The Healing Tree – Trauma #1 Waking Up

“That is trauma. Being…. ‘appropriate’ or ‘polished’ is essentially a lie and I want this to be as open and honest as possible.  
(WAKING UP)
I AMOST DIED TODAY, At least that is what everyone keeps telling me.”

A Blog and Community dedicated to healing in all its forms

(My name is Mary Beth Orr. I am a professional horn player and currently 3rd Horn in the Grand Rapids Symphony. The following is my story in hopes it may be a helpful resource.) 

The following is the first of probably many entries in the blog section pertaining to trauma.  I’ve separated my story into sections in the attempt of making access to specific information easier for those searching for it. If you are in the midst of trauma, just recovering, or processing trauma maybe reading about my experience and what I share about mine, might make you feel less alone, less strange, or helps you embrace and accept your own journey. Please use this as a resource in any way you need. Below is the start of the hardest section for me to write. 

The Trauma – Recap

May 5, 2018 at approximately 10 in the morning I was T-boned by a van in a country road intersection. I was told I ran a stop sign at full speed. I remember nothing and there were no witnesses. I awoke in the hospital 3 days later with a severe head trauma from grade 4 concussion, collapsed lung, bleeding spleen, lacerated liver and kidney, broken C6 and C7 vertebrae, and multiple lacerations and contusions. However, for me, the worst injury by far, was my missing front left tooth and the severe trauma to my bottom lip, having bitten completely through it severing the muscle entirely. It has taken years for me to come to terms with the incredibly confusing and sometime conflicting emotions associated with trauma, and especially one that effects your body so intensely, but that your conscious mind cannot remember. 

I was in the hospital for 5 days’ total. I still marvel at being there for so short a time given my injuries. For whatever reason, be it biological fortitude or sheer stubbornness, I heal extremely quickly. What you will read below is an exercise assigned to me by my trauma therapist. I was transitioned to one after completing speech therapy, all intended to assess and treat my traumatic brain injury. To be clear, there is no way to define traumatic brain injury in terms of a specific diagnosis. The brain does what it does, when it does it, and how it is affected by such a severe impact and subsequent level of concussion is something that shows itself gradually over time. It isn’t always consistent and it continues to evolve and grow with healing until you’re able to assess what is sticking around, and what isn’t. 

The following exercise is a stream of consciousness, present tense, first person recollection of my first and lasting memories while in the hospital. I also decided to take it further to my time home which will come in a later post. Transitioning to home had some surprises for me as well and felt it was important to explore those feelings and memories. I am being vulnerable and raw with this because that is what it is. That is trauma. Being…. “appropriate” or “polished” is essentially a lie and I want this to be as open and honest as possible.

WAKING UP 1st time

I AMOST DIED TODAY, At least that is what everyone keeps telling me. I’m not going to say I feel good…or fine…. but I don’t feel like I almost died. But, I think it is fair to assume I would have no idea what almost dying even feels like…. since I have never “almost” died before. I do feel confused. And pissed. And achy. Uncomfortable. My last memory is of falling asleep 3 nights prior with the thought, “I love my life, I am so happy”. But it isn’t the next morning. It’s 3 days later. I never made it to the horse farm that morning. I never made it to the last show of Figaro that night, or church the next morning…. How many times have I woken up? I think I remember faces, people around me, looking at me like I have 3 heads…. or maybe that is a mix of pure panic and relief. My mother, my mom; she brushed my hair. My friend …. she just had an audition, she must have just gotten back, how did it go? She looks relieved and irritated at the same time… Wtf….

Everything hurts and my mouth is so dry. Suzy is taking care of business ordering around nurses. My husband keeps telling me to stop moving, and reminding me of the accident. My mouth hurts so much. My lip is crusty and so swollen I can’t really open my mouth. My tooth. My tooth is gone. I need to fix that. I don’t know why I am not more confused…. I can’t remember anything, but I also never seem to totally forget I was in an accident and everything is different. Everything is different now and will stay different. Just like that. Boom. I am accepting this super well. Why am I not freaking out? 

