The Roller Coaster that was Rehab for Dr. Hull

Editor’s Note: As a Physician, Dr Dale Hull was used to helping patients. When his life literally turned upside down after a fall on a trampoline, Dr. Hull had to re-learn everything. After his recovery, he knew he wanted to continue helping patients, but in a different way. Part 2 of 5 part series.

I went to rehab one week after my accident. When you go to rehab after a spinal cord injury, what you quickly realize is that you’re not there to become better but to become different. Being different is something you probably really never have had to think about before the accident. If you break your arm, you have a cast on that arm for about 6 weeks, then the cast comes off and you are back to normal. If you get cut, you get stitches. Maybe you’ll have a scar, but your life returns to what it was. So, most people who go to the hospital assume that in a few days, a few weeks or a few months, after they leave the hospital, their life will go back to normal. However, when you have the type of accident that I had, you realize that you are on an uncharted path, and you have no idea where that path will take you. You don’t know how you’ll get down the path, who will help you, and what awaits you at the end of the path. Life becomes really scary. You have no knowledge or experience of how to deal with this different world you’ve been thrust into.

About 2 years before my accident, a med school classmate broke his neck and became a quadriplegic. I visited this friend while he was still in a halo brace, and struggling through many of the same problems that I now was facing. I had taken care of people who had spinal cord injuries as a physician, but none of them had high injury levels. I had an attitude of, “Oh, you are in a wheelchair, and you can’t walk. Other than that, everything in your world seems to be okay,”. Now, I realized the depths of problems these individuals were facing on a daily basis.

Rehab for me was a roller coaster. I had days where I felt that I was making progress, and days where I would have to contemplate where my boundaries were and whether I really wanted to keep living with this body I now had. I tried to be very brave during the day when people came to visit me, however, when they all went home at night, and my room was quiet, then I would break down. That’s when I did my crying, my praying, my wondering and my doubting. I don’t really know exactly how I came out of that depressed state. I had my faith, and I had the support of family and friends. Finally, I learned to break my life down to 1 minute increments, “Can I make it through the next minute?” Then later I asked myself, “Can I make it through the next hour,” and then, “Can I make it through the day?” For me, this system worked. If I stopped and thought about the enormity and the impact that this accident had not only on me and my family but everyone around me, the problem was too big for me to handle. I realized that I had a self-inflicted accident, and that accident had impacted my family. Even now, 13-years after my accident, I tell people, “I reserve 15 minutes of self pity whether I need it or not”. I still miss the person I used to be, and even though I have an enormous amount of functionality from where I started, I still require that 15 minutes of self pity. I guess the only way that I really got over losing me was having a mental memorial for Dr. Dale Hull. I realized that Dr. Dale Hull was a really great guy, and I liked him a lot, but he was gone. I missed and still miss him enormously, but he wasn’t coming back. I had to move on and bury Dr. Dale Hull, which was essential to my recovery.

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Next: A Setback and then a Clear Course to Recovery

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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