Over the coming weeks I will be writing a series of blog posts about my journey and how far I’ve come. I will discuss the four very important life lessons I’ve learned from doing over nine years of rehabilitation. And I will talk about the hurdles that I have had to climb and how I managed to do that.
Let’s start at the beginning of my journey… actually, I struggled to slim this down to 70,000 words in my latest book, Crashing Into Potential: Living with my injured brain, so maybe I won’t. I’ll just cut a long story SUPER, SUPER short.
I was involved in a serious motorbike accident back in 2008. This accident happened on a sunny day in November and it was about to flip my life on its head, stir it around, shake it up, slam it down and give it a big ass kick where the sun don’t shine! In a nutshell, my life was over, as I once knew it.
The accident did some brutal damage – I spent two and a half weeks in a coma and I broke C5 and C6 vertebrae in my neck. With that came major ligament damage to the base of my skull. This resulted in wearing an uncomfortable halo to support my head for a couple of months while the vertebrae and ligament mended themselves. The accident caused a severe brain injury from a hit to my head that crumbled my face like a yoyo cookie. You know the ones that are IMPOSIBLE to eat without making it look like a dog’s breakfast all over your lap? Yeah, well that was my face minus the delicious creamy center. To reconstruct my face the magician at The Royal Melbourne Hospital bolted a bunch of titanium plates to it – 11 in total. On top of that I severed three of my five right-arm brachial plexus nerves, making it near on impossible even to butter a piece of toast … which sucks because I really like toast.
From the brain damage, I now have double vision (technically called Diplopia for you medical nerds) and the brain damage has caused major instability issues from my shoulder to my toe, down the right side of my body. This was because I had damaged the front left cortex of my brain. Although this is extremely visible if you stand back and watch me strut my stuff on the catwalk or go to give the ol’ curtsey right-handed, handshake, the mental and emotional damage is at the next level. This is the invisible part.
Now, although I am able to articulate my thoughts and emotions quite well, this doesn’t take away the struggles I have every day. This is why brain damage is known as the ‘invisible illness’. The struggles range my cognitive dysfunction to my erratic sleeping patterns, from my frustration caused by my social anxiety to my struggling thought patterns, which all amounted to years of depressive thoughts. Depression was inevitable. I have felt, every second of every day for the last nine years, the effects of my injured brain.
I stayed at Epworth Rehabilitation, in Melbourne, for three years to fix my broken brain until I was finally released into the wild. I went in as an injured boy and came out as an injured man. Three years in rehab will do that to you. They fixed me up pretty damn well actually, so I basically owe these people my life. I am able to do what I do now because of the endless hours of rehabilitation they put me through. When I say ‘endless’ I actually mean ‘END-LESS’, as in NO END. In a way that there was no end in sight… until at last it ended. OK, you get it! Now, nine Over a decade on, I am still doing rehab, both with a therapist and self-directed therapy at the local gym and at home, and having operations to get this old... young boy working again!
Throughout this journey, I have learned many, many valuable life lessons, but the four pillars to my successful recovery have been:
#1 – Choices
#2 – Mindset
#3 – Goals
#4 – Persistence
Over the next four weeks I will be running you through what these pillars have meant to my recovery and how they have helped me turn into the young man I am today… or the old boy? No, I like young man better. Yeah, the young man that I am today.