Shooting the sh…

Whilst in hospital, one of the best ways to calm down, relax and indeed remain sane is to chat to other patients. The ward I am on holds 5 bays of 4, not all of which are full (no doubt cuts mean no staff) and has a high dependency unit. I’m no maths genius, but that suggests to me there are at least a few others in here that I can chat with. One such person is Nick. I’ve only actually met Nick the one time, but I’ve spoken to his wife, Nicky, plenty of times. They as a couple, and individuals, are my definition of inspiring. I won’t explain their journey as it’s not my place to do so, but believe me when I say they’ve been through the ringer.

The reason I mention meeting Nick is twofold; one reason is a warning, a second reason is a lesson. Firstly, a warning, or something like one, take from it what you will. As cliche as it is, life is too short. I really wish I’d gone and met Nick earlier, because if I had I’m sure we could have shared stories much earlier, and quite simply doing that is fantastic. Sharing and talking with people in similar situations is one of the most cathartic and soul serving activities anyone in the same place as me can do. And so, Pirates Ye Be Warned; if you fancy a chat with someone and for whatever reason haven’t got around to it, crack on! Don’t wait! Or, if you decide to ignore what I’m saying, fine! But at least have a good excuse. Secondly, we can all learn a lot from Nick. As above I’m not going to get into details, but it is certainly fair to say than the guy has been in hospital far too long, which means too long away from home, family, friends and his life. But, get this, he’s still smiling. Seriously! And I genuinely believe that’s what we all need to do a little more of. Prior to my accident, it would certainly be fair to say I could be a little cynical. Now, I’d like to think I’m much more positive and upbeat, and I take my inspiration from people like Nick.

Being in hospital is very hard, I’ll be honest. Chatting to other people in the same position, learning and trading coping mechanisms, and simply taking the piss out of yourself can make this very hard to deal with place that little bit easier. It’s the little things that matter; a quick hello in the corridor, someone suggesting a good pair of gloves, a fellow patient bringing you a can of coke – it all matters! Obviously family and friends (or Visitors as they are known in here) make the biggest difference, but we are all in this together. After a while, places like this really start to feel like a prison. That means that everything feels much bigger, and everything is harder to cope with. Obviously this is all just my opinion, but I imagine most people feel the same, which is why I really enjoy my little conversations with people, and why we should all be more Nick.

Intensive Care or Intensive Scare…

This post is going to be about my time in critical care, more specifically my time on the intensive care unit. Whilst some may understand what such a place is, many people have never been anywhere near one (thankfully) and thus have no ideas about the horrors within. I’m going to explain my take on all of it, what I experienced, my thoughts and feelings etc.

Firstly, lets get one thing straight: this post is by no means critical of the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, or any of the dozens of people that helped me. I am purely speaking from my experience as a patient, and to be honest, my experience was not pleasant. That is not anybody’s fault, it just happened. Below i will explain more, but let me reiterate; I LOVE THE NHS AND EVERYTHING IT HAS DONE FOR ME. That doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. Let’s go.

After nearly killing myself in my crash, one of the first places in the hospital I spent more than an hour in was the intensive care unit, or ITU. Now, that is every bit as joyless as it sounds. Intense barely covers it; here there are no windows, there are bright clinical lights, and to gain entry you must be about to shake hands with the reaper. Not a place for those with a stubbed toe, even the thought of ITU makes me feel a little bit on edge. The reason for this is pretty simple; whilst I was there, I was placed in a medically induced coma. This involves pumping me full of a lot of strong drugs including sedatives, muscle relaxants and go knows what else. My breathing was controlled by a machine, my drugs were controlled by a team of doctors, and I was left in control of absolutely nothing. Anyone that knows me may say I’m a slight control freak, and so that is point one for why ITU scares me. Another is the unfortunate side effects of the drugs. When one or more of the body’s senses stop working, the brain goes into overdrive. It struggles to understand why you suddenly can’t see or hear, and says “Hey, let’s just make it up!”. This can go one of two ways; you can be sent to paradise with the brain taking you to that metaphorical sandy beach, or you can head straight into the darkest recesses of your brain and all of your fears become reality. What I’m talking about are, unfortunately, hallucinations.

From the LSD parties in the 70’s to people now paying money to a dodgy bloke in a ket hole, people are forever craving that high and the hallucinations that it brings. Not me however. I, apparently, am one of those people who’s hallucinations involve lots of people conspiring to kill me, especially the nurses. Whilst now I know that this is not true, at the time it felt as real as day. Believe me when I say it’s bloody terrifying. The only comparison I can think of is when you have one of those nightmares that leaves you frozen in bed unable to move or even scream. However, once you start to wake up you can move again, and can usually drift off to a better sleep without the monsters or spiders or whatever scared you. When sedated, you don’t get that choice, and for me the nightmares lasted for 8 very long days.

