How Writing Helped Me Escape The HALO

I always knew I had a high tolerance for pain. I just never knew how high. In September of 2009, I was involved in a hit-and-run car accident and the vehicle ended up being totaled but, luckily, I escaped without any injuries…or so I thought. (I have no idea who hit me, but I know that “god” will deal with him. Just kidding! It’s not that big a deal; I honestly look at the incident as a good thing…No, the crash did not lead me to atheism. That can be blamed on education!)

I woke up the following morning and could barely lift up my head from the pillow, due to the excruciating pain. My hatred for the hospital almost rivals my hatred for Comcast. Did I ever mention I hate Comcast, because if I didn’t, I want to be very clear…I HATE COMCAST! There was no need to get checked out, because I knew it was just a minor case of whiplash; my neck would be fine in a couple days.

On the subsequent Monday, the pain had yet to subside, so I compromised with my mother; I agreed to see a Chinese natural healer. (Anything to avoid the hospital.)

The experience was unique to say the least. We walked into his office, which is located across from Wonder Bar; totally different place during the daytime. It wasn’t the Harvard Ave I had come to know and love. Where were all the drunk people? Why did everyone have on a suit and why were they all being productive? I had the urge to scream out, “WOOOOOOOO,” but my neck was killing me. (Oh yeah! I didn’t take any painkillers, because I hate taking any type of pharmaceutical pill. Let me explain before conspiracy theorists create outlandish tales about how I believe aliens are responsible for medication; I know how people love creating foolishly fantastic fabrications. [Yup, alliteration again.] I don’t take pills because I don’t want to develop a dependency on them. If I train myself to deal with the pain, I will develop a stronger tolerance. You never know, I might be taken hostage and hidden in the jungle, while on vacation in Colombia. {I chose Colombia because the FARC has the reputation of kidnapping people. I would like to thank NATGEO for that bit of info.})

**For those of you who have noticed how I often veer off on the plentiful road of tangentry! {No, it’s not a real word! I just want credit when it shows up in the dictionary.”} This happens because of my self-diagnosed ADD. Please do your best to deal with the tangents; I apologize if they are  a PAIN IN THE NECK, I can’t help it!**

[Fuck! I just googled tangentry and someone already made it up, before I did. Will I have no shine in this world? Why has thou forsaken me, “god?”]

Let me start that paragraph over; that has to be a record for tangentry!

The experience was unique to say the least. We walked into the office and I noticed various jars, filled with…I have no idea; I couldn’t even guess. We sat down and waited to be called by the Guru. (That’s not what he calls himself.) After only a few minutes, the holistic healer walked over and introduced himself. He already knew my mom, who swears that anyone with any ailment NEEDS to see him.

The consultation was weird. He sat at a desk and I was seated across from him. He placed several napkins on the desktop and asked me to place my arm on top of the stack, with my palm facing upward. He felt my pulse with his left hand, and scribbled little notes in Chinese characters with his right, each time asking me to take a deep breath. He said I had a stiff neck, (I know, Nostradamus right?) and that my breathing was weak. The notes that he wrote, turned out to be the recipe for a special tea which would heal me. He handed the list of ingredients to an assistant and she mixed…I have no freaking clue, into a pot.

The remedy was complete and the liquid potion, if you will, was poured into individual bags, and I was told to keep the tea refrigerated. The directions were pretty simple. Place the bag into a bowl of hot tap water and when the tea is warm, pour it into a cup and drink. Simple, right? HELL NO! The tea was god-awful. It was the strongest, nastiest drink I have ever had. Each time I took a sip, I felt like I was on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. The pungent smell, which singed my nose hears every time, added to the degree of difficulty.

As crazy as it seems, the tea was working. The pain lessened each morning, but I could still tell that something wasn’t right. Wednesday of the following week, I finally contacted my cousin Milena, who is a nurse in the emergency room at Tufts New England, and I agreed to turn my self in on Thursday morning. (Yes, I purposely used the phrase “turned myself in,” because hospitals might as well be jails…or something like that.)

Low and behold, the x-ray revealed that there could be a serious problem. The doctors needed a CT Scan to be absolutely certain. I wasn’t worried, and I felt the soft neck brace, which was most uncomfortable, was completely unnecessary. Thankfully, Milena was able to pull some strings and the process didn’t take too long. Turns out the CT Scan wasn’t enough so I had to have an MRI and another CT Scan. (In the second one, I had to drink a contrast liquid…for what? I don’t know!)

Let me take a moment to discuss the MRI. I have no idea who invented that machine, but I’m pretty sure it was Hitler’s top doc, Dr. Josef Mengele; it’s a torture chamber! I was in a room with two of the evil apparatus. The technician strapped me to the table and rolled me into the tiniest space; I never knew how claustrophobic I was. The machine was turned on and random dreadful noises began to emanate from the speakers. A light moved back and forth, I guess taking pictures, and the experience lasted forty-five minutes. When it was over, the technician was assisting another patient, so I remained in the death chamber for ten more pointless minutes; I literally almost fainted. In an effort to ease the “suckiness,” my soft brace was replaced with a hard brace, which was more comfortable, but I had to lay flat on the bed. Rolling around a hospital, while laying flat on a bed, SUCKS! (Suckiness raised!)

