All it took 16 years ago was 5 seconds of somebody else not paying attention to what they were going to do to change my life forever!!!!
I was on my to catch a ferry for a week long holiday in Ireland.
The next thing I remember is coming round in a hospital bed with ventilation tubes stuck down my throat and in the worst pain you can imagine. Think of the worst pain you have ever had and double it or treble it – that’s how bad it was. On my pain scale of 1 to 10, I was on 20+
Every part of my body hurt with such an intensity that I still find unbelievable to this day. Any movement, even breathing just intensified the pain.
Apparently I had been in an induced coma for just over a week, following a road traffic incident. During that time I had been X-rayed, scanned, operated on. During the operation I had to be resuscitated 3 times, so I was lucky to be alive. The Consultant had to speak to specialist consultants elsewhere in the country for advice on how to treat me, that’s how bad things were.
My injuries included:
- Crushed T12 vertebrae, leaving me with a permanent curvature of the spine
- Bone fragments float dangerously close to the spinal cord, if they moved I could become paralysed.
- The majority of my ribs, left and right side where either fractured or badly damaged
- Left hip joint smashed, the Consultant said it was like somebody had taken a cold Crunchie bar and hit it with a hammer.
- Left the fumer with a massive stress/comminuted/compound fracture – basically a right mess.
- Punctured lung
There were of course other injuries, but in relative terms, they were relatively minor but nevertheless didn’t help.
The good news is I could move my hands, fingers, feet, toes. My brain seemed to be functioning, well, sort of functioning given I was dosed up on morphine and the strongest painkillers available.
In terms of surgeries. I had a titanium steel pin or nail inserted into my left femur. A consequence of the injury is my left leg is now shorter than my right by 32mm. So I am a bit lob sided. There was a debate as to whether to replace my left hip or not. However, it was decided I was too young and I would wear it out very quickly, so they hoped it would grow back on its own. The irony of being too young to have hip replacement was I was too old to have any form of the bone transplant to increase the length of my left leg.
Recovering – The long journey
It has been a very long and a very very painful journey to say the least. Knowing myself, I knew I would have to set myself some targets, to keep me focused on my recovery. Otherwise, I could easily see myself giving up.
Target 1: – Ride a Motorbike within 9 months
When I left hospital I could barely walk more than a few paces, even with a zimmer frame or crutches. I could barely make it from the bedroom to the bathroom. If I did manage to walk a few paces the pain was so intense I would have to spend the rest of the day in bed.
So my treatments included:
- Hydrotherapy – to be able to walk again
- As I was so weak and in such pain hydrotherapy was used as a way to build muscle strength in a relatively pain fee environment to get me to start walking again.
- Months of hydrotherapy did make a big difference
- A lot of different exercises over a 12 month period to build muscle, strength and to improve mobility.
- Counselling and Mental Health
- Coming to terms with such dramatic events can have a significant impact on your mental health, so I had Counselling.
- I think I was very fortunate that my mind blocked out all memory of the accident, so it was perhaps easier to deal with it. To this day I still have no actual memory, but I can visualise exactly what happened.
8 Months On
Eight months after I left hospital I was back on a motorbike again, so I had reached Target 1 with a month to spare. I walked into my local motorcycle shop on crutches and said I wanted to buy a motorbike. They must of thought I was mad, but I did. A few weeks later I picked it up and rode few home. I was in pain and discomfort but I could manage short journeys.
But the sense of the achievement was unbelievable and overwhelming.
At the same time I had changed from using crutches to being able to use a walking stick. I managed to find a folding walking stick which would fit in the panniers, so when I got to the end of the journey I could use it to walk around with.
12 months on
After about a year I was reasonably mobile and I was back at work, just. I was still in significant pain and still on painkillers. Sometimes the simplest of things, like sitting on a chair at a table would trigger intense pain and discomfort.
When I went shopping I would use the shopping trolley as physical support to get around the supermarket just to help with mobility and to minimise the pain and discomfort. As I was know living in a first floor flat, I found that I could just about carry 3 bags of shopping from the car, up the stairs to the flat. After that I needed several hours rest before doing anything else. So my shopping became limited to 3 bags at a time.
As my hydrotherapy and physiotherapy sessions had finished it was recommended I join a gym to carry on with the various exercises. I have to say from the outset, I have never ever really had a desire to go to gyms, but I thought if wanted to continue to improve I would have to go.
So I joined a gym. I went for a couple of months, but lost motivation and I stopped going. However, I had signed a 12 month contract and had to keep on paying for the rest of the year.
So 15 to 18 months later I thought I would give it another go and joined gym No 2. History repeated itself and I went for 2-3 months, stopped but had to carry on paying for the rest of the contract.
Things slow down a bit
So my journey to recover and improve had significantly slowed down and at times it had almost ground to a halt or at best was barely noticeable.
