From Sickness to Fitness

On 2nd April 2014, my whole world was turned upside down, never to be the same again. I was involved in a RTA which has changed my life in so many ways, forever. I vowed 2 years ago that if I ever found life after trauma, I would do all in my power to pass that hope on to other trauma survivors…so here I am.

I don’t remember the day of my crash. I don’t remember much of the month afterwards either if I’m honest. Apparently, I was driving home alone from my partner’s house, on the way to buy my father a birthday present – a normal day right? For an unknown reason on that journey, down a road I travelled on daily, sometimes twice a day, my passenger wheel collided with the nearside curb, sending me onto the opposite side of the road and into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Apparently my car rolled onto its roof, I was partially ejected and trapped by my seatbelt as the car skidded over my lower body. Thankfully no other parties sustained any physical injuries.

I had an RSI at the scene (Rapid Sequence Intubation), which is where they put you off to sleep and put a breathing tube in to make sure I could breathe ok before going on the ventilator. I was brought in via HEMS I + V with pelvic binder and spinally immobilised. I was a ‘Code Red Trauma Call’ at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, which meant I was taken to CT scan then straight to theatre for emergency surgery. It was now that the extents of my injuries were confirmed. I had broken a total of 28 bones in my body, including in my neck, skull, spine, arm, pelvis, ribs and hip. I had ‘de-gloved’ my right forearm and thigh which means that every layer of skin had been torn off. My spleen was bleeding, my kidneys were failing, my lungs had been punctured and I had shattered my liver. It was also found the next day that part of my bowel had become ischemic and therefore part of it was removed and I was fitted with an ileostomy bag for 5 months. I was also covered in burns from the petrol in the car.

(On the picture above, I should add that I also had a "diffuse axonal head injury" my physio who made the skeleton just told me he forgot to add it!)

I then spent 22 days in GICU in an induced coma, before stepping down to HDU and then the trauma orthopedic ward for a further 62 days. I had a metal ‘in-fix’ around my pelvis, which meant that I wasn’t allowed to weight bare for 12 weeks, and lost a lot of bone and muscle strength in that time. I dropped two stones in weight in 3 weeks, and I wasn’t allowed to weight bare through my right arm for a few weeks after waking up either. That was a very testing 3 months, but what I didn’t know was that it was going to get a whole lot worse before it got better.

I don’t remember any of my time on GICU, and my first memories post-accident were up on the ward. The last I remembered was the 31st March, by now it was around the 10th May…I will never be able to describe how hard it is to come to terms with not remembering a whole month of your life, especially when you try day in day out to remember what happened. I had been in a virtual world for a month, dreaming the weirdest, wackiest dreams, which I was adamant were real life.

Eventually with the support of family, friends and the amazing staff at St George’s Hospital, I started to understand that none of these things were real, and that I had been in an induced coma which meant I had some very strong drugs in my system. Day by day I began to realize what had happened, and things became clearer, including the extent of my injuries and scars – I still to this day do not remember the accident.

Every day was a struggle. I’d gone from complete independence to having a catheter, a stoma, a feeding tube, a drip and a whisper for a voice. I couldn’t go to the toilet, feed or wash myself. It was at least 2 months before I even had a shower and I realized how much we take the ‘little things’ for granted. I was so dependent on everybody around me and that was incredibly difficult. I was surrounded by amazing support in the form of nurses, health care assistants, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, drs, consultants, dieticians, physcologists, speech therapists, family and friends. They all pushed me each day and kept my spirits high in the most difficult time of my life, and for that I will never forget each and every person.

