“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” – Willie Nelson
28th May 2020- Its been over a week since my last blog, not that I’ve lost interest but after re-reading my previous blogs I was starting to become unhappy in the direction I was heading. When I’m not blogging, Im resting, healing, meditating and working my way through my pile of self help books. Over the last few days the same message seemed to keep reappearing to me in various guises but the message in its simplest form was thus, ‘where the focus goes, the energy flows’.
The main reason I began my blog was to document my accident and my subsequent recovery, but I was starting to focus more on the negative aspects of my life and almost found myself enjoying wallowing in the all too familiar pit of despair and self pity. Just looking back at some of the tags I was using, depression, anxiety, pain and despair, whilst I cant deny I was feeling these emotions, If I allowed myself to continue to focus on them then that’s how I would continue to feel.
And so after a few days of reflection, I decided I needed a radical change. Its time to focus on the positive, and only the positive, of course I was still hurting mentally and physically but all the signs were pointing in one direction, just focus on the positive and that’s where my energy will flow. If all my energy is flowing to the positive aspects in my life then surely by the laws of physics there will be nothing left to feed my negativity! What a wonderful world its going to be!!!!!
Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you-Walt Whitman
18th May 2020- By 4am this morning I still hadn’t fallen asleep, the sky outside was already beginning to lighten, the dawn chorus was getting louder but all I wanted was some pain relief and sleep. I crept downstairs trying not to awaken the household only to be met at the bottom stair by Charlie the 8 month old puppy, who instinctively gave a couple of loud barks and then upon realising it was me, became over-excited, mission failed! I retired back to bed with a handful of painkillers to resume my attempt to at least get some sleep despite how futile I knew my efforts would be.
As I laid in bed a feeling of despair washed over me, why now my brain decided it was a good idea do this baffled me but it was happening, so as always I hopped on for the ride. Prior to my accident on 12th April, Id had so many ”plans”, I say plans in the loosest sense of the word because as was the norm more often than not they amounted to nothing more than an idea in my head, and that’s as far as they got. Maybe they were lucky enough to advance to the dizzying heights of making it to a list on a piece of paper but honestly in terms of me progressing, this was the mental version of valhalla. I sat up in bed waiting for the painkillers to work their magic and then my mind began to reel off all the things that I now thought impossible with only one good hand, the pain of regret was building.
I grabbed my latest book I was reading off the floor and opened it up, perhaps I could find some answers here, my mind certainly wasn’t offering anything useful up. “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, I was about half way through the book, some of the stories were really good, some just washed over me but Id not yet come across one that had struck a chord with my own personal situation, and then it happened. In my blog post #15 I talked about my redundancy 10 years ago and the profound affect it had had on me, I was always frustrated with myself for continually referring back to it and part of me just thought I was using it as an excuse for my failings. However here now I was reading a story by Tory Johnson who had had a very similar experience, my jaw was hanging down as I finished the story. In short at 22 years old she was a high flyer enjoying the rewards of a blossoming career which then came crashing down as she was fired by her new boss, within 30 minutes she was out of her office, no goodbyes and no time to pack up her things. She had begged to keep her job but too no avail, she took it badly initially but in time grew from the experience and made the bold choice that she didn’t want to go back to job where she wasn’t in control of her future. The similarities with my own redundancy were spookily close and I too had been desperately seeking a career for a long time without being dependant on a monthly paycheck.
My despair was still lingering but after reading the story for a second time, I felt a little relief knowing that someone else had gone through a similar experience and suffered the same mental trauma. Primarily I still just wanted to get some sleep but my mind was now alive, I had to snap myself out of this mental torture and stop punishing myself with regrets from the past. As I had seen I few a days ago
“We must all suffer from one of two pains, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret, the difference is discipline weighs ounces, while regret weighs tons”- Jim Rohn
On the highway of life I needed to find my exit now and begin my journey to my new destination, but perhaps a few hours sleep first!!
19th May 2020 – Another trip to the hospital, it was starting to feel like a second home, once what was a strange new place now had an air of familiarity about it. I strolled around the corridors knowing exactly where I was going and the staff in the clinic all knew me before I even needed to give my name. Today was a more dignified visit, the wounds were starting to close and it was considerably less painful when the bandages were removed, I could bare the nurse swabbing my hand without the usual cry from me, “get me the gas!!”
As I laid on the bed the nurse smiled at me and asked me if I had looked at it, which too be honest I still hadn’t, of course Id seen my hand wrapped in the bandages but actually in the flesh, no! Then she drops the bombshell on me, next week the bandages are coming off completely, so she strongly advised me to take a proper look. I hadn’t prepared for this, I known the day would come eventually but I felt I needed time to prepare. So gingerly I took a look, took a photo and laid back down, hmmmm, it wasn’t as bad as I thought but still to the people that knew me, family and friends alike my hand would be quite shocking. And this is the bit that worried me, I knew in time I would become familiar with my new look but showing it in public was a big hill to climb for me, the more I thought about it, the worse the anxiety became. To the untrained eye, my hand would be strange and attract the judging glances of strangers, I just wasn’t prepared for this yet. Physically I was healing but mentally I still had a mountain to climb.
The journey home was a couple of hours and I was quiet most of the way, my fiancee kept trying to strike up a conversation but she was drowned out by my inner monologue. She decided she wanted to stop at a local town on the way, as we arrived and pulled up outside of a shop, I had to make a quick decision. Under normal circumstances I would of jumped out of the car, ran in and done what I needed to do but today I was wracked with paranoia. I guess this was my first personal challenge, I got out of the car and took a deep breath and walked towards the store. Minutes later we were back, Id noticed the clerk take a glance down at my hand but that was it. I didn’t feel judged, as always I was overthinking the situation!
We decided to visit the supermarket before we left, this time I decided to stay in the car, Id had my excitement for the day and that’s when it happened. As I glanced around the carpark something caught my eye, it was strange, odd looking, I locked onto it and processed what I was seeing. There right in the middle of the car park was a fairly well built guy, shaved head and glasses, that’s not strange your thinking!, but this fella was wearing a rather fetching summer dress and ladies heels! For a few seconds I couldn’t look away and then my brain caught up and I smiled, what the hell was I doing. Twenty minutes earlier was I not worrying about being judged or stared at and here I was doing the exact same thing, what a hypocrite!!!!!!
