Your private room won't be ready for a few days, so you'll have to stay in this ward until then," a nurse said to me as an orderly rolled me into the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"No sweat," I said.
My second or third day in that ward—I had lost track of time—I overheard a male voice telling someone, "And this is our ward for quads." It sounded so poetic: our ward for quads. Then it hit me: If this is a ward for quads, then I must be one of those quads. But what was a quad? I had never heard the word, at least not in a medical sense. That night I asked my nurse what a quad was.
"A quadriplegic," she said, sounding gloomy.
"Am I one of those quadriplegics?" I asked her, stumbling over the word.
"It looks that way, I'm afraid, Darryl," she said.
"What's this quadriplegic thing anyway?" I asked.
"Quads, Darryl," she said, "are people who are unable to function from neck to toes. The medical definition is more complicated than that, but essentially those are the facts. At this point, you cannot function from your neck to your toes. That might change in time, but for now you have been medically classified as a quadriplegic."
I didn't even know how to spell the word.
Overnight, I became depressed. Suddenly I was not sure of anything. I was a quadriplegic now. Where was I going? What was I going to do? Who was I? What was I? What about my sex life? What about Tina and my boys? How was I going to be able to do any of the things that I once used to do so naturally? Would I ever take another step?