Broken Neck: Twelve Months On…..

In Life's Challengesby Steve

A Year To Remember!

Now one year on, and I just wanted to say, to all my family and friends out there, thank you! A very big thank you!!

Twelve months ago today my life was turned on its head, quite literally. Swimming at the beach I went head first into the sand. If I told you how big the wave was, you’d ridicule me for life, but nonetheless, it happened. Momentarily unconscious, I cannot remember the hit, but when I came to, I was upside down in the water, partially paralysed, unable to move my arms, trying to figure out where my next breath was going to come from. Needless to say, I’d had better days.

Taken to hospital under full spinal precautions, I was sent straight in for scans, then lay there starring at the ceiling, playing the waiting game. I had convinced myself that it was just a bit of a knock, maybe a bit of bruising, and that I’ll get up and walk out that afternoon. In hindsight, that was possibly a little optimistic…. The news eventually came back from a very matter of fact doctor, “you have a Hangman’s Fracture”. Pushing for more answers, she elaborated. I’d sustained multiple unstable fractures to the C2, C3 & C7, ruptured disc, contorted spinal chord, dissected arterial artery, torn ligaments…. the list went on. In layman terms, a broken neck, injuries representative of the type sustained when someone is actually hung, hence its colloquial name.

Ok, so as it turned out, it was a little more than light bruising, but i figured i was doing comparatively well. Just depends where you set your comparison point. Got to look for the silver linings. But in all seriousness, I had never been more scared. Doctors basically told me that I should be wheelchair, if not worse…

The road to recovery has been a long one. A week in the spinal trauma unit at Royal Perth Hospital, 15 weeks in a halo brace, a couple of months in a soft neck collar, then into physio and rehab. Out of all this, you know what’s been the hardest thing? It wasn’t the physical injury itself, it wasn’t the pain of being conscious while doctors screwed four metal pins into my skull, it wasn’t living in a steel cage with piercing headaches for the best part of four months. No. At all those times I screamed, I cursed, I yelled profanities that I won’t repeat here. But the hardest thing out of all of this was lying in hospital and making the phone call to my parents, telling them I had broken my neck, and hearing the shear distress in their voices as they comprehended the news. That was the only time I actually broke down and cried (never thought I’d admit that publically, but there you go). I had already put my parents through so much as a kid, they certainly didn’t deserve this.

Through what’s arguably been one of the toughest periods of my life, I have been humbled by all the support and well wishes I’ve received from my family and friends. I do not know how I would have managed without it. In the early days, I can remember lying in hospital and a song coming on over the radio. The opening lines saying, “At the end of the day some you win some you don’t, so I’m glad that I’m here with some friends that I know, always there with a smile saying you’re not alone….”. The words spoke volumes at the time and still do. At the end of the day, it’s been a challenging period, but I’ve never felt alone, with my family and friends by my side, every day has been a win.

So, to all my family and friends who have supported me through this chapter in my life, and sent their blessings, thank you! I am sincerely grateful. You’ve turned what could have been a year to forget into a year to remember.

Onwards and upwards!