The neurosurgeon revealed the results back in the room…fracture in the C2 bone in my spine. (That’s at the top of the neck) He also mentioned some minor detail…something about how I could have died while laying in bed, waiting for the injury to heal! [I won’t mention who but, prior to me going to the hospital, someone was in such a hurry to go to the bathroom that he gave me a forearm shiver and knocked me into a wall. That hit alone could have killed me.] *Dionne Warwick – ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ playing in the background.*

The doctor did have some good news; there was a possibility I would not need surgery! “Yippy,” I thought. All I would require was a brace. Great news, right? NO! I later learned it was a HALO brace.

When the HALO brace ”expert” explained the procedure, I honestly wished I was dead. I mustered up all of my mental toughness to keep from crying. It was an extremely low moment, but as soon as I was by myself in the room, I thought about the entire situation and a calmness set in. There were plenty of people who had the same procedure so it wasn’t a big deal anymore. (I try to find the positive in any situation. Except an HIV test, of course!) The next morning, they sat me up on the bed and the procedure began.

First, the brace was set into place. There were two pieces, one around my torso, and the other around my head. The torso piece was simple; it was a series of straps and clips. The head piece was another story; it attaches to the skull, using four screws. That’s right, the screws are inserted directly into the skull. The worst part, I was wide awake. The only anesthesia came form a long needle, which was inserted into each entry hole before a screw. It wasn’t too painful, but I could feel and hear the screws as each one burrowed into my skull. The process was repeated four times; needle, then screw. This contraption was the most uncomfortable experience. The nurse was surprised by the fact that I didn’t even flinch during the entire installation; she said people usually scream, “bloody murder.” It wasn’t too difficult. The only thing I was worried about at the time was the fact that I wanted them to be finished before the evening’s big football game, the Gators vs. LSU. (Gators won and everything was fine.)

The following day, I went home and did my best to adjust. The most difficult aspect of the HALO brace was the fact that I had to sleep sitting up. I’ll admit, the first two weeks can only be described as the woe-is-me period. Everything changed after my first follow-up. I was in the waiting room when a young lady wheeled herself in. We talked for a little while and I learned that she was also involved in a hit-and-run accident. Her’s was more life-changing; she became a paraplegic, yet was still able to stay positive.

I returned home a new person. I was over the sorrow and began to write. I wrote every single night for several months. (Well almost every night. College Football fans will remember that the Florida Gators were the National Champions in 2008 — in 2009, the team was ready to repeat. It was shaping up to be a great season. When I wasn’t writing, or sleeping, I was following the gators. It was college football, all day, all the time. On Dec 5th 2009, the undefeated Florida Gators played against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Unfortunately, the Gators lost. I was crushed. I turned off the TV and went to sleep. I woke up and watched movies all day, avoiding any sports highlights. I didn’t write anything that night either. On the third night, following the BIG LOSS, I attempted to write but I could only manage a measly thousand words; I was extremely depressed. It was on the fourth day that I finally composed myself; that night, I wrote for nearly twelve hours. I was back!)


I slept during the day and wrote while everyone was asleep. Some nights, I would write for eleven hours and others it would only be six. I also read and researched. Writing became my escape. I would honestly forget that I was wearing the HALO brace. The days flew by and a part of me was a little sad when the brace was removed; it had actually become normal. One thing I learned from this experience is the fact that I will be able to make it through any situation. Regardless of the challenges!

Writing has always been an escape for me. I hope everyone finds that one thing that gets them through any tough situation. Even today, I felt no desire to write, but I knew I had to. The funny thing is, as soon as I began typing, I couldn’t stop and the words just kept flowing. I truly appreciate everyone who takes a few minutes out of their day to read this blog, but I honestly write for myself; it’s my passion!

This afternoon, I was discussing the blog with Jose (JOZAY, that’s his nickname…*Rick Ross voice*), and he made the statement, “You write everyday? That’s a lot!” I disagree! That would be like telling an athlete that playing his favorite sport, everyday, is a lot.

To understand me, is to know why I write!


Published by Peter Teixeira

First and foremost, I enjoy writing stories. I recently completed my first novel, and I successfully co-wrote a short film script, which won the grand prize in the words made easy competition.

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  1. This post was seriously touching. It seems as though you have really mastered the ‘Tags’ section, and really cover most of the subjects in your writing, in case someone were to search for them. Big ups, bro.

  2. Very much enjoyed that! Dare I say it was inspirational!! I’m very motivated to keep writing my grandma’s story now but its the wknd so I’ll get on it Monday 😉 On another note, you wouldn’t happen to have a picture of you in the halo?!

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