This is a difficult story for me to tell but in the true spirit of my KevinNeal.com blog I have personally committed to sharing the good, bad and ugly about my life events. This experience has brought a lot of each emotion for certain.

On the early afternoon of Saturday September 23rd, 2017, four of my good friends and I were enjoying the last full night of cabin-camping at a beautiful spot called Camp Layman. We had already been there a few nights, made friends with many of our fellow cabin-camper neighbors and all of us had just started to gather for the communal nightly campfire. It was a delightful night with crisp, yet comfortable, weather and there was just a really relaxed atmosphere.

This was a camp area of roughly 10 or so cabins within the immediate location of the cabin in which we were staying. As the sun was setting and people began to gather around the campfire, the guys and I started to casually toss a football around as we have done many, many times before on these camping trips. It wasn’t anything unusual.

After about 10 or so minutes, one of the guys threw me a pass that was a little bit high so, naturally, I jumped up to catch the pass. It’s amazing how one little action can forever change the direction of your life; just amazing. Anyhow, as you can likely figure out I landed on my right ankle which went one-direction while the rest of my body twisted 180 degrees in just the opposite direction. I immediately hit the ground and was in instant shock. I clearly heard bones breaking in my leg and while I recall every moment because I never lost conscience it was a weird experience, almost like in slow motion.

I knew immediately my leg was in bad shape because my ankle was dangling loose at a 90-degree angle. I don’t recall any major pain, rather what I do recall was that there was no possible way I could move my foot nor put any weight on it whatsoever. It was a strange feeling not to have any control over a certain part of your body which I had never experienced previously.

Honestly, what I was disappointed with most, is that I was going to ruin my friends last night of camping. They rushed me to a little local urgent care facility which took x-rays and confirmed a fracture but were too small, because we were in the wilderness, to do anything such as reset the dislocation or surgery. The doctors and the nurses were extremely nice and comforting to me and my friends in our time of distress nonetheless so I very much appreciate their help. This urgent care facility splinted and wrapped my ankle and we headed back to the cabin for the last, Saturday, night of our trip. Obviously, the rest of the night was spent inside and the guys had a lot of fun making wise-cracks and joking at my expense. Early the next day, on Sunday morning, we made the 4 ½ hours’ drive home. I’m very grateful and appreciative to have such good friends to take care of me when I needed them most. Thanks guys!

 

The Good

I’m going to start this story, and summary, with ‘The Good’ in what has happened. I will summarize ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Ugly’ below because there is enough of that content for a million lifetimes 😊.

Yes, I sustained a major ankle injury on that afternoon of September 23rd that I will surely remember for the rest of my life but this little inconvenience paled in comparison to so many other much more significant world events. For example, the wildfires in Northern California sweeping through the Napa and Sonoma areas has taken 40+ lives and destroyed 5,000+ structures. Or the awful Hurricanes that have ravaged Houston/Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have an ever-lasting impact on those affected. Or even the terrible shooting incident in Las Vegas that took 58 innocent lives. I cannot even imagine the pain of these people so I have no right to complain in the least. Lastly, one of my good friends passed away during the first few days of my injury and I was unable to attend his service. These are all life-events that could be perceived as Bad, but I choose to look at the Good as I feel a renewed spirit of choosing to do right for others.

The Good is that, although I generally see myself as a compassionate person anyhow, I feel an extra sense of motivation to do whatever I can to assist those in need whether it’s volunteering in some capacity, encouraging people to be kinder to each other paying-it-forward to others based on my personal life experience.

Right now, since I’m fairly immobile and home bound for the next few weeks at least, I’m spending my time doing creative writing that I’m sharing on Facebook, blog or e-mail where I try and share positive thoughts and stories in the hopes of doing something simple to brighten someone’s day. It’s therapeutic for me personally and I sincerely hope that if helps someone, anyone, in the least little bit then it’s well worth the time of my investment.