I leaned back in the seat and smiled to myself, fair play to that guy I thought, he truly did not give one f*ck, that was his thing, he was comfortable with it and he didn’t care what anyone else thought. This was a good lesson for me, that was how I needed to be, just accept my hand as it was and not worry about anyone else’s opinion.
11th May 2020- I know I shouldn’t blame my parents for my past or current attitude to life but this morning’s conversation with my mother made me again realize perhaps why I do or did worry so much about life. In the space of 10 minutes without boring you with the finer details my dear mother managed to bring up three different topics and declare her underlying worry for each one. After each topic I had to stop her and remind her of the impending doom upon which she had focused her attention and point out they hadn’t actually happened yet. The current situations were still positive, perhaps if she just focused on that, she wouldn’t have so much to worry about!
In my present predicament I have no space in my life for negativity, I’m fighting a minute by minute battle to keep my demons at bay. My mind keeps teasing me with flashbacks of the accident and then on the flipside (like a true hypocrite dear mother) I’m resisting the urge to worry about the future! My current modus operandi is to remain fixed in the present and any thoughts for the future are limited to positive goals which I want to brand onto my brain with a red hot iron, cowboy style!
I find myself now not only on a mission to redirect the entire course of my life to the ‘Island of Positive Thinking’, I’m also on a one son mission to get my mother on board as well! Perhaps a few hours with Tony Robbins and some affirmations is all I need. Tomorrow I’m back at hospital for another dressing change, perhaps I should call ahead and make sure they’ve got the gas on standby!
10th May 2020- I was starting to feel sick from all the tablets I was taking, I felt like my body was getting used to the painkillers and they were losing their effectiveness. So as I awoke this morning before I even reached for my boxes of medication, I paused for a moment and thought
‘Am I in pain?’
I was but it wasn’t crippling, my left hand throbbed but I could live with it, my thigh was burning from being the donor site for the skin grafts but again it wasn’t so excruciating that I couldn’t move around. I took several deep breath‘s and tried to focus my mind, if I could just manage the pain signals as they fired back to my brain perhaps today I could go without any medication.
By 2 pm I was going strong, small waves of pain rippled occasionally through my body, electric pulses shot up and down my left arm and tingled where my fingers have been removed. I was hopeful that my body was starting to accept my new form and was moving towards a state of equilibrium. Mentally I was finding it tough, my positive state of mind was a little like a small child when they first learn to walk or ride a bike, I was having to prop it up and make constant small course changes to keep it in the right direction.
Constantly I kept mentally referring back to the videos of Tony Robbins I’d watched, the self-help books I had read, I was perpetually trying to focus on a positive outcome. I knew this suffering wouldn’t last forever, the pain would eventually subside, my body would heal, sure my hand would never grow back but I’d already researched the prosthetic replacements. As always I was impatient, I wanted everything to be okay now but had to face the reality that this was going to be a long journey.
By 5 pm I was exhausted, the pain was echoing through my body and without the medication it was taking all my energy to stay strong. There were aches, pains and sores that I was starting to notice, I hadn’t noticed them before probably because I’d been so numb. I continued to resist the option of painkillers even though they were only 6 feet away from me. This became my little mental battle today, I would prove to myself I was strong enough mentally to withstand my suffering.
I was laid on the sofa watching documentaries of people who had really suffered in life, and I mean really suffered but their stories ended with success. Their stories stirred up an anger in me, I was angry but confused, that’s why my story was so strange to me. Looking back on my 40 years, I hadn’t had a hard life, other than my parents splitting up at an early age I’d had a pleasant childhood, my step-dad came on the scene very early on and filled the position like a true champion. In my eyes he was my dad and I loved him dearly. I wasn’t abused, beaten or starved, I was loved and cared for. My home was a safe place, I had friends and plenty of good memories, so where had it all gone wrong?
I always refer back to the point in my life when I was made redundant, I don’t know why I always look back at this point. It’s something that happens to tens of thousands of people each year, it’s just that at that time I can specifically remember the mental torture I felt. The abandonment, I had lost my safety net, I had realised when you work for someone you’re in part placing your destiny or future in their hands, they dictate a large part of your life and then when it is suddenly whipped out from under your feet if you’re not prepared for it, it becomes a serious trauma.
There are many things I wanted in life but the thing I wanted most was security and for me security meant money. The accident had made me realise that money couldn’t solve everything but it could put a roof over my head, put clothes on my back, food on my table and I could take care and provide for my family, and so in reflection since the redundancy, for the last 10 years I’d been looking for a way to provide an income aside from the monthly pay cheque. Something that I was in control of, something I was the boss of, the problem was I was far better at spending money than I was earning it! I had drawn up a new life plan in hospital but once I was healed and strong enough I knew I had to find a way to give myself peace and become self-reliant.
7 pm, out came the painkillers! I cracked, my fiancee had to change the dressing on my leg, laying there half naked, bleeding and in pain whilst she attempted to clean and re-dress me, I was learning better what love meant! Now I was engaged I thought about the marriage vow ‘in sickness and in health’, I finally understood the true meaning of it and thought to myself, I’ve definitely found my soulmate!
9th May 2020- What follows is just a mind dump! It was two days after my third and hopefully final surgery for a long time, I was laid on the sofa and hurting all over and truly feeling sorry for myself. I was scanning my previous blogs and trying to be positive and in part I was but the pain was fighting me and taking my energy, I just felt like a shadow of my former self. I fired up YouTube and audio injected an hour of the husky voiced Tony Robbins into my brain, I needed a little pick me up mentally. As the video ended I grabbed my note book and just began to scribble:-
I have the power to change, its already within in, I don’t need to acquire anything new, I just need to release the tiger in me!
I know theres something special in me
Ive tried for 40 years to change, searching for something, this is now the start of my new journey
Im not afraid to be me anymore, this is who I am
My life has new meaning, I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore, I accept im not perfect, I will never achieve perfection but I will try to be the best I can and influence everyone around me in a positive way!
I may have lost three fingers! but I’ve gain a whole new perspective on life!
Life is going to be harder because Im not running away from my problems anymore but it will be more rewarding, as I conquer each problem I will get stronger with each victory!
