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  • montanafillingham

My Accident

Car crashes happen every day; from fender benders to the tragically fatal. I had felt the sting of them before when we lost my younger cousin a few years previous. I had known multiple people who'd had them in different degrees and who'd lost loved one themselves. I'd treated a number in my recent junior doctor post in A and E. I wasn't arrogant enough to believe I'd never be involved in one and yet still it's hard to get my head round what happened just last Friday.

As I made my way to work I misjudged a bend on a 50mph road and ended up in the wrong lane. Two cars were coming and I didn't want to hurt anyone so I eased the break and drove straight off the road. What was waiting on the other side is mostly a blur but the result was car Vs tree. Nature is far more resilient than we give it credit for the tree definitely won.

The first thing I remember when I woke - the force of the airbag having KO'd me - is screaming in pain but worse, much worse than the pain was the sickening tightness in my stomach as I realised I couldn't feel my legs. I couldn't MOVE my legs even though I was begging them to. As a doctor I already knew what that probably meant.

By this time two angels appeared. I will respect their privacy but I owe them so much. The two cars I had done my best to avoid harming had gone. There are still no official witnesses and I doubt I will ever know exactly what happened. But theses people stopped, got in my car, held my hand, kept me warm and conscious and calmed me as much as they could. They phoned for help, and even when emergency services arrived stayed on to help. Wherever you are, the words thank you are totally insufficient; I wish you happiness equal to your kind heart.

The emergency services were a credit to our country as usual. The true definitions of saviours. They rapidly assessed me and extracted me from the wreckage of Layla (yup I name my cars, it's not that weird, get over it), cutting the roof and seat off and rushing me by air ambulance to UHW where yet more un-ending thanks are deserved. The kindness and compassion shown by the ED team that dealt with, not just me but my shocked and distraught family, was second to none.

After assessment the bare bones of it (pun not intended), was this. I had a T12 retropulsion or 'burst' fracture - essentially I'd broken one of my back bones into several bits and this bony shrapnel was now pressing on my spinal cord (the bit where all the your nerves collect together) - it’s a pretty big deal. I was quickly operated on by a talented neurosurgeon to limit the damage and spare as much function as possible. I am extremely grateful for his speedy action. With such injuries, time is function… unfortunately a lot of the damage happens at initial impact. The car crash started the fire, he put it out, but somethings that burnt can't be replaced.

The next 24 hours were a cocktail of pain, morphine, fear and questions. Questions, upon questions, upon more bloody questions. My mind only stopped when I was asleep, and even that was fitful. It was like having a body and mind that were on fire and the only thing that wasn't in danger or burning out was my eyes; they were constantly wet.

The questions ranged from the obvious 'will I ever walk again?' to 'will I ever take a normal poo again? OMG What about sex?' (Don't lie to yourselves that's definitely a big deal), Onto 'could I still get pregnant? Should I get pregnant? I mean what if I can’t run around and play with them? Kids deserve mum's that look after them not the other way around... I mean maybe this isn't fair on my fiancé, he didn't sign up for a crippled bride... And the wedding, will I be able to walk down the aisle? Have a first dance?' The disappointment and sheer emotional agony as I led contimplating the mere possibility of a single word… No - it hung around my battered body like a dead weight. 'Hang on! Will I ever ride roller coasters again???'

All of this was swirling in my head along with a side dish of guilt - for even though non-intentional I couldn't bear to see what a single error in judgement was putting my love ones through. My heart was breaking for them, and as people began to message me asking how I was doing, I wouldn't know how to say I still couldn't feel or move my legs. I didn't want to hear any more people crying because of this.

Needless to say it's obvious the first thing I asked when I next saw the Drs.

They didn't know.

We still don't.

However, here's what I know so far...

I have a complete L2 spinal cord injury; this means I have no true sensation or voluntary movement below my hips.

In the majority of cases with 6 weeks bed rest (no more that 30 degrees of sitting up), and extensive specialist rehabilitation (6-18months) I may regain some function.

With my injury a reasonable expectation would be to be able to stand with crutches for short periods; only ~10% chance of regaining enough ankle function to walk.

Those of you who know me well will probably realise the ‘bed rest’ phase I'm now in is complete hell for me. I'm also impatient and have another 5 weeks of this torture, but if it will help boost the chances of dancing - even a sidestep - with my tribe on 15.09.2018, then for once in my life I'll do exactly what I'm told.

But I AM impatient, and I am actually truly excited to start my recovery and learn to walk again.

Now I've had people in the past few days who seem to feel I'm in denial, that I'm taking this all too well. Trust me I'm not.

I have been heart broken for a week. I have cried daily. I have said stupid things and yeah I have even, (and I'm embarrassed to admit this) had the moment of maybe this would have been easier had it been fatal - a selfish, ugly and disrespectful thought, born out of pain and despair and uncertainty. But, I have allowed myself to feel it all and come to the conclusion I wouldn't be human without entertaining dark thoughts in dark times, so I've let myself feel. I'm not an idiot either, I know I'll have bad days. I know the reality of it will sometimes seem too much or the process of relearning something I've taken for granted for around 22 years will seem too hard, and fuck it if I'm probably gonna be in a wheelchair anyway, what's the damn point!?

Thing is, I've made a decision.

This happened to me. The same way other shit things have happened to me in the past. The same way tonnes of shitty things happen to normal, undeserving humans every damn day. My decision is to accept that, and try my absolute best to move on.

A very good friend of mine said only yesterday that 'rarely is there ever something that happens that is entirely negative'. I never knew that saying before but as soon as he said it I knew it is something I have always believed. Our experiences are what we choose to make them and we always have a choice.

My choice is to be independent.

My choice is to see that things could be much much worse, and be thankful for that. I'm alive, my brain works, my arms work.

My choice is to work my butt off, so when I'm the best modern medicine and belief can get me I can be a doctor again, because that IS possible.

My choice is to use my shitty experience to empower others, to get involved in advocating for disabled students and use my voice to inspire other to get through their own shit shows.

Because I can do that.

And the best part, legs or no legs I am still me.

Now, the final bit. The reason I'm positive I can get through this is because since the moment that man got in my car and held my hand I have seen nothing but kindness, warmth, love, family and community.

I have always said that no matter the goal it always takes a village. No one really does anything truly alone. We all need someone. And this past week I have been shown that I have a whole bloody tribe of people around me.

With that amount of love, positive vibes and pure human kindness, how could I not feel inspired to keep going. It's a long hard road we'll be walking but we'll be doing it together.

And you know what? I think that's kind of magical.

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