The memoirs of an athlete, strength coach and fiancee who became a quadriplegic in an instant and his incredible recovery back to training, life and work.
The Beginning: Day 1, 2 & 3
Ok. Well. It has been a big two days. On Friday, I broke my neck and spent all day Saturday on life support. I don’t really remember coming off life support, but I do remember a tube coming out of my throat. My memories are a little sketchy of the time following this. My first real memories are of Angie calming me down as I was extremely agitated on the bed. I don’t want to go into too much detail of Day 1 (Sunday), but all I really know is that I almost died a couple of times on the bed surrounded by nurses and doctors. It was really, super calm and I remember fighting but just thinking…maybe it’s not worth it.
After having heard my families cries from the end of the bed, I was only hanging in for them. During one of the calm periods where I was ok to softly talk, I asked Angie to come over to the bed and told her that I was really sorry, but that I didn’t want to do it anymore. She gave me that look when she slightly turns her head and narrows her eyes, and with a very stern voice quietly said “You don’t mean that”. I disagreed, so she said “Can I ask you a question?”.
I reluctantly nodded.
“When you were being loaded into the ambulance at Coogee, you looked at me and asked me to never leave you. I responded – never! So, I wanted to show you by getting you a ring. I won’t ‘propose’, as I don’t want to take away what you had planned. But I want you to promise me that we will still do all the things we had planned. We’ll still get married when I’m 27. We’ll still open a facility. We’ll still go travelling. Nothing has changed about our future. It’s just the everyday stuff that has changed. Will you wear this ring?”
So, naturally, being the tough guy that I am, I broke down in tears and said yes! There were one or two more times after this that I could have let go, but every time I thought of her and took it one breath at a time. She literally saved my life multiple times in 48 hours.
With a new conviction to push on, days 2 and 3 really, really tested me. The salt water in my lungs had caused a chest infection, the life support tube had caused my nasal mucous to increase to fight the tube, the swelling in my throat from the operation and my chest muscles not working when I needed to cough all added up to horrific days in the bed. Add to the mix the intravenous noradrenalin (‘fight or flight’ hormone) to keep my systolic blood pressure up to 170, no natural sleep since Thursday and the realisation that my movement was going to be extremely hard, if not impossible to regain, I was in an absolute state.
Because I couldn’t cough, I needed two physios to manually compress my chest cavity while I timed it to try and expel the secretions for someone to then vacuum up. Needless to say, this was fairly traumatic and not something I will ever forget. It was better than drowning in my own fluid though – grossss.
I started seeing my amazing family and visitors (you know who you are and I thank you endlessly) and this really helped to keep me as calm as possible. The nights were the worst time for sure. No sleep, the sounds of an intensive care unit and the pumping adrenalin just hammered me. Luckily Angie had set up a little bed (on a chair) in the corner of my bay. Despite first telling her she wasn’t allowed to stay in ICU, the nursing staff were absolutely amazing and would just wheel her out of the way when they needed to help me through the night.
Trying to move is one of the most fucking frustrating things I’ve ever had to do. Almost as bad as choosing a movie with Angie. I know my arms and legs are there, but I can’t feel them when someone touches them. When I try to move my arms, it is really disjointed and glitchy (I look like a broken robot). My major movement accomplishment over this period was to touch my chin. I have no elbow extension, but I have very strong elbow flexion (biceps – thanks to Eric Sax and Mike Mitchell for turning every day into ‘bicep day’). This means I can get stuff to my face and gravity lowers my arm for me, it also means that if I accelerate my hand too fast toward my face, I can’t slow it down and have literally punched myself in the face a couple of times.