This is the official blog for the recovery of Carson Tueller. For now it is maintained by the person the family has assigned to give out information. The information on this page will the the most recent, updated information, and will be coming straight from the family. There is no need to ask for further updates. If you have questions you can send them to and we will try to get them answered. Please keep Carson in your prayers!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Anything For A Friend

Friend's and family,

I am happy to officially present the organization, "Anything For A Friend"! While I was in the hospital still, some friends and family suggested that we apply for this magnificent fundraiser. I am happy to say that I was approved for the fundraiser, and couldn't be more grateful... Anything For A Friend has changed lives and communities because of  an amazing purpose geared towards uniting communities and individuals in love. The AFAF homepage says it best:

"Anything For A Friend is a simple concept about human beings and our interconnection. We believe that humans have an innate desire to connect and help each other when someone is in need. However, most are unsure as to how to provide such help. Anything For A Friend seeks to provide an avenue through which family, friends and the community of someone dealing with personal tragedy can band together to show support. We believe that through the organization of a community fundraiser, both the friends and the benefactor are able to minimize much of the fear and anxiety related to personal tragedy and find satisfaction through such an event, ultimately benefiting the entire community."

Becky Anderson is the founder of Anything For A Friend, and benefitted from the love and support of her own community and loved ones during her bout with cancer. Now, she generously shares the love and pays it forward through this organization.  My mom wrote a letter of thanks to Becky and the organization. It echoes my own gratitude and that of my family. I wanted to share it.

"Dear Becky,  

We feel incredibly blessed that Carson has been chosen to be a recipient of "Anything For A Friend". Having not heard of this organization before, I was in tears looking at the website for the first time. I know from what we have already experienced, that this is what Carson is going to need to help him get through. It was the outpouring of love and support from extended family, friends, neighbors and even strangers that got us through the initial traumatic stages of this ordeal. Now that Carson is home, we are facing the realities of this life-changing experience. The strain on our family has come in emotional, emotional, and financial levels that we could not have anticipated. We have wondered, "How can we do this?"  We can't... at least, not alone. I have learned through all of this, that the kind service we receive comes from the goodness of those who are instruments in God's hands, answering prayers we haven't even asked for! The mission of "Anything for a Friend" is incredible. I felt great hope as I read about communities coming together to serve those in need. What was even more remarkable to me was to see past recipients "pay it forward" to others in need, through their kind acts of service. It increased my awareness of the many different ways we can serve each other. It was a new picture I had not imagined. There are lessons to be learned and I am first in line to be taught. Thank you!"

Every recipient of this fundraiser is asked to come up with a unique motto, so in the beginning stages of the organzing, the committee asked me to propose one that would symbolize my journey. This was a difficult task for me, but I finally came up with one. I chose the following motto and logo:

This motto and logo is so meaningful to me for many reasons. It is significant to me because the odds of recovery are not so highly in my favor. For anyone with a spinal cord injury, recovery is serious business, and takes years with little progress at times. I speak not only of physical recovery, but emotional and spiritual recovery as well. To me, it has always seemed like the road to recovery was a daunting one, with the odds of recovery seeming overwhelmingly small. The person who designed this logo explained why she chose to present the motto this way. She depicted the word "odds" as being smaller then the word "defy", for symbolic reasons. It is symbolic in that the odds of our success over certain challenges are small at times (especially in my case), but our ability to overcome them can be greater.  The word "defy" seems to overshadow and even crush the odds. Through miracles, hard work, prayers of family and friends, and the support of an incredible community, I hope to defy the odds in every positive way. I plan to maximize my recovery in every aspect and live a full life of happiness. I still do not know how that will happen, and at times I doubt I can do it. I am very far from achieving this goal still, but I know that it must be possible. I have to do it...

One thing that I have learned about a spinal cord injury and other great difficulties, is that the ripple effect is enormous. In fact, I wouldn't call them ripples, I would call them tidal waves, washing over the family and, at times, even the community of the loved one, affecting all who exist in his or her surroundings. This has been a difficult but necessary lesson for me to learn. If I could suffer alone, I would. If I could be the only one to suffer emotionally, physically, spiritually or otherwise, that would be my choice. Watching my family and especially my parents suffer with me has been overwhelming, and an aspect of my injury that has been as hard to bear as any. It destroys me to see their strugglings and know that they are born from my injury. I I don't want them to hurt like I do...but no matter how I wish this wouldn't affect others, it does, and I simply cannot do this by myself. No matter my willpower, no matter my strivings for independence, I have to rely on the constant support and help of others. Before, there were very few things that I felt I could not do. I was able and capable in every way, and felt that I could overcome and find solutions to my challenges by myself. Now, I humbly implore the help of all who surround me.

So, I humbly and happily invite all of you to this magnificent community event, Anything For A Friend. Hope to see you there. 

Here's the info: Mark your calendars! As you can see, some events you can preregister for, which I suggest doing.

Date: May 31, 2014 (10:00 AM - 2:00 PM)

Location: Layton Commons Park Bowery
                  403 N. Wasatch Dr.
                  Layton, UT 84041

I am indebted forever to all of you who have already helped, supported, and loved me... I could never repay you for what you've already done for me and my family. Thank you for helping me defy the odds of my injury.

My sincerest love and gratitude,

Carson T.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Some Bad News... And A Bit Of Good News

A spinal cord injury is a gift that keeps on giving, and on Saturday night I received yet another one of it's gifts. Throughout the day, I usually find that my legs have a lot of swelling. This is because I am sitting down for most of the day, and am unable to move and contract my muscles. However, when I go to sleep and wake up the next morning, the swelling has usually disappeared. For a few days I realized that my left foot was still swollen in the morning, but I didn't think much of it until Saturday. I noticed that the swelling had worsened and that it had continued up into my calf. I had been told in the hospital that people with a SCI (spinal cord injury) are at much higher risk for blood clots, so we suspected such was the case. We went into the emergency room that night where it was confirmed that I have a DVT (blood clot) in my left calf. I know, great. DVTs can be extremely dangerous if they are not found early on. If left unchecked, the clot can be dislodged and move to the lungs where it can be fatal.

(in the hospital with my celebrating-my-DVT face)

So what does this mean? It means that I will have to be on Coumadin, a blood thinner, for the next six months. I will also be on Lovenox shots twice a day until my INR is stabilized. To be honest, I'm still not exactly sure what that all means, but that's what they tell me. I will also need to go into the doctor frequently for blood draws. I found out today as well that I won't be able to continue physical therapy in the same rigorous way until I am off Lovenox! So, I will be finding other little ways to improve while I wait for everything to stabilize.

To be honest, this was all very discouraging to me. I keep thinking, if I could only deal with paralysis alone, this would be so much easier. If I only had to worry about the fact that I couldn't walk anymore, I would do so much better. It's all of the secondary problems of an SCI that keep me down. The blood pressure, the nerve pain, the catheterizations and bowel care, and now the DVT (though, I am sure this is not the end). I look forward to the day when some of this hopefully regulates itself. It's no guarantee that any of it will get better, but we can always hope, right? This is still just the beginning. 

Now for the better news...

