‘Everyday Holds The Possibility Of A Miracle’
After my accident I was in hospital for five months, which meant that for a time there, it was as if I was part of the furniture.
I was gradually improving, although it wasn’t a linear process. I’d have good days and bad days, but mainly they were good days.
My doctors were still warning me that I was going to ‘hit the wall’ emotionally, but as far as I was concerned, hitting the truck was enough, and I wasn’t keen to hit anything else for quite some time.
I had so many visitors, the nurses were getting a little annoyed, but being with people and sharing my situation made it so much easier for everyone. I remember one friend who told me that he had arrived at the hospital with a plan. He was sure I would be depressed so he was going to lift my spirits no matter what. He later told me that he felt that I’d lifted his spirits and inspired him, and he started to visit regularly because he enjoyed my company.
It was during this time that I really started to realize the power of proximity, how infectious my optimism was for others, and how important bounce really was to the wider community.
Don’t get me wrong. My rehabilitation was really tough. I’d gone from being an incredibly independent person, travelling all over the country, advising government on youth employment trends, to needing help going to the toilet.
The painkillers meant that I couldn’t feel my body a lot of the time and my mind hadn’t yet adapted to the fact that large parts either were no longer there or just didn’t work the same. I’d try to pick up drinks with my right arm — I still do it now, although having a bionic arm certainly helps.
I also endured countless operations and hours and hours of relentless physiotherapy and occupational therapy. I would work for hours on my exercises, building muscle in my legs, learning how to use various prosthetics on my arm. It was grueling work and the pain was pretty intense at times.
I had dozens of operations on my leg — they put in pins and plates, wired me back together and took me apart again. It was agony, but as much as possible I avoided painkillers. I learned to manage the pain on my own. From my past, I knew what could happen to people who relied on drugs for too long, how it could affect their body and brain, and I didn’t want that for me. If I was going to recover, then I was going to do it my way.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. I’d make progress and then slip back and it was extremely disheartening at times. But…
I refused to let it keep me down for long!
The more I tried, the more I realized that I could still do what I wanted. I could still feed myself, I could still talk on the phone, and with the help of wheelchairs and crutches I could still move around, albeit slowly.
How I Inspired… How I Was Inspired…
One in particular stands out for me. Tony (we’ll call him) had lost his leg in a terrible motorcycle accident. He wasn’t taking it well at all. He’d even tried to commit suicide. His doctors and the nurses had tried to get him to open up, but he refused. Specialist counselors had been called in, but nothing was working so I was asked to go and talk to him.
By this point I was up and moving around. I’d been given an electric scooter to help me get around. So, I took my scooter up to Tony’s room and started talking to him.
The doctors and professionals may have known theoretically what he was going through and they may have known about the stages of grief, but knowing something from a book and really knowing it deep in your soul are two very different things.
All Tony wanted was to talk to someone who really understood what he was feeling. He wanted to be able to talk about his fears without being judged and to work with someone who could help him find his own path through his crisis.
Over the coming weeks, we laughed together, we cried together and we had wheelchair races in the corridor together. He inspired me and I inspired him and together we came out of our respective crises stronger and better people.
He just needed to know someone cared and someone positive and optimistic was there.
My doctors and nurses told me frequently that my determination not only to get better, but also to surpass my old life was encouraging other patients to fight harder, to be more enthusiastic about their own condition and to design their own future by their own rules.
Often all we really need is someone to communicate and collaborate with!
Whatever crisis you find yourself in, whether professional or personal, you must keep communicating and collaborating with others.
Sam Cawthorn is an Australian motivational speaker and author. His latest book BOUNCE FORWARD – How to Transform Crisis into Success, is now in the top 10 bestseller list in Australia. Having overcome a major car accident and now lives with a permanent disability, he shares his story and helps others to overcome their difficulties to become stronger.