6th May 2020- Today was the day of my telephone consultation with the therapist, half of me was really happy and hopeful I was getting professional help, and the other half of me knew Id be opening up and talking about things Id been avoiding for the last few weeks. Kind of a bittersweet day but I’d instigated the call in the first place so I was prepared to be honest and talk.
My phone rang…..lets do this!
An hour later I came downstairs and adopted my normal position on the sofa, I was quiet. I played the conversation over and over in my head, in retrospect it was hard, some of the questions had been tough but I gave honest answers, Id relived the accident and spoken in detail about my true feelings. I suddenly felt very alone, helpless and broken. The day before I’d had my bandages changed again and the prodding and poking always gave me more pain, which today only compounded things. The therapist was nice, they listened and agreed I needed to be scheduled for a course of sessions but here’s the kicker, there was a waiting list, it would be three months at least before I got to speak to someone. This was enough for me, Id held my nerve and projected a hard outer shell since the day after the accident, but now knowing I’d have to wait three months for therapy, I finally cracked and broke down. I’m not criticising the NHS, there was a waiting list, why should I be prioritised over the people in the queue in front of me, but I couldn’t wait three months, I needed help now. I couldn’t just put my emotions on hold and wait for them to come to me, everyday I was fighting but mentally I was deteriorating. I could feel the anger growing inside of me again.
Tomorrow I was back at hospital for my third operation and honestly I was anxious, I wasn’t worried about the operation specifically but just the toll on my body afterwards. Each time they operated on my hand it aggravated the wound again, they were going to take more skin grafts from my leg and I knew I would have to ramp up the painkillers again. All this from one moment of carelessness, I couldn’t help but crack just a little smile, what I’d put my mind and body through in the last three weeks beggared belief.
7th May 2020- The day of the operation swung round and walking back into the hospital like I had done so many times before just felt natural, like walking into work each day, but this was definitely not something I wanted to become a habit! The surgery was supposed to be an hour and the plan was to get me in, slice, stitch, patch me up, out the door and NEXT! I was comfortable with this, as nice as the staff were, I definitely preferred my own bed and home cooking. I was prepped for surgery and as is the routine, I repeated my name and date of birth as requested! I did think at one point they were going mad or just trying test me, but within the space of five minutes, three different people approached me one after another, asked me my details, smiled, thanked me and walked away. I did think to myself, are they all just hiding behind the corner taking the piss out of me? or was it to make sure I was of a sound mind or just to ensure some imposter hadn’t swapped places with me. Given my predicament I would of gladly swapped with anyone if it meant getting my fingers back, wishful thinking I know!
Two hours later I began to awake, a strange erie feeling washed over me again, I remember taking deep breaths and then I was gone, but then what felt like seconds I was back in the recovery room. I mentally scanned my body, my left hand was heavily bandaged again but I couldn’t feel anything from my shoulder. In the short term this was a good thing but I knew once the anesthetic wore off, old Mr Pain was just around the corner ready to resume his evil work. I patted my right thigh, it was still there so at least they’d been kind enough to leave me something! I was wrapped up tighter than a drum, hmmmmm were they trying to hide something?
As the day turned to night, it was beginning to get too late to go home so I opted to stay one more night in the delightful Hotel Royal Derby. (Note to self, I really must leave a trip advisor review! Friendly staff, comfortably spacious rooms, foods ok but Id be wary of the activities on offer, can often perhaps leave you a little sore the next day!!)
8th May 2020- I was up early like a kid on christmas morning, the excitement of going home was like a natural painkiller, yes I was feeling the usual pains but the excitement was overruling it this morning! Well done brain!! Oh the power of the mind.
Whilst I could look back on the last three weeks as the toughest and most challenging of my life, I can’t deny without them I would have never met so many wonderful and amazing people, people under any other circumstance I would have never thought I would need to reach out too. However in times of crisis and despair, regardless of the negativity and bad that exists in this world there is an even more powerful and positive side. I said early on in my blog that I used to be obsessed with reading the news, at first my objective was to just keep upto date with current affairs and be well read and informed, but I gradually got draw in and found nothing but negativity and conflict. As I have listened to Tony Robbins say hundreds of times, ‘what you focus on, you feel’
Since my accident I have practically ignored the world news media and chosen to seek out only the good and positive aspects of this world. I have reached out to so many people from so many different walks of life and each time found someone willing to help, or advise, or simply tell me their story, anything they thought that would help me through my own recovery. I have been incredibly sincere in my appreciation and written many emails and letters giving thanks and hope that I can keep in touch in the future. It is me that needed help in the last few weeks but in the future I hope that anyone of those people that I connected with, feel that they can contact me if they then need help themselves or just need a good ear to listen!
The list is long and out of respect for their privacy I don’t intend to post their names with exception for one. I recently chatted with a gentleman on Instagram who became an amputee some time ago, he endured the pain and suffering of losing a leg and so has experienced the highs and lows and gathered a lot of knowledge over the years. We exchanged a few messages and he gave me some great advice, he’s a thoroughly nice bloke and has a very positive outlook. He has begun a weekly podcast ‘The Amputee Diaries’ which you can find on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. If your a new amputee or a seasoned veteran I still encourage you to check him out and drop him an email email@example.com , if you have any ideas or thoughts for his show. I’ve found talking to doctors and health care professionals very useful but you can’t beat actually talking and discussing things with people that have gone through what your experiencing. So drop him an email and help grow the podcast, make it the place to go for a fun and informative discussion.
4th May 2020- Despite everything I was trying each day, my new daily routine, the meditation, the affirmations, my little chats with the guy upstairs, the waves of energy sapping pain that rippled through my body each day, today I just ran out of steam. It wasn’t a particularly eventful day, I was back at Hospital for another check up and dressing change but for the first time I was able to see my right leg. The surgeons had been using my thigh to take skin grafts and various other things, as I was laid in the cubicle, the nurse peeled away the last of the bandages and left me alone for a couple of minutes. In a child like fashion, I slowly tilted my head up until I could see my leg in all its glory, my stomach dropped, considering it was my hand that I had injured my leg looked like something you’d see from the prop department of a Tarantino movie. I laid back down and my mood just sunk, I felt beat up, ugly, what the hell had I done to myself? The nurse came back in with the surgeon and they began to examine my leg, they were over the moon! They assured me (rather convincingly), it looked a lot worse than it actually was but it was clean and healing, I just needed to give it time.