One thing that did go well was that I started swimming a little bit again during therapy! Since my injury, I had been very curious as to how I would do in the water, and how much swimming would be affected because of my injury. I obviously knew that I had no core and knew that that alone would greatly affect my ability to swim, but I got in the water and tried it out. I was slightly apprehensive that swimming would end up being unfulfilling since I had enjoyed competitive swimming for a very long time before my accident.

Jan (my physical therapist) warned me that swimming is usually extremely frustrating for quadriplegics because of the reasons  previously mentioned. No core. In fact, she said she has had no one use stroke swimming as therapy. I first started with backstroke (because it requires less core strength) and realized that this would be tricky. I initially realized that because my hands are still so weak, I don't have the strength to cup them to pull the water in a way that allows me good form as I swim. Afterward, I tried swimming butterfly and came to the same conclusion. So, we found a pair of gloves for swimming and it made a huge difference. 

To make a long story short, I realized that swimming still felt like swimming to me, which was the greatest relief. I actually felt like I had retained something from my injury. It's obviously not the same, I mean, I still currently have to wear a device that floats me slightly, but it was a happy discovery. I swim in a pool that creates a current that I can swim into so I can stay stationary.

Now I have to make a few disclaimers to make. It has been three months since I have done any kind of cardiovascular activity, not to mention that for the first few weeks of my injury, I couldn't even lift my arms up. I am still working on building strength and all the muscle I lost in the hospital. You will see that my form quickly deteriorates throughout the exercise! Don't judge. :)

This is just a quick clip of me working on some butterfly when I finally got my hand gloves on.

This is a clip of a 2 minute exercise that Jan had me do. I am alternating between backstroke for 20 seconds and butterfly for 10 seconds (video says breaststroke on accident). This was a super hard workout for me and I kinda wanted to puke after. No kidding.

I heard that some of you are unable to view the videos on the blog, so if you can't, go ahead and click on the link the below that will take you to youtube. The quality is better anyway!

The two-minute swim


Thursday, April 3, 2014

From hospital to home


I apologize! It has been like three weeks since I last put up a post. Just believe me when I say this has been the hardest time of my life… but I promise to do better in putting up updates for those of you who are following. :)

Just a few days ago, I completed 3 complete weeks since I came home from the hospital! March 30th recently passed as well, marking three months since my injury. There is a lot to give an update on, but before I move into my time home, there are many thanks to be given. I wish to backtrack into some of the months that I stayed in the hospital. It is impossible to thank everyone for their unique contributions. Many have prayed, visited, and generously spent time with me in the hospital. Countless others wrote me letters, sent flowers, selflessly raised funds for my recovery, and recently, even held a basketball tournament on my behalf. To all who have in any way helped, prayed, or visited me… thank you. I have been reluctant to mention any particular group or individual because there were so many who helped in significant ways. I just want to highlight a few people or groups who helped in an especially unique manner.

The first thanks goes to my rehab team. These are the angels that taught me how to use my newly injured body again. There were very few times when I was able to convey to a therapist or doctor my gratitude for what they were doing for me. I doubt that any of the people in this picture had any idea of what they mean to me. There were also countless more in the hospital who became dear friends, including the staff and nurses in particular. In a very real sense, these people saved a part of my life, and allowed me a certain degree of mobility that I otherwise would not have. Thank you, Team Rehab, for everything you did for me. I love you dearly.

On Sunday, February 23, friend and fellow flutist, Gabriel Gutierrez, organized a benefit concert in El Paso, Texas. The concert was beautiful, high-quality, and contained some of my very favorite pieces that Gabriel played himself. I was lucky enough to see it all on Facetime in my very own hospital room. I want to thank Gabriel personally as well as all those who, without ever having met me, attended the concert. I can't say I didn't shed a few tears at witnessing such generosity. This is a picture of Eric Hanson singing a beautiful rendition of "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables.

Next thanks goes to Adams Elementary, a local elementary school, and the one several of my family members attended. Many of you know I am very single, but that didn't keep me from receiving a lot of very special love in a very special way on Valentine's Day. I received well over 300 individual valentines from the students at Adams Elementary! I enjoyed going through the valentines, trying to decipher the uniquely spelled words of children learning to read and write. What more could I have asked for on Valentine's Day than the love of hundreds of little children? Nothin. :) Thanks Adams Elementary!

Shortly before I left the hospital I had surprise visitors Jon Schmidt and his wife, Michelle. Hospitals can get pretty quiet at 9 o'clock at night,  but I can tell you that the rehab floor wasn't so silent on this one! John was generous enough to play me and my visitors a little concert on a donated upright piano in the lounge. It had been a while since I had heard live music, which made this experience all the more meaningful. I laughed and cried on more than one occasion during his playing. They were very generous and kind to visit me, seeing as I am a complete stranger. This was the first time that I had met the Schmidt family, but I hope it won't be the last.

I had the great honor of having Elder L. Tom Perry come and visit me in the hospital. I am not exactly sure how he became aware of my injury and recovery, but I am guessing that it was either from my blog or the fact that he was at my home stake conference shortly following my accident. If you have kept up on any of my other blog posts, it's no news to you that I felt the great need for spiritual guidance and comfort. There was a time specifically that I prayed for strength beyond my own and for direction and vision as to my life, seeing that things had been so dramatically altered. Elder Perry came at just the right moment, and his blessing gave me reason to hope for a brighter future in terms of both recovery, and purpose in life. I am grateful for the personal visit he and his wife made to me, and for the time they took to minister to one individual in need.

I don't even know where to start here... there are few times that I feel in adequate in being able to express my love or feelings, but I don't know if words could ever be enough to describe what I feel for my parents. Thanking my parents for what they have done for me could require a whole blog post of its own, and I'm sure at some point that will be the case. I am confident in saying that I have no idea what my parents have been through in trying to keep me well and alive. When they were not at the hospital, they were working tirelessly at home to renovate and prepare the house for when I returned. When I look at this picture, I easily cry. I have incredibly strong relationships with both of my parents. I have known without a doubt my whole life that they love me and would sacrifice anything for the benefit of me or my siblings. However, I have never witnessed love like I have witnessed from my parents in the last three months. They have set aside everything to come to my aid. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) I have seen the greatest expression of love as my parents have laid down their own personal interests for me, and know that they would do this for any member of my family. I have watched them walk with me through every step of this nightmarish journey. I have always counted my family and especially my parents as my greatest blessing. I hope they know how much they mean to me, and I will strive to prove my love to them like they have proved it to me. I would not be who I am today if it were not for the examples and love of my parents.

As I said earlier, there are so many thanks to be given from my time in the hospital, it is difficult to only mention a few. I don't know where I acquired such wonderful friends and family, but like I have said before, you have been the ones who have saved me. Thank you to all of you who have chosen to walk my journey with me. God bless you!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Music Of Hope


A friend of a mutual friend, Steven Luna, became aware of Carson's injury and kindly created a piece of art entitled "The Music Of Hope" to dedicate to his recovery. Steven has made this art available for purchase for anyone who is interested, and he is generously donating the proceeds to Carson's recovery. Upon first viewing it, Carson fell in love with this piece of art, seeing as it symbolizes many aspects of his life, his journey, and his future.

