For the entire month of March 2020, we will be donating 100% of Tyler’s Butt Wax webstore sales to the Sweet Relief General Musicians Fund. The Sweet Relief General Musicians Fund provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age related problems. That means your 9 dollar purchase of Tyler’s Butt Wax in the month of March will be a 9 dollar donation to someone in need. And you’ll get some awesome drumstick grip wax in the process!
March 7th, 2006: It was the last day of a short tour with my band The Classic Struggle before we headed back home to Myrtle Beach, SC and prepped for a tour opening for Exodus. We were playing a club called The Muse in Nashville, TN. It was one of my guitar player’s birthdays so we went out for drinks after the show with our other guitar player and a few friends from town. I can’t remember what bar we went to, but we walked there and I ordered a draft something and a sandwich. That’s the last thing I remember from that night, but the story goes…
After spending some time at the bar we went walking through downtown Nashville in the wee hours of the morning of March 8th. Some of our friends climbed a tree in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame for a picture. I followed suit, but decided to climb to the top and as soon as I got there a branch broke and I fell to the ground. I fractured my skull on the sidewalk below, suffered 4 severe traumatic brain injuries, bruised my lung, and was in a coma indefinitely. My friends called 911, I was rushed to Vanderbilt Hospital, and my parents were contacted in Myrtle Beach, SC and told that they needed to come to Nashville because their son was in critical condition. Soon after they arrived, I got pneumonia and things went from bad to worse. The prognosis was negative. The doctors told my parents that if I live, I would probably never be the same again and that they should begin looking into long term nursing care.
They gave me a tracheotomy in order to drain fluid from my lung and to move my oxygen supply from my mouth to my throat because I kept biting the tube in my mouth and cutting off my own oxygen supply. I went through these violent thrashing fits and would rip all the needles and tubes out of my body. Once I would calm down the nurses would have to re-do everything; IV, feeding tube, monitors, and whatever else I was hooked to. This happened so often that they eventually strapped my arms to the bed and put mittens on my hands. When my family was there the nurses would unstrap my arms and my family would try to hold me down. After about 8 days I started showing signs of improvement.
I regained consciousness about 2 weeks after I fell. I had no idea where I was, when I was, or why I was there. I knew I was a drummer in a band, I kinda knew who my parents were, but I couldn’t remember anything at all from the last 2 years. I also lost all of the muscle memory on the left side of my body. I couldn’t walk, I didn’t know how to use my left arm, I didn’t know how to chew food, and I could barely talk. I wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, I was just really confused and all I wanted to do was go home and play drums.
I had to begin rehabilitation in Nashville because I wasn’t in stable enough condition to ride home in a car with my parents. It was either fly in a medical helicopter or begin rehab in Nashville and my parents opted for the latter. The first night there I woke up in the middle of the night and had to use the restroom. Everyone kept telling me, “you can’t walk. Make sure you call the nurse for help if you need to get up,” but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t really believe that there was anything wrong with me. I felt fine, to be honest. Just really confused. So I got up and tried to walk to the bathroom myself and immediately fell to the ground and smacked the back of my head on the floor. It hurt like hell, but I was still conscious. I crawled to the bathroom and pulled myself up to my feet. I was standing up in front of the toilet to try to use it and I began to fall backward. My back finally hit the wall behind me, I hit the back of my head again, and I slid to the floor. I crawled back to the bed and climbed into it. My head hurt like hell and I was so confused. They were right, I couldn’t walk, but I didn’t understand why. The next morning I told a nurse about what happened and how I hit my head. Before I knew it a neurologist was giving me an evaluation and they were putting an alarm on my bed that would sound if I got up again.
I started believing what I was being told about my injuries and started trying to put everything together and try to get better. I did physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I even had to eat with a therapist for a while to learn how to chew food instead of swallowing it whole. After about ten days of therapy, I could get myself around with a walker and I was cleared to go home to SC and continue outpatient therapy. FINALLY I would be able to go play drums and I’d play fine and everything would be great. Except it wasn’t.
I set up my drums as soon as I got home, hobbling around on my walker as I mounted drums and cymbals on my hardware and then sat down and discovered that I couldn’t play. Like, at all. I could hardly hold a drumstick in my left hand, much less hit a 14 inch drum sitting right in front of my face. I COULDN’T PLAY DRUMS. I couldn’t even get my left arm to move in an up and down motion. I was devastated. Absolutely devastated. Drumming was my life. It was my identity. It was my art. It was my expression. It was my voice and it was gone. I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost and hopeless. After about 3 days of crying my eyes out I said to myself, “You can’t even walk. How are you going to play drums if you can’t even walk? I bet if you learn how to walk again, you can learn how to play drums again. So, let’s learn how to walk first and then we’ll get back on the drums.”
So that’s what I did. I started going on walks all the time. Short ones with a walker became longer ones with a cane which became even longer ones with no assistance at all. I exercised and remained dedicated to my rehabilitation and recovery. When I started seeing progress with walking, I started sitting down with a practice pad and a pair of sticks and my right hand started teaching my left hand how to play drums again.
A drumstick felt very awkward in my left hand. It was totally foreign. My brain remembered how to play drums, but it couldn’t send the movements to my left side like it did before. My left hand couldn’t remember how to hold a drumstick even though I remember holding a drumstick with my left hand. It was frustrating, awkward, uncomfortable, scary, and I felt like I had the biggest mountain in the whole world to climb. But I knew I could do it. However long it would take, however frustrating it would be, I would do it. I had already dedicated my life to the drums anyway.
So I started at the beginning. The very beginning. How to hold the drumstick. How to find the fulcrum. How to hit the drum. How to control the rebound. How to make a smooth, consistent stroke. It was the most frustrating thing I’ve ever experienced. All of that information was in my brain, but I couldn’t communicate it to my muscles. I couldn’t do singles, doubles, rolls, rudiments, or any of the things that I had spent thousands of hours memorizing. My right hand was fine, but my left wasn’t even on the same planet. I kept working at it and working at it. I would fantasize about my old muscle memory suddenly becoming unlocked and I would play like I did before, but as it turns out, it takes 10 years to develop 10 years of muscle memory. Like the saying goes, “There ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it!” So I kept at it. Through blood red anger, rivers of tears, throwing stuff at walls and feeling like I was losing my mind, I kept at it. All I wanted to do was play drums again and play with my band again.
It took a year and a half to get back on stage with my band and they waited for me the whole time. They refused to go on without me. My chops were nowhere near what they were before I fell, but I did what I could. We wrote and recorded a new record since I couldn’t play most of the old one anymore. Blistering fast blast beats and double kick runs proved to be really hard with one side of my body at a novice level, but I did what I could. I tried my absolute hardest to be the best drummer I could be for my band and for myself. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know if I would’ve had any other reason to recover.
It’s been a long and frustrating, but incredibly rewarding journey. 14 years since my injury and I’ve made a full recovery, I’m playing drums better than ever, and loving it more than ever. I am an extremely lucky person to have my family by my side, friends who wouldn’t give up on me, and the drums for always motivating me. Every March since my injury I think about what happened, what my family and friends went through, and I make sure to count my blessings twice. I think about people who are struggling through similar situations right now and I want to pay it forward and help. That’s why I started Tyler’s Butt Wax-athon. Every March I will be donating money to help someone in need.
I shared this story with you to help inspire you to overcome a struggle of your own or to help someone else with theirs. Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you buy Tyler’s Butt Wax this March, you will be donating to the Sweet Relief General Musicians Fund which provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems.