I’m writing my memoirs!
This June marks 25 years since I was paralyzed in a gymnastics performance. So many times I’ve wanted to write my story from a number of perspectives. With this milestone anniversary the time seems right. Please share the journey with me the next few months.
I may get a few details wrong and need you all to fill in the blanks, so, please shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or file an issue at https://github.com/mikeritteronline/mikeritteronline.github.io/issues.
POP! That deafening blast rang through my ears as I lay motionless on the blue foam mat. I could not move. Dave was right there asking me asking me questions and offering reassuring encouragement. I just knew I could not stop the tears falling from my eyes as I lay face-first in a pool of tears and drool.
Around me the adult sponsors, my brother, my friends, and the crowd of school-age children and members of the community watched in disbelief. Helpless to do anything they anxiously asked each other questions and prayed. The nurse who was travelling with us and other sponsors who were medical professonals, physical therapists and experienced gymnastics coaches assessed the situation and faced the tragic conclusion: my neck was broken.
Not that I was aware of the chaos. As I lay on the mat Dave encouraged me to not try to move. I had so many questions. This was nowhere close to anything I had considered happening when I tried out for the gymnastics team. Why couldn’t I move? Why wouldn’t he wipe my face? What was going on around me?
In time several folks pulled the mats I was lying on apart from the row, carefully lifting me and carrying me to a classroom area away from the crowds. They turned me onto an old army cot we had for a skit and made sandbags they strapped to the sides of my head, stabillizing me from moving and further damiging my spine. The nurse checked me constantly. April sat at my head talking with me and slipping me ice (which I’m sure she was not supposed to do) and comforting me.
Around me the chaos and uncertainty met the faith and determination of our team. It was the first of countless times my community would rally to meet my needs. We were together in our devastation. My brother, Jarred, helplessly observing his big brother lying there. The sponsors on the phone trying to get medical care to me. The friends praying on the side as they worked to finish the performance. The ministry leaders bearing the weight of responsibility for this tragedy. The calls to my parents back in Florida informing them their son was injured.