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Losing A Leg 11/01/01

- By Marty, MD


In September of 1972 I was in medical practice in Colorado.
A well-trained cardiologist, I gave slide-assisted talks to other
doctors on the uses of cardiac catheterization, especially on the
burgeoning procedure of coronary arteriography. In practice a little
over a year, I was thought of as a promising young doctor.

The problem was that I was addicted to drugs (and alcohol),
especially Darvon (propoxyphene). On medical rounds one day, I came
upon a progress note I had written a few days earlier. It was
illegible. It looked like the roughly horizontal scratching of
someone who couldn't write. I continued to abuse Darvon. One hospital
put me on notice that I would be dropped from the staff if I showed
up loaded again.

The first time I drank alcohol, at 16 years old, I got
drunk. Many times I drove home drunk and awoke in the morning with no
memory of what I had done the night before. Since I never killed
anyone while driving drunk, I conclude that God does indeed look out
for children, drunks and fools. Once, while drinking, I took some
sleeping pills, went for a drive and fell asleep at the wheel. I
rolled the car in a ditch, totaling it, and cutting my lip. It had
100,000 miles on it and had never had even a flat tire before I
destroyed it.

My wife's mother came to visit us for a few weeks. Judie is
my wife and Kathryn was her mother. Kathryn and I had not gotten
along well together because we judged each other harshly. I resented
her having left the Church many years earlier. My wife took
instructions and became a Catholic, not because I was a good example
but because my mother, with love and gentleness, made her want to do
it. And Kathryn, her mother, resented me for that and for my
generally hostile behavior toward her.

All this time in Colorado I was abusing Darvon and whatever
kind of speed I could get, to swallow or inject intravenously. I even
did IV Demerol and Morphine a few times.

I came home from work one day during Kathryn's visit and came in the
downstairs back door without anyone seeing me or knowing I was home.
I had a needle, syringe and some Dexedrine tablets. Putting 8
Dexedrine tablets in a small mortar, I ground them to powder with a
pestle. Adding a little tap water, I drew up the liquid and some un-
dissolved powder into the syringe. Then I made my way into the crawl
space beneath the first floor. It was quite dark in there. My arm
veins were unusable because previous speed injections had destroyed
them. I lay down on my back to inject the drug into a vein deep in my
right thigh. Some of you are wondering why I was using non-sterile
water, leaving powder in the syringe (which will clot the blood in
the vein) and trying to find a deep vein in the dark. The answer is
that addicts do those kinds of reckless things, more or less
frequently. The vein I was trying to hit runs right next to the
artery that supplies blood to the whole right leg. By the
illumination of a Zippo lighter, I injected the powder and liquid
into the artery instead of the vein. The blood in the artery promptly
clotted and my whole leg became paralyzed within a few seconds. I
crawled back into the family room from which I had entered the crawl
space and called upstairs to my wife for help.

Like many Catholics, I had trained myself to say an Act of Contrition
if I was ever in danger of dying suddenly. One hopes at such times to
have "perfect contrition," which means to be truly sorry for having
offended an all-good God. Unless one has perfect contrition, dying
with a mortal sin on the soul leads directly to Hell. "Imperfect
contrition" is acceptable for sacramental Confession and can have the
motive of sorrow because of fear of going to Hell. In the thirty-five
minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive and transport me to the
hospital emergency room, the thought of making an Act of Perfect
Contrition never entered my mind. By the time we reached the hospital
my mind was strongly clouded by the life endangering botched
injection and the resultant emergency reactions of my body. No one
else thought of finding a priest so I could go to Confession. One
point I am making is, that someone in mortal sin can't count on being
able to avoid Hell by making an Act of Contrition. The other point is
that, if I had died in the next ten days, before my mind was clear
enough to go to Confession, I would certainly have gone to Hell.

That night, the doctor told my wife that the medical team did not
think I would survive. They had to do emergency abdominal surgery
because of complications from the injection into an artery. A few
weeks later, on Judie's 33rd birthday, they amputated my right leg.
Once, when I got a home pass from the hospital, I got stoned on
Demerol tablets and wine.

I was able to work as a hospital employee for 18 years on a right leg
prosthesis. But I abused drugs and alcohol, more "on" than "off,"
until June of 1996 when the Blessed Virgin obtained my release from
that prison. I had prayed the Rosary for an hour a day for five
years. And I had attended hundreds of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
for about eight years.

I have an addictive personality. I still smoke. All my life, I have
followed the philosophy of the rock singer, Meatloaf, who says that
if a thing is worth doing, it is worth overdoing. The only drugs I
haven't taken are heroin, LSD and marijuana. I have no doubt I could
get in trouble with all three.

God has been very merciful to me.

The sky is "Blessed Virgin Blue".



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