Today they finally released me from the vacuum pump and patched my hand back up again and sent me through to the physiotherapist before I could escape. Chatting with her was useful, she made realise this was going to be a long journey and I would have to accept my life would be different but with hard work, commitment,determination and some adaption I could still function in life.
As we drove home from the hospital, I was quiet. Mentally today was my toughest day yet, I was fighting with some very powerful demons, I knew I had the support of my fiancee and my family but it was beginning to dawn on me that I would need professional help. If I just sat at home while I recovered and did nothing, physically I would heal but mentally I could see my mood would deteriorate rapidly. Just before Id left the hospital, as I walked the long corridor back to the carpark, my left hand now more visible, I caught people around me looking at my hand. I felt so exposed and vulnerable, obviously in a hospital I didn’t look completely out of place but I did feel judged and perhaps this was just a taste of things to come when I finally resurfaced in the real world.
I felt a little better when I got home, shut behind my four walls was my safe haven, away from prying eyes and I could relax, I still felt very fragile mentally but again I thought to myself that I definitely needed to seek out some professional advice. The pandemic meant there was no chance of a face to face but after a couple of emails Id managed to get a telephone consultation set up and this gave me a little boost. There was help available but it wasn’t going to kick my door down, I needed to go and find it!
25th April- 3rd May 2020- If you’ve been following my story since post #1 then I thank you, never in my life did I imagine my life would take the direction it has but I’m grateful to everyone that has stopped by and dropped me a like, even these small gestures are like a pair of invisible hands helping to pick me up when I feel a little down. I’m still fairly incapacitated so the only exercise I can do at the moment is work my brain and try and be positive whenever I feel any negativity slipping in.
This whole experience still feels very surreal, I still havent seen my damaged hand yet, the painkillers are keeping me numb and the constant trips back and forth to hospital are keeping me busy, but I know the day will come when the bandages will come off and I will have to face the real image of a left hand that is less than perfect!
I always remind myself that what I’m going through, although very personal and considerable to me, in comparison to the suffering of other people around the world, its nothing. As I sit here now I only have to lift my head and glance around and realise how lucky and fortunate I really am. I have a roof over my head, I have a fiancee who loves me dearly, I have food in my kitchen and I am able get medical help with just one phone call without any worry or hesitation. Sure it would be amazing to have a shiny ferrari on the drive and a million pounds in the bank but would those thing make me truly happy and fulfilled, no!
I will still strive for financial security for my family but it’s the little things in life that are more important to me now and they will always take precedence over financial wealth. I ask you now to think, if you were stuck in the middle of the desert, hundreds of miles away from the nearest town or village with no phone, thirsty and injured, what good would money do for you? But if there was a kind person just over the next sand dune with water and supplies, a person that ordinarily you wouldnt give a second glance on the street, perhaps in that moment you would think a lot differently!?
I remain humbled and will do forever since the accident, my life is now set on a new course and only the feeling of being able to help others less fortunate motivates me to regain my strength and make a difference in this world.
Be kind to each other, you never know when you will be the one that needs help!
24th April 2020- Not a long post today but a very significant and salliant one for me. Today I was back at hospital to have my dressing changed, you’d think that just because it was my left hand it would be a simple and straightforward procedure, but each time and this one being no different, it turned out to be a tough couple of hours for me and the poor nurses involved.
The wound on my hand still needed a skin graft so it was still open and the nerve endings were unbelievably sensitive. As the nurses began to remove the outer bandages, I could feel my hand and arm tingling and within minutes I had stars in my vision. As they reached the skin it was all I could do to stop passing out, my entire body spasmed and went rigid, this was the first time that I had felt any serious pain, even more so than when I actually had the accident. The nurses stopped and we all took a breath, anybody outside of the curtain to have heard my moans and my rapid heavy breathing could of been forgiven for thinking that I might of been in labour. Now ladies I make a special point to interject here for fear of insulting you and the rest of womankind, I have never suffered or will suffer the pain of childbirth, I don’t make light of the subject but I was myself in considerable pain and this was the only thing that came to mind where I could make a suitable comparison. I trust now as you read this, if you have yourself endured the pleasure of the pain and perhaps are muttering under your breath that what I was experiencing was nowhere near the same level, please be assured my intentions are purely honourable and there is no offence intended, but that be said, my hand hurt, a lot!
It was at this point that the nurses decided to bring in the big guns and give me the gas, Id never had it before but I was willing to take anything that would reduce the pain. I took large deep breaths as instructed and within a few minutes as the nurses resumed their work, I became less and less concerned with my hand and more concerned with maintaining my new found blissful state. I huffed, they worked, the synergy was symphonic, within minutes they had removed the old bandages and had begun to seal me back up. I took a moment to relax and let the plastic mouthpiece rest on my forehead, I smiled to myself and simply thought, it didn’t matter how rich I could of been at that time, you could of offered me all the money in the world, the biggest diamond, a mountain of gold, Id turn every single pound of it down in a heartbeat if it meant having these nurses and that bottle of pain relieving gas. No amount of money would have eased my suffering, today I truly saw the true value of money and honestly it wasn’t that valuable at all.
The sad fact however remains that many of us live our lives in a society today where the need for money cannot be ignored. The days after the accident I began to research prosthetics and while I was under no illusion if I was a suitable candidate, they wouldn’t be cheap, I was a little surprised how much it would be just for the piece to restore some functionality and aesthetics to my hand, £5000+. Here in the UK we are fortunate to have the NHS, I realise many people are not so lucky, particularly in the USA. Not from a perspective of not having a very competent and professional health care system more so from the point of the incredible cost of health insurance. I read an article the other day from the point of people who had had accidents and actually paused before they called the emergency services, they considered the financial implications over their immediate medical needs, now that is a scary thought and made me even more grateful for the NHS.
