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!!
10th May 2020- I was starting to feel sick from all the tablets I was taking, I felt like my body was getting used to the painkillers and they were losing their effectiveness. So as I awoke this morning before I even reached for my boxes of medication, I paused for a moment and thought
‘Am I in pain?’
I was but it wasn’t crippling, my left hand throbbed but I could live with it, my thigh was burning from being the donor site for the skin grafts but again it wasn’t so excruciating that I couldn’t move around. I took several deep breath‘s and tried to focus my mind, if I could just manage the pain signals as they fired back to my brain perhaps today I could go without any medication.
By 2 pm I was going strong, small waves of pain rippled occasionally through my body, electric pulses shot up and down my left arm and tingled where my fingers have been removed. I was hopeful that my body was starting to accept my new form and was moving towards a state of equilibrium. Mentally I was finding it tough, my positive state of mind was a little like a small child when they first learn to walk or ride a bike, I was having to prop it up and make constant small course changes to keep it in the right direction.
Constantly I kept mentally referring back to the videos of Tony Robbins I’d watched, the self-help books I had read, I was perpetually trying to focus on a positive outcome. I knew this suffering wouldn’t last forever, the pain would eventually subside, my body would heal, sure my hand would never grow back but I’d already researched the prosthetic replacements. As always I was impatient, I wanted everything to be okay now but had to face the reality that this was going to be a long journey.
By 5 pm I was exhausted, the pain was echoing through my body and without the medication it was taking all my energy to stay strong. There were aches, pains and sores that I was starting to notice, I hadn’t noticed them before probably because I’d been so numb. I continued to resist the option of painkillers even though they were only 6 feet away from me. This became my little mental battle today, I would prove to myself I was strong enough mentally to withstand my suffering.
I was laid on the sofa watching documentaries of people who had really suffered in life, and I mean really suffered but their stories ended with success. Their stories stirred up an anger in me, I was angry but confused, that’s why my story was so strange to me. Looking back on my 40 years, I hadn’t had a hard life, other than my parents splitting up at an early age I’d had a pleasant childhood, my step-dad came on the scene very early on and filled the position like a true champion. In my eyes he was my dad and I loved him dearly. I wasn’t abused, beaten or starved, I was loved and cared for. My home was a safe place, I had friends and plenty of good memories, so where had it all gone wrong?
I always refer back to the point in my life when I was made redundant, I don’t know why I always look back at this point. It’s something that happens to tens of thousands of people each year, it’s just that at that time I can specifically remember the mental torture I felt. The abandonment, I had lost my safety net, I had realised when you work for someone you’re in part placing your destiny or future in their hands, they dictate a large part of your life and then when it is suddenly whipped out from under your feet if you’re not prepared for it, it becomes a serious trauma.
There are many things I wanted in life but the thing I wanted most was security and for me security meant money. The accident had made me realise that money couldn’t solve everything but it could put a roof over my head, put clothes on my back, food on my table and I could take care and provide for my family, and so in reflection since the redundancy, for the last 10 years I’d been looking for a way to provide an income aside from the monthly pay cheque. Something that I was in control of, something I was the boss of, the problem was I was far better at spending money than I was earning it! I had drawn up a new life plan in hospital but once I was healed and strong enough I knew I had to find a way to give myself peace and become self-reliant.
7 pm, out came the painkillers! I cracked, my fiancee had to change the dressing on my leg, laying there half naked, bleeding and in pain whilst she attempted to clean and re-dress me, I was learning better what love meant! Now I was engaged I thought about the marriage vow ‘in sickness and in health’, I finally understood the true meaning of it and thought to myself, I’ve definitely found my soulmate!
9th May 2020- What follows is just a mind dump! It was two days after my third and hopefully final surgery for a long time, I was laid on the sofa and hurting all over and truly feeling sorry for myself. I was scanning my previous blogs and trying to be positive and in part I was but the pain was fighting me and taking my energy, I just felt like a shadow of my former self. I fired up YouTube and audio injected an hour of the husky voiced Tony Robbins into my brain, I needed a little pick me up mentally. As the video ended I grabbed my note book and just began to scribble:-
I have the power to change, its already within in, I don’t need to acquire anything new, I just need to release the tiger in me!
