Guest blog: Andrew Tkaczyk is the drummer for Los Angeles-based metalcore band The Ghost Inside. He spent 5 weeks as an inpatient at Mary Free Bed following a November crash that killed two people and severely injured several others, including his bandmates. Andrew, 28, sustained head trauma and fractures to his spine, ribs and hip. A dislocated right shoulder led to severe nerve damage and his right leg had to be amputated above the knee.
In this blog post, Andrew talks about his road to recovery since graduating from Mary Free Bed’s inpatient program in January. The Ghost Inside drummer has been traveling from his Charlotte, Mich., home 3 days a week for outpatient rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed.
I’m feeling awesome. The pain has been steadily declining over the past few months. My shoulder is getting better, my back isn’t sore as often and my residual limb has been getting a lot stronger. I’m making gains and doing more than I did last week, more than I did the previous day. I try to do something every day that I didn’t do the day before, even if it’s something little. Honestly, the most tiring part is the 70-minute car ride here and back each day. But that’s OK.
We’ve been working on my shoulder and elbow. I still have sensitivity that goes all the way from the tips of my fingers to my shoulder and part of my back. Clipping my nails is AN EVENT. But there are little things happening that are good signs of healing, slowly but surely.
My attitude from the beginning has been “no looking back.” I’m focused. I’m starting to walk and play drums again. My head is in the game.
I admit, I have my days, just like anyone. It’s difficult. You notice these little things we all take for granted every day, like taking a shower or reaching the top shelf of the cupboard to grab a box of cereal – like walking. I’ve experienced the hardest way of realizing that. I just try to keep it positive.
It helps to talk to the guys. We talk every day. Everyone is doing exactly what I’m doing, just in their home states. We want to meet up when all of us can be there – maybe later this summer, when everyone has progressed in their therapy and our bodies have healed more. It’s been 5 months since we’ve seen each other.
We’re all focused on recovering, but we have a real goal now, which is cool – playing the Vans Warped Tour in 2017. A couple of the guys were at a show in San Bernardino, California and ran into Kevin Lyman, who’s the founder of the Warped Tour and a really respected guy in the music industry. He said he was heartbroken about the accident and told the guys when he announced the bands for 2016 the next day, the first band he was going to announce is The Ghost Inside will play Warped Tour 2017.
That is our goal now. If we’re able to do it, we’re going to, absolutely, 100 percent. We’ve all come this far in 5 months, so over a year from now we ought to be doing pretty well. So that’s definitely a goal.
The support from our fans has been phenomenal. I read every single message, every single one. That seriously is partly why my attitude is what it is. Having that support – I can’t explain it, it’s unbelievable.
And my family has been phenomenal. They all take care of me. I’m definitely lucky to have them. I have great friends around, too. Some of my best friends from childhood and I have a standing date every Friday. We watch movies and hang out. Two of them bring their toddler – it’s a blast seeing him just being a kid.
Sometimes we go out. They took me to see “Batman vs. Superman.” I’m a big comic book nerd, and I’ve been excited for this movie for a few years. We were going to wait to see it, but the day it came out, we decided we couldn’t take it. It was awesome being able to go out. It’s really good for the soul – doing those little things makes you feel normal. Everyone at home has been there for me.
This whole experience has been life-changing. I’ve been on the road since I was 17. My whole life, full-time, has been spent traveling all over the world, playing shows. That has come to a dead stop. But I’ve adjusted. I’m still adjusting, every day. I’ll admit I have my days – I just want to get out of here, go do something. I get a little irritable here and there, but I just take a deep breath. I know I’m lucky.
Thinking back to when I was an inpatient on the fourth floor to where I am now … it’s amazing. Having Dr. (Stephen) Bloom as my doctor couldn’t have been a more perfect situation. Number one, he’s just an awesome individual with a great personality. Number 2, he’s a drummer, too, so he really understands my case and wants me to get back to drumming. It’s a passion he shares. Everybody here has been a huge help, from the therapists to the people in scheduling. This place is remarkable.
The priority is to get walking. That’s number one. But I have no doubt I’ll get back to doing what I love, especially after my therapy session the other day. I sat down with a golf club taped to my leg, and I was able to play drums like I normally do. They’re actually developing a prosthetic different from my walking leg that will be custom-fabricated and mounted to the drum kit to help me get more power. I’m confident that I’ll get back to touring. That’s still a while away, but I’m very confident it will happen. Very confident.
Learn more about Andrew Tkaczyk’s incredible journey:
Episode 2 in his video series
Episode 3 in his video seriesBlog: The Ghost Inside drummer rocks his rehabilitation with ‘Dr. Drums’ Bloom