I do have some options with the NHS but there is a point at which I will need to financially support myself, I don’t have a specific health insurance policy and the policies I do have unfortunately don’t cover for ‘stupid’. In these current times with the pandemic and the impending economic downturn, my timing couldn’t be worse but I have set-up a funding page and included the link below. Most of you, and I can’t blame you, are probably rolling your eyes back, yes this accident was my own fault and I will pay the price for the rest of my days but if your able to throw me a small donation, I would be very grateful. Or if you could just share this that would equally be appreciated. Hopefully in the near future when Im back to strength I will be able to start paying back all the kindness I’ve received so far, I’ve reached out to many charities and support groups in the last couple of weeks and it’s made me realise there are a LOT of more deserving people in a far worse position who need help.
22nd April 2020- It had been five days since my second surgery and whilst I was still pretty sore physically, mentally I was a few days ahead and was clinging onto my positive attitude for dear life. Everyday since the operation a steady stream of doctors and nurses visited me for various reasons and every time I tried to smile and be as welcoming and as pleasant as possible, yes I was in pain but I knew they were taking care of me.
The morning straight after the operation the surgeon had been to see me and explained what had happened. As far as I knew the plan had been to simply remove the part of my left hand and fingers that had been re-attached the night I was admitted, and then take a piece of skin from the top of my thigh to dress the wound, something which should of only taken a few hours. However as always with me nothing was simple and straightforward, there had been complications and for whatever reason the surgery had gone on for almost 12 hours, my surgeon and his team had worked tirelessly but couldn’t make it work. The plan now was just to let me heal for a few days, Id had almost 20 hours of surgery in the past week, my left was hand heavily bandaged and the top of my thigh felt like someone had placed a hot iron on it. The pain meds were working to contain the worst of it but I knew the time would be coming when I would need to reduce my intake and let my body accept some pain whilst it healed itself.
After 10 days it was finally time to head home, mentally this was a huge boost for me, every member of staff had been amazing and shown me such kindness and compassion but I needed to be home. They patched me up one more time with clean dressings, attached a negative pressure vac to my hand, packed me a bag with enough medication to start my own pharmacy and wished me well.
Whilst I was going home I knew deep down this was just the start of my new journey, the surgeons were still in the background making plans for the next stage of my treatment. The covid-19 pandemic was still very much in the headlines and was an added complication, but testament to the sheer determination, professionalism and dedication of the hospital, they were undeterred and I felt assured I was safely in their hands.
I don’t remember the exact date but it was sometime around October 2009, I had just been made redundant and in my mind my world had ended. I had enjoyed 11 years of a career that had had a steady trajectory upwards and I was cocooned in a bubble of complacency, and then in the blink of an eye it was all over. I was thrust into an unfamiliar world feeling naked and vulnerable, not knowing which way to turn. Prior to this I was happy and felt like I knew which direction my life was going but now it felt like my life map was blank and my internal compass was spinning wildly.
A few days later after another day of trawling through endless job adverts I was losing hope rapidly, I had not long purchased a house and taken out a large loan to finance some home improvements and so was starting to feel the pressure. I sat up in bed and did the one thing I had never done in my life, I knelt down and prayed. I prayed for a job, I gripped my hands together until my knuckles went white and I held that position until it physically became too much. This for me was the last resort, I was by no means religious but I was willing to try anything. I prayed again on the second night and then again the following night.
Three weeks later I began my new job, to say I was happy would be an understatement, more relieved would probably be more an accurate description. Quickly the notion of prayer was forgotten and I slid back into the rat race picking up where I left off three weeks before, sure I had been the one submitting the applications and making the phone calls but I never really looked back and reflected how much my prayers had contributed to my success?
I was gainfully employed again but the redundancy had rattled me and shaken my confidence, I turned to therapy and over the course of the next ten years I tried various forms with little to no success. Ignorantly it would take my recent accident and ten years to remind me of the power of prayer.
My first proper attempt to return my life to normal was hypnotherapy, this was a few months after first losing my job, whilst I found it relaxing, it was an expensive way to relax for an hour and my mind was so active I never felt deeply enough hypnotised to feel any sense of disassociation. It was at this point that my second signpost was presented to me although it would take me almost 8 years to discover it despite the fact the therapist had placed it in my hand. After finishing a session, the therapist handed me a CD and said I should listen to it as it may help me, I never did listen to it and it just ended up in a box in my office. Fast forward 8 years, I was sorting through old boxes when I came across the CD again, for the first time I slid it out of its paper case and looked at the front of it, it simply read “Anthony Robbins”. I laughed out loud, I knew exactly who he was now, I’d watched a documentary on Netflix about him a while ago but back when I was first given the CD he was completely new to me. Oh how different my life could of been if i’d listened to his words earlier on in my life, perhaps my life would be so very different now?
My third signpost was more of my own doing, wise words which I chose to ignore. Christmas 2016 was one that I will never forget for many reasons, I was drinking fairly heavily on the lead up to the holiday as many of us do but I was predominantly drinking alone. Christmas had been losing its magic for years and while it should of been a time to celebrate, I had grown to hate it and instead of counting down the days to the big day, I would be wishing for it to be over as quick as possible. It was the 23rd December and I had broken up from work and was headed home, but I felt different, something wasn’t right. I don’t even remember the drive home, I was in a dark head space and nothing I could do could snap me out of it. I cracked opened a bottle of whisky thinking I could literally pour christmas cheer into me and drank myself to sleep. The following morning I knew as soon as I opened my eyes something was not right, the whole world to me was grey, it’s hard to explain but colours had lost meaning and everything I looked at made me feel sad. A melancholy had taken over me and was following me around the house like a grey ghost, no matter where I went in my house it followed me. It was Christmas eve but celebrating couldn’t of been further from my mind, as day turned into evening the feeling of despair inside of me grew, by 6pm I could feel the panic rising inside of me. I had never felt anything like this before in my life, I was scared, I felt like I was losing my mind and my inner monologue was running out of control. I called my sister and told her I needed help, she came as fast as she could and took me to hospital, after speaking with the doctor I was immediately referred to the mental health team. Unbeknownst to me I had suffered a panic attack, without doubt the most scariest thing I had ever endured in my life, it had shook me to my core and brought me to my knees. I spent the rest of Christmas with my parents, it was almost a week before I felt normal again but it had definitely scared me for life.