The content of what I experienced varied. I was fighting the sedation a lot, so sometimes I would wake up for a few seconds, see a nurse/doctor/other, then drift back off. Then, my brain would take that brief glance, and turn it into a full blown theatrical experience of that person trying their hardest to see me off. Other times I would be trapped in some form of membrane aboard an alien ship, just waiting for what felt like an eternity for anything to happen.

One of the worst hallucinations I experienced was being in some form of war, not unlike World War Two. As I mentioned above, when deprived of senses, the brain makes it up as it goes. For this one, my brain seemed to think it was a good idea to reenact the Iron Maiden song ‘Paschendale’. Whilst I love the song, hallucinating about a bayonet in my chest and being screamed at to go over the wall was quite simply petrifying; if I wasn’t already paralysed by drugs, I would have been by fear.

Whilst this is a very brief account of what I encountered, i think it covers the main points. Not everyone has an experience like me, but many people do. It’s just one of those things. It has taken me until now to really start to process it, and I don’t think I’ll ever really get over it.

The Beginning

Well, if you’re reading this, clearly you’re slightly interested in my story so thank you. This post will cover what put me where I am, the injuries I’ve had, and the start of my road to recovery. It’s a bumpy road, and has a huge toll price, but I’m making my way along it.

Right. This story starts on the 29th of July, 2019. At approximately quarter to four I think, I was riding my motorbike home from an assessment with the coastguard. It was rather important; I had been in the role just shy of a year, and so needed to pass this assessment in order to be classed as a full coastguard rescue officer (CRO). I don’t actually remember doing the assessment, but apparently I did well and fortunately passed. Anyway, I was on my way home, and was going up a hill. As I was on a small 125cc motorcycle, I was going rather slow. I came towards the top, and as I was looking at the road ( and knew the road well) I decided to hug the inside of the lane, where there was a wall, in order to avoid going over a large manhole cover. I came around the corner, but had no view through it. As I leveled out, I looked down to check my speed, changed gear, then looked up.

Shit.

In what I estimate now to be less than half a second, I hit the back end of a flat bed truck, which was stopped in the road waiting to turn right. Luckily my trusty little bike was carrying me at around 20mph; any faster and I doubt I’d be here to write this. The front end of the bike hit, which took a lot of the impact, and then the back end bucked up, and I took the rest of the impact.

And that is it. From there, I remember very little, other than hallucinating in ITU (which I will get into later) and the waking up from my coma. Even though I cant remember it, that split second changed my life.

But yeah. I hit the truck, hard. I’ve still not managed to piece the story of what happened next together perfectly in my head, but here’s a rough outline. There are many elements of luck in my story, and they all start here.

Lucky element one is that travelling behind me in her car was an ex critical care nurse, who immediately attended to me. Element two is that a fire engine, crewed by some truly incredible people, was travelling towards me and was able to be flagged down, and therefore attend to me in what I understand to be less than two minutes. Lucky element three is that the NHS and Great North Air Ambulance exist, and were able to keep me in enough of a good shape to get to hospital. Precisely who did what is a mystery to me, but it doesn’t matter at this point; everyone there played a huge role in keeping me alive, and to that I really don’t know what to say. I am yet to meet these absolute heroes, but I will. When I do, I’ll tell you the story.

First Blog…

I have no idea how this is going to go. I may suddenly turn into A literary genius, but more likely this entire venture will fall by the wayside. For now though, here are some things you need to know. I am paralysed from the chest down, meaning I now use a wheelchair to get about. I am still (at the time of writing) in hospital, recovering from my injuries. I am here because of a motorcycle accident, but more on that later. The important bit is that I will meander and muse whilst explaining my story; not everything will be wheelchair related, or necessarily me related at all.

So, where to begin? Oh yeah. As above, I’m currently in hospital following a motorcycle accident, which has so far resulted in me enduring 9 weeks in hospital. Ah, and I can’t walk anymore. It’s quite frustrating I’ll admit, but better than many of the alternatives I could have faced. I’ll get into detail about my injuries on another post, but suffice to say that it wasn’t pretty. I don’t really remember much following the crash (once again, i will get into specifics later) but i do remember enough to know I wouldn’t really recommend it.

It seems i may be finding my way with this entire ‘blog’ thing. I’m usually pretty good a talking about myself, so why not utilise that skill in the greatest way known to man; talking to strangers on the internet. If I haven’t bored you to tears so far, and you wont be reading this if I have, I think my next post will be a bit of a backstory as to why I’ve ended up spending my time on wordpress. Wish us all luck.

Introducing me

As you may have noticed, my name is Sam. You may also have noticed (Clever you!) That I have some affiliation with a wheelchair. This is a new thing; less of a lifestyle choice, more of a mobility necessity. I am one of many people who have suffered a spinal cord injury, and this blog is going to be my way through it.

With sarcasm, poor attempts at humour and possibly some swearing, I’m going to try and explain my take on my journey so far from regular civilian to 4 wheeled menace, and do my best to make it slightly interesting. Who knows, maybe someone will learn something. Let’s find out together.

Please excuse the leg bag. It wasn’t my choice.