The road to recovery: The hardest part is over
It’s the sort of thing footballers are fond of opining when their teams qualify for tournaments like the World Cup. Guys, just 32 national sides make the big dance. Ask the more than 200 that fail what the hard part is.
The same applies to the people who say it when they’ve bagged a new job. There’s nearly 3m people in this country who are only too well acquainted with what the hard part of the employment process really is.
It’s not something I’m going to say. For me, the hardest part about the RTA I was involved in was surviving it. The second hardest part was getting out of hospital, then standing up for the first time.
I’m damned lucky. What’s more I think I can now just about say that the hardest part really is behind me.
It’s just that what remains is the difficult, annoying and frustrating part: a long, slow, incremental recovery without the boost of major achievement that gives you such a thrill during the early stages. This is why I think I am justified in calling it the difficult, annoying and frustrating part.
Complaining now seems a bit rich. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that I was an intensive care unit. I then had to spend months on various wards, dealing with the daily humiliations that being unable to move brings, not to mention grotty food and the occasional staff member who I felt would be out of place working in the prison service let alone a hospital. They were, thankfully, quite rare.
I couldn’t stand up, and the thought of walking with a pair of crutches was a distant dream. My first days at home were also extraordinarily challenging.
But there were, of course, compensations. The first time I stood up after four months flat on my back counted as one of the biggest thrills of my life. The same went for the first step with a Zimmer. And for the first shuffle in the back garden on a rare sunny day during the last summer.
These moments provided me with an electric thrill, with some compensation for all the horror. I finally understood the feeling of pure joy. It was like a footballer getting his hands on the World Cup, or Frankie Dettori storming over the line on his first Derby winner. You only had to look at his face. Mine must have been similar.
There might be a few more of those moments yet to come. I guess the first proper walk without crutches would count (although it might be months away). Maybe managing to lose the painkillers which are my daily companions. Or getting the first hints that some feeling is returning to the lower part of my right leg.
But I doubt there will be quite the same excitement that accompanied those earlier momentous steps.
Now I’m a little ashamed to admit that sometimes just looking at the crutches that gave me such a delicious thrill a few weeks ago occasionally gets me gnashing my teeth. Because, really, I want to be up and about and running and I want it now. Except I can’t have it.
There was one time recently when I thought, I know, I’ll tootle down to the paper shop to pick up an Indy and a Racing Post only to realise that the distance is still beyond me, and I’d anyway need to drag someone out with me to supervise because of a tendency to stumble.
“You have to look at how far you progressed,” my physio chided as she put me on another machine (she’s the type to push you rather than hold you back which is why I like her and why we might be a bad combination given my tendency to push too far). “We never really expected you to take to crutches like you have.”
She’s right, of course. That’s exactly what I should be thinking. But, you know, it’s human to, well, want more. To push for better, to look at the next peak and want to scale it. Sod the previous achievements.
I keep thinking that what I really need to model myself on is Foinavon. No I haven’t gone mad, and there’s a reason you recognise that name. The Foinavon is the 23rd fence of the Grand National, and the BBC ends to trot out a feature on it every couple of years.
It was named for a relatively undistinguished plodder of a racehorse, which nonetheless managed to win the 1967 Grand National. It was the year in which when every other horse either fell or was brought down at the aforementioned fence. The 23rd is the smallest, and easiest, obstacle that runners in the annual Aintree spectacular face. A molehill among mountains. But, just as the leaders were reaching it in Foinavon’s year, a melee was caused when a loose horse tracked across them. Foinavon, deservedly sent off at 100-1, was so far back his jockey was able to avoid the carnage and he july won the race by, well, continuing to plod along.
For my own sanity I need to follow his example. I wonder if there’s somewhere I can get hold of a t-shirt with his racing colours on it to serve as a reminder.Tagged in: disability, recovery, rehabilitation, road traffic accident, RTA
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