As 2016 disappeared and 2017 crept in I decided I needed give myself a permanent reminder of the aforementioned event and so decided to get a tattoo. It was something I would never of normally thought of doing but life had been showing me how unpredictable it could be and my mind had been expanded by feelings I never knew possible following my panic attack, so the prospect of a tattoo was nothing. I opted to have something discreet on each of my inner biceps, two simple messages to perhaps guide me through the rest of my life which I roughly translated into latin. ‘Live each day as if its your last and learn everyday as if you’ll live forever’ and ‘Never forget, where there is life there is hope’. Fantastically profound and useful but ultimately lost on me, their position meant that I barely ever saw them during the day and given the fact they were camouflaged in latin, the messages they were meant to convey lost their power and meaning. If this was indeed another signpost in my life, it was more the signpost had been knocked over and was now left in the ditch covered in weeds!
This blog was not my first attempt at covering my life, I had attempted blogs twice before but each time under a pseudonym. Previously I was scared to reveal my true self and accept that I was struggling, I admit each time was a cry for help but after my recent accident I came to the realisation that there was nothing more to be scared about. Life had been subtly trying to push and navigate me back on the right path but I had been stubbornly resisting and now I had paid the price. Life would never be the same but that said I still had a chance to enjoy what was left ahead of me and now I had more reason than ever to change direction.
Take heed of my words good people, dont ignore lifes signposts no matter how subtle they are. There are powers greater than us that are watching over us.
Prior to the accident I was not a religious person and even now in my capacitated and amended state, I would still not call myself religious but I can’t lie and say I didn’t utter a prayer or three over the past few days. I prayed for my first surgery to be successful, which unfortunately it wasn’t, maybe that was Gods way of saying “uh uh uh!!! you cant just dip your toe in the water when its suits you mate, you need to show some sincere faith and belief if you want help from above!”
My life had not been a productive one beforehand, I wasn’t a bad person but I certainly hadn’t embraced the gift of life and seized upon the opportunities that laid before me. I was full of resentment, repressed anger and had lost my way, I was searching for answers and was getting nowhere. Looking back over the last few years there were clear sign posts, messages screaming at me with answers, if I had just lifted my head a little higher perhaps I would of seen them in time. As they say, you won’t find answers at the bottom of the bottle, I wasn’t an alcoholic but I did choose a glass of wine more often than not to drown out the world.
Nothing in life excited me and I had become so blinkered I couldn’t see how good I really had it, which led me to my cavalieristic attitude and the resulting accident which cost me part of my left hand and three fingers. I had paid the ultimate price and now had no choice but to embark on a more worthwhile life otherwise I would just shrink and die.
I never looked down at anyone but I would be liar if I didn’t say my inner monologue didn’t occasionally go wild when I saw someone or something that didn’t fit with my perception with what I deemed as normal or socially acceptable. Sat in a cafe or bar or just walking down the street, my radar would scan wildly and I would find myself mentally judging people. There was no ill intent, these thoughts were never meant for public viewing but I just couldn’t help myself sometimes and yet now I found myself with a target firmly placed upon me.
My left hand was now ‘wonky’, missing two fingers and a thumb, although Id not yet seen it, I knew it wouldn’t be pretty and walking down the street it would be completely out of place with what was considered normal. I would now be the one who would be judged, small children would point at me, others would either stare or try to sneak a look and wonder what had happened to me. I didn’t see the accident as a punishment, I had thoroughly brought it upon myself but over the days Id had to reflect on my new form, I decided that perhaps God had thought If I been able to regain my hand Id probably return to my old ways, so this needed to be a permanent lesson.
Seven was my lucky number and that was the number of fingers I had left now, so I took that as a good sign, the rest of my body was healthy and now I had a new chance of making the best of the life ahead of me. I was overwhelmed with the support from my family, fiancee and friends, in the day after I was contacted by a number of people who showed just how much I meant to them. They reached out to me and showed me true friendship and I was again humbled, the world wasn’t as bad a place as I had painted it in my head. There was a lot of good out there, I just needed to get the right filter and look past all the bad.
My inner judge was now retired for life, I now chose to only see the good in everyone around me.
17th April 2020- I had spent the week confined to my hospital room and despite having no visitors due to the pandemic the time had flown by. In between resting, I had kept myself really busy researching the strange new world of prosthetics, absorbing the positive words of Tony Robbins and preparing myself for the upcoming surgery. Well today was the day I had been waiting for, the surgery at the start of the week to re-attach my hand had not worked and so today they were removing the offending article and I would be beginning my life as an amputee. I was prepared for surgery and taken down to the theatre, I was still maintaining my positive outlook which presented me an odd juxtaposition. I was about to lose half my left hand and the fingers attached to it, which should of made me incredibly sad and depressed but yet I was feeling really upbeat and positive, so I had either accepted the fact or there was still a large dose of reality just around the corner ready to punch me straight in the face!
The nurses kept me chatting as always, a wonderful distraction technique whilst the others stabbed me and poked me with needles. The part that brought a smile to my face was when the nurse came in and started drawing on my left shoulder, I gently glanced over at her and gave her a slightly bemused look
‘Just making sure they operate on the correct hand’ she gleefully said
I was minutes away from a major surgery and after hearing this, I wasn’t sure if she was joking with me to lighten the mood or being serious, either way it didnt exactly fill me with confidence! I clenched my right hand into a fist and said a little prayer that he’d be there when I woke up. I began taking deep breathes as instructed and thought to myself it wasnt working and then on the fourth breath I was gone.
Having surgery is quite a experience, regardless of the time your on the operating table, it actually feels like your only there for a few seconds. Id gone into the theatre around 10am and was expecting the surgery to last a few hours, then in what felt like only a few seconds, I opened my eyes and I was back in my room in darkness. I could sense people around me and as my consciousness returned to normal I saw the clock on my wall, 10:20 pm, Id been out for 12 hours. As I started to stir, the nurse appeared at my side and offered me a drink which I gladly accepted. I felt sore all over, my left hand or what was left of it was now tightly bandaged and thankfully my right hand was still firmly attached to my body, I thought back to the nurse who had drawn on me and smiled, it wasnt such a bad idea after all!
Come the morning I was wide awake and felt re-connected to the world, today was my first official day as an amputee. I didn’t really feel any different at this stage, I had still not seen my left hand since the night of the accident and perhaps it would be weeks before I would have this pleasure, but for now I was concentrating on regaining my strength and getting back home.
