A note of thanks

Being in hospital is not easy. I always knew it would be difficult, but I never realised just quite how bad it could be. I also never realised that one of the biggest things that helps get me through is company, friends, support messages etc.

Since I have been in here, I have received many messages of support; cards, texts, facebook messages, comments on my posts, people coming to see me… I could go on but you get the picture. This all means so much to me, every word is a boost that I use to help me focus on getting home. I’m not going to name many names here, as I don’t feel that’s right, but there are a few special mentions that I want to take time to acknowledge properly.

Firstly, my family. Obviously Sarah and my daughter Amelia have been absolutely key to me getting this far, and I genuinely wouldn’t be here without them. My mum and her husband Jon, my dad and his wife Sharon, my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunties and uncles; everyone has done everything they can to show support and help me as best they can, and I can never thank you all enough.

Next, my friends. Well, not just my friends, but Sarah’s friends, my mum’s friends, everyone who has helped me and more importantly my family stay sane and try to stick to a relatively normal life. People chatting to Sarah has been invaluable; from her nursing friends we have chatted to in corridors to people checking in via text; thank you. My friends for coming in, setting up my guitar and having poker nights with me; you rock. My friends I have made in the Coastguard, coming in and bringing me Milka and other treats, and using their positive thoughts to help me heal; I dont know where to begin to thank you all. My friends from college; texting to check I’m alright and popping through to have a chat, friends and old colleagues coming to see me despite working in this place as well, I’m just extremely lucky to have such thoughtful people in my life. Also, that milk tray went down a treat; Jodie, you’re a star!

This gushing thanks is obviously quite unlike me, but I feel as though I need to at least start to say the words. I have obviously missed a lot of people off, and I can only apologise; I love all of you and I promise it’s not on purpose. I can’t wait to be able to thank everyone in person, but until then I hope this post makes it clear; the gratitude I have for everyone and everything people have done is never ending. One day, I aim to repay the favour or pay it forward in some way. I’m not sure how, but I will.

Today, 9th November, is another big reason for this post. My Sister Ciara, my mum, my old schoolteachers and many more are out on a sponsored walk as I write. I’m absolutely overwhelmed by it all; these incredible people are giving up their own time to help me! I genuinely dont know what to say, so I won’t say much or I’ll ramble. I think a simple thank you is the best I can muster at the moment, so thank you all. Mrs Makin, Mrs Luke, Mr Redshaw, everyone else; I may have been a pain in school but at least you all see I’m not so bad now 😂 I hope the rain stays off, and I’ll be in to see you all at some point hopefully soon.

One final thank you is to everyone taking the time to read these ramblings; it means a huge amount to me that you’re all so interested in my life and progress. Thank you.

Ronan Keating said it best

Life is a rollercoaster. Not one of those lovely little ones that gently goes up and down, and you have a lovely time on; no. It goes up and down wildly, and what’s more is when you get on the ride you’re blindfolded; you cant even see where you’re going, be it up or down. That’s how my life feels at the moment. One second I’m heading up, then plummeting down. Unfortunately it seems to be a long way down for me at the moment, but never mind that. It’s got to go up at some point, right?

At this time I’ve been laid in bed for over a week. As per my last post I’ve been rather unwell again, and as a result of that my skin has deteriorated. This is a classic catch 22 moment; being in bed makes my skin bad, getting in my chair makes my skin bad. Think rock and hard place, only both places are actually soft and have the illusion of making you better.

The word I most commonly seem to be using to describe my state of mind at the moment is frustrated. There’s nothing I can do to make myself better, in fact there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do. So I lay here and wait. But never mind! I have a lot more ‘down’ days at the moment, but I have to keep telling myself to push through. As I’m in a side room, Sarah has very kindly decorated by putting pictures and cards all over the walls. This reminds me that I’m not alone, and that I have lots of support. More importantly it reminds me of what i have to look forward to. One of the best decorations I have in my room is a plaque saying ‘Good vibes only’. I think that sums it up just about perfectly; keeping a positive mindset is absolutely key to surviving this place.

Tomorrow

What an idea. Tomorrow. I’ve often been told the theory that time is a human construct, and that it only exists in our heads; let me attest that this is very, very wrong. I have laid and stared at the ceiling long enough to know that no matter what, time waits for no man, nor will it rush. At 2 in the morning, it will not skip to 7 just so you’re through it; that would be too easy! As you may be sensing from my tone, I’m a little frustrated at present. This is because of many things, the main reason being that once again I am stuck in bed with an illness making me so weak I cant even use my phone to text the people I so desperately need the support of at 2 in the morning when time won’t rush for me.