If you are interested in purchasing the art online for yourself, please click on the following link, and don't forget to read the comments preceding the link! We want to thank Steven profusely for contributing to Carson's recovery, and for doing so in such a unique way.

The Music Of Hope Digital Art  - The Music Of Hope Fine Art Print

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shattered Pearls

When each of us is born, we are given a sacred gift. That gift is like a pearl. Every pearl looks slightly different and each is beautifully unique. Because every pearl is it's own individual creation, it is impossible to replicate one's own, or that of another. The worth of each one is beyond description because it can never, ever be remade. That being said, if the pearl is damaged, cracked, or even shattered, what a horrible thing, because that pearl can never be replaced. No one can give you theirs, and you just can't walk into a store and buy a new one. You've got what you were given, and you have to do your best to take care of it because you have one, and one only. You have nothing more precious, and nothing of greater worth.

As we live our lives, it is inevitable that each of us gains experience. That experience may be exhibited in scuffs or in the slight wearing of each of our pearls. Life is hard, and each of us will undoubtedly have an imperfect pearl over the years. There is nothing wrong if such imperfections exist… in fact, it's probably a problem if your pearl is still as unscathed and unmarred as the first day you got it.

Because life is unfair, and even cruel, there are times and events where one's pearl is destroyed or ruined. In a way that causes us immense pain, some pearls are damaged beyond description. What is so tragic about these damages is that they cannot be undone, and the resulting pearl no longer has the same function as before.. You cannot weld the priceless pearl back together. There is no amount of tape, glue, or expertise that can make the broken pearl whole again. What's done is done,  and all that is left in once power is to accept the reality of the broken gemstone.

Mine is the story of a broken pearl. On December 30, 2013, my pearl was horribly damaged...  I didn't know it at the time, but it was shattered. For the first few weeks I remained optimistic that I would find it again, and that I could easily retrieve the pieces that have been lost. But as time has gone on, and to my dismay, I have realized that the endeavor of putting my pearl back together may be more daunting and more seemingly impossible than I could have ever imagined. As I have piece by piece come to see the horror of what has transpired, a phrase commonly flows through my mind, spoken by my own unbelieving, quivering voice. "I've lost my pearl… I've lost my life..." Because, like I said before, you only get one. You can't replace it, you can't fix it if it's broken, and if you lose it, you've lost it forever. So how do you come to terms with that? With the shattered fragments of what you used to have in the palm of your hand, what do you do? How do you move on? How do you move when you is what has been shattered?

Perhaps it is because not enough time has elapsed, or maybe it is because I do not accept what has actually happened, but I cannot believe that this has happened to me. Night after night I dream that I have my pearl again. I dream that I am running, walking, moving, laughing, living again just like when I had my pearl... And then I wake up and realize that it was all a dream, and that I don't have any of that anymore.

Now I'm home, trying to live like it was before, with very little success. I once told a friend that the most difficult part for me has been standing on the cliffs of decision, looking over the results of a catastrophe, and making the decision as to whether or not I can "make it work" with what remains. The question, "Do I want to do this?" has become, "Can I do this?". Before, the phrase "Never give up!" seemed trivial and somewhat of a no-brainer, "Please. Of course I won't give up. I'm one of the strong ones." But I have found that never giving up is far more significant and compelling an idea when the giving up is so much more appealing then the never giving up.

The quest of life has become a quest to find the lost fragments of my shattered pearl. The hope is that in the smoldering remains of my life I will find a piece, a chip, or even a particle of that pearl. The never giving up is exhibited in a daily never giving up hope. Hope that in that day, a part of the pearl could be recovered. It's a risk, you know. Some days I fear that all is hopelessly lost, but I keep searching. Living each day with the hope that something experienced or lived could bring back a sense of wholeness or purpose that now seems to be hopelessly lost. So in a sense, life now consists of finding life again... at least for now.

So, I go day to day searching for those pieces. I am grateful for those individuals who have proved with their lives that reconstructing a broken pearl is possible. Were their lives fixed? No… Were their problems necessarily solved? Nope, but I suppose that these individuals didn't need to have a perfect pearl to have a wonderfully fulfilling life again. In fact, many of those who have left the strongest impacts on the world have been those who have ironically found true life in the various events that seemingly destroyed that same life. Helen Keller, Christopher Reeve, Viktor Frankl... and so many more. I know that personally, my heroes have been individuals who have recollected their lives into successes despite the odds. They defied the odds. I don't believe that very many people would ask for the trials that test one to the very core, a test that could "shatter" a life... but I can see how the truest of all heroes, are the ones that are made from shattered pearls. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This is for real… KSL interview.

Due to some technical failures, my first interview with KSL was lost and had to be reshot last Monday. I have asked several times if it is safe for me to announce that it will be showing this upcoming Sunday, and I got the greenlight. KSL news (Utah), channel 5 on Sunday, March 9 at 10:00 PM.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Carson's Road Home... Has only just begun.

This is it… This is what I've been working towards. I've gone through two spinal surgeries, a week in the ICU, and two months of intense rehab to get to this point. The time to go home has come.

"You must be so excited… I bet you can't wait to get out of here", is the response that I usually get when I inform someone of my discharge date. I mean, anyone would assume that I would want to get out of here as fast as possible, right? Well, to be honest, I'm not so sure about how I feel about the "home" Carson's road has been leading to.

One of the hardest weeks I have had in the hospital was last week (hence the lack of blog posts). It was because for the first time, going home was not just an idea, but a reality. My stay at the hospital has provided a suspended reality for me, a state of limbo if you will. While I've been at the hospital, I've had to focus only on tasks, and tasks alone. There is no worry as to my future, or how I will live the rest of my life in general. I wake up, do bowel care, eat breakfast (sometimes), go to therapy, eat lunch, go to more therapy, eat dinner, and go to sleep (with a catheterization between each of those).

Going home means facing reality. If you would've asked me how I really felt about going home last week, I would've told you that it was one of the scariest things I have ever faced. It is safe to say that I have faced some difficult things in my life, but I don't know if there has been anything that has so tried my ability to solve a problem. For the first time I am unsure of my ability to make my way through something emotionally and psychologically. This has truly pushed me to my limits in every regard.

In a way, going home means returning to the environment where I lived as an active, able person. Going home means living in the shadows of my past life, being constantly aware of the difference between what I used to be, and what I am now. There is a relentless comparison, a never ending reminder of things as they were. Going from 6'5" to 4 foot something creates a bit of a contrast of experience along with a million other things. Every paralyzed, shortened breath I take seems to whisper mockingly, "you're not like you used to be". Rehab has been difficult, and I've worked myself hard. I've been in a lot of pain, cried bitter tears, and felt incredible frustration… but I believe that Carson's real road, or his true journey, is really just beginning.

Kind and compassionate people have told me that life can be just as fulfilling in a wheelchair, and that I shouldn't expect for things to be worse, but just different. There are aspects of this idea that I definitely agree with and appreciate, but there are also aspects of my loss that I cannot deny. Living with full mobility is like living in the brightness of the sun. It's warm for the most part and one's surroundings are easily observed and appreciated. You often need nothing but your eyes to see for miles on to the horizon. One hardly needs to think about watching his or her step, or worry about getting too cold. The simple but beautiful details of life almost go unnoticed since they are so readily available.

