Playing Drums after Catastrophic Loss

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
It's my hope that by sharing this story that I could help someone else out in some way...

A quick background: In May of 2009, I was taking a walk with then nine year old daughter, and we were in a crosswalk at a four way stop. I made sure it was safe to cross (so I thought, saw that all cars had stopped for us, and we went into the crosswalk. And then we were mowed down by a drunk driver on a motorcyle going 65+, blowing the stop sign. We couldn't see him coming, the crosswalk was at the crest of a hill, and there was a car stopped for us.

My daughter didn't survive, and I was nearly killed as well. We were airlifted to separate hospitals. The bike slammed into her head and my legs. I was in a coma for a week, and woke up not knowing she was gone. She was the love of my life, my angel. Anyway, I was in the hospital for something like 3+ months. Right leg amputated below the knee. (My bass drum leg.) Left leg had multiple surgeries, skin grafts, bone grafts, to save it. Had an external fixator (rods) in it for 5+ months.

(The guy who did this to us had NINE prior DUI convictions.)

The loss of my daughter was unimaginable. Life seemed impossible and I wanted to be dead. But I had another little girl who was only 7, a wife, and people I cared about and quitting was not an option. Plus, she would have wanted me to go and be happy and be good to my family. In her honor, I try to do this the best I can. My other daughter, now 13 is happy and doing beautifully. We also have a son, 4 years old.

But along with that I wondered how I would play drums again. I was a single-bass drum player, and I always played heel down, not up. The thought of playing with my left foot seemed impossible. I thought about Rick Allen and what he overcame a lot and figured if he could play with one arm, I could play with one leg. In fact, I probably had it a lot easier, but it still seemed impossible.

Very early on in my recovery, my wife set up my drums. In my wheelchair, I went to the drums and played the bass drum with my prosthetic leg. I realized that I would have to play it "heel up". It was by no means easy, but I tried, and some friends came over and played music with me while I was in my wheelchair, using my prosthetic leg to try and play very simple on the bass drum. My left leg was just trashed, swollen, numb, after multiple surgeries, and couldn't even open and close the hats.

Over time, I learned to just play heel up with my prosthetic leg. But it was hard and still is to do this. As my left leg healed, I got a double pedal, and learned to play bass drum with my LEFT foot. Still heel up, with all the nerve damage. Doing this took a lot of time. Now, years later, I can play whole songs with my left foot on bass drum and even play 8th and 16th notes.

I got the idea then to put a second mounted hihat on my right, closed so that I could play with my left foot and have tight hats. I hate sloshy hats.
Now, I can play with my right prosthetic let, or my left, or both. If I have to play a figure like "Walk This Way" I use BOTH feet and my closed hats. If have to play 16th notes and so forth I mix it up. I will say, it's not always comfortable, and as my right leg gives out I used my left and vice versa.
On the plus side, I can play a lot of things I couldn't before since I'm using the double pedal, even with the damage to my legs. Examples of are are 16th note double bass notes, quads between the toms and bass drum, 16th note figures, etc. Before these injuries I prided myself on my bass drum technique, I could play 16th notes here and there and even a 32nd note lick with my right foot. But I've tried to make do with what I have, and my band mates just consider me one of the guys.

I'm no Neil Peart or Steve Gadd, no way, Jose. I'm a family guy, who's works in IT, who loves to play drums. And I know people with WORSE injuries have overcome, guys with two legs gone, an arm gone, etc. But it wasn't easy putting all this together and a style that works for me and it has evolved over time.

And this didn't happen without the patience of band mates and friends. People who played with me even when I could only play a little bit at a time. It took some years, but I have been able to play full gigs now. It hurts sometimes or often but I deal with it and the love of the music makes it worth it.

It's my hope I can help someone else out though, in some way one day, who's going through a hard time. That sharing this story could be of value to someone.

There is more to the story, a lot more, if anyone is even interested to know more.

The ultimate compliment is when people don't even know and come up and say nice things.

Also, I walk, travel, raise my kids, work full time, and gig with my band. Life is good, and treasured.
 
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drumming sort of person

Guest
(The guy who did this to us had NINE prior DUI convictions.)
How is that possible? NINE??? Why was he ever allowed to drive again? Or was he driving without a license?

Your story is incredible. I can't even imagine the pain of losing a child, let alone losing one in such a horrific manner.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
How is that possible? NINE??? Why was he ever allowed to drive again? Or was he driving without a license?

Your story is incredible. I can't even imagine the pain of losing a child, let alone losing one in such a horrific manner.
Thanks guys for the nice posts. He had nine (admissible) priors and was driving with a valid license because of the stupid, asinine DUI laws in California.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Yeah man. Great inspiring story. I can't imagine what I would do after a loss like that - I hope to never be there. Next time I'm whining about something, I'll recall your story and soldier on.

Congrats on choosing to live!
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
It's my hope that by sharing this story that I could help someone else out in some way...
On reading your story this morning, suddenly, all the problems I thought I'd be facing this week have gone away.