As in my last post, I have been recovering from an infection. The markers in my blood showed good improvement, my mood was the best I’ve been in months, and I was almost fighting fit again! Until Monday evening that is. I came back to the hospital after a lovely day out with my incredible better half Sarah Jane, and immediately my health dropped. I was put back to bed, shivering like I never have and feeling like ice; the problem was, my temperature was high.

*Lightbulb on!*

Potential infection again, more bloods, more sleepless nights, and that brings us to Wednesday. Wednesday I was moved into isolation, I am nursed by staff wearing blue gowns and masks, and even my family have to wear gloves to be in the room with me. I’m confined to this 15 foot squared room until I am better. I’ll not get into the condition much, but my new accessory is commonly known as C. Difficile, and is a hospital’s nightmare.

So, from around midnight on Wednesday I have been confined to my bed, and confined to my room until cleared by the infection team. That could be soon, could be a while, but once again, the time marches on and we hurry up to wait. I wait now to get back to my therapy, my OT sessions and physio. I wait to crack on and get out of this place. We always knew this road would be tough, but nobody said it would be like this.

Enough complaints, I need to look at the positives. As I lay here, at just before midnight on saturday, I have the pictures of all my family looking across at me from the picture collage Sarah created to brighten the room. My guitar, Sapphire, sits proudly by the window. I have more cards than I can cound pinned up on the wall next to me, positive thoughts and prayers from all that sent them. I thank everyone that has taken the time to get in touch, send a card etc. It means so much to me.

My family have been a blessing this week. Sarah staying in the hospital overnight with me so I’m not alone, my mum doing the same. Sarah decorating my room (which is now much more homely). My mum just sitting watching tv with me. My dad rushing to finish work, to come sit and chat about the rugby. I’ve got some brilliant people in my life.

I hadn’t planned to write this post at all, so I can only apologise if it makes no sense. One final thought I have to make off the top of my head, is that this week I really have seen how situations like this can push you to your limits and beyond. There is no release when in a situation like mine, you just have to do as you’re told. But that doesn’t mean that you’re alone. Talking is far and away the most effective thing to keep sane, especially when everything that happens is sending you the other way. Theres no shame in laying your feelings out on the table, and getting the help you need to get you through. I’m lucky that I have professional help on tap, but that’s not only what I mean. I’ve very quickly learned that I need is family and friends around me. My psychologist is brilliant, and helps immensely. But for me, opening up to Sarah is what has got my head in the right place again, or at least heading that way. So Sarah, I love you for that even more. My mum too, love ya.

These are the hardest months of my life. This is probably going to be another bad week. But that won’t break me, and I’ll come back stronger.

Week from hell

Well, the title says it all really. This last week, maybe week and a half has been absolute torture for me. So that explains the lack of posts!

As explained before, spinal injuries often involve skin problems during recovery, and unfortunately I’ve been stuck in bed. On top of that, I’ve managed to somehow acquire an infection. Commonly known as a UTI or water infection, I’ve ended up recatheterised, needing IV fluids and taking IV antibiotics. I also ended up back in High Dependency, but thankfully not for as long as before. These things, coupled with the bed rest, have meant this week has been torture. I’ve often said I’d love to spend a week in bed, just lounging and doing nothing.

I was very wrong.

Being stuck in bed is by far the worst part for me; even though my legs don’t work, being up in my wheelchair allows me virtually the same level of freedom as I had prior to my injury, and much more independence than when in bed. Being stuck in bed takes this away from you, and it’s awful. When you’re stuck like that, no matter what people do you just can’t be comfortable or happy with the situation. I was extremely unwell truth be told, but at the time that didn’t matter to me; I just wanted to get up. The two times I did try and get out of bed, I was back in within 20 minutes and feeling much worse for trying at all. The constant feeling unwell and the prospect of it lasting a fair while can take it’s toll mentally as well as physically. I seriously struggled to remain positive, and I’m quite ashamed to admit that for the first time, I thought to myself how much easier it would have been if I didn’t survive the crash. It was a fleeting thought, but it shows how dark the mind can get when things get bad.

Thankfully, I’m now up and about again, and my head is in a much better place. I’ve always been an advocate of people seeking help for mental health, but I never thought I personally would need help. I’m now proud to say I speak regularly to a psychologist, and the help she gives me is immense. I also rely heavily on my family and friend, and in particular my girlfriend Sarah. Getting things off my chest is a great help, and having someone there who genuinely wants to help is amazing. She’s bloody perfect to put it bluntly.