Living as a quadriplegic or paraplegic (or with any significant loss of mobility) is like living with the light of the moon. While life is still accessible or within reach, it is deceivingly difficult. It's hard to fully enjoy the beauty of your surroundings if you are living in the dark. You are limited simply by your ability to see. Adaptive equipment is nearly always necessary to make what is possible in the sunlight, possible in the light of the moon. Flashlights, lanterns, candles, lightbulbs, etc. are necessary parts of life, required simply for survival. Because of the darkness, every task is significantly harder to achieve, and takes much longer to finish. It's true though, life is so possible in the moonlight. We all know that after a time, our eyes can adjust to the darkness. A full life can be lived without the full brightness of a sun... but would anyone dare deny the monumental difference between the sun and the moon? And after having lived a full life in the sun, the darkness of the night is dreadfully deep... And appears very unappealing.

Going home forces me to except that the sun has gone out, and that the moon hovers depressingly in its place. I don't think I'll ever get over my love for the sun... But I also understand now, that I need to reconcile myself to the light of the moon since it's the only lights available. Here I am again, facing yet another challenge, another hurdle… it seems as though life almost says (again), "I dare you to try…" I cringe every time I realize I have to take the dare, but when will life learn that after a good cry, I'll stand up and take it face on? I hate it, but in a way, enjoy proving that I won't be beat. In doing so, I recognize that my strength is not only my own, but is coupled with that of the Savior's, and all the dares he faced. If he can do it, I can do it, because i've made him my ally, and my guide through life. The night will take some getting used to, and I don't expect the transition to be easy... There'll be days where I can hardly face getting back in my wheelchair. There will be days where the humiliation of having a family member help with personal hygiene will be too much… But little by little, I'll see through the darkness. Little by little, I'll find the beauties that can only dwell in the dark places. And one day... one day, I'll strap on a pair of nightvision goggles, and fly full-speed to the moon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rehab: Weeks 3-6... Oops

It has been a while since I have posted anything about rehab, and I have felt the need to catch up! A lot has happened since my last rehab post, and I am happy to say that I have made a good amount of progress in both occupational therapy and physical therapy. 

With occupational therapy I have been on several outings into the community and have even gone grocery shopping (The only real problem being that I couldn't see the screen to pay with a card). This week we planned a meal that I would prepare, so the small video clip that I posted is of me making some breakfast food with occupational therapy. I hope none of us will ever take our egg-cracking skills for granted again. It was tough!

I have also learned to get dressed in my chair, put on my shoes and socks, and get completely ready for the day. I am grateful to be this independent as I begin to prepare to go home.

In physical therapy I have been working on transfers, car transfers, wheelies in my chair (very important), and pop-ups from a lying position to a sitting up position. The short clip I attached is of the day I finally did it. I have to admit that I am very proud to have gained this technique, not only because it is useful, but because it was a big challenge for me. Because I have no core strength, this took more technique then other skills, and this was particularly difficult for me to get. I'm pretty sure it was the Batman abs that made it happen.

Therapy in general is going very well, and I feel very blessed at the progress I have been able to make. I feel especially blessed with the therapists that I have, both OT and PT. Not seeing them and working with them every day will be a sad thing for me. They may not know it, but they have been angels to me, and if they do know it, I am sure they do not know to what extent. They have taken me in my most vulnerable, helpless stage of life, and taught me again how to find liberty and life where it is available. I will always be indebted to them for what they've done for me.

(Forgive the crude links)

Occupational therapy

Physical therapy

Sunday, February 16, 2014

KSL interview rescheduled

Dear friends and family, 

Because of the Olympics and breaking news this month, KSL explained to us that airing Carson's interview has been difficult and will not be shown tonight. We will just have to play it by ear, and the minute we know we will create a post. We know that it will be shown on a Sunday at 10, but we just don't know which Sunday. Thanks for the constant supply of love and support.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Going Back to School

If given my druthers, I just as soon do what my wife is doing---quietly take care of business in the shadows with the singular goal of meeting Carson's and our other children's needs.  I am confident her voice will be heard in the future.  But I promised Carson that I would share this journey with him through this blog, triumphs (so far, minimal) and travails (so far, many) so that the reader could get the complete picture of this ordeal from different perspectives.

No, Carson isn't going back to school......yet.   But I am.  In fact, I am learning about a great many things these days.  I am receiving my doctoral education in suffering, compassion, charity, faith, generosity, and love.  I'm obtaining good grades in some courses, and barely passing in others.  Winter semester has been grueling but I've had outstanding instructors.   Let me introduce you to the curriculum with course descriptions:

Course: Suffering/Perseverance 800:  Instructor:  Carson Tueller (and many others and parents gone before)

I've learned in this class what Aristotle said about suffering: "Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility, but through greatness of mind."  I asked Carson what his goals were in rehabilitation.  His response:  "I want to set new records for achieving the best function I can with what I have currently."  New Records?, I thought to myself, that sounds familiar.  I have learned to never attempt to dissuade this young man in his goals, and I'm certainly not going to start now.  When Carson was only about 4 he thought he could catch birds, believing that if he was stealthy and fast enough he could succeed.  I would watch this with fascination and tell him that the birds knew he was always there and that he wasn't quick enough to get them.  Big mistake.  Even at that age he countered that if he tried it long enough he would be successful.  He would then ask me how fast a Cheetah could run, and at one point when we lived in Alaska, had me let him out of the car to see how many miles per hour he could sprint.  I asked myself, What is up with this kid?  Carson is incredibly focused and brings a certain element of intensity regarding his own self expectations.  In 23 years I've never seen him regularly watch television or just "kick back" as we often say.  Instead, he is driving himself toward some achievement or goal in school, music, athletics, or with people.  I've tried to slow him down, but he is usually off to go somewhere, to see someone, to do something---spit on a hot stove.  It's almost like he needs some element of a challenge in order to thrive.  Now he is in the deep end of the pool, and his perseverance looks familiar.  His blood pressure recently fell to an all-time low-----54/24 (120/80 is normal) and he couldn't complete his physical therapy because of passing out, but he kept coming back for more in the following days despite eyes rolling up in his head at times with fatigue, always pressing the limits of his body in all regards.  In a recent KSL interview, the reporter asked him, "What is easy for you to do at this point?" to which Carson replied, "It's easy for me to be self-motivated."  Sheesh....what an understatement.  Dragging around lifeless legs, head bobbing up and down because he has no stomach muscles to help balance, and trying to figure out a new method of working his body is hard to observe.  His suffering, tears and frustrations are confined to alone time (until recently) when he contemplates the challenges of the future, but I can see it in my son's eyes--I've always been able to.  It's a slightly worried look, and I can see his brain working some angle on the problem, making a plan, a strategy of approaching and defeating the current barrier.  The physical trauma and survival mode are wearing off.  Invariably this will usher in a nasty emotional coping phase, and the specter of reality regarding physical limitations will send its ugliest messenger, discouragement, to inflict damage on my son.  We won't have it---he won't have it.  He's up to the fight and we are too, but it will come with a price tag.  Carson grew up moving around in the Air Force for 21 of his 23 years, and I remind him of the Military Code of Conduct which hangs in our house, Article II, that reads, "I will never surrender of my own free will. If in Command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist."  Carson will never surrender, nor will we.

