I’m sorry for my silence. I haven’t written for over a month. Unfortunately, it’s because I had a bit of an accident about a month ago now and it’s put me out of action for a while.
It was the summer barbeque at my kids’ primary school. I was playing around on the play equipment. There was a rope around chest high and I guess I thought it would be a good idea to try to emulate the gymnastic prowess of my 7 year-old daughter. I stood in front of the rope and tried to lever myself up onto the rope. Instead, I must have only succeeded in pushing myself up high enough to then get enough momentum to propel myself forward down hard onto the ground.
I knocked myself out and an ambulance took me away. I broke my left metacarpal bone in my thumb in three places and pushed my right cheekbone into my face. I had to have two operations in which metal plates and screws were inserted both into thumb and cheekbone.
For two weeks, my brain felt like porridge. It was quite disconcerting and, indeed, when I forgot the name of my friend, Kate, downright distressing. For quite a while, I couldn’t read anything and just couldn’t work. But, gradually, my mental function came back. Also, I couldn’t, and still can’t, open my mouth very wide and there was and is numbness on the right side of my mouth which makes eating far less satisfying. Then there was the plaster cast. I couldn’t cut vegetables or wash up and so my already busy wife had to do my share of the cooking and cleaning up too. I like to sleep on my side but I couldn’t because of the cast on my left side and the swelling on my right side of my face, so I wasn’t sleeping well for a few weeks either. I wasn’t able to exercise and this factor in particular affected my mood. I felt down and felt guilty and also felt like a bit of a failure in terms of my work. But, I’m truly glad that it happened…
I’m glad that it happened because it has enabled me to learn several lessons that I could not have learned were it not for this accident. Here’s what I’ve learned…
- I’ve learned that my beliefs about humanity are correct – people are overwhelmingly kind and loving and ready to help strangers in times of need. When the accident took place, I and my kids were given kindness, care, and support by parents until the ambulance arrived. After the accident, I was inundated with offers of support and childcare and well wishes.
- I’ve learned that the NHS and its staff are amazing. The doctors, nurses, and support staff were all exceptionally good – not just highly professional, but wonderfully supportive and empathetic. If you’re reading this outside of the UK, it’s important to clarify that I’m talking about the National Health Service in the UK which remains free at the point of use to everyone, funded by general taxation. However, there has been creeping privatisation over the past two decades and we are fighting and must continue to fight this. The only bad part was the food provision – food produced afar in giant factories by low-paid workers for private companies and heated up in microwaves. To be fair, I was offered vegan food – chickpea curry and rice – and the simplicity of that food might have made it the best option for anyone, actually. But, it wasn’t fresh. It’s a remarkable, but tragic, element of modern capitalist UK society that the people who need nutritious, fresh food most of all – the sick, elderly, and children – get this mass-produced crap. But, there are exceptions. Nottingham University Hospitals, for example, have overhauled their catering system. All food is prepared on site and 77% of ingredients are sourced from local organic farms. Money has been saved instead by rethinking their food waste strategy. In short, I’ve learned intensively that we must fight for our NHS and much more.
- I’ve gleaned an insight into what it’s like to be disabled. Just an insight. The lack of control in one’s life; the practical difficulties of living one’s daily life – looking after my kids, washing up, paying for a ticket on the bus; the physical limitations that stop or make it much harder for you to enjoy things like sleep, exercise, intimacy with a partner. I hope to live and work with more empathy now towards disabled people.
- I’ve gleaned an insight into what it’s like to be in a system needing help but not knowing when you’ll get it. When I arrived at the hospital I was really helpless, alone, and frightened. I didn’t know what was wrong or when I’d get help. I felt feelings of fragility, fear, and a lack of control or power that I’d rarely experienced before. Sadly, a far more intense and serious version of this is the daily experience of many people trapped in poverty, in prison, in the benefits system, in the immigration or asylum system. It’s a daily struggle just for survival.
- I’ve learned that I can stay positive and find some inner strength when things go bad. I went in the blink of an eye from a strong person on whom others were dependent to being as dependent as a baby on others. It was a bit traumatic, but, thanks to strangers, doctors, nurses, friends, family – in short, society – I was ok. But, it was also nice to see myself not crumbling and able to dig in, find strength, and think the best. I was pleased to hear myself say to my wife just hours after the accident in the hospital that ‘something good will come of this’. You never really know who you are till things get bad, so I’m glad to see I’m alright 🙂
- Finally, I’ve learned that I’m 40 and not 7 and not to attempt risky gymnastics manoeuvres in playgrounds! But, I’m still going back to karate asap 🙂
I saw the doctors about both my face and thumb last Friday. Everything is healing well and I’m out of my cast and beginning to rehabilitate my stiff and painful thumb. But, the prognoses are for full recovery.
See the right cheekbone (on left side of x-ray). The surgeons’ reconstruction is incredibly symmetrical!
So, it’s been a bit of a Goldilocks injury for me. Not too minor that I couldn’t learn anything from it and not too major that I’ll have lasting consequences to regret. I’m back in the saddle, i.e. desk chair, this week and have various blogposts planned, so stay tuned. Above all, this experience has just made me more determined to dedicate my life to making some small contribution to ensuring that everyone has equal access to the justice, freedom, health, education, and other opportunities that we all deserve.
With love and solidarity