Jamison Hill Lived Life to the Fullest
By the age of twenty-two, Jamison Hill had spent more than 12,000 hours in the gym. He was a body-builder and model when he wasn’t attending college classes at Sonoma State. Jamison could never have imagined what would happen next as his car moved up the incline of the Napa River Bridge…no more so than I could imagine the truck inching across the center line beyond the hill in front of my car back in 1979,
Until it happens to us, no one can comprehend what it’s like to have life change completely and irreversibly in a heartbeat. And yet, it did happen to Jamison Hill and me. The trauma of the accident is horrific. Beyond the sound of shattering glass and smashed metal is the insane mental checklist of taking an immediate inventory of what just happened and if the stranger in the other vehicle is dead or alive. The event seems bigger than anything that’s happened in life, but it becomes simply a flicker of memory as time passes and you are suddenly forced to deal with a body that begins to attack you anew in the aftermath.
Jamison Hill’s account of his sudden decline is raw and at times crude, but there’s no other way to describe what can happen to the human body in the aftermath of acute trauma. How do you describe what it’s like to be unable to tolerate the slightest glimmer of light in the room? You can hide behind a sleep mask and under the covers, but if someone turns a light on, it immediately feels as if your brain is going to explode through your skull. The pain is so intense, it defies description.
We live in a world where we expect solutions to nearly everything. We’ve moved far beyond the Dark Ages. But, when it comes to an immune system gone totally berserk, the doctors have no idea what to do with us. If it doesn’t fit neatly into a textbook or miracle pill, it must all be in our heads. Where we deserve answers, we’re left with more questions. Not knowing how to reclaim our lives is the most tragic part of this journey.
Jamison Hill and I lost our dreams in one tragic moment of time. Our struggles to regain an acceptable, yet different life will continue for the rest of our lives. The isolation during major flares is one of the most difficult things in the world for a human to face. We are a social animal. When you take away our ability to interact, it leaves only a shell of what we once were.
The biggest lesson to take away from Jamison Hill is that although life can change dramatically, we have no choice but to make the best of whatever fate leaves of our former self. In addition, we desperately need to learn how to pace ourselves. If we do too much in a day, we lose the following day. If we do too little, we also lose ground the following day. For those of us who are forced to live with the mantra of trying to do a bit better today than we did yesterday, the battle is unending.
If you are plagued by similar health problems, keep a journal. Through his book, I learned Jamison Hill experienced a decline with the help of certain triggers, like mono. For me, it was meningitis of the brain lining one week after my head made contact with the windshield. Above all, don’t give up hope. Find those things that don’t exacerbate your symptoms. Having a personal therapist teach me biofeedback was an incredible breakthrough for me. Find something, anything, that gives you hope for a better tomorrow. Above all, don’t give up. Things can improve if you can find the right combination of techniques.
About the Author
A former Christmas tree salesman and bodybuilder, Jamison Hill graduated from Sonoma State University after his life-changing car accident. He has written articles for The New York Times, Washington Post, Men’s Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and Writer’s Digest. and was featured in a Netflix original series.
Jamison’s New York Times essay, “Love Means Never Having to say…Anything” was adapted for WBUR’s Modern Love podcast and read by Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian).
Jamison Hill writes, “I’ve spent the last decade looking for answers — navigating hospitals and doctor’s offices, figuring out how to live with the uncertainty of having an invisible illness that nobody seems to understand. While I’ve found some answers, I’ve lost many parts of myself along the way. I’ve had to give up my job, my autonomy, and almost all of my aspirations. But there’s one thing I haven’t lost: my story.”
“We don’t get to decide our fate…but we do get to choose the force with which we meet it.” ~ Jamison Hill
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