 

The Bad

10/2/2017:  Hello everyone, tomorrow morning is surgery to try and fix my badly damaged ankle.

I have so much confidence in the expert skills, as well as compassionate concern of all the care givers we’ve met over this past week.

Also, I would like to thank all of you, my friends and family on Facebook, for all the well wishes. It truly helps healing.

Tomorrow starts a long road to full recovery that I am seriously looking forward to. My ankle, as is now, would never heal and I knew the second I hit the ground (while still catching the football, of course) that surgery would be required.

I’m so grateful to my friends and fellow campers that jumped into immediate action last Saturday after this happened.

Especially, I cannot imagine how I could have ever imagined getting through this first week without my talented home nurse. Who happens to also be my lovely wife . I have many upcoming days, weeks and months where I have to rely on her and it cannot be easy for her.

UPDATE 10/3/17: Surgery went well according to the doctors. It took much longer than the 2 hours they had planned. After 6+ hours they were done and I am now the proud recipient if 13 screws and 3 plates. The doctor said my ankle just fell apart after the initial incision. I am so grateful for their expert skill and compassion. My pain now is a different kind of pain, which is healing and good. Until this surgery it was just about getting ready for surgery by reducing swelling and that was no good.

 

The Ugly

UPDATE 10/16/2017 from Brandee: Kevin went for his first post-op appointment today. Everything looks great! His swelling is approximately 75% less than it was. His bruising is nothing less than miraculous, the way it has dissipated. His surgeon was very pleased. He has a new full fiberglass ‘short-cast’ with his foot reset at a 90° angle. It’s MUCH lighter and more comfortable for him, than the previous plaster surgical cast. Dan, Kevin’s ‘casting specialist’ , even installed a ‘custom bumper’ so Kevin can use his knee walker more efficiently. These people are amazing!

Kevin has 3 incisions- 38 staples combined, on both the outer and inner ankle. Those will be removed on the 25th. The skin wound he acquired from the dislocation, looks great and is healing. Inside, he has 3 titanium plates, and 14 screws. All of which, are permanent fixtures.

The next 3 months will be focused on healing. He cannot walk on the leg (zero weight bearing), but he has a snazzy knee walker, so everyone, please steer clear. 😀 Month 4-6 will be focused on physical therapy, stretching the tendons, and ligaments to get them back in shape, with the goal of getting his foot back into a regular shoe by month 6.

Kevin and I joke around, because that is just how we choose to meet life’s wrecking balls. However, this is a very serious injury. It’s going to take a lot of patience, commitment and time to get Kevin back to pre-injury condition. We appreciate all the love and support so many of you have bestowed upon us over the past 3 weeks. It’s been invaluable.

We have always lived our life together, and run our business by the same mantra, “Do the next right thing.” This bump in the road will be no different.

 

                         

Photo Note: The semi-circular shapes you see on the outside of the x-ray, are the incision staples.

 

My next major milestone is 10/25/2017 when we return to the hospital and hopefully the surgeon will remove the staples in my ankle.

 

Thanks to everyone for your compassion and kind words.

 

Love,

Brandee and Kevin

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Camp Layman, Plumas National Forest, 9/20/17 – 9/24/17

This year for our annual ‘guys’ camping weekend, the five of us headed up to a new spot we had never camped together previously. It was a gorgeous cabin-camping area called Camp Layman located in the beautiful Plumas National Forest.

The destination of these yearly cabin-camping trips is always different and picked by our fearless leader, Frank-buddy.  I generally don’t pay any sort of attention to where we are going other we will be camping in the Forest somewhere.

 

We generally take a similar route out of San Jose and head Northeast for roughly a 4-hour drive and then the last 1 hour of the drive takes us to our unique destination.  However, on the drive to this year’s cabin as we approached the 4-hour drive time the road became strangely familiar to me. As it turns out, ironically enough, Camp Layman is located just outside of a small town called Graeagle. Graegale is where we host our annual guys weekend golf tournament!