I was discharged home on 26/06/2014 but spent the next two months in and out of my local hospital and St George’s before I had my ileostomy reversed in September 2014, when I then caught a nasty bout of pneumonia. ‘When is this going to end’ I thought to myself. I channeled so much of my thought and feelings into my injuries, particularly my ileostomy bag, that I genuinely thought I was Ok mentally. It was in September 2014, when I was discharged home, that reality hit and I was far from OK. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t laugh. All I could do was cry. I went 72 hours without sleeping at one stage. Even now, when I think back to how I felt then at that time, I get teary…It’s a feeling that you cannot describe unless someone else has felt it. I remember falling to my mother’s feet in the hallway one morning, not long after I’d been discharged and begging her to tell me I was going to be OK, that I was going to get a life back and crying that if this is how I was going to feel forever then I didn’t want to live. I genuinely could see no way out. Shortly after I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

At this stage I started taking an anti-depressant, which enabled me to get some sort of routine back, in that I could shower or eat without crying and I could sleep for at least a couple of hours. As I started to feel better emotionally, I started to get better physically too because I had the drive and motivation to do so. I set myself a new goal every day, at first it would be to ‘walk to the bathroom’ then ‘walk to the bathroom and back’ and these progressed to ‘walking to the end of my road with just a walking stick’ or ‘doing my make up with my left hand’ because my right hand had severe radial nerve damage and I couldn’t use it. These goals kept my going each day, but there is always that uncertainty. I needed to see somebody who had been through the same physical trauma and was OK now. No matter how many people told me ‘you’ll be fit again in no time’, I needed to see that it had been done to know that it was possible, because I had no confidence in my ability whatsoever.

At the end of November 2014 I was admitted to Queen Mary’s Hospital for 2 weeks of intense physiotherapy. I went into the hospital as a wheelchair user, walking no more than 200metres with a walking stick and a limp. Within 10 days of rehab, I ran my first 5KM on the hospital treadmill in 42 minutes. I wanted to get this under 40 minutes and so the day I was discharged I ran another 5KM in 39 minutes. It was the first time in 8 months that I saw I could get my life back. It completely changed my life forever and I will never forget that moment. It hurt, it was tough and I was in agony afterwards…but I did it and that feeling of euphoria afterwards outweighed any pain. It was here that I set my short term and long term goals to keep me progressing through my rehab. My ultimate goal was to run the London Marathon by 2019. After months of not being able to use my legs properly, I only dreamed that one day they would carry me 26.2 miles around London.

I carried on progressing with my running, whilst slowly getting my life back on track – returning to uni, going on holiday and enjoying all those things I genuinely thought I would never enjoy again. In May 2015, after only completing a 10K, I applied to run the London Marathon for St George’s and Queen Mary’s Hospital charities to try and raise some money and give a tiny bit back in comparison to what they gave me – my life. I got accepted in October 2015 and completed the London Marathon 2016 (3 years earlier than anticipated) whilst raising a massive £14,000 for the charity.

Since that day in 2014 I have got engaged to my partner who stood firmly by my side through all of it, returned to uni and finished my degree (something I never thought I would), returned to work, ran the marathon, been on 3 holidays and I have renewed passion for life and a desire to live it to the full. I have 3 more marathons on my list as well as a tandem skydive. Yes, I have some horrific scars. Will I ever be OK with exposing them? Probably not. Do they bother me? Yes they do, I’d be lying if I said they didn’t, but the fact of the matter is those scars tell a story – a story that says ‘I survived’, ‘I was stronger than whatever tried to break me’ because I’m still here. I’m still smiling. I’m determined to take every positive I possibly can out of it…my accident has shaped and welded the person that I am today. I always used to say ‘everything happens for a reason’ – we may not always know that reason straight away and sometimes it can take years, but whether good things happen or bad things happen I believe they happen to put you on the path you’re supposed to be on.

On 2nd April 2014, my whole world was turned upside down, never to be the same again. It’s been a physical, mental and emotional rollercoaster but what matters is that I had the chance to rebuild it – bigger, better, happier and stronger than ever. Whatever I do now, I do with all my heart and I’m more determined than ever to grab what I want out of life with both hands (and feet!) because I truly believe anything is possible if you just believe. I hope that by sharing my story I can give at least one person who is feeling as helpless as I once was, the hope they need to get better.

That feeling of hopelessness and helplessness after trauma is by far the worst I have ever felt, and the worst I hope I ever will. ‘Trauma always leaves a scar, it follows us home and changes our lives’ – I was determined to make it change mine for the better ♥