Five Chapter Summaries
Part One: Falling
Chapter 1: Ascending the Mountain
“I’m perspiring as if I’d been jogging for five miles under a noonday sun.
My nerves are on edge as I look ahead toward the same five steps I’ve
been struggling to conquer for months.”
This chapter juxtaposes the ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro against the crippling neuropathy that struck four months later. The reader meets wife Terri and physical therapist Billie.
“As I descended the stairs, Billie’s hand on my safety belt, I felt much like I did upon descending Kilimanjaro when we toasted our accomplishment. As then, I’m sky high.”
Chapter 2: Falling
“… I was in the early stages of a crippling neurological condition that would require me to tackle a mountain far more challenging than Kilimanjaro.”
Strangely weak during a routine run in November, Michael nearly collapses on an easy stroll 2 months later. For weeks, doctors remain stymied while Michael progresses from a straight cane to a walker. One unusually hot Sunday, Michael struggles to exit the apartment building on the way to a pool.
“If I cross the park there is a bench with some shade, but I’m afraid that is too far for me right now. I might collapse if I try to traverse the grass to reach that bench and I’ll not be able to get up on my own. I’ll wind up lying on the grass like a broken tree limb until someone happens by.”
His daughter Jessica discovers Michael and quickly fetches Terri. Instead of the pool, Michael lands in the ER at GWU Hospital—unable to walk.
Chapter 3: CIDP
“I discovered regeneration [of the nerve sheath] depends on whether the cause of the neuropathy had been eliminated…the longer treatments didn’t work, the greater the chance I’d suffer nerve damage, making recovery uncertain.”
Enduring weeks of medical testing, doctors finally offer a diagnosis with no known cause and a treatment with no guarantee of success. Chronic Inflammatory Demylenating Polyneuropathy (CIDP) is a rare neurological disorder that results in progressive weakness and impaired function of the arms and legs. Doctors were initially optimistic of a cure—but the treatments didn’t work.
“… by this time I had already checked into GW Hospital. I was a quadriplegic.”
Chapter 4: Terri’s Mountain
“Over a few months, I had been transformed from an active, vibrant middle-aged man into someone who would require care and assistance in virtually every facet of daily life. Perhaps that is why she, like me, had been in denial about the potential seriousness of my condition.”
I was no longer the man she married two years before. We met at a party—she was petite, effervescent, and 16 years my junior. We felt comfortable with each other and our relationship grew. After a 6-month courtship, Terri and I got engaged, and married in May 1998. On our honeymoon, Terri and I walked the hill towns, vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany. Now, as I lost mobility, I was lucky to have Terri by my side, but I knew she got a raw deal.
“Terri turned her back pretending to be intensely interested in the array of mobility aids on display. She didn’t want me to see her crying and didn’t turn around to face me until her eyes were dry again and she could trust her voice not to falter.”
Chapter 5: Learning to Cope
“If I were a true believer I could turn to prayer, but I’ve never been one, forever the skeptic. Logic is the crutch that’s carried me through each day, commonsense my failsafe. But where is the sense to what’s happening to me now?”
My condition intrigued all four senior neurologists at GW—a teaching hospital with a dozen or more budding doctors accompanying them on rounds. New treatment protocols, a somber prognosis, and physical therapy consumed my days. My doctor said it could take months for my nerves to regenerate. If by 18 months I hadn’t fully recovered, my muscles would begin to waste away. Eighteen months seemed to me both interminable and scarily short. I was afraid. With the uncertainty of recovery, I was in danger of losing autonomy for good.
"For the first time, it was dawning on me I was in for a long haul and to get better I’d need to work real hard.”
Table of Contents (Chapters 6-21)
Continuation of Part One: Falling
Chapter 6: The Rain Forest
Chapter 7: Jessica’s Mountain
Part Two: A Marathon, Not a Sprint
Chapter 8: My New World Order
Chapter 9: A Marathon, Not a Sprint
Chapter 10: A Plateau on Two Mountains
Chapter 11: Billie
Chapter 12: Old Mosely
Chapter 13: Some Medical Complications, A High School Graduation and the Challenge of Flying
Chapter 14: Christmas in New York
Part Three: The Way Back
Chapter 15: A Setback and A Strange Cure
Chapter 16: March Madness at the Hospital
Chapter 17: Sign of the Times
Chapter 18: Where Will We Call Home
Chapter 19: The Way Back
Chapter 20: Descending the Mountain
Chapter 21: The Road Ahead