I instantly had a great feeling that the guys and I were going to have a great and fun experience because, having spent so much time in the Graeagle area, I knew the location was nice, the people are extremely friendly and we weren’t so remote that we didn’t have resources such as a locate grocery store, if needed.

 

Upon arrival we were greeted by the extremely friendly camp hosts. They provided us with all the camp information such as the amenities of the cabins, which did NOT include internet service, as well as other things we should know such a communal fire pit and BBQ area. The overall experience at Camp Layman was so wonderful because everything was so clean and taken care of. The camp hosts really encourage these sorts of communal activities and all of the cabins instantly became friends amongst each other.

The cabins themselves are super clean and have everything we need as we were ‘roughing it’. Inside the cabins, they have hot showers, a stove with plenty of dishes, a coffee pot, refrigerator and, for the first time in our cabin-camping experience, some really nice interior decorations. There were several beautifully hand-drawings handing on the walls.

Our cabin was 4-5-person capacity with four beds. So, before you jump to any conclusions about the sleeping arrangements how 5 guys and 4 beds works out, let me just say that, as in every previous year, I just end of sleeping on the couch. I actually prefer this because I like to spend all of my waking time chatting and having a good time with the guys so there generally isn’t much sleeping happening anyway.  Being a couch-dweller enables me to be in the middle of the action at all times.

There were roughly 15-20 total cabins at Camp Layman of various sizes and capacities.  Some looked like they could be 1-2-person cabins and then there was at least one cabin that was 10-12-person capacity. There was a nice little creek that ran out front of each cabin which was a nice little, subtle touch of ambiance.

The guys and I would spend our days hiking, shooting, conversing about politics, sports and family-life. Then each afternoon we would do a delicious BBQ for lunch. One of the other nice things about Camp Layman was that they provided a BBQ grill for each cabin. We always bring our own but it was nice to not have to haul out our BBQ. This was a nice surprise that allowed the campers more time to enjoy each other’s company instead of hauling gear.

In the evening’s each night the five of us would gather at the communal fire pit with our fellow Camp Layman campers and spend some really great time getting to know each other and sharing interesting stories.

 

 

So, in summary, let me please provide my ratings:

 

Location: Cromburg, CA = 8 out of 10 Steeler Stars

Cabin: Camp Layman = 9.5 out of 10 Steeler Stars

Fellow Campers: 5 dudes and 2 dogs = 10 out of 10 Steeler Stars

Food: 9 out of 10 Steeler Stars

Drink: 7 out of 10 Steeler Stars

 

I had a lot of fun guys and I look forward to next year!

Sincerely,

Kevin

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Bleu-Berry update, 9/8/2017

Bella’s passing, honestly, is still raw with Brandee, Jack and I and this is no kidding. Five months later and we still miss our little sweet Bellaringa; and will miss her forever I’m sure. She is the greatest but it’s heartening to know that her wonderful legacy lives on!

However, today’s blog is about a Bleu update. It’s very difficult to share updates about Bleu, as much as I would like to, but it hurts because I always think about Bella. Nevertheless, here goes with a Baby Bleu update.

Blue was officially rescued from the great San Jose Animal Care Center at the young age of 5 weeks old and 1.5 pounds. The rescue was amazing!

I really had no intention of adopting a cat that day. In fact, I was admittedly against it as Brandee and my reason for the visit was to get a puppy that could re-energize Jack’s, and our, broken spirits since Bella went to Rainbow Bridge. But, as I was walking by the cat habitats at the Center this little, tiny, jet-black kitten (that wasn’t even a grand total of six-inches long) began to scratch at the glass and got my attention. She immediately grabbed my heart and the rest was history. After about only one hour after I met Bleu, we were taking her back to her forever home.

Apparently, she was there with one of her sisters which had be already been rescued when we visited the Center and Bleu was left behind. I knew from the second that I saw her that she was going to be a part of our family so we went through the adoption process and the great folks at San Jose Animal Care Center were absolutely awesome!