14th April 2020- I was scheduled for surgery at the end of the week, despite my unwavering belief for the last 24 hours and the visualization I had painted in my mind, it had all been in vain. The attempt to re-attach my hand and fingers had not been successful. Again I surprised myself that I wasn’t more emotional, I was still completely bandaged unable to see the damage and heavily under the influence of painkillers, my brain still hadn’t fully processed the accident and honestly my body hadn’t experienced any proper pain yet. The accident had been so fast, in the blink of an eye my left hand was gone, there was no pain. The adrenaline had taken over and my body had gone into shock, by the time I began to feel the first wave of something unpleasant, I recall beckoning my fiancee to my side on the kitchen floor and in an almost childlike tone I quietly whispered ‘baby, pain coming’. The paramedics were with me by this point and I can still recall a warm rush spread over my whole body and the pain was gone. This warm relieving feeling would become a familiar friend over the coming days and perhaps it was not only easing the pain, it was also keeping reality firmly under lock and key.
It was now almost 48 hrs since the accident and following the chat with the surgeon I had mentally taken the decision not to let this beat me and define me for the rest of my life. Well as they say , actions speak louder than words, so whilst I did take some comfort that I was trying to be positive, I had to bolster this with some positive actions. I was fairly limited laid in my hospital bed covered in tubes and wires but my mind was fully functional and in my right hand I held my smartphone and access to one of the most powerful creations during my lifetime, the internet.
Ironically weeks before these events, one evening I was sat with my fiancee and turned to her and said that I wanted to get rid of my phone, by own admission I was addicted to it. It was never far from my side and when it wasn’t my mind would go into autopilot and revert to ‘police search’ mode and I would begin patting down my body up and down searching for it. If it wasn’t on my person, perhaps in a similar mode to that which a parent experiences when they realise their child is missing, my heart would begin pumping and the frantic search would begin. More times than I could count I would go through this only to discover the phone actually was already in my hand. So not only I had finally been able to admit I was addicted to something so powerful, it was incredibly sad to admit how little I used the phones capability. I spent hours upon hours reading the news, absorbing the negativity like a sponge, scrolling through page after page, but honestly the second I put the phone down Id barely be able to recall anything Id just read. I wasn’t educating myself or expanding my mind, I was committing the mortal sin of just killing time, one of most valuable commodities to every single person alive. When I wasn’t reading the news I was playing games, or checking my bank balance (it hadn’t changed since the last time I checked it), or checking the weather or checking my email and that was really about it. I had long given up on social media, around the time I began to excommunicate my friends, I similarly began to remove myself from every social media platform. Constantly seeing post after post of friends celebrating and enjoying themselves didn’t fill me with joy it just magnified how inadequate my own social life was and made me feel worse about myself. Funnily I barely used the phone to actually make phone calls, its primary function, it gave me access to the world and yet I found it had the reverse effect and made me anti-social.
So now in my hospital bed, I reassessed this phone sat in my hands and what it was truly capable of and decided it was time for a positive change. Firstly I began scrolling through my contacts and against the grain rather than typing out a text, I began calling my family. It was reassuring for them to hear my voice and know I was safe and well and I found it uplifting and refreshing to speak with them, oh the wonders of the modern telephone! Once I had completed my calls, I still felt something was missing, my family had all been sympathetic but they couldn’t truly know what I was going through, heck I still didn’t appreciate what I was going there. I thought back to the conversation with the surgeon, more specifically the subsequent chat with the nurse afterwards, in her own admirable way to pick me up, she told me of a previous patient who had been admitted to the hospital the year before, after a freak accident his thumb had been ripped off in his workshop. The surgeons also tried to save the digit but the damage was too great and so in an effort to restore his grip, they offered him the option to remove his big toe and implant it on his hand, he agreed and thankfully it was successful giving him back his ability to work. All I had was his name, obviously they weren’t going to give me his contact details, so I turned to the internet and began searching. I thought it would just be simple to look up his business address but the current pandemic meant it was closed down, I tried the business number on the off chance and was met with a rather grumpy lady who politely but firmly assured me that the business was no longer on that number, I took it from her tone that it was not the first time she had taken a call of that nature, so I quickly apologised and ended the call. I continued my search and ventured past page 1 of the google search results, in these strange and unchartered territories I found numerous email addresses which often just bounced back to me. I was beginning to get a little frustrated but a quick glance around my room and the occasional wave of pain reminded that I had little else to do so I preserved. After a couple of days I was still nowhere nearer making contact, I filled the time in between contacting more glamorous celebrities who had suffered life changing injuries (Katie Piper, Michael Caines), whose stories helped inspire my recovery but I was more realistic that I was unlikely to get a personal response but I tried all the same, I had nothing to lose. The rest of the time I sat watching endless Tony Robbins videos on YouTube, he had become my newly unofficial adopted father, I was done with the news and playing games, I was filling the void with words of motivation and self-improvement.
And then on my fourth day in hospital as I was eating lunch my phone began to ring, initially I ignored it. Usually once I had begun to eat lunch I didn’t move around quickly too much for fear of ripping out a wire or tube. The phone rang again, and again and then on the fourth time I reached out and grabbed it, it was the gentleman I had been searching for, I couldn’t believe it. We began chatting and I explained why I was so desperate to talk to him, he listened intently and responded in a sincere sympathetic voice. We exchanged stories and his words resonated powerfully with me, he was familiar with the pain and the loss and reassured me that I could pull through it. This is what I needed to hear, he was equally pleased to hear from me and although he had almost now fully recovered, he felt good in being able to help me when I needed it the most. We agreed to keep in touch and he said I could call him anytime for more advice, he wished me well for my upcoming surgery and said he would prayer for me.
As the days, hours and minutes passed I tried to constantly fill my time, not allowing my mind to wander too far. I researched different prosthetics companies, an area I had never had any need to look at before but I was utterly blown away by the technology that existed. It left me feeling more hopeful for the future that I may be able to replace the missing digits with something that would be pleasing to the eye and functional enough to give me some grip and mobility. I clung onto every moment trying to remain positive but can’t deny that negative thoughts were never too far away. I turned to the internet again looking for stories of hope and found myself on the ‘help for heroes’ website. I read stories about injuries that paled my own into insignificance and the recoveries were even more incredible. Please be assured I was not trying to draw any similarities between these stories and my own, that would be truly disrespectful to the brave soldiers injured defending their country, there was absolutely no comparison whatsoever but I found comfort in reading about their strength and courage and hoped it would help me stay strong mentally whilst I recovered.