WAKING UP… 2nd time

They changed my room today. I think that means I’m not in ICU anymore? I only woke up for a moment during the change. And by the way… it is a really disconcerting feeling to wake up to someone pulling a catheter out of you…. in case you’ve never been in the hospital…. you lose the ability to be modest or have physical boundaries very quickly. Nurses don’t care. They have a job to do. So, if you just happen to be on your period when you get in a car accident and lose consciousness for 3 days and they have to cut your clothes off of you…. you WILL wake up in a barely there gown with hospital issue tear away underwear up to your rib cage and a menstrual pad the size of Noah’s ark…. yeah. I said it. Go on little dude….do what you got to do. Fuck it, I’m going back to sleep.

WAKING UP …3rd time – Making sense

I can’t sleep. I really feel the bruises now. My lips…. So many stitches and they’re so dry. I feel the stitches pulling everywhere. My tooth is still gone. I need to fix that. How do you fix that? I have to figure that out. If I can just get my lip healed and a tooth I can move on. I can still play the summer season. Oh shit, I need to tell Joe I can’t do the Northwood Graduation. My music….my pops music was in the car. Did my husband tell Erich? Did he get the music to him? Ok, I hurt everywhere, and my shoulder…. I can’t sit up and can’t lie down. I can’t sleep. Too many I. V’S and I can’t lay on my side. Every 2 hours they’re checking on me for something. I think I’m going to lose my mind. 

It’s morning and my husband Kerry is here. I feel so much better when he’s here. My husband is super calm but I can tell it’s mostly because he’s exhausted. He has to answer a lot of my questions because I still can’t remember anything. I feel more alert so I want to start finding a solution to this problem. This is super inconvenient and getting in the way of my life. I had plans. Kerry is looking at me like I’m crazy and also…. he looks sad. Then he brings me a mirror and I see myself for the first time. For the first time, I cry. Just a little before I get it together. But, it’s real now. I see what he sees. What all of them see. And I get it. I am very, very broken.

I feel gross, I am dying for clean hair and skin and desperately want a shower. I can do that. Maybe I can rest then, just do this one thing and I can feel better. Just a little bit better. Kerry takes me in the bathroom. Just getting out of bed feels like…. real. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to stand, to walk, but it is something moving forward so, one step closer to less broken. He takes off my gown and stops. We both look. We both look at the black and purple parts of me taking over like the spots of a leopard starting to bleed together like a water color. I want to cry again. I think he does too. But we don’t. I stand there and let him bathe me; with so much tenderness, love, and fear he bathes me. The water feels good. I only feel a little stinging from my cuts. Okay, I will get better in no time. Being clean is more like me and I got this. God awful uncomfortable gown back on. Ugghhh… walking back to that God awful uncomfortable bed. Walking sucks. It makes me feel weak. And it hurts too. Now all I can think about are ways to heal faster…. but I’m supposed to rest. Fuck rest. 

LEAVING

Everything has blended together since I woke up. Same parade of nurses, trying to be comforting but really just waking me up any time I am actually able to rest. All I want to eat is pumpkin pie. I mean…. why not? Whoever was miserable eating pumpkin pie? I want to go home. I think I may be able to today. I’ve had visitors. They make me feel better and worse all at the same time. I look like shit and can see both the shock and relief of them seeing me alive but also seeing how awful I look. But it’s all people I LOVE. Love is good. I do feel an overwhelming need to make people feel better about how I’m doing though. It’s not their fault. It’s me. I just want to skip this part. I want to fix all of this. This was my fault. I’m told the accident was my fault and I have to accept it. So, this was my fault. I messed everything up. Ok…I’m losing it in front of my nurse. He’s starting to talk in the 3rd person. Is he trying to be funny? “Derek doesn’t do crying” sheesh….” Derek really wants you to not be sad” …. oh, for Fucks sake…. Sorry dude…. gonna take this one moment to feel sorry for myself before I get back on my war horse. 

