“Yeah…well…you know what Napoleon said: Give me a man who is lucky.”
So I’ve been cranking open my tibial break by 0.75mm a day since the 18th of August; by the end of this week my right leg should be the correct length. This is really quite a big deal. After that, it’s just a matter of how quickly I can fill a 30mm gap with bone tissue. I might be rid of this frame in January. Anyway, I thought I’d try to write about the positive things that have emerged from all this horror.
Before I get to that, three caveats.
- I haven’t coped with this all on my own – it’s been a team effort. Thank you so much to those who have helped me.
- I have certainly wallowed in this, I’ve been selfish, used my injuries and medication as excuses, and I’ve let people down. I’m not trying to gloss over my multitude of flaws, but I do (for a change) want to focus on the good things about my flirtation with the infinite.
- Everything is relative (except Newtonian physics – I ‘m pretty certain they’re absolute). There are people who have suffered much more than I have – I empathise with them, but I can only talk about my own experience.
Um…it seems like I’m pretty tough. Not in a ridiculous, macho way; more in a I’ve survived a lot and kept going kind of way. Surviving the fall was absolutely a matter of luck rather than physical prowess. Keeping it together for eight hours or so, though, is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I don’t really have the words to explain how grim that was. The genuine strangeness of the next week or so in intensive care is a close second. And then the tottering months following discharge, working my way back to some kind of fitness only to find that, no, there’s still more to come: more surgery, more pain, more dizzying medication, more struggling on crutches, more physiotherapy. And yet, here I am – head up, leg elevated (just now while I’m typing, not all the time; that would be impractical), looking at a point where I might be able to get back to doing the thing that nearly killed me. There’s no I in quit. No, wait, that’s gibberish – there is totally an I in quit. There’s no quit in me. Yes. I mean no. And first caveat notwithstanding, when I’ve been down at the bottom, when I’ve been riddled with doubt and, for that matter, physical pain, it’s really been me that’s soaked it up and got on. I did that.
I’ve absolutely stuck at it. I’ve seen a lot of people in physiotherapy who aren’t keeping up to their exercise regime between appointments. I’m not judging them because I don’t know their circumstances. I do know that the NHS, in as much as it has one, has waved its magic wand. The rest of this recovery is down to me. Only I can rebuild muscle, bone and the less concrete attributes like balance. I’m sticking to exercises I’ve been given and more generally doing what I can to regain strength. I’m getting to shops and back, on crutches, with shopping; to stop my toes curling under, I’m working on Adho Mukha Svanasana a little every day; to rebuild grip strength, I’m handing my bodyweight from my fingerboard every other day, gradually building to smaller and smaller holds.
No, you shut up. Seriously, managing medication on medication is quite a feat. Codeine really affects my grasp of how time is passing – when you’re on the limit of your daily paracetamol allowance for prolonged periods, you can’t afford any mistakes. In almost three months, I’ve only lost the thread twice; and I made the right choice – if you’re not sure whether you’ve taken them, assume that you have. Likewise, I’ve kept track of extending the frame: 0.25mm, three times a day, every day. The one time I got confused, I got myself back on track the following day. The admin is dull but by no means trivial.
More by luck than good judgement, I’ve surrounded myself with good people. My parents have helped me out hugely, caring for me for months after the accident and helping me out with shopping after my recent operations. Friends have visited me (with coffee) in hospital, raised money for Keswick MRT, put food in my freezer, changed my bedding, driven me around, helped me get to the shops and back, modified my clothing. My employer has really looked after me – not just meeting its contractual obligations, but being really human about my rehabilitation. The members of my team have covered over the holes I’ve left in various rosters, picked up my slack, and sheltered me from cold, cold world outside. So, caveating my caveat about my first caveat – thanks, everyone.
None of my injuries were, in and of themselves, life threatening. In combination with one another and hypothermia, I have gazed in awe on my own death and been returned. It’s gradually given me a slightly different perspective on life. I’m not saying I’ve got that all the time, and silly things still get under my skin. But when I’m there, it’s odd and refreshing to be staring back into the world from death’s grey kingdom. Hello, you…