A young man decides to walk into the room to see Carson, hearing about the injury and blog from a friend. I don't know him and neither does Carson.  We welcome him in and he tells us he is a C4 injury survivor from a cycling accident two years ago, suffering complete paralysis for nearly a month and the years of continual work to gain what he has now.  He then proceeds to educate us on his experience, replete with his tenacity in rehabilitation that obviously paid monstrous dividends.  Remember, I said he walked in, and he has resolve on his face.  You can tell he's come to deliver a message of hope and it is clear that this guy is cut from a different cloth.  He provides guidance and experience.  I listen to his story with fascination, thinking that is all......but he isn't done yet.  He then shares that one of his young daughters has a disease that will be terminal, but that she has beaten the odds of survivability.  I think, This guy was not only paralyzed and crawled out of the pit of despair, but now he survives to watch his daughter slowly suffer and eventually pass away.  Where does he get his strength and faith?  I immediately realize that I am a boy living in a man's world regarding perseverance, spirituality and perhaps being able to see the bigger picture, but my learning curve is steep at this point and I sponge it all in.  He delivers his experience and contact information, slowly rises from his chair in considerable nerve pain that hasn't subsided since the accident, and walks down the hall with a noticeably irregular gate, but very clearly walking.  His courage inspires us.

Course:  Grief 810:  Instructor(s): Adversity?....Life?

My appreciation for grieving people has permanently been transformed.  Despite many years of book learning and experience listening to countless clients, their family members, and those others who have dealt with profound loss, coupled with my own losses of having family and friends pass away in a variety of ways, the dirty stinking hell of war and its toll on people, working in prison systems, the entire spectrum of substance dependence slavery, suicide, homicide, the chronic mentally ill in despair.....the list is nearly endless hearing/seeing people suffer.  I thought I was "dialed in" as they say. Oh, but this experience is  dramatically different.  Different because it's up close, in my face, and very personal.  I can't believe the contrast between having someone else close to you suffer and having one of your own suffer.  It is the difference in brightness between the sun and the moon. No more being in the chair of assisting for me; Psychologist, heal thyself, I hear myself mockingly mutter.   Now the same verbal pill I've provided others I have to gag down, and it's the size of a football.  Choke it down, Steve.  I appreciate what it feels like to have heart pain that can only be described as an intractable, persistent aching.  I have greater clarity when clients tell me that physical pain is much more desirable than emotional pain.  Amen.  Carson asked me how I was doing the other day.  I told him that I was having a hard time separating myself from his injury.  I told him that intellectually I know I can go out and walk and ride my bike, run etc., but emotionally I can't get rid of the sadness for his losses since they feel like mine.  He looked surprised.  It's even guilt producing to think of enjoying things he can't in the future.  No wonder people get depressed and can't move on when they experience loss.  They feel like they have to suffer with the person out of respect or compassion, as if they don't have the right to feel joy.  The problem is compounded by the fact that I can't do anything about his injury, and it was this way from the beginning.  I think males in general tend to be directive and notorious “fixers.”  We see problems and want to fix them or take some sort of action, and when thwarted, become frustrated and agitated.  This often doesn't help the situation if vocalized.  I realize I can't fix my son's spinal cord.   So now I'm needing to listen very carefully and enter into an emotional journey of helping him cope.  I know how to do that.  Even in the seconds following the injury I could only muster verbal comfort to my son as his eyes became increasingly and frighteningly bloodshot, breathing labored, body unnaturally motionless.  “It’s going to be okay, dad” he says to me while paralyzed in the pit. “I love you,” he follows with.  And finally, “This is the next step”, he boldly announces after being placed on a spinal board.  This is the coupe de grace for me emotionally.  What is that supposed to mean---the next step?  It certainly can't be a next step in any positive direction.  What is he talking about?   He will fill you in on the meaning better than I.  But I am grateful I was in the pit with him and the first to physically touch him, desperately trying to figure out words to say that would provide some element of comfort.   I now have a greater understanding of the feelings of helplessness that people describe when tragedy is out of their control and the strange guilt afterward that crushes you like a bulldozer.  I'm reminded of a big Marine combat veteran I worked with who was part of a casualty affairs team in Iraq, and his description of having to pull charred bodies from a burned out APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) because the other members of his team were too incapacitated to assist due to the smell, nausea and condition of the bodies.   He described faces locked in the final death scream, limbs breaking off upon movement, having to prepare their bodies for shipment home and going through their personal effects---photos of wives, family and children, and wondering what their loved ones were feeling like at the moment of notification.  He kept telling me over and over how helpless he felt, that there was nothing he could do for them.  Now I relate to this helplessness at an emotional, rather than clinical level.   

The grieving process is fascinating and sometimes complex. The psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, described the 5 stages of death in her seminal work On Death and Dying (1969), and to a lesser extent, these stages can be a framework for grieving loved ones as well.   As most know, the stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance.  These are general categories, and one thing is for certain, no two people grieve the same nor do the stages proceed in order. Some stages aren't even experienced.  More important is what people say or do when in the various stages.  As examples, some of my children want to be next to Carson physically, while others stay safely at a distance.  Neither is wrong.  Some want the physiological facts about the injury and other clinical information in raw form while others can only handle the details in chunks.  Some visitors provide personal words of wisdom while others provide inspiring stories.  Some attempt to provide intellectual explanations for the injury or rational coping skills, while others try and make spiritual sense of  the incident.  Humor also has a unique place in this whole healing and grieving process and this has helped Carson tremendously.   I'm not sure there is a standardized approach to grief and there are often no answers for why something happens---there doesn't have to be.  Carson recognizes that the beauty of people is how they make him feel, not necessarily what they say.  I can truly say that there are people who have visited who innately have the ability to "mourn with those who mourn" and possess such a deep ability for compassion that it exudes from them.  What a marvelous spiritual gift. Their faces and eyes give it away, and sometimes they have nothing to say at all, but it is clear what they are feeling for my son, and he can feel it.  I suppose all of us have a certain role in this grief process both for Carson and for each other.  I'm confident that with time this will hurt less, but totally accept that a part of my heart is relegated to scar tissue, and that's okay.  
Course: Support/Generosity 850:  Instructor(s): Friends, family, leaders, .........people
Our family, including Carson, are collectively stunned by the outpouring of support, but perhaps more accurately perplexed.  Carson has even used the word confused.  We keep thinking, We don't deserve this. There are others in so much greater need!  My wife and I met recently with Ann Smith, whose son Tyler passed away some 20 months ago from cancer.   It was comforting to hear similar feedback about the outpouring of help from people.  We could feel of her faith, guidance and knowledge of what we may be experiencing even though our son's circumstances differ.  She and her family are veterans of the pain process in every regard and there is a universal language of loss conveyed.  It is impossible to name or thank everyone individually, and she recommended that the best approach will be to position ourselves in such as way to pay this forward when a situation occurs in another family.  We will be ready.  Shortly after Carson's second surgery when people began to respond to the blog, visit, and write letters, I visualized my son at the tip of a wedge of numerous human beings behind him---friends of his, friends of ours, family, extended family, leaders---all with swords drawn to the ready, prepared for battle.  I don't know why I visualized this (obviously it has its military influence), but I believe it was a symbolic reminder of the goodness of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves in numerous ways for a friend---our son--and it is truly sobering.   

