By Bruce Roberts
I believe that seemingly unfortunate things happen in life for a reason. The Horizontal Computing System came about just this way. It was truly invented out of need.
A true story about one of God’s miracles
It was a nice sunny weekend 3 years ago. I promised my girlfriend that I would help her prune her apricot tree. I was thinking this task would be a slam dunk and I’d have the rest of the afternoon to do the things I wanted to do. But what I didn’t know was that this innocent tree would change my life forever. I had no idea what was about to unfold.
I got to work pruning and was not more than 6’ from the ground when I heard a branch crack. Suddenly I found myself in a contest with gravity, and gravity won. The next thing I knew I was on the ground, face down. I knew immediately something was dreadfully wrong. But there was something missing from any fall I had ever experienced. What was it? No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t move any part of my body. What’s up with that I thought? Thankfully my girlfriend was working close by and heard the “thud” on the ground. She came running and saw a compound fracture of my arm. As she ran to dial 911, I had time to think. What was different about this fall? Hmmm . . . . . Oh ya. There’s no pain involved. That’s strange. I should be screaming in agony right now.
I don’t remember much after that. I was told that I was unconscious in ICU for two days. When I finally woke up in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward I knew I was in a strange new world. There was something dreadfully wrong. It turned out I was paralyzed from the neck down. No matter how hard I tried, my body lay motionless. It seemed like everywhere I looked, I saw other spinal cord patients being wheeled here and there with various injuries similar to mine. Motorcycle accidents, snowboard falls, household do-it-yourselfers, even gang related gunshot victims to name a few. I was scared to death.
When my surgeon finally paid me a visit, he told me the shocking news. I had a broken neck (C 6-7). I asked him “what does that mean?” “Tell me how many days until I can walk out of here and get back to work.” He shook his head and wouldn’t give me a direct answer. As he rattled on with his medical mumbo-jumbo (that I didn’t completely understand) my mind wandered to Christopher Reeves (Superman) who, after his fall off of a horse, was a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. Is this God’s plan for my life? This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.
The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months. Every day was as terrifying as the next. My life looked hopeless.
I kept reminding myself of a quote by Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, . . . . . keep going!”
Then after two months, something changed. I happened to be looking down at my left toe, and it moved! Yes, it moved! Wow, was I seeing things? I tried again and it moved again. I thought “YES, finally some good news.” I was overwhelmed with a new sense of optimism.
From that point forward things started to change. I made a commitment to do what I could to optimize my situation.
I tackled the increasing pain head-on. Why? Because pain meant that my body was coming back to life. I pushed the workout and therapy envelope each day to the point of exhaustion. I embraced newfound hope and continued to pray.
But then, more setbacks. I had to undergo two more risky surgeries on my neck about 2 months apart. To add insult to injury one of my doctors mentioned (intentionally or not) that I would never walk again. Even though I’m a pretty optimistic guy, my hope was again starting to fade.
Surprisingly, to help get my mind off of the pain I gravitated to my laptop. It turned out that my laptop would be instrumental in my recovery. It was my link to the outside world and I found myself using it for hours on end. However, anyone using a laptop in a hospital bed quickly discovers that discomfort is eminent. If it was on my stomach, I’d have to be hunched over to even see the screen. Several times I caught it just in time before it slid off the bed on its way to the floor and sure destruction. In the first place there’s nowhere to put it that will bring good posture. Pain in the back, shoulders and neck are the first signs that something is wrong. In addition, it was easy pickens’ to would-be thieves.
I went on-line to find a laptop stand that would allow using a laptop in comfort. I needed three things. First, it had to provide the ability to adjust the keyboard angle so I wouldn’t have to hunch over and be forced into bad posture. To view the screen the back and neck should be as straight as possible. Wrists and arms must be supported in the neutral position. Second, it had to be away from (not touching) my body. And third, it had to be secure so it wouldn’t accidentally fall to the floor in pieces and be gone forever. And it had to clamp to a standard hospital table.
Surely there was something off the shelf I could order and I’d be on my way. I searched and searched on-line but to my surprise, there was nothing on the market that even came close. So I put my engineering hat on and while in my hospital bed came up with the ultimate design. I’m very fortunate to have a good friend Dave Izant, who is a talented machinist. Without his help this business would not be possible. With his help, several units were built and refined. Suddenly, “boom” a business was born ( www.horizontalcomputing.com ). My laptop stand addressed all of the above problems. I found that it was not only useful to hospital patients, but can be used by everyone that uses a laptop. At the time I had no idea it would turn into a business someday.
Here’s the condensed version of my recovery. Over the course of 2 years I graduated from the bed to a wheelchair, then graduated to a walker, then graduated to a wheel walker. Am I back to normal? No. But I’m now walking with the use of forearm crutches. I also started driving again, Yea! One of my friends asked me, “Are you ever going to be 100%?” I said, “Yes I will. But a different 100%.”
I know what you may be thinking. Wow, he was pretty stupid for pruning that tree. As John Wayne stated, “Life is tough. It’s even tougher if you’re stupid”. But as a man, is doing stupid things that uncommon? Most guys are risk takers. Think back to the times when you saw us putting up those Christmas tree lights, or cleaning out your rain gutter, or trimming that hedge, or riding that motorcycle, or working underneath that car on jacks, or cutting an unsupported branch with that chainsaw, or mountain biking on unstable/steep terrain, or doing electrical work around the house, or hot dogging down that ski slope, or . . . . . . . the list goes on and on.
Point #1. A life changing accident can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, doing anything. Point #2. No matter what your situation is, be grateful. There’s someone who would love to trade places with you. Point #3. Prepare yourself. Be right with God. If not, get right with God.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Life is good considering the alternative”? I say, “Life is good BECAUSE of the alternative”.