Story by: Pamela Jayne
It was 20 years ago this May when Phil was involved in a horrible motorcycle accident that altered the course of his life forever. The past two decades have been marked by excruciating pain, scars that will never completely fade, countless numbers of surgeries that are still being scheduled to this day, and years lost to painful rehabilitation. Phil is a walking miracle, literally.Â The photos speak for themselves, but let me fill you in on the details of his accident, recovery, and how medical cannabis has allowed him to function and thrive throughout the years, despite the nearly unbearable pain that he lives with on a daily basis.
The accident happened when he was a typical 21-year-old San Diegan on his way home from dinner. Just like all of the statistics say, it happened when he was almost home. No drugs or alcohol were involved, and no criminal charges were ever filed against the young man who was at fault.
Unlike many victims of a traumatic injury, Phil says he remembers pretty much everything about the accident and its aftermath, including the ambulance ride to the hospital and his parents taking a lot of pictures of him because they were unsure if he would survive. â€“Their concern was valid given that he had died three times during those first few crucial days of recovery. He was hospitalized for four and a half months following the accident and spent the next year and a half being shuttled between his home and the hospital for intensive daily treatment.
He sustained a laundry list of gruesome injuries: his left leg was broken from the knee down in 12 places and could only be held together by a metal rod; there was a very serious fracture in his left hip; his left wrist was completely destroyed and it took four surgeries to rebuild it correctly; his right wrist was also broken, but not as extensively as his left one; and to top it off, numerous muscle, skin, and tissue grafts had to be done. Philâ€™s body had basically become a jigsaw puzzle, and it was up to the doctors and surgeons to reassemble him.
The accident left him completely bedridden for an entire year, and it was two full years before he was able to walk without assistance. Before the accident, Phil weighed in at a solid 220 pounds, but by the time he was able to move on his own, his weight had plummeted to a shocking and emaciated 105 pounds. He joked, â€œEven a very small woman could carry me around with no problem.â€ In fact, his body had become so weak and his muscles were so atrophied that the first thing on his physical therapy agenda was to enable him to sit up straight and allow proper blood flow, so he wouldnâ€™t pass out from being elevated in bed. As much as he has been through over the years, he described this process to me as one of the most intense steps of his road to recovery. Needless to say, his physical condition was far from what it had been, when he could easily carry 300 pounds of materials up a ladder, day after day, all day long at a construction site.
Philâ€™s physicians have been very candid with him, saying that he will undoubtedly be dependent on a variety of different prescription medications for the rest of his life, â€œUnless there is some sort of miracle.â€ Being on strong pharmaceutical medication for 20 consecutive years has led to extensive, irreversible kidney damage, so Phil is currently undergoing tests to see how long his kidney will be able to function on its own. At this point, dialysis and/or a transplant are inevitable. It is no longer a matter of if, but when he will have to once again go under the knife to replace the damaged kidney with a healthy one provided by a donor. In the meantime, in order to preserve the health of the organ, he has been put on a strict diet that allows no red meat or alcohol whatsoever. And thatâ€™s just fine with him, as long as he isnâ€™t asked to give up sushi. This man loves his sushi!
Phil is extremely open and honest about his medical cannabis use with his family, friends, and doctors. For him, it is just as normal as taking Tylenol for most people. He stressed the importance of being honest about it, especially with doctors, because, â€œThey have to know what substances you have in your system before they put you on a table and cut you open.â€ He told me that while some of his physicians are accepting and encouraging his use of medical cannabis, others are still stuck in the past and do not condone anything that is not a product of a large pharmaceutical company. Of course, their opinions would most likely change if they profited from marijuana like they do from Vicodin, Oxycontin, etc. But that, as we know, is a whole different story.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that although I didnâ€™t know Phil when the accident occurred; we have been friends for close to 10 years now. I, along with other mutual friends, have seen the amount of pain that he endures on a daily basis. Not long ago, he was backstage photographing the legendary reggae band Steel Pulse for SCR Photos during their performance downtown at The House of Blues. Even though he did not complain, everyone knew that something was wrong. The pain had simply taken over and drained him to the point of utter exhaustion. When a couple of longtime buddies saw the lack of color in his face, they were alarmed enough to ask if they should call 911 for help. Being the tough guy that he is, Phil refused help, finished out the show, and came out with some killer shots of the band! This is exactly the type of thing that happens to medical patients every day. Luckily, Phil has understanding and supportive friends and family that do not judge him for his preferred method of pain relief. Itâ€™s just normal. After all, who wants to see a friend in pain?
Phil explained how it is necessary for him to use medically prescribed cannabis in edible form while working because photo shoots with models and live shows can take several hours to complete, and itâ€™s just not practical to constantly stop and smoke. When cannabis is consumed in the form of food, it stays in the fat cells for a prolonged period of time, thus providing highly effective, non-narcotic, all natural pain relief that lasts far longer than a few puffs off a joint.
Speaking of photography and cannabis smoking, NUG readers are already familiar with Phil and his work even though they may not be aware of it. For several months now, he has been the man behind the lens for a majority of the photos featured in our monthly column â€œThe Chronisseurâ€ and will be doing more work with us in the near future.
As for when he is off the clock and in need of instant pain relief, â€œSativas are great because they allow me to get out of the house and actually do things. But, other strains are also great for relaxation and rest.â€ Rest is crucial, but itâ€™s often an overlooked component in recovery. If the body does not get a proper amount of rest, it simply cannot heal. Trust me; I have seen him after physical therapy and I know that a good nightâ€™s sleep is just as beneficial to his health as the long hours he spends with his physical therapist.
When I asked Phil how he felt about the person who caused the accident, he was surprisingly calm and forgiving, especially considering all that he has had to endure because of the reckless actions of a complete stranger. â€œHe was just a young kid. He had just gotten out of school and did not have insurance. I did finally get $17,000 from his grandmotherâ€™s insurance company, but that was basically nothing. The first three days I was in the hospital cost about $27,000.â€ I wondered if he was bitter at all or ever thought about the guy, or had any contact with him. â€“â€I have never even bothered to look at a picture of him,â€ Phil said. â€œI figure that karma will take care of it.â€