Overall, this week has been the worst I can remember since coming into hospital. Whilst I have previously been much more physically unwell, this time I was conscious and aware of what was going on; I think that has made it much harder to deal with. Despite that, I have now arrived at the other side of that little detour in my recovery and, if I’m honest, I feel stronger for it. I certainly wouldn’t want to go through it again, because a) it was painful and b) I don’t know how well I would cope. That said, I think if it were to happen again now that I’ve done it once I could tell myself it can’t get worse!

In this journey I am on, I’m well aware there’s going to be ups and downs. Here’s hoping that I’m on an up for a while now. As a side note, if anyone reading is struggling with mental health, take it from me that it’s not worth struggling through alone. We live in an age where thankfully the stigma around mental health is falling away, but there truly is no shame in seeking help.

It’s not all bad

Learning to live with my injuries was never going to be easy; I broke my back for christ’s sake. The best way to deal with it all that I’ve found is to just crack on, and do the normal things as best you can. It’s not necessarily easy, but what in the world worth doing is ever easy?

I love music. Playing, listening, watching others create magic, all of it is fantastic. It’s another world, you can be transported wherever you want to go. So, with that in mind, clearly music is going to play a big part in my life, and is going to really aid my recovery. I briefly mentioned music in an earlier post, about Iron Maiden influencing my hallucinations. In order to get my head around this, I’ve listened more and more, and tried to own what happened.

Another way in which I can help my recovery and aid my return to normality is by playing guitar, something I’ve done on and off for 14 years. I am my no means any good, but I enjoy it. I see it as a release from reality, a simple way to meditate if you will. And today, after a rather long struggle to be able to, I managed to plug in a brand new beautiful Epiphone Les Paul (Gibson are great but I’m happy, come at me purists) and perform my medition rituals, much to the dismay of my fellow residents. I had a blast, it was so good just to play a few riffs again; I’ve not really played since well before my crash. Practically, playing in itself is good therapy. It practices fine motor skills, allows relaxation and, as anyone who’s played one of these guitars can vouch for, is good weight training for the neck.

Overall, despite only being able to sit and play for a short while as I had to get back to bed and off my baboon arse (see previous post) I feel great. This period in my life is always going to be up and down, and thankfully the ups far outweigh the downs.

My lovely sister Ciara and I, with the newly named Sapphire.

Little red marks

First of all, this post is about my arse. So there, trigger warning or whatever.

In my condition, and many others, it is vitally important to take care of your skin. Being unable to move takes your skin from something that you don’t think about to something you’re forever worrying about. Being so important, any unwanted marks are disastrous. Currently, I have 2 little red patches perched perfectly astride my crack, meaning I am confined to my bed. In fact, it’s not just to my bed, I have to be completely on a side, so as to keep the pressure off the redness and allow it to heal. This may not sound so bad, but bare in mind that being in bed = no independence. I have to ask for everything from food and drink to my ipad charger or my earphones. God forbid I drop the call button, and have to wait for someone to come by so i can beg assistance. The staff are fantastic and don’t mind doing these things, but that’s not the point. What is, is the fact that I’m disabled now, and every bit of independence is vital to my sanity.

Being in a wheelchair does not mean I’m disabled. I’m classed as disabled because part of my body no longer works. I make up for that (or try to) by being in a wheelchair. When that option is taken away, and I am confined to a bed, and my independence is taken away, it’s torture. Now; this is nobody’s fault, and I am blaming nobody, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be upset by this. If I’m honest, it’s awful. Being stuck in bed due to illness and recovery from my crash is one thing, but pressure sores are another world entirely; one I wish I didn’t have to worry about.

So far, this is probably the most mentally taxing part of my journey. The crash I can deal with, the horrors of ITU are settling but this, well it’s brutal. This is by no means a cry for help, but honesty is the point of this blog. I’ve had my link to the world removed, the wheels have come off (pun intended) and the worst part is the healing takes time. Which means I could end up like this for days, weeks even if I’m particularly unlucky.

Thankfully, I am allowed one short hour’s respite, and my arse will once again be united with the seat of my wheelchair. It’s my grandma’s birthday so I’m off for a meal. I’ll savour each sweet moment of freedom, and then return to my fortress of solitude until the red-ass-syndrome subsides.

Me right now, but with less running and more wheels.

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.