To those who have made monetary contributions or coordinated help through various organizations, I am compelled to make an accounting of where these contributions are going in the future, and I will.  I am doing my best to cover items related to house renovations because I want any money given to go to Carson exclusively.  He will need all of it.  I can't emphasize enough to those of you who have contributed how much pressure it removes from our family.  Sadly, these situations are expensive  I feel horribly guilty.  Please forgive my pride.

Course: Faith 825:  Instructors: The Lord, Scriptures, Inspiration, Prayer, the Spirit

The Apostle Thomas of the New Testament and I would have been great running buddies.  We want the evidence---the proof that something exists.  I have sworn to myself over the years that if any disaster struck my family, I wouldn't ask the common questions about the purpose of any event, why the lord lets things like this happen or for what benefit, or try and navigate the labyrinth of suffering and a million other issues that make my brain cook on simmer mode.   My personal motto: Be grateful for everything, and expect nothing.  But I want my son healed, not because of my faith, but because of his---something for something.  Isn't that the way the bargain (covenant) works?  Bargain? The fact is the Lord doesn't owe us anything.  But aren't we taught that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains?  Could the lord heal my boy? Absolutely.  Should he heal my boy?  I don't know.  Mental gymnastics---to complex for my dinosaur brain.  I find myself making back room bargains with the lord (there is that bargaining stage), perfectly willing to have him take whatever I have and give to my son.  Perhaps I wouldn't be man enough to handle it, so it stays where it is.  Who knows?  Maybe this is a test for us.  Test?  I don't want any more of these kinds of tests. Why can't I just have a pop quiz every now and again to keep me humble and get my mind right?   I learn quickly, I promise.  I'm already pulling in C- in this Faith course!  I accept that we live in a world filled with accidents, imperfection, evil, disease and suffering, and that is that.  Good people die and bad people thrive.  There is no such thing as "fairness."  I stand in my $60 dollar New Balance Shoes in Afghanistan while little kids stare at me through a fence, barefoot, herding their goats when its 40 degrees out.  Fair? Their homes are nothing more than mud.  Did my son volunteer for this in the pre-existent world by raising his hand?  Did the rest of us as a family raise our hands in quick succession thereafter to support him?  I'm not sure I want the answer.  All I know is that I need to take care of my son.  We made him and we raised him, and he is my responsibility.  As I recently told Carson when he was in a moment of acute distress, "Now what are you going to do?, quickly followed by, "What are we going to do?" "Do" is emphasized here.  Neither Carson or us as a family are interested in what we have called in the past "spiritual paralysis" (a cruel term now that this accident has happened) where the transmission is placed into neutral while waiting for spiritual guidance or direction.  The lord has given us brains to use and expects us to apply them.  As a family we know what we have to do.  We will put the transmission into drive and press on the accelerator, knowing that if we have the faith necessary and are properly tuned in to the correct spiritual frequency, and LISTEN, regardless of how long it takes, we will be given course corrections as the lord sees fit, ultimately recognizing the purpose to this disaster as the origami unfolds.  We certainly can't be arrogant enough to think calamity isn't going to visit us, because it has, and it will.  The fact is there aren't answers.  I personally hate to "yield" to anything, and have always thought the best defense is a good offense.  It has served me well in many circumstances, but hurt me in others.  When I was with my 93 year old father and Carson in the hospital, I thought, Look, three generations of stubbornness!  It brought a smile to my face for a moment because that is the fire in my boy that will serve him well in the battles to come.  But it is time to submit to things beyond our control.  The AA serenity prayer is compelling.  You admit you are powerless and have to rely on something bigger than yourself when the war is forced upon you, be it anything.  You have to control what you can and leave the rest in the hands of he who has descended below all. 

Stephen Tueller



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spine Notes 3: Second best

"Now what are you going to do? What's second-best?"

"I don't want second-best… You don't understand, second-best is nowhere close to first best nor is it close to bringing me hope or happiness. Here's first best up here, and second best is 1,000 feet under the ground. I don't want second-best."

"First best is no longer an option. What does second-best looks like?

...I'm not sure I'm ready to answer that question…

I'm down, I'm exhausted, and frankly, I think I have underestimated the brutal nature of the beast I am at war with. The sunbeams of optimism seem more scarce than ever, and it takes considerable effort to find a break in the clouds of the intensifying storm. The battle is not becoming easier, it is becoming much harder. 

Friday was perhaps the most difficult day I have had to push through since my accident. As I gain more control and strength of my arms and hands, it is cruelly ironic that I more clearly see how little I have, and how unappealing the future seems. 

This was the week that I moved from my power chair into my manual chair. This is progress, and I'm grateful to move forward so quickly, but it also came with very depressing setbacks. As I sat up in my manual chair I quickly realized that because I have no core control, if I extend both arms out in front of me, I fall forward like a rag doll onto the floor and out of my chair. So generally speaking, I won't be able to use both of my hands at the same time for anything. It's a new challenging game of balance that I didn't anticipate. Admittedly, this was extremely discouraging to me.

I know there are people who have less than I do. I know there are other people with spinal cord injuries that would do anything for their hands, but even with that recognition, I ask myself seriously, "Can I live like this for the rest of my life? Do I want to live like this for the rest of my life?" I meant what I said at the beginning of my accident when I said that my main joy in life was in the friendships and the love that I have of my family and friends. I said that because I meant it. However, almost everything else that has ever seriously brought me joy is gone. I painfully realize that unless I gain more core muscles, I will never be the flutist or musician that I've always wanted to become. This alone is devastating to me. This, along with so many other things, is a thing of the past and I mourn the loss of the joys that made me whole.

I find myself longing to be free, to be liberated from my prison. My prison is not my hospital room, nor is it my wheelchair... my prison is my body. I'm confined within my own fleshy prison cell, and long for freedom, but only to conclude that there is no key to the door, no loose hinges to remove, and no windows to escape from. I'm helplessly incarcerated like an inmate. If someone doesn't feed me, I don't eat. If someone doesn't give me to drink, I don't drink. 

My future life in this condition is sickeningly inorganic. I will live and move only with the use of adaptive equipment, never to be alone again. A wheelchair, a stair glide, a catheter, a slide board, a suppository, an electrical muscle stimulator, and the list goes on…

"Can this really be my reality? How could this happen to me?" On Friday, after having these questions run through my head, and spending a day of holding back tears, it was only minutes before physical therapy that I broke down, slumped forward in my chair with my elbows on my knees, and sobbed... Through my tears, I cried to my sweet parents who had tears in their own eyes, "I don't want to live the rest of my life in a wheelchair."

After more sobbing, and some intense discussion, my father asked me at the appropriate time, "Now what are you going to do? It's what we talked about before, what's second-best?" It's not a question that's foreign to me. It's a question that has floated through my head at different times and for different reasons. And here it is again, demanding a response, "What's second-best, Carson? First best is no longer an option."

While I despise that question in many ways, I know that it is the only door open now. It might not lead to peace and plenty by any means, but it does lead somewhere. And at least it leads away from where I currently am.

