Tell Your Story
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Tell Your Story

Getting Up Off the Mat

Just when COVID broke in the spring of 2020, I made the somewhat flippant comment that “it would be a good idea to stay out of the healthcare system for a while.” From there, I just dove headlong into the abyss.

Two months later I am putting together some outdoor furniture on my split-level deck. Some assembly required. It is hellishly hot and humid and the sweat is rolling off of me.

Watch Your Step

Without warning, I am thrust, I am sure I am thrust, down the three steps to the lower level and fifteen feet away. and them I am….

Twenty minutes later my wife finds me and prods me back into consciousness. She wants to call 911, but I keep saying to wait.

Ten minutes later I start the diagnostic sequence. Roll on hips, no fractures. Flex my feet, no broken ankles. She pulls me up to my knees, and they hold me up.

Thank God. I am twice her weight.

We slowly move inside into the air conditioning. I am sure I will heal here. My sentence structure is wobbly though, so my son-in-law drives me to the ER.

Only patients may enter the ER, where I am evaluated for a day before being moved into the ICU. A whole series of x-rays, scans, and MRIs. During this time I find out that health care workers are the real heroes.

I am discharged in a day with the diagnosis of a severe concussion. The instructions are to see my GP. I do that, and he sends me to a neurologist who in turn sends me to ten sessions of concussion therapy. This is a cross between the game shows Beat the Clock and Jeopardy.

But Then This…

But, further down the abyss, my doctor also finds that I have broken my back. No surgery, but on to therapy for that. It is still healing as I write this.

Twelve months later, I have stopped the descent. I have done all the therapy. I am back to work, but only because COVID is in a full rage and we are now permanently at home. I have met many heroes.

And This

Ninety days later at a check-in with my GP, he has these words for me:

“You have cancer. And we’re late finding it.”

Deeper into the Abyss.

During the next year, I would fight that fight, finding new doctors and surgeons, sometimes by sheer luck. Traveling by train up and down the east coast to and from appointments and surgeries. The conductors greet me by name.

No one can come with me. COVID.

I am fortunate to still be here.

The point of sharing this is not to lament what I have gone through to get up off the mat. It is to share that I came to a realization that there are many, thousands, that are trying to get up off of their mat. It drove me even today to do whatever I could for them, even if I was just lending an ear, because so many had done whatever they could for me.

Including tossing me a rope into the abyss.




Everyone has a story to tell, probably many more than one. Tell Your Story is home for the best creative nonfiction and personal essays on Medium, stories from the heart that help us all understand a little bit more about ourselves and the world around us.

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Dr. Bob Nolley

Dr. Bob Nolley

Full time Husband, Dad, Writer, Podcaster, Professor, Leadership Junkie, Media Buff, Sports fan. Research-based writing on behavior, work, and online business.

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