Today, August 5 2015 is 25 years since my accident which left me paralysed. Paralysed but very much alive and pushing forward. My silver anniversary if you will. (All silver gifts welcome)
I usually try to do something decadent or indulgent on this day, I think surviving a life changing accident is worth celebrating, the alternative is pretty bleak. I had such grand plans in my head for the big 2-5, perhaps a city break, a spa weekend, (or treat myself by replacing the beautiful & expensive watch my dad bought me when I was discharged from hospital after 10 months in spinal rehab).
Clearly life had other plans for me, and they seem to include some serious déjà vu. Once again I’m laid up recovering from a serious fracture. This time it’s my leg, both tib and fib. There are few other odd similarities too, both accidents happened in countries far away from home, both at the height of summer, both occurred just before really good things were going to happen.
What lessons should I take from this? Don’t leave home especially during the summer and don’t welcome good gigs and exciting plans?! Live in a bubble wrapped igloo away from sunshine forever? Well, that’s no way to live life so that’s not gonna happen.
It strikes me as a little harsh that on the 25th anniversary of my accident I’m currently laid up recuperating from the only other major bone fracture in my life. Why couldn’t this have happened last year in winter when I had a job with sick pay, the technology to work from home and would have loved hibernating inside away from the cold. (I also would have been under the care of the NHS, don’t knock it till you’ve needed help without it.)
It’s a very frustrating time but I know all I can do is ride it out, past experience from my original accident gives me that delightful insight. I didn’t intend to spend 3 – 4 months of my time in LA laid up with a broken leg, though I appreciate there are worse places to be recuperating. As each day passes I’ll slowly reach that light that glistens as the end of a long dark tunnel. I’ve commented to a few people that this period of recovery is much tougher than when I broke my neck, even though I was facing the prospect of using a wheelchair for the rest of my life; anything still seemed possible. But I’m older now and I have different worries, rather than worrying about what clothes I could wear in a wheelchair without getting pressure marks, where I was going to attend school and if a boy would ever want to kiss me, instead I’m now worrying about rent, medical bills and when my leg will heal well enough for me to work. (If any of you have a job for someone working from home, holla!)
That’s not to say vanity has not played its own role this time around, the surgery to pin my leg has left a pretty big scar down the front of my leg, the tiny amount of muscle tissue I did have has atrophied totally which I find really upsetting and I cringe when I can feel the unnatural bumps caused by the metalwork in my leg. It’s left me feeling pretty gutted, don’t worry I’m aware how shallow and vain that sounds.
The thing is it took me a very long time to get used to the differences in my body after I became paralysed; it was months before I touched my legs and properly got to know them again through washing and moisturising. It takes a lot of work to get comfortable in your own skin when it is both familiar and alien to you. I leaned to love them and they became one of my favourite features, I loved how long and perfect they were, despite the fact they didn’t move and were fuck all use for walking, running, cycling or can – canning. I loved them regardless of their imperfections. And here I am 25 years later trying to do it again, it almost feels like I’m grieving their loss again, they seem so vulnerable and in need of protection by me. It’s 10 weeks post surgery and I’m still only tentatively massaging oil into my leg. I still squeal and flinch when I can feel the plate and pins beneath my skin, it’s not natural and the sensation freaks me out and despite reassurance from my surgeon I’m scared I’ll dislodge something; I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, we humans are adaptable muthaf*ckas (and none more so than those of us with a disability, we frequently have to adapt for the able bodied environment in which we live.).
So what else can I do but get on with it, roll with the Groundhog Days, accept that time will pass and my leg will heal and I’ll adapt to the differences, and obviously I’ll bore you all with blog posts about it all.
I saw this picture on Instagram a few days ago and unsurprisingly it spoke to me, (for those of you who don’t know, I broke my neck in a diving accident). I think it’s beautiful, for me it captures the brief moment of serenity and calm when diving mid air before hitting the water; for me my own last dive is very much suspended, those few seconds forever replay in my mind slow motion. The picture is by Miranda Lorikeet and is called ‘Dive / Survive’, (that title couldn’t be more poignant to me right now).