Letters From Pamela

My Long Ride Continues — Learning & Laughing

Pamela Rittenhouse

June 22, 2012

This letter is to those who – like me – forget sometimes how important it is to look on the bright side and find a way to laugh. In revisiting my Coming Back stories about my recovery 18 years ago from traumatic head injuries during a long-distance bicycle ride with friends and co-workers from WJXT-TV, I am seeing things that I learned then and very nearly forgot. Coming Back Part Three is embedded below. Watching it again makes me smile and laugh. And it does more. It reminds me that learning to find the positive when it seemed non-existent at the time did more than cheer me up. It saved me.

Just a Broken Collarbone

In perspective, my broken collarbone was truly the least of my worries at the time. It resided along with my broken jawbone at the bottom of the injuries to be concerned about. Head injuries that made it impossible for me to walk unaided and closed my right eye entirely — now, those were things to be scared about. But the broken collarbone hurt. And wearing that collarbone brace was an aggravation. Focusing on it showed me something imperative. The lesser hurts were more easily solved, and that meant I had some quick good news coming. I needed it because it would help me conquer the bigger challenges. But focusing on a small, yet positive, outcome was not enough. I needed a laugh. Bigtime.

Mary Tyler Moore Showed Me the Way

The orthopedic surgeon who watched over my broken collarbone was Lynn Norman from Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute. Like the other physicians, nurses and others who took care of me, he enveloped me with normalcy and made me know I would be okay. He talked to me as though I was just facing an ordinary experience. He never looked at me with extreme sympathy, and that communicated to me that I didn’t need it. I was going to be just fine. I just had to work at it. When I watched Coming Back Part Three again, I was amazed at how happy and how positive I looked. I honestly looked as though I meant what I said in Coming Back Part Two; i.e.. I wasn’t the least bit scared. And I didn’t feel sorry for me ‘for one single second.’ I guess I was busy focusing on the matter at hand. Getting better. Getting my life back and becoming more of a person because of what I experienced. My sense of humor was with me. I have always loved Mary Tyler Moore and dreamed that I could be her and make that awesome move of throwing something high into the air right out in the open in front of whomever was around to watch. So, that’s what I did with my collarbone brace when Dr. Norman told me it was toast — that I didn’t need it anymore. I walked out with my videographer to throw my collarbone brace just as Mary Tyler Moore would have done if she’d had the head injury that I had. Little did I know at the time, there was prophecy in where I stood to do that toss.

A Picture of My Future

When I threw my collarbone brace into the air after coming out of Dr. Norman’s office, I was standing in front of St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida. The year was 1994. Ironically, I would arrive to work there in the St. Vincent’s Marketing Department seven years later in May of 2001. Seven is God’s perfect number. I don’t think it was a coincidence that is where I was standing in that wonderful moment. To me, it’s clear now. It was a picture of the near future. I wonder if there are other pictures of my future that I can look at today but don’t recognize as images that point the way for the road ahead.

My Repetitive Reminder

I constantly tell anyone who listens how much I learned following my bicycle accident of May 14, 1994. I wish I could tell you I never lose track of those important lessons. But I am afraid that I do. Many times. The good part is that I have these video records of my experience. I can see once more what I learned, learn it again and I take up the mantle. I thank God for my accident and for the opportunity to learn so many things that I would not have learned otherwise. What I know is that the strength that helped me find my way back is there in every single one of us. When I needed it, I had it. If you need it, you have it, too. Go get it.