If I know myself at all, I know that in some ways in a very proud man. I refuse to take the easy path, simply because it's the easiest path. I'm up for a challenge, and I know how I respond to these kind of situations. I'll wipe the tears from my eyes, slightly embarrassed at my weakness, and proceed forward to work until I'm exhausted.

There are times when I begin to chastise myself at my lack of hope or faith. But lately I've understood again that faith is working towards that which is unseen. It's working towards that which has not yet been realized. My faith is still very much being tested.

I know that the expression of faith is not necessarily found in perfect endurance, but in always moving forward despite difficult setbacks, even catastrophic setbacks. Faith is found in blood, sweat and tears, in dirt-stained faces and bloodshot eyes. Faith is found in bruises, scraped and bloodied knees, and calloused hands. I will be very surprised if any man can arrive to heaven in a pristine, wrinkle-free suit, a bright white shirt, necktie, and perfectly polished shoes.

Living faithfully, that is, living full of faith, is a conscious decision, and is a difficult one to make. For me in this particular situation, it is often harder to live with faith than to live without it. For me, reigniting my hope can be painful. Why do it then? Why continue forward when it's easier to quit? It's because of what I gain every time I do it. I always come out stronger. Just like weightlifting, the greater the burden or weight, the stronger the resulting outcome. It is nearly always painful, but I think that's how it's supposed to be. I think it's supposed to be hard. I can't imagine that Abraham was skipping happily up to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his only son, the only one that could fulfill all of the promises made to him. A trial of faith is just that, a trial.

However, somehow, someway, suffering perfects us and makes us more like the Savior. "God having provided some better thing for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:40)

So back to that question… What am I going to do now? What's second-best now that first best is not an option? To be honest I'm not sure what second-best looks like yet. I'm not yet certain what I'm going to do with this new part of my life… But I do know what I won't do. I won't give up.

I also know that it is within my power to retain my hope in the Savior and his miraculous power as long as I am restricted in my mobility. I won't give up on the power of prayer, especially collective, faithful prayers of full healing.

So now what am I going to do? I will fight as long as I have anything at all to give. The battle that commenced on December 30, 2013 has only recently begun, and perhaps I underestimated my opponent, but this isn't over, and none of us save God knows what the future will look like. This will be a battle of time and patience. In the end, an indomitable spirit and gritty perseverance will be all I can give as an expression of my faith, and I hope that God will accept it as my most humble offering.

Paul's Day with Carson (13 year old brother)

Last week on Tuesday I got to skip school (YEAH!!) and go see Carson who is my big brother in the hospital. We got there and he was just given breakfast. We just hung around for a while until Occupational Therapy. This was the first time that he would go out off of the hospital grounds.... big BIG DEAL. We went out to the van and they had a special lift that lifted him up into the van, it was so cool.  So we went to Great Clips and he got to have an awesome haircut.  Across the street and to the right was Costa Vida and Carson, the Occupational Therapist and I got really good food.  After eating out we got back in the van and drove back to Physical Therapy (which we were a little late for). They hooked him up to a bike that pedals itself to move his muscles and they hooked up the pads that gave him a tiny shock to make his muscles flex when the bike would make his leg go up. When he was done we went back to the room.  When we got back to the room I interviewed him for a school project. The two questions I asked him were "How have you gotten through challenges in your life?" and "What are your plans for the future?"  He gave some great answers which will help my essay for school.  After that we had a quiet time (which I hate) and we all just relaxed. It was an awesome day and I learned a lot about what he does in a day. I hope I get to do it again.

Kate's Day with Carson (9 year old sister)

I got to go spend a day with Carson at the hospital.  I wanted to be with him so that he would  know that I supported him and I would be able to see what he does during the day.  I got to meet all of the people who work with Carson.  They were all  really nice. In O.T. (occupational therapy)  Danielle put these gloves on Carson that would give him a little bit of electricity that would move his hands. After that Lindsey gave him some Thera-putty.  It's like  play dough so he could squeeze it for his grip and he would put it in-between his fingers and stretch it out. They gave me some too so I could do it with him.  It was really fun and gooey.   In P.T. (physical therapy) Aaron would throw a ball and Carson would hold a long stick sideways and hit the ball back.  Garrett  helped Carson so that he could  balance. When we were all done I got to go back to Carson's room and spend time with him.  It was a fun day.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

KSL interview change


We just received a call from KSL news informing us that there is breaking news that needs to be covered tonight at 10. Consequently, they will be unable to cover Carson's story tonight, but assured us that it will be covered next week. We apologize for the changeup!

Friday, February 7, 2014

KSL Interview


Carson was interviewed by KSL, Channel 5 News on Thursday, Feb 6.  The crew related that this will be aired this Sunday night (9 Feb) at 2200 (10:00), though there is always the possibility that this could change due to other stories/circumstances.  Carson provides some great insight into his experience.   We will try and provide updates to any changes as necessary.

Stephen Tueller

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Braun's (Carsons' older brother) Perspective

Four weeks ago Carson was in a tragic accident where he broke his neck leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. When I first heard the news, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My younger brother was paralyzed? The first image that came into my mind was one of him doing high kicks, usually in mockery or when making fun. He was always so animated. To think that he had lost his full mobility-- something most of us take for granted--broke my heart.

The first time I got to talk with Carson I braced myself for the worst. I fully expected him to be in need of physical, emotional, and spiritual support. What I experienced instead was something that I will never forget. My younger brother smiled over the top of the neck brace, tubing threading from his nose, and triumphantly showed me that he could move his arms. How could I not cry? His movements were comparatively jerky, and he had no fine motor movements in his hands. He said he couldn't feel anything from the chest down...but that he would rather break his neck ten times over than have to have his feeding tube done over again. Where I had expected to see someone in the depths of tragedy, I instead saw a bright and shining soul, defiantly ready to face whatever the future held for him. He was even making jokes!

I heard from my mother that within the first days following his injury, Carson said something along the lines of "Who needs legs to love?" That single line sums Carson's personality up pretty well. Everyone who knows my younger brother can attest to his astounding love of life and everyone in it. Carson has a disarming and reassuring presence that simply makes you smile. To me he embodies what humans strive for; to live a life filled with courage, love, patience, and belief. He is out to change the world, and nothing will slow him down. He touches the lives of everyone he comes into contact with...and continues to do so.

It has only been four weeks since his accident, but in that time Carson's friends have created this blog that has received hundreds of visitors. He receives letters nightly from people around the world. But what is most astounding is the motivation behind the blog. Carson uses the blog to not only catalogue his journey through his recovery, but more importantly to show the world that anything can be overcome through hard effort and belief. He is a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and shares his faith and hope through his words and actions. Where many would lose their faith or renew it following adversity, Carson maintains and bolsters not only his own, but those around him in the midst of tragedy. He balances personal belief with personal desires, and yet has found a way to keep equilibrium between the two without sacrificing the other.