Suzy and my husband are here. I can go home. I CAN GO HOME!!!! Comfy bed, comfy clothes, my comfy pets…. Yassssss. But FIRST.

Get an appointment with my dentist…. or any damn dentist that will see me. TOMORROW. I’m in the car with Suzy, Kerry had paperwork to do. I hate not having a tooth. No…. I hate not having MY tooth. Sheesh…how would I have handled losing a limb?! I am so shocked at how sad I am about missing a piece of myself. Good Lord girl, get it together. 

Phone call number 1, my dentist…. So, I’m telling you I just got out of the hospital, have lost a tooth that inhibits me from performing and everything that means, my career could be completely lost and you can’t get me in for 3 weeks? Bye. Click. You’re dead to me. 

Next…. Oh, so you don’t handle that kind of thing. Ok. Thanks. Bye. 

Ok, now Suzy is getting irritated…. I can feel it…. “Why don’t you just give it a few days and rest, You’re not even actually home from the hospital yet” 

I get it. I scared the holy shit out of her and everyone. I ruined everything. But I wish I could get her to see I NEED this. I need some sign that I haven’t lost everything and that someone has this covered, that someone can help me. That I’m moving forward. I can rest then. I can rest if I can at least get this part of the healing process started. 

5th call…. Dr. Ribbitch. YES! They can see me tomorrow! They can see me tomorrow. The receptionist said he is excited to help and knows exactly how to fix this. Ok. I can rest.

To be continued in next post…. Be well reader. 

The Healing Tree

“I have struggled over the last few years to write about and share my experience because it is legitimately hard as hell. But I felt so alone during the process and felt hungry for truly functional information about what was happening to me. And the fear about what might happen or not happen was at times, paralyzing and alienating. So take this as an open invitation to go on a healing journey with me. I want to explore what healing means to all of us.”

A blog and community dedicated to healing in all its forms

INTRO – Post # 1

Courtesy of Karin Willman and A La Carte Photography

(My name is Mary Beth Orr. I am a professional horn player and currently 3rd Horn in the Grand Rapids Symphony. The following is my story in hopes it may be a helpful resource.)

3/11/2022

Whelp….. I’m healing again. AGAIN. Not just figuratively, but literally. A broken wrist. It’s annoying, frustrating, irritating, inconvenient, sometimes depressing…. And real. And triggering. 

The word healing may trigger different responses in different people. This broken wrist is a nuisance at most but right now, for me, it brings me right back to the place and time that forever changed my life, and almost took it. 

This Blog will detail the traumarecovery, and rehabilitation involved as a result of a debilitating car crash. I’ve separated my story into sections in the attempt of making access to specific information easier for those searching for it. If you are in the midst of trauma, just recovering, or processing trauma maybe reading about my experience and what I share about mine, might make you feel less alone, less strange, or helps you embrace and accept your own journey. I also have a section dedicated to recovery and what I like to think of as the “nitty gritty” of what I did medically and physiologically to heal and move forward through the most volatile and insecure time of my professional life. My rehabilitation section is dedicated to my journey back to playing my horn professionally and the very messy “workout montage” that it wasn’t. Please use this as a resource in any way you need.

On May 5 2018 I was T-boned on the driver side going through a stop sign on a rural road. I broke my C6 and C7 vertebrae, collapsed my lung, ruptured my spleen, lacerated my liver and kidney, sustained a head trauma resulting in a 3 day coma of which no one knew if I would wake up, and the worst of all….. bit entirely through my lower lip and lost my left front tooth. While this might seem the least of my injuries, being a professional French Hornist with a major orchestra, made this almost the worst possible injury I could have. 