So after 2 to 3 years of not seeing any improvements, I had basically lost my motivation. I was coming to the conclusion that for the rest of my life I would always have restricted mobility, I would be in fairly constant pain and discomfort for significant periods of time. I thought so be it, I would have to learn to cope with it and live the best life I can. I also thought that I was fortunate, as there are people far worse off than me.
Things start to get better
I was doing some voluntary work at the MS Centre near me and I was talking to one of the therapists. She suggested the Bowen Therapy might help to manage the pain and improve my mobility etc. So I started having sessions and interestingly and surprisingly after 6 weeks I started to notice some improvements. I started to feel less pain and discomfort.
It is interesting, when you see things start to improve physically, it improves your state of mind, your well being and it bought back my motivation to do more. I carried on with the Bowen Therapy for a long time and it did significantly turn things around for me big time. It did help transform my life. It did significantly reduce the amount of pain and discomfort I would feel, it did improve my mobility.
Not wishing to repeat history
As things started to improve physically and mentally I knew I needed to do some physical exercise to carry the improvements.
I knew my issue with gyms was motivation and lack of it. So not wanting to repeat history with gyms I thought I would try and different tack and I would try a Personal Trainer. My thinking was they could develop exercises that would target specific areas and help keep me motivated.
I found a personal trainer and challenged her to improve my mobility, reduce the pain and discomfort and improve my fitness.
My targets were:
Target 2: – To be able to walk 5 miles
I use to enjoy walking in the countryside, particularly when I had a dog. At the time I would be lucky if I could walk a mile before being in pain and I wanted to get back to being able to do that. A target of 5 miles seemed to be a reasonable one.
Target 3: – To be able to sit cross legged
One thing I couldn’t do was since the accident was being able to sit cross legged. There was no particular reason why I wanted to do it now. However, I needed to significantly improve the weakness and lack of mobility in my left hip and left leg, having this target would be a means of measuring success.
So for the last few years my PT has been working with me, torturing me, motivating me to do a wide variety of exercises.
I have seen such an improvement over that time. There have been periods when I have struggled, like everything else in life and it has been difficult to notice the improvement. But then there a light bulb moment when when you look back and reflect how things have improved. I just hadn’t always noticed them or realised how things had improved.
16 years later….
Today is about taking time to reflect on the journey I have been on since that accident 16 years ago.
- I am pain free for 95% of the time
- Although there are times when it comes back to bite you, but in a way that can be easily managed.
- I have good strength and mobility,
- I achieved Target 2, a 5 mile walk at Christmas 2021
- You will see from other recent posts about doing 7 to 8 mile walks, which is a remarkable achievement.
- I have even joined a gym and actually enjoy going on a regular basis
- I have nearly achieved Target 3 of being able to sit cross legged.
- I would give myself another couple of months to achieve that.
- I have done a lot of motorcycling since the accident
- With trips and tours in the UK and Europe
- One annoyance is shoes
- With my left leg being shorter than my right, I have to get my shoes adapted.
- Whenever I buy a pair of shoes I have to send the left one off to get adapted, that will cost me £120 on top of the cost of the shoe.
My next target is Target 4: – To be able to walk 10 miles. However, the limiting factor might be our dog, Fudge. I know he can do 8 miles at a steady pace but we did sort of wear him out on the last 8 mile walk, so it could be a case of taking it slow and steady to get there.
When I look back at the journey I have been on it could have gone any number of different ways. The decisions I made about my recovery and the journey I have been on has led me to where I am and who I am today
Looking back, I would have to say it has been a remarkable achievement.
- From barely being able to walk no more than a few paces, to be able to walk 8 miles with comparative ease.
- From going from such intense pain that was way off my scale to only having the occasional bouts of discomfort is remarkable.
- Being able to do things I want to do, although sometimes I have to adapt the way and how I do things.
In the early days I had a great deal of help from our national health service, for which I am truly grateful for. I have also had help from various people along the way, some of whom are now best friends and without them I couldn’t have made this far along this journey.
Has it been easy and straight forward, of course it hasn’t. There have been times when I have struggled both physically and to some extent mentally, but I have managed to get through those. There is course a lot more detail to the this story and my journey, but that is perhaps for another time.
Do I wish the accident hadn’t happened, of course I do. If it hadn’t happened my life would have been different from the one I have now. I have no idea if it would have been better or worse than the one I have now, all I know is it would have been different.
Despite everything that has happened and given the journey I have been on and will continue on, I would say I am very proud of how I have managed to recover from such horrendous accident and injuries to have the good life that I do.
It is interesting in all the years, nobody has ever asked about how feel about or think about the person who in the space of 5 seconds changed my life in such dramatic way. Over the years I have thought about it and I think I know I feel towards that particular individual.
Pingback: Simply Red - Steven Sexton