I've had to work around some health challenges & leg disfunction issues on returning to drumming, but nothing on your scale. Couple your physical challenges with your own internal motivation mountain from your terrible loss, I really can't imagine how I'd deal with that in your place. You're truly inspirational, & more than that, you're a good man.

Keep strong - keep smiling,

Andy.
 

2bsticks

Platinum Member
I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter, having 2 daughters myself I can't imagine that pain.

Very inspiring story and I wish you much happiness.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
You are definitely an inspiration to people you know and people you don't. I can't imagine that sort of loss. Way to go with pressing on!
 

Mendozart

Platinum Member
Thanks for posting this very inspiring story. I can't imagine the pain of losing a child the way you did. I love your outlook on life, and the way you have soldiered on through this horrific experience. God bless.



Greg
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I don't have much to add to what others have said, but yes, you are an inspiration and a good man. I think you're right that doing things you love to do, being there for your family and being happy are the best way to honor your daughter. Much respect to you, my man.
 

GrimmReefer

Senior Member
Ever since my son was born stories about the loss of a child just hit me hard. I can't even imagine it. The thought makes me sick.

You sir, are an inspiration. The journey to where you are today had to have been much harder than even implied by your post. The fact that drumming has helped you heal in a way even further helps drive the weight of your story because of the connection you have with everyone on this site. Your wife setting up your kit for you is so uplifting.

I would love to hear your playing & more about your progress to where you are today.

Play on Brotha!
 

Old Drummer

Junior Member
As most all have said, I am deeply sorry for such a tragic loss to you and your family. Thank you for sharing with all of us. I only have one child and this IS my biggest fear in life. To lose my child. It's stories like yours that make me feel lucky to have just had lung cancer and brain tumors. I just survived my 2nd brain surgery just 10 days after turning 48. I am 98% fine. My only issue is mostly fatigue. But I am still alive and fortunate to still have my child. I just dropped him off at school not long before reading this. Can't wait to give him a huge hug after school.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Ever since my son was born stories about the loss of a child just hit me hard. I can't even imagine it. The thought makes me sick.

You sir, are an inspiration. The journey to where you are today had to have been much harder than even implied by your post. The fact that drumming has helped you heal in a way even further helps drive the weight of your story because of the connection you have with everyone on this site. Your wife setting up your kit for you is so uplifting.

I would love to hear your playing & more about your progress to where you are today.

Play on Brotha!
Thanks for the kind words.

About hearing my playing, it's really cool of you to ask. I'm a bit hesitant, though, because along with playing in front of Tre Cool, I know this site is filled with REAL bad-ass, drummers who can play rings around me in their sleep. And bad-ass drummers who play in bad-ass bands. I'm just a guy who loves to play drums as a hobby and passion.

However, we have a demo on our website which I'll gladly share. This demo is getting us gigs. But please let me just give a caveat, that this demo is by no means perfect. It was basically slamming down these songs in four hours and I got one take per song. It was a cheap demo. I know there are some songs where the tempos are faster that I'd like them to be, probably my fault, and I know the vocals aren't perfect. That being said, I'm happy with how a lot of it turned out. Besides, it's unlikely we'll record another demo anytime soon. So, I know it's not perfect, please go easy on me.

"My Sharona" is an example of how I adapted it so I could play it. I play the bass drum part with the double pedal. You'll also hear an extra snare beat there in place of the bass drum. This is an evolving process for me, but the goal is to capture the feel of the song as best I can. And yes, I know the song is fast and speeds up in one place. I'd correct that if I could go back redo it.

If you do check out the songs, please go to http://www.marinrewind.com/ and click on "Music". My favorite song is "Rapper's Delight". I also like "Sharona", "Impression", etc.

Like I said, it's not perfect, but I'm willing to share. Again, please go easy! :)
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
As most all have said, I am deeply sorry for such a tragic loss to you and your family. Thank you for sharing with all of us. I only have one child and this IS my biggest fear in life. To lose my child. It's stories like yours that make me feel lucky to have just had lung cancer and brain tumors. I just survived my 2nd brain surgery just 10 days after turning 48. I am 98% fine. My only issue is mostly fatigue. But I am still alive and fortunate to still have my child. I just dropped him off at school not long before reading this. Can't wait to give him a huge hug after school.
Thank you and I wish you the absolute best! We are survivors. You've been through a lot. Props to you for beating it and fighting. Rock on.
 

NVIC

Senior Member
I admire people that make a positive life out of what's been given them, no matter what. You're a true inspiration. Love the music you play too. My Sharona never gets old :)
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
You have no apologies to make for your playing in those demos. You exemplify the talent shown every day by the working drummers of the world who make a band groove. The famous get the accolades, but it's guys like us that make the local music scenes live on. Thanks for the inspiring testimony, and for the drumming. God bless.

GeeDeeEmm
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I can't even imagine your loss my friend. You are a better man the me.

Congratulations on your recovery process.

I'd be tempted to build a robot prosthetic with adjustable patterns and BPM :)
 
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