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.
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?
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.
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.