“Betty White” My trusted Honda Accord saved my life.
This was the beginning of Day 2 – My husband took this. I have no memory of those 3 days.

For my family, they just wanted me to wake up, which wasn’t clear was going to happen. They were in absolute hell for 3 days not knowing if I would become conscious again, and if I did, who would I be? Would I still be me? But for me, waking up was awakening to the reality, that though they might still see me, and recognize “me” in all my personality traits and appearance, what would I see? If I couldn’t play the horn again, would I truly be “me”? Would I feel like myself? Would I have to re-evaluate what that meant? Am I going to have to become a different person just to survive and convince myself I don’t hate every living moment of not being able to do what I love? BE what I love. Because that is what music is for me. It IS me. It is how experience love, and joy, and pain, and excitement; life in general. It isn’t what I do, it is literally who and what I am. Is that unhealthy? I don’t actually care. I didn’t then and I still don’t. It is just a reality I accepted a long time ago, and when I did, it allowed me to let go into my joy so completely I never looked back. 

I have struggled over the last few years to write about and share my experience because it is legitimately hard as hell. But I felt so alone during the process and felt hungry for truly functional information about what was happening to me. And the fear about what might happen or not happen was at times, paralyzing and alienating. A friend was just brutally injured in an automobile accident that may still take his life. He may very well be faced with an even greater level of lengthy healing, and need to dig profoundly deep into his soul for the strength to fight as hard as he possibly can to get back to his fullest expression of being. I want to share my process, my journey, my fight so that when the time comes for him, he might feel less alone. I want him to be able to feel fully and completely validated in his feelings, his choices, and HIS process. 

So take this as an open invitation to go on a healing journey with me. I want to explore what healing means to all of us. I’ve found that my healing particularly fell into these categories:

  1. Trauma – that is a loaded word isn’t it? There are so many levels to trauma it could rival the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback. How do we walk through that trauma and find OUR OWN road/path to healing? It doesn’t have to look like someone else’s, so let’s explore holding space for that. 
  2. Recovery – Also a word that could mean so many different things to different people. But for me, I want to provide specific details on how I approached my physical recovery. How did I care for my neck fracture? My lip? My tooth? My mind? I had so much trouble finding resources that gave me confidence in my treatments and felt I was flying blind in terms of what would apply to my goals, ie get back to playing my professional orchestra job. The nuts and bolts of healing our amazing bodies is vast and helpful. The body has an amazing ability to adapt and heal itself. I want us to talk about what that has looked like for all of us. My healing story is only one of so many. What if we share what worked for each of us?
  3. Rehabilitation – So we may be simultaneously walking with trauma, actively recovering, but when is it time to rehabilitate? Do we have to wait until the physical healing and emotional healing is complete before we begin? I can say most of the resources I found regarding rehabilitation (getting back to playing) say pretty much exactly that. I can also safely say, it was NOT going to work for me. It was scary to deviate from the “methods” I found, but I did it for my own sanity. I had to find my own way that felt right and allowed me to calm my monkey mind while letting my body adapt. How great would it be if we all were able to give ourselves the space and support to also find what works for each of us? Without the fear that one wrong decision, choice, or step would ruin everything?
2 Months after the accident. Photo Courtesy of Karin Willman and A La Carte Photography

So, here we go. In the coming weeks I will dive more in to my story under each of these topics and welcome your contributions and insights from your own experiences. We don’t have to fit into one method, mold, or process. Maybe together we find a new, better, and more authentic way to heal together. 

Be well. 

French Horn Folk Tales ~ Thank You!!!!!