I know theres something special in me
Ive tried for 40 years to change, searching for something, this is now the start of my new journey
Im not afraid to be me anymore, this is who I am
My life has new meaning, I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore, I accept im not perfect, I will never achieve perfection but I will try to be the best I can and influence everyone around me in a positive way!
I may have lost three fingers! but I’ve gain a whole new perspective on life!
Life is going to be harder because Im not running away from my problems anymore but it will be more rewarding, as I conquer each problem I will get stronger with each victory!
6th May 2020- Today was the day of my telephone consultation with the therapist, half of me was really happy and hopeful I was getting professional help, and the other half of me knew Id be opening up and talking about things Id been avoiding for the last few weeks. Kind of a bittersweet day but I’d instigated the call in the first place so I was prepared to be honest and talk.
My phone rang…..lets do this!
An hour later I came downstairs and adopted my normal position on the sofa, I was quiet. I played the conversation over and over in my head, in retrospect it was hard, some of the questions had been tough but I gave honest answers, Id relived the accident and spoken in detail about my true feelings. I suddenly felt very alone, helpless and broken. The day before I’d had my bandages changed again and the prodding and poking always gave me more pain, which today only compounded things. The therapist was nice, they listened and agreed I needed to be scheduled for a course of sessions but here’s the kicker, there was a waiting list, it would be three months at least before I got to speak to someone. This was enough for me, Id held my nerve and projected a hard outer shell since the day after the accident, but now knowing I’d have to wait three months for therapy, I finally cracked and broke down. I’m not criticising the NHS, there was a waiting list, why should I be prioritised over the people in the queue in front of me, but I couldn’t wait three months, I needed help now. I couldn’t just put my emotions on hold and wait for them to come to me, everyday I was fighting but mentally I was deteriorating. I could feel the anger growing inside of me again.
Tomorrow I was back at hospital for my third operation and honestly I was anxious, I wasn’t worried about the operation specifically but just the toll on my body afterwards. Each time they operated on my hand it aggravated the wound again, they were going to take more skin grafts from my leg and I knew I would have to ramp up the painkillers again. All this from one moment of carelessness, I couldn’t help but crack just a little smile, what I’d put my mind and body through in the last three weeks beggared belief.
7th May 2020- The day of the operation swung round and walking back into the hospital like I had done so many times before just felt natural, like walking into work each day, but this was definitely not something I wanted to become a habit! The surgery was supposed to be an hour and the plan was to get me in, slice, stitch, patch me up, out the door and NEXT! I was comfortable with this, as nice as the staff were, I definitely preferred my own bed and home cooking. I was prepped for surgery and as is the routine, I repeated my name and date of birth as requested! I did think at one point they were going mad or just trying test me, but within the space of five minutes, three different people approached me one after another, asked me my details, smiled, thanked me and walked away. I did think to myself, are they all just hiding behind the corner taking the piss out of me? or was it to make sure I was of a sound mind or just to ensure some imposter hadn’t swapped places with me. Given my predicament I would of gladly swapped with anyone if it meant getting my fingers back, wishful thinking I know!
Two hours later I began to awake, a strange erie feeling washed over me again, I remember taking deep breaths and then I was gone, but then what felt like seconds I was back in the recovery room. I mentally scanned my body, my left hand was heavily bandaged again but I couldn’t feel anything from my shoulder. In the short term this was a good thing but I knew once the anesthetic wore off, old Mr Pain was just around the corner ready to resume his evil work. I patted my right thigh, it was still there so at least they’d been kind enough to leave me something! I was wrapped up tighter than a drum, hmmmmm were they trying to hide something?
As the day turned to night, it was beginning to get too late to go home so I opted to stay one more night in the delightful Hotel Royal Derby. (Note to self, I really must leave a trip advisor review! Friendly staff, comfortably spacious rooms, foods ok but Id be wary of the activities on offer, can often perhaps leave you a little sore the next day!!)
8th May 2020- I was up early like a kid on christmas morning, the excitement of going home was like a natural painkiller, yes I was feeling the usual pains but the excitement was overruling it this morning! Well done brain!! Oh the power of the mind.
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.
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.
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.