If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude – Maya Angelou
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill
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!
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.- Theodore Roosevelt
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!
23rd April 2020- Over the last ten days or so life had been fairy hectic and mentally I had been very occupied and focused, whilst Id been in hospital I was almost under constant observation and at the touch of my call button I would be able raise any medical issue and get the response and reassurance I needed immediately. Being back home in familiar surroundings was a big step forward for me, it was fantastic to be back with my fiancee again but the pandemic lockdown meant I would need stay at home. I was missing my family but practically worldwide everyone was in the same position and so anytime negative thoughts popped into my head, I immediately tried to focus on the positives in my life. The pandemic was sweeping the UK and it had taken the lives of thousands of people, there were cases in the very hospital I had stayed in, so I counted my blessings that I was one of the lucky ones who was able to go home. I never stopped, and still do take a moment each day to say a small thanks in my head to every member of staff who unselfishly put the care of others before their own.
Coming from a small village does sometimes make you feel seperated from the rest of the world, big news stories are just things that we hear on the radio and see on the TV, I distinctly recall on the weeks prior to the lockdown, as we walked our dogs through the countryside we would occasionally bump into other people, and more often than not the pandemic would be the only topic. There was stout complacency from almost everyone particularly the older generation that the measures being taken by the government were over zealous, the whole thing as it played out each day on tv seemed more like a weird big brother style gameshow. Everyone had their own opinion and sadly it would seem that it would take a death of someone they knew or even worse a close family member before the true magnitude of the virus was fully appreciated. Then typically and hypocritically their attitudes would swing wildly in the opposite direction and they would then proclaim the government had been slow to act and had not gone far enough!
Regardless of the madness going on outside of my window, I was pleased to be at home and shut away from prying eyes. I still had not processed the loss of my hand and fingers and so was certainly not ready to begin answering questions from the locals. I knew this would eventually happen but I hoped I could do it in my own time. My story had made the local newspapers, I hadn’t resisted the opportunity to speak to the odd couple of reporters that tracked me down, it wasn’t a morbid intention of mine to turn my accident into a glamourous story, I hoped in the large part that it would just satisfy the local rumour mill, and as fast as it had spread and been of interest that week, in the coming days the heat would cool down and Id become tomorrow’s fish and chip paper!
Being back at home, even though I was nowhere near physically fit yet, each day my brain would lock onto normal everyday tasks and I would process each one and consider if I would still be able to do it. The list began to grow and whilst I still clung desperately to a positive attitude, It was becoming abundantly clear that life would be very different for me, not impossible but there would definitely need to be some alterations and adaptations. It was still very early days for me, my wounds were still raw and my body needed rest so it could heal, I needed to stay present, something I had tried to practise in the past with not much success. There were times when my mind flashed back to the accident, what if things had been different, what if, what if, what if? I had to close and bolt this mental door or it would drive me crazy. The fact was the accident had happened and there was nothing I could do to change it.
As each day passed I endeavoured to make it a good one no matter what the circumstances. I tried to look at each day as if it was a holiday or a celebration, well in fact it was a celebration of sorts, a celebration to be thankful for being alive. Each and everyday was unique to the calendar and would never happen again, so that surely was a great reason to be thankful. I recalled from one of the Tony Robbins videos I watched, I don’t remember the exact words but something like
“..if you can’t be happy and enjoy today then you sure as hell won’t be any different in a couple of weeks..”
I thought back to all the times Id been moody and miserable, all the days and weeks I’d wasted as time and opportunity had flown past me. Even up to the run up of a holiday, Id just say to myself ‘I’ll be fine once i’m on the beach’, but looking back now the last couple of holidays I’d had, I didn’t really enjoy myself, I spent a lot of time complaining, sharpening my sword each day for the impending tripadvisor review. What a waste of time and energy!
I began to consider the small things I could do each day which could be my routine, my rituals, things that would positive for me and those around me. Months before the accident I had read a book by Dale Carnegie which I found really interesting and uplifting, there were many principals within the book that I knew I could adopt without much physical effort
- Wake up, smile and be thankful.
- Spend 10-15 minutes clearing my mind and repeating positive affirmations
- Throughout the day, no criticism, no complaining, condemn nothing. As grandma used to say, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing!
- In every given situation, I try and put myself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective.
- Whoever is speaking to me, I simply listen and show a genuine interest in them.
- I meditate everyday, even if it’s just for 10 minutes
There’s plenty more I could add but I wanted to keep it small, there’s a discipline required to maintain a routine which I need to prove to myself that I can keep up!
Do you have any daily rituals? Id love to hear about them in the comments?
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.