During my numerous moments of reflection as I stared out of the window in my hospital room, I looked back on the last ten years of my life constantly pursuing riches whereas in reality I was already rich. I had my fiancee, my loving family, my two dogs, a home to go home to and my employer was fully supporting me during this time in my life. Given the uncertainty in the outside world, regardless of my fingers, I was still in good health and would be lucky enough to eventually be going home. I still had ambitions, I still wanted financial freedom, freedom to make my own choices but everyday I was beginning to become more thankful for what I had, not what I didnt. I was humbled without any doubt, I had spent so much of my life worrying about what might happen, now I was trying to live and enjoy each and everyday.
12th April 2020- As I laid on the stretcher, morphine coursing through my veins waiting to be wheeled into the operating theatre, I stared up at the hospital ceiling tiles paying no attention to the bleeping and hustle and bustle going on around me. Perhaps it was the morphine but my mind was incredibly calm, I had still not yet processed the full ramifications of my accident 6 hours prior, but there was a part of my mind that I think that had realised there was no going back, and so I had accepted in small part this was happening and I was helpless to influence my immediate situation.
I’m not wealthy financially by any means but in the past whenever or wherever I could I would choose to throw money at any problem in the hope it would solve it, but this accident brought home to me how utterly insignificant money was in a situation like this and how important your health is. At that precise moment, I thought to myself it didn’t matter if I had a one pound in my bank or if I was the richest man in the world, no amount of money could turn the clock back and undo the damage I had done to my left hand. I felt a small jolt as the stretcher began moving, I slowly lifted my head and there right next to me I saw the piece of my left hand with my thumb and two fingers still attached sat unceremoniously in a plastic container. It had only been 6 hours but the chunk of flesh and bone looked alien to me, my brain still hadn’t caught up and bizarrely I thought I could still feel all the fingers on my left hand. At this point I knew I wasn’t going to die but my life was sat firmly in the hands of the surgeons and nurses who were starting to swarm around me. This was by far the most humbling point of my life, I couldn’t run away from this, I couldn’t stick it in my top desk drawer and deal with it next week, I couldn’t talk my way out of it, this was happening now. The stretcher stopped moving and my heart rate began to rise, this was it, no going back now, from the side the anaesthetist appeared and they calmly spoke to me explaining what was happening, I slowly began counting down thinking nothing was happening and then within a matter of seconds I was gone.
Seven hours later, as fast as the anaesthetic had worked, I opened my eyes and felt like only a few seconds had passed. My first instinct was my left hand, I was laid down flat, so my brain tried to connect but there was no feeling. I strained to lift my head and I was just able to see my arm and then my heavily bandaged hand, I could just about see my little finger and the finger next to that but nothing else. Had the operation been a success? A nurse appeared and greeted me with a big smile, I was still a little groggy but had enough energy to question her if the operation had been successful. She said they had been able to reattach my fingers but they wouldn’t know if it was successful until tomorrow. Quite remarkably for me I was still incredibly calm, maybe this was just a dream and I would wake up any second , but there was no panic in my mind, no anxiety, it was just a surreal series of events. As I began to regain complete consciousness, I was moved to a ward to begin my recuperation, different faces appeared left and right and I made every effort to be as pleasant and welcoming as they were to me. I was naked other than my hospital gown, tubes and wires all over my body, my right arm had begun to bruise from all cannulas that had been inserted and this now was the most vulnerable I had ever felt since the day I had been born.
At 41 years old, prior to the accident I had spent most of my adult life chasing a dream or specifically money. I thought money would bring me happiness, contentment and fulfillment but in reality I was miserable. For the last 10 years I had been suffering ever increasing feelings of depression,anxiety and despair. I didn’t feel like my life had any direction, in fact I just felt like I had been going round in a circle and life was passing me by faster and faster. I was full of anger and resentment and had been systematically withdrawing from life, ghosting one friend after another, angry that none of them recognised how I was feeling. I always felt I was quite empathic and would reach out to those close to me if I felt they needed help, but when it was my turn I felt like I was on my own. I acknowledge I was part of the problem, people aren’t mind readers but the alpha male in me and my pride stopped me asking for help.
That be said I did seek help, a combination of professional assistance and self-medication but this was far away from the people who knew me and helped my ego to retain its pride and on the surface I was able retain some composure. For 10 years I guess you could say I lead two lives, I had mastered the art of projecting an image of a confident and happy person but in reality just under the skin I was deteriorating, gaining momentum year on year. From the age of 30, I tried acupuncture, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, meditation,religion,life coaching, various forms of pharmaceutical medication and probably the least successful, alcohol. Some worked better than others, I went through a number of therapists and enjoyed small degrees of success which helped from a few days to a couple of weeks but nothing stuck. I think I had a stubborn element to my personality that actually refused to accept there was anything wrong with me at all, I was hell bent on pursuing the dream of being rich and thought this was the answer to all my problems.
I sat up in my hospital bed and began to stare intently at my left hand, I couldn’t see what was going on underneath the bandages but mentally I thought I could feel all my fingers, a small wave of hope washed over me. Despite the last ten years, there had been quite a few occasions where I had been lucky, times where I had almost worried myself to death or took a chance and it had paid off and there had been no need to worry in the first place. A few weeks prior to the accident I had read ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, I thought back to the book and hoped this my time for another piece of luck. In my capacitated state my mind was the only thing really working well for me, so I dug deep and imagined a healed hand, I thought of the feeling I would get as I left hospital in the future relieved that I had ridden my luck one more time. I imagined four fingers and a thumb, covered in scars but nonetheless a hand intact, for 24 hours this was all I thought about. I played out the conversation with the surgeon in my head over and over, everything was going to be ok. As I went to sleep that night, I was feeling hopeful, come the morning I just needed the dream to align with the reality and all this would be behind me and life could return to normal.
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”– Stephen King
If you judge people, you have no time to love them- Mother Teresa
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
When focus goes,energy flows- Tony Robbins