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.
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.
13th April 2020- It was a sunny day and Ill be honest I woke up full of optimism, my last thought before I fell asleep the night before was the vision of a healed left hand and that was exactly the first thing that I thought about that morning. I was in strange surroundings and it did feel like a little adventure, perhaps the concoction of drugs they were pumping through me had softened the edges of reality but the overall gravity of my situation had still not fully registered. I sat up in bed and tried to gather my thoughts and quickly the compass in my mind swung rapidly around and pointed towards my girlfriend. ‘Holy shit’ I thought, she must be worried out of her mind, the last time I saw her was last night while I was laid on my kitchen floor covered in blood and surrounded by paramedics. I vaguely remember calling for her to come to my side and telling her I was sorry but after that for the next six hours, the movie of my life was limited to whatever was straight above me as I laid flat on the stretcher, my only dialogue was the continuous need for me to repeat my name and date of birth.
I glanced around my hospital room and saw my bag out of the corner of my eye, I vaguely remember my girlfriend telling me she had packed a few things for me as the ambulance doors closed the previous night, I smiled, even in the most dire and horrific situation she still was able to maintain a degree of composure. I was so lucky to have her in my life, I could only imagine the scene I left her in, I remember there was a lot of blood but she never panicked. Strangely enough neither did I, the accident happened so fast, literally in the blink of an eye, one second I was cutting wood, something I had done hundreds of times before and then as I turned to reach for another piece I glanced down and I was greeted by an image that since that day I have tried to repeatedly to block from memory. Somehow the power saw had gone straight through my left hand from the wrist up and had removed my thumb, index finger and middle finger, I was left with my little finger and ring finger and a bloody stump. Without any thought I grabbed my wrist to stem the bleeding and walked from the garage through to the kitchen, I called for my girlfriend and in casual tone asked her to call an ambulance. I grabbed a towel from the side, wrapped it around what was left of my hand and laid down on the floor and waited for help to arrive.
A nurse came into my room and she kindly passed me my phone, without delay I called my girlfriend and as we spoke, I think we both felt a sense of overwhelming emotion and relief. She was happy to hear I was alive and kicking and I was bubbling over with apologises, I was so sorry for putting her through this situation. She had been amazing, I don’t ever want to dwell on what could of been, if I been on my own, passed out and bled to death I wouldn’t be here to tell this story. I consider myself very lucky, in fact many events that evening, notwithstanding my accident, were very fortunate to me. My girlfriend found me within seconds and called for help, the rapid response paramedics arrived within minutes, not long after, the ambulance arrived and I was on my way to hospital. Globally we were in the midst of a complete social shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this in itself was a terrible and unprecedented event but it meant there was little traffic on the roads so the first leg of the trip to the local hospital was quick. The doctors quickly assessed me and agreed I would be transferred to Royal Derby Hospital, which I would later find out was the best hospital in the country when it came to hand traumas. Again the roads were quiet and my journey was unimpeded, once I arrived I was prepared for surgery and my life was placed in the hands of the NHS’s finest.
As I spoke with my girlfriend something felt different, she had been there for me when I needed her the most, in fact she was always there for me. She had had her own fair share of personal problems in the past but never moaned or complained, she just took whatever life threw at her with a smile and got on with it, her inner strength was admirable. Normally I procrastinate every decision, but today I felt different, the previous evenings events had given me a whole new perspective on life, I had now witnessed how fragile we are and how quickly life can change. I had this amazing person in my life, who loved me and cared for me, we had casually discussed marriage in the past but Id never took the plunge, and so as we chatted I stopped and interrupted the conversation. In possibly the least romantic scenario possible, to her complete surprise, I asked her if she would marry me! In as little time it took me to ask, she said yes! She had wanted this for so long, I meant the world to her and likewise she meant the world to me. I said it was a shame that it had almost cost me three fingers but in her true pure grit attitude, she was happy and looked at the positive outcome.
So in a matter of less than 24 hours, my boring depressed life had flipped on its head and gained more momentum than Id ever experienced in 40 years. I was sat blooded and bruised in a strange hospital bed, half my left hand hanging on with stitches but I was now engaged to be married to a woman who I owed my life too. Prior to the accident I had wished for a breakthrough and some excitement, well ladies and gentlemen, be careful for what you wish for as you just might get it.
I said my goodbyes to my now fiancee and sat patiently waiting for the doctors verdict, I was still clinging onto the hope that the surgery to reattach my fingers had been successful and kept visualising my hand intact. Finally the nurse arrived and I was taken down to the hand clinic, all the while I was in a strangely optimistic mood, for someone who had been close friends with depression and anxiety for more than 10 years and not 24 hours ago sliced half his hand off, I didn’t feel particularly worried. Could I stretch my luck just one more time and pull the last ace out of the deck?
I was wheeled into a cubicle and moments later joined by the surgeon and a couple of members of staff, I looked at each one intently in their eyes trying to read their faces, I always thought I was particularly good at this but today it was something that could change the direction of my life forever. The room went silent and we all took a deep breath, I glanced up at the surgeon and we locked eyes, his shoulders dropped and he smiled, ‘Im very sorry, it didn’t work, we did everything we could’
We spoke for a few more minutes and then I was taken back to my room, I sat quietly alone looking out of the window, there was no emotion in me. I wasn’t crying, I wasn’t hammering my fist on the bed, it still didn’t seem real, was this really happening to me? Maybe I would wake up in a few minutes and realise this was just bad dream, perhaps I had wished this on myself but not specifically this injury. I mentioned in my previous blog that I had read ‘The Secret’- by Rhonda Byrne weeks before the accident, it talked about the law of attraction and if you truly want something so bad and focus hard on it, there’s a good chance the universe will grant your wish. Well for the past 10 years I had been pursuing the dream of being rich which had brought me nothing more than misery and depression, I had been searching in my life for an answer, something that would change the course of my life. Id spent hundreds of hours on YouTube listening to success stories, life coaches, business men and women and entrepreneurs desperately trying to find something that would resonate with me, but nothing seemed to really hit the mark. There was however one video that I recall or more specifically one part that left its mark with me, an entrepreneur talked about risk and how some of us are more wired to accept it and the success it can bring. Some people choose the option of ‘the point of no return’, they accept the inherent risks but push themselves to the point where there’s no going back, they commit and see it through. My bin in my office was a metaphorical graveyard for thousands of ideas that never made it off the page, I was all too familiar with the initial rush of excitement but likewise very familiar with the scrunch of the paper as another idea died and laid to rest in the bin. Well now as I sat on my hospital bed, faced with the now real scenario that I was about to lose three fingers and half my hand, this was now my point of no return. I couldn’t wriggle my way out of this, this was happening like it or not. With a big sigh, I took a deep breath and looked out at the bright blue sky and thought to myself, there were only two doors available to me, door number one, this beats me and I accept failure, or door number two, I grab life with the what hands I have left and turn this into a success story. I certainly wasn’t about to give up but I knew the road ahead of me was going to be tough.