12 minutes to surrender

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on January 24, 2018 # Mobility

It's not every day you wake up to the news that you have 12 to 14 minutes to prepare for nuclear warfare… While you're on vacation in Maui Hawaii… And you are fully paralyzed lying in bed. You cannot jump out of bed, or find appropriate shelter or grab whatever supplies you would need for a two-week underground protection stay from complete destruction – because you're paralyzed and completely dependent on those around you. You might scream for help from your caregiver, or a family member. Or you cry. Or lie in bed in complete and utter shock. Or laugh about the ridiculousness of going on vacation to be annihilated by a missile. Or hastily send out that last text message with your voice dictation on your cell phone to say goodbye to all of your loved ones. Or close your eyes and surrender to a hopefully painless ending. This is it, this is not a test.

This was my real life experience while on vacation last week in Maui Hawaii. When the original alert went out, I was actually waking up to our pool man on property creating all sorts of a ruckus outside my window by the pool, and all I could think about was how annoyed I was that he was rudely unaware of those on vacation trying to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Being that my phone was on silent, since I was sleeping, I never heard the actual Amber style alert come in… So it was only when my caregiver entered my bedroom alerting me to the message. It was scary, and confusing. How would we survive? What would we do? How would she physically get me out of bed, in my chair and in some kind of appropriate shelter with supplies enough to survive two weeks in a potential nuclear situation? It was an impossible scenario to ascertain in less than 10 minutes. We were looking at that last option, surrendering, chalking up "the end" to at least being on vacation on a tropical island. What else could you do?

Luckily after 38 minutes of much statewide confusion, it is announced a false alarm, the push of the wrong button by someone who is assuredly fired by this time. It has been all over the news, the talk of the town and island, and many people were traumatized by it even saying their goodbyes on phone calls, voicemails, text messages and social media like Facebook and Twitter.

After the hysteria calmed, it got me thinking about two things, how does one's lack of accessibility directly kibosh them from survival and on a more spiritual and emotional level, where does your mind go when you have only minutes to live in a desperate situation. From a lack of mobility perspective, I realized I would have to get really lucky to be in the right place at the right time in my power chair with a quick exit strategy to actually survive such an event. And the likelihood of that being a reality at 8 AM in the morning is slim to none, because you are on vacation, and sleeping. In my case, if that bomb was actually headed my way, I didn't stand a chance. It was too close, too fast and not enough time for anyone to help me. We live in a crazy world, one where these thoughts are backed by real threats.

From an emotional standpoint, my focus has shifted to truly understanding and embodying the idea of surrendering to whatever is to happen will happen. Surrendering is a practice that I am familiar with, as it is one of the major tenants of meditation and yoga of which I have spent many years physically, mentally and emotionally partaking in. The act of surrendering, letting go, letting be what is to be. This is what I continue to think about while I'm here – sometimes all you can do is surrender.

So as I continue on my sabbatical trip to Hawaii, and I now sit on my lanai looking out over the greenery and the tropical lush flowers that surround me, I realize that every day truly is a gift. Don't sweat the small stuff, walk outside take a deep breathe of fresh air and have such gratitude for every day that we have on this earth. In a split second, everything can change, everything. So let us all take a moment, close your eyes and truly appreciate the gift of life that we actively participate in every single day. Love those around you, be kind and always do your best. Tomorrow is another day and who knows what realities will be in existence… Hopefully no more nuclear bombs – I have a luau to attend so this end of the world banter doesn't fit into my vacationing plans. Stay safe and keep on keeping on…

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.