Handi Drummed

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A Story to Learn From
by Scott Elliott

There actually was a point in my life where I was 100% physically able. I weighed 170lbs, had less than 10% body fat, and worked out in the weight room regularly. It was about this time, (three years ago), that I started to play drums.

One night, some friends and I were snowmobiling behind my home in a mid-acre field at dusk. We were taping, jumping, and riding stupid. I was coming to the house, going at least 70mph. My friend came around from behind a big pine tree, right in my path. I slammed on my brakes and veered right, hoping for the best. I T-boned my friend and flew roughly thirty feet, landing onto my head. After what seemed like a few seconds, I came to, got up off the ground, and hobbled over to my sled to shut it off, as it was still running. At first, I was all right. Several months later, I started to notice weakness and muscle bulk loss in my left shoulder, tricep, forearm, and even more so in my fingers. After a while, I wasn't able to bend the strings on my guitar, or spread some of my fingers apart. Being smart, I shrugged it off as a strain that would go away. Well, I was wrong.

Over two years, it got progressively worse, to the point where I couldn't pick up a college textbook with my left hand off of the table. It was time to see a doctor. I walked into to the doctor's office frustrated, scared, worried, and just plain nervous. I didn't want to hear what he had to say.

"Hey Scott! How are you doing today?", the doctor asked.

"I could be much better", I replied.

"Well, let's see this hand of yours, Scott"

I took my left hand out of my pocket and placed it on his desk. My hand looked like that of a body that had been dead for a week, decaying. It was basically skin and boned compared to my right hand.

"Well, examining it, I can see and feel a large percentage of atrophy in this hand. It's like your hand is just rotting away."

"Spectacular", I said.

He then asked about my accident and concluded that I had either severed, and stretched some nerves in my shoulder, or just stretched them severely. I was scheduled for an MRI appointment the following week. The results concluded the latter, that I had massive amounts of scar tissue blocking my nerve signals, causing me to lose functionality in my hand.

"Scott, you have large amounts of nerve damage in your shoulder and all way down your arm. There really isn't anything we can do about this. I'm going to schedule you for occupational threapy to help you get your basic motor functions and dexterity back. But, unfortunately, as you get older, this will become progressively worse"

I walked out of the hospital office feeling more lowly than I had in years. I couldn't understand why this had to happen to me. I had high dreams, now it seemed like they wouldn't become reality. I drove home in complete silence, wondering what I was going to do.I got home, plopped down on my bed, gazed at my guitar and drumset, and wondered why I had such drive to continue a career I thought would never happen, because my hand was rotting away.

A week later, I went to the hospital for my first session. The first thing we did was a strength test. It looked like a gun without a barrel. I squeezed with my right hand and got a rating of 112 (which is about 10% above normal hand strength). Now it was the moment of truth. I put my left hand up and squeezed a 73; about 20 points below normal and about 50% weaker than it should be. The therapist then had me answer a few more questions, and then we got to work.

It has been about two months ince my first visit and I am now squeezing 85 with my left hand. I will now tell you why I've worked so hard to keep my dreams; Inspiration is such a forwarding power.

One day, I was laying in bed, watching a DVD, feeling sorry for myself, and listening to Nicholas Barker play like an unholy god. I was flabbergasted, as usual, by his swiftness and talent, making what he did look like a walk in the park. It then occurred to me that I had a failing hand that was going to be worse off in twenty years. It's predicted to this day that I will not be able to play any instruments by the time I'm fifty years old. I sat up in my bed and I told myself that even though I may never be the best, I'll do my damnedest to be the best I can be in my own eyes. I made a promise to myself that night to never give up my passion, and that was to now play the drum kit.

I went to school with a new mindset, about to be blown away. I searched up drumming sites on the Internet and came across a website called Breaksticks. I proceeded to the forums out of boredom, not really planning on participating. So I went to the "Show Us Your Kits" section, and started viewing kits. The last kit I saw was just plain weird: His bass drum was on the left, with a remote hihat pedal on the right, and all his toms and cymbals setup in a right-handed fashion. I was very curious and started to read the entry. To my amazement, I found a drummer with a physical challenge. That man was Rob. I immediately joined the forums and posted about how much respect and admiration I had for such a deed. I thought to myself, "Man, if this guy can play kit with Cerebral Palsy, then by god, I can do it with this".

Since then, I haven't looked back. My improvements have come slowly, and not without work. My playing quality has been increasing, and I just recently advanced to State Competitions with two drum solos. I even had the opportunity to mark myself in a physically challenged catagory because of my hand, but passed up the chance because I wanted to do it like any "normal Joe".

I know I haven't gotten into depth about my drum playing, but this isn't an article on drumming. This is an article on turning a negative into a postive. I may have a nerve damage problem that will eventually hinder my ability to play my passion, but as it is right now, I can still play. I plan to play and be an inspiration to all those, physically challenged or not, to become better people, musicians, players, and walk with a different attitude about themselves the next day.

If you sit and loathe, your dreams escape you. How will you feel in twenty years when you look back and realize that you didn't capture a moment as much as you should have? Then have to endure the razor sharp guilty pains in your gut, as you swallow your pride, and realize that you gave up on something that was important to you.

Yeah, I may never be the best, but I know that I'll help somebody keep their dreams alive; and that's all I personally care about doing.