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!!
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , 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?
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.