pill to swallow and I dedicated a hike to encompass the Yosemite Valley for him. With a late jump, I did not finish the 20-mile trek until 2 a.m. It was by far the toughest physical test I have ever put myself through but I found strength in reflecting on Saron’s life. I could not help but think of my experience next to his. Again, realizing how fragile life is. It took me back to when I was in the ambulance and I wondered if he experienced similar thoughts.

From that moment I promised myself to never forget that feeling on my deathbed because applying such principles all the time will be the best gift I have ever given myself. Since, I live life with no regrets, little worry, appreciate little things, and embrace positivity. My road trip is another story in itself but so much was learned from a one on one journey with nature. Since I was stabbed, I knew my life was redirected for the better but this trip truly brought it home and solidified everything I believe in now and stand for. Time spent alone can be very therapeutic, as solitude will do wonders! When you find the will to drop all insecurities and take chances on your own, life will reward you in many ways. So no matter the circumstance, I always encourage others to find acceptance in solitude, the first step to true happiness.

Fortunately, taking a 6-inch blade to the chest is not necessary to understand how fragile life is. This is just the incident that I embrace and cherish without regret. We all have particular events to attach to and receive a sense of purpose from. Some may not be as obvious as others and some may not even be discovered yet! But it is important to associate oneself with a story, a drive, with passion, for doing so will lead to fulfillment. So now I am happier than ever and although I always look for ways to improve, I find it healthy to reflect back on the past. This story was such a small portion of my life, but I am thankful for what happened on the night of 10–10–10. So whatever your story is, whatever drive you cling to, make it yours, embrace it, learn from it, for time is fleeting — GetLIVIN!

Originally published at getlivin.com on November 19, 2014.

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