Words cannot express the love that I have for my younger brother. I don't know to what degree he will recover his physical aptitude, but regardless, Carson is the same man he has always been, if not greater. Carson has always shown us that love is the most important thing in life, and he continues to show that by giving his love to everyone he meets. If anyone can overcome something of this magnitude its Carson Jack Tueller, but what truly makes Carson special is the fact that I know his hopes, dreams, prayers, and efforts will be focused on the people he loves instead of on himself. Sometimes tragedy is simply opportunity just depends on whether we have the bravery to look beneath the veneer. My younger brother has that bravery, and he in turn shares it freely with those around him.

Braun Tueller

Friday, January 31, 2014

One Month Video Update

I went and visited Carson last night. We had a great conversation about all that has happened over the last month, how things have changed and where they are going. I never cease to be amazed by his outlook and faith. I've never seen someone who is so hopeful in such difficult circumstances. Carson wanted to make a video with some thoughts that have been on his mind lately as well as an update of his progress both physically and spiritually. Enjoy!

Carson's One Month Update

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spine Notes 2: Paralyzed, paralyzed, paralyzed.

So, what are Spine Notes anyway? Spine Notes are actually entries from my own personal journal, written initially for me, and only me. Because I don't have the ability to type very well due to my limited finger and hand function, I use my iPhone to document my feelings during this time in the hospital. All of those feelings have ended up being recorded in the notes part of my phone, and are under the label "Spine Notes". Ultimately, Spine Notes is a glimpse into what I am experiencing on a personal spiritual and emotional level. I share these personal feelings because I think they give authentic insight to what I'm going through.

As I have faced other significant trials in my life, writing has been a great source of help to me. It helps me to put a finger on my feelings in a more concrete way, and it also helps me find some solution to what I'm feeling, or exposes some flaw in my perception... anyway, Spine Notes 2.

Paralyzed, paralyzed, paralyzed.

Last night in the wee hours of the morning, I lay in bed muttering that same word over and over to myself. I wondered if the more I repeated that to myself, the more I would actually believe it. It is still so difficult for me to believe that I am actually paralyzed.

This whole predicament is still so bizarre to me. I continue to struggle to realize and accept that this is life. I keep remembering that it was only a month ago that I was walking around, minding my own business, practicing, and getting ready for another semester at school. 2013 was without question the hardest year of my life, and I was happily  looking forward to starting 2014 with a clean slate, ready to move forward into new and exciting territory. I had made plans and set personal goals in nearly every aspect of my life, being spiritual, mental, social, and physical. I was ready to go! Just as I was ready to usher in a brand-new year… SNAP. Everything changed in a fraction of a second.

I recently had a break between my occupational therapy and physical therapy appointments. My dad and I went down into the lobby to get a change of scenery. We ended up discussing some of the difficulties of my paralysis. I assure you that the list was more than just a few points long, but one of the things we discussed was how difficult it was to have everything change without warning. There were no symptomatic signs, no predispositions, no gradual lack of function, nothing... It went from all to nothing in the blink of an eye. From one moment to another, my life changed in some of the most fundamental ways possible.

As I have pondered the events of December 30th, I have recognized a significant principle that has helped me through every step of my journey. No matter my circumstance, no matter the nature of the accident, no matter the results of the surgery, no matter the function I gain back, I have the decision to either be proactive or reactive to every circumstance. I can either choose to be the captain of the ship of life, or I can be one of a million barnacles just along for the ride. 

For me personally, this is something that I constantly have to battle. I fight to prove to myself that I am in charge, and that I won't let this bring me down. I'm stubborn and proud, and absolutely determined to come out victorious.

I sat a few days ago in bed lamenting and worrying (and crying) about the fact that I have not gained any function back yet. I didn't have any PT or OT, so I just kind of stared at my food for a long time thinking about life, and feeling very sorry for myself. Then, without warning almost, I heard my own voice say in my head "...What are you doing?? How long are you going to sit here and wallow in self-pity??" I consequently picked up my fork, turned on some music on my iPhone, and began eating.

It seems like this principle has been brought to my mind over and over again. It reminds me of a beautiful scripture that a friend recently shared with me. "Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves--to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life" (2 Nephi 10:23)

I learned this lesson initially the moment I broke my neck. Within 10 seconds I was very aware that I could not move the majority of my body. With that realization came an almost instantaneous flood of thoughts into my mind. I immediately thought about the things that I might never do again. Images of myself walking, running, swimming, and a generally active Carson ran through my mind. I knew that that part of my life was gone.

Then, as though something or someone was trying to abate my feelings of despair and anguish, my mind was suddenly filled with a general image of beloved family and friends. This was accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of love both for and from them.

This experience lasted until my father came to my aid. We spoke briefly before I said to him through many labored, shallow breaths, "'s okay... I still have the love of my family... and friends...That's all that matters...It's okay!"

I cry easily as I recall the tender mercies within the first few moments of that hellish experience. I am absolutely certain that it was the Spirit of God that accompanied and comforted me during that catastrophic injury. In fact, because of that comfort, I do not feel negative feelings when I recall the accident. I am positive that I will never have nightmares of that day, because of the peace that lingered with me as I lay limp and useless. I simply do not associate feelings of trauma to that very traumatic accident, and I thank God for that and know that it was a miracle. 

I know it was the Spirit who reminded me of what has always mattered most in my life, and that happiness is always available. I also know that it is He who has taught me through this journey that I am the captain of my soul. He has taught me to look to him, and to trust in his ways. Trust. I have never thought so much about a single word.

My journey may take me through hell, but I will never yield to the howling winds and raging waters that seek to capsize me. I will take control of the helm, and drive my ship fearlessly toward the horizon in an undeviating course to Paradise.

"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things..." (Alma 26:12)

Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you;

The weight of your calling he perfectly knows.

Your path may be thorny, but Jesus is nigh you;

His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose. 

His arm is sufficient, tho demons oppose. 

(The Time Is Far Spent, Vs. 4)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rehab: Week 2

Week two of rehab has been completed! The video attached is a video of physical therapy. At some point in the future I will post some things from occupational therapy as well. I have to admit, this week was far more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought that things would get easier for me medically speaking and that my body would acclimate faster to some of the major changes it's going through.

I continue to have severe low blood pressure as well as lots of nausea. Unfortunately those two have become BFFs and one nearly always begets the other. For those of you who are familiar with blood pressure numbers, I achieved a new record low this week! I came in at 57/35... And I was still conscious! That's right. For those of you who don't know, typical blood pressure should be around 120/80. I suggested to my physical therapists that we have record holders names and blood pressure numbers recorded somewhere on the wall within the physical therapy gym. We'll see if I can get it to happen…

All joking aside though, this has all been extremely frustrating. So much of what I do is determined by how high or low my blood pressure is that day. No matter how hard I'm willing to work, I simply can't perform in therapy if I can't stay conscious. I have also been experiencing some intense nerve pain that also impedes my progress. Most of these things are out of my control, and I just have to wait until they pass. I can't say I haven't shed some angry tears of frustration.

This week I continued to work on the same skills as last week, with some variation. I am making good progress, but sometimes (always) struggle to see my small victories (my dad has occasionally said to me, "Carson, you are an impatient man…" It's true). I would say my greatest gains have been made in my hand strength and dexterity, which has been encouraging. I have also increased in mobility during my PT sessions. Let's hope that next week yields some better results.

This is a clip of me continuing to practice my balance, but in a slightly more difficult way.