Saturday, September 6, 2014

November 2ThousandEleven

The Year of the Metal Rabbit

In my early twenties, relatively carefree and happy, I was satisfied with the direction my life was headed. We all know though, with just a splinter of a second, the blink of an eye or a fraction thereof, absolutely everything can change. My accident and the shock of what happened to me can be so easy to forget, by everyone else yes, but perhaps more so by myself...

This is the way life works. The cogs wind, the wheels turn and people move on with their own journeys. The important thing to remember is how a life-altering event affects you and what you ultimately decide to do about it. 

Applying this new-found knowledge to the present as well as future is tantamount to ensuring survival. That's why I've decided to put my life's ill-fated XP to good use, in the hopes that perhaps there's someone out there who'll take something positive out of these ramblings, whether by reading something that resonates, or just enjoying the pretty pictures I'll inevitably start posting to, you know, express my creativity. o_o

Levity aside, to make this life-altering event brief and easily-digestible, I've left out quite a lot of context and history. My mom passing away two months before this memory happened is, unfortunately, just one example of many, but this post is for motivation and the focus on looking forward. So to put it simply  
That's all in the past. 
What I do want to do here is share one of my bigger triumphs, so please take the time to read it if you can. (I'll edit it later and add some kitten pics if you like)

Almost three years ago now, the 28th of November started out as a damn fine day. Finally having bagged an enjoyable movie role, I was on a beach somewhere vibrant and happy, beautiful people frolicking everywhere. On set for this movie, some Bollywood generic about cricket and love. The skies are clear, a gentle breeze more than enough to help tolerate the scathing sun. 

That sunshine was everywhere, harsh and rejuvenating at the same time. I remember my proudly-ripped torso roasting in the heat as I sat, soaking up all that golden goodness. As I'm waiting for my next scene I begin to doze off, the sun's rays gently injecting their anesthesia as my eyes draw closed. I'm awakened rather unceremoniously, my narcissism promptly cut off as my best friend announces his presence;
"Wrof! Wroof wrof!" (Dog bark 2.0)

I stop my egotistical daydreaming, thinking that the wait for my next scene must be close to over by now. My dog (a white Shepard named Diesel), is my trusted wing-man, fiercely intelligent and real easy on the eyes. For this movie we've been cast as; 
"Typical good-looking bachelor with manly dog, running across sand to show off body".  

So... as you no doubt already imagine, off we go, up and down the beach all sweaty and buff for the cameras. Everything goes smoothly as we shoot, and I can't believe my eyes when an old high-school flame decides to swing by, inflating my ego more, if that was even possible at this point. We don't get much chance to talk while I'm filming but, without trying to sound crude, them signs are looking good. (Two years later a rather sub-par fling materialized, but that's another story!)

Anyway, towards the end of the day's filming, one of the film crew approaches me. He says the director asks if I can do a diving scene, running in to the waves in what I imagine had to look like the well-known Baywatch beef-master David Hoffmeister.

"Why the hell not?" I ask myself. 
This day just keeps getting better... Now I get to show off my athletic diving skills in front of all the hot women. 

Can my head get any bigger?! 

So off I go, leaving Diesel to play in the sand and pester some of the friendly extras who were kind/foolish enough to look after him.
My feet are ready, tensed up and itching to tear through the hot beach sand. One of the crew yells out; 


Cameras start rolling and off I go, running full-tilt down the beach. I sprint through the shallows and make as big a leap as I can, the brief flight gained by my momentum exhilarating in its trajectory and breathtaking in style, or at least that's what my imagination says...
But that's when my world got flipped. That is the exact moment. Seriously, right there at that very split-second is where my life changed completely.


Shattered C5 with immediate and all-encompassing paralysis to be precise. 
My neck bone shattering sounded like thunder in my head. Later I found out that a breaker wave had hit, just as my head went under the surface. That rogue force of nature had enough strength to knock me completely backwards, head-first in to a sand bank. The crack was sickening, I swear I could hear the bone fragments bursting through the surrounding tissue. 

I was face-down and still as a statue, thinking that if I drown I'll have a nice bone to pick with whoever's up there, just watching me die this stupid death. But as luck (let's call it that for now) would have it, a wave came and turned me upright, a welcome wind blowing through my eyelashes announcing my increased chances of survival. 
I chugged air like a vacuum, until another wave took me under again. This happened over and over until I lost count, I remember thinking how "this must be what it feels like to be inside a washing machine.
Eventually I watched myself being lifted up and out of the water by a couple of lifeguards, tight-Speedo'd angels that they are. I passed out just as I was placed in the ambulance.

Woke up in ICU, pipes everywhere, neck brace and metal struts all over the place. Two ops to fuse my vertebrae together with a metal plate in the middle, exactly where my bone used to be. Apparently during the op I bit clean through the aluminium tube running down my throat, subsequently woke up to staff calling me "Wolverine" as recovery was unusually fast, not to mention I just chowed through solid metal. 
Doctors told me I'd probably walk again, maybe get some arm movement back, but my hands were something I'd have to learn to live without.

"There's too much neurological damage and swelling makes it hard to judge, but it's not looking good," the head doctor said. 
The obvious pity and slight condescension in his tone made me angry.

"I'll show him." 

I told myself this repeatedly, clenching fists that refused to respond, my hands as limp as soggy dough. I knew my hands were there, I could FEEL them. They were moving in my mind so why not in real life? 

This and a thousand other thoughts were all vying for attention in a brain vastly overwhelmed. This was and still is a mental battle, of epic proportions, redrawing broken neural bridges and painting my movements back with a mix of imagination and willpower... it's about having to start over with memories and reflexes that everyone else has been developing since birth. I had to re-learn everything

It's amazing the things you take for granted, things like being able to write, or hold someone's hand... simple things like waving goodbye or even the trivial satisfaction of picking my nose. These tiny but significant gestures were all lost to me, or so I thought.

Fast forward two months and I was finally back home. Still major muscle weakness in a few areas and the annoying spasms are always a reminder that there's work to be done. But my hands? They're at about 75% mobility. I can do things I was told were impossible.

Two long and hard years later, I'm typing this out at above-average speed. I can write again, hold hands, drop a beat-down if need be and (to my infinite joy) I can finally dig for any diamonds hidden in my delectable caverns of snot.

There's really not much online at all when it comes to results and efficacy of treatments, or for dealing with an injury like this in the long-term. I've scoured the net looking for people who've made as much improvement as I have but no such luck. This is why I've chosen to share my life's more dramatic moments (there's always more). And of course there's that ever-lingering MOTIVATION of running on to a sports field again. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

"Unos dias procul a vicis." - One day at a time.
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