I cannot thank all the wonderful people at the San Jose Animal Care Center enough. They all are so awesome, terrific and compassionate. The volunteer that interviewed me for Bleu’s rescue was such a nice and caring guy. All the nice ladies that helped process the paperwork were very sincere. It was a very pleasant experience indeed.

Fast-forward from a little-Baby Bleu of six inches long (at 5 weeks old) to now, 5 months later, an 8.7-pound young girl. Bleu is such a fantastic sister to her two canine brothers. Each of the canines has extremely different temperaments and Bleu does a great job to navigate these dangerous territories.

Bleu treats them 100% completely different and it’s quite amazing. With our puppy, Gracie, which is a 11-month old chiweenie, Bleu is as aggressive as can be and they play nearly all day long as loving sisters. Both Gracie and Bleu were rescued on the same day, and although they had never met each other until we brought them home together, they act like biologically-integrated sisters. With Jack, Bleu’s behavior is completely different because Jack is more slow and deliberate. Therefore, Bleu has no fear of his nearly 100-pound brute body, yet just leaves him alone. Also, Jack’s totally chill nature is really awesome as we have no fear whatsoever that he would ever hurt Bleu. Sometimes Jack and Bleu will cuddle on chilly nights so this winter should be interested for all of us.

Brandee and I have left the door wide open for Bleu to come and go as she wishes. Although we really considered this a lot and it was an extremely tough decision, we ultimately decided that she needs to be free as an indoor/outside cat. Thus far, knock-on-wood, I think this is the best result for everyone. Bleu loves her freedom, and sometimes wanders too far off, yet still stays within range.

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Summertime blues with Bella

Hey Honey-Baby,

We miss you like crazy.

Bella, we miss your sweet personality. We miss your prissy-attitude. We miss your overall demeanor and presence. You were such a large part of our daily lives for nearly 15 years.

Summertime used to feel so energetic, fun and exciting with you. Somehow your positive feline-spirit shined thru and we had fantastic times. This summer has been different though. It’s been a difficult summer, quite frankly.

As a young kitty, and although we were nervous for your safety, we always knew that you could take care of yourself when you would disappear late at night. You always came home to us. Sometimes your ear had a chunk removed or your nose was bloodied, but I guarantee that the other-side got their ass whipped!

As always, I need to mention that your Buddy, Jackson, is missing you tremendously also. I can only hope that he understands. Honestly though, I would be fooling myself to think that he’s been the same. That is simply not the truth. We are doing our best together.

We miss you so much every day, every moment and every minute, our Sweetie. It is sad without you because you filled our lives with so much happiness. For this happiness, we cannot thank you enough.

Love,

Daddy, Mommy and Bubby

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Dear honey baby,

This is our first 4th of July without you and it’s really awful. We miss your great spirit and wonderful demeanor. We miss your spunky attitude.

Every day, as I hope you know, I say a special prayer for your safe passage into Pet Heaven and I visit you often. It warms my heart that you are in such a special place among so many great people but it doesn’t lessen the pain of missing you nonetheless.

I can fondly remember such beautiful memories of previous 4th of July events that we spent together. Those were so special and incredible times. I will cherish those precious memories forever. Thank you for being such an absolutely perfect daughter.

Unfortunately, I have bad news to share about bubby but I must share. After another terrible vet-visit to get him sedated for his nails trimming, he had a growth removed which turned out to be cancerous again. He will have surgery soon and we will shower him with love in the interim.

Although our house is full of activity, it still lacks your personality, to be very honest. On this 4th of July holiday I simply hope that you are in comfort in the most wonderful place in the world in Pet Heaven at Rainbow Bridge. It’s my hope that you can enjoy a pet’s version of BBQ with whatever food of your pleasure.  We miss you baby!!!

Love,

Daddy

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