A  HUGE Thank You to all the promotional partners spreading the word!!!!!!!!
Recent Press/ Promotion for “French Horn Folk Tales” Thank you City Pulse, Lansing State Journal, Fox 47 !!!!!!
Link to Lansing State Journal: (link expired)
Nov. 16 2017 11:26 AM

French Horn Folk Tales blends a variety of genres


Grand Rapids Symphony veteran Mary Beth Orr will be performing a fusion project along with three other distinguished artists on Nov. 21 at the Cook Recital Hall. The program fuses two unlikely genres of Appalachian folk and classical music, with Orr singing and also performing solo French horn.“Often times, folk music is considered porch music and colloquial, but classical has this elitist stereotype of being formal and stiff,” said Orr. “Despite the differences, people will see that both these genres complement each other”.Orr grew up in Charleston, North Carolina, with a strong folk music background and has also been playing classical piano since the age of 7. She crafted the program bringing these genres together that incorporate some of the traditional Appalachian melodies of her childhood.“These genres are not as far apart as we thought they are; in fact, they segue into classical works that absolutely and directly complement each other, with again, the sole purpose of disproving this perceived notion they are unrelated,” said Orr.This feat of innovation was made possible by the Chris Clark Fellowship Grant she just received from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. This grant also allows her to shoot her recital.“I can use the high-quality footage from this program for opportunities in the future which was made possible through this grant,” she said.

Another feature of the show are the lighting effects, which will be used to move the story along. “I am utilizing a commercial element by performing this show in a continuous staged format with story-boarded lighting,” said Orr.

The story of the show will be portrayed through individual songs which Orr said she was compelled to share. Each of the tunes come from a deep place.

“I hope the songs will tell the story, and I want the audience to feel like they are a part of the journey,” said Orr.

The songs are mostly about lost love, death and new life, but Orr said that she wants to set the mood and get the audience to visualize the Appalachian Mountains.

“The opening mood is very majestic, and then it goes into comforting, which will hopefully make the audience nostalgic and then it gets adventurous, towards the end.”

The program includes a unique chamber piece talking about past love and an interesting song by artist Storm Large called, “Stand Up for Me” which talks about love from love’s perspective.

“The last song featured in the program is a pop song, which I think are the modern-day folk songs,” said Orr.

Through the variety of melodies she learned on her grandmother’s porch, combined with the classics she trained in, Orr said that she wants to show how connected people can be through art.

“I have spent my entire life being inspired by two completely different worlds. Traditional Appalachian Folk and Classical/ Orchestral. In a world so divided, mostly based on misguided perceptions, I wanted to fuse these two genres to show, through art, how connected we really are.”

Currently, she is third horn for the Grand Rapids Symphony as well as pursuing a master of music in horn performance at Michigan State University as a Distinguished Fellow.

After winning second prize in the professional division at the International Horn Competition of America in 2013, she started exploring artistic opportunities as a soloist. This paid off, when she placed second in the Horn Division of the 2014 International Women’s Brass Conference Solo Competition. She also holds faculty positions with both the Charleston Horn Institute, and the Tucson Summer Brass Workshop as the Hornist for the resident quintet, Variance Brass.

The other artists performing include a freelance violinist, tenor and artist in residence at Central Michigan University, Takeshi Abo. His playing has been praised by critics as “angelic” and “breathtakingly beautiful.” He regularly performs throughout the United States and Japan, with recent appearances as soloist in concertos by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms.

Tenor William Watson will join the artists, too. He has been teaching voice for over 20 years, including 11 years at Northern Illinois University. He created the role of President Van Buren in the world premiere of the opera, “Amistad” at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Mina Son will contribute her talents as well. From Joliet, Illinois, she graduated with her professional studies degree in collaborative piano from the Cleveland Institute of Music, earned her masters of music degree from Central Michigan University and her bachelor of music degree from Illinois State University. She is currently a staff pianist at Central Michigan University, as well as the organist at Sacred Heart Church.

With such distinguished artists on board, Orr hopes that people will appreciate this unique blend of sounds from two distinct genres not usually seen together.

French Horn Folk Tales French Horn Folk Tales Tuesday, Nov. 21 6 p.m. FREE Cook Recital Hall 333 W. Circle Drive East Lansing (517) 290-0877

 

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