Be different and be happy!
In 1990, a high speed motorcycle crash left me with serious injuries to my leg and hand. I lost three fingers from my left hand, my left leg was shattered, sciatic nerve partially severed and I incurred major muscle and soft tissue damage to my thigh.
Things didn’t go too well initially with the remedial work – the surgeons tried to reattach my fingers without success, and I was advised after several unsuccessful attempts to pin and bone graft my leg that I would be better off with a prosthetic limb. I was fairly active and sporty before the accident, participating in squash, cycling, horse riding and my main passion, water-skiing, so needless to say, I wasn’t too keen on this idea. The way I looked at it was that whilst it was still attached someone may be able to do something with it one day, but once it’s gone, that’s it. So I stuck it out, keeping my focus on the end goal of returning to some of my sports one day.
It was difficult, and at times, desperate, but I was inspired by one person in particular that I came across during the lengthy stays in hospital. I met a young lawyer whilst in physio that had suffered horrific burns in a light aircraft crash. Her positive attitude and almost obstinate refusal to accept failure in the face of terrible injuries – much worse than my own – were truly humbling; even if I made no further recovery, I would still be in a better state than this poor soul, so what right did I have to feel sorry for myself?
It also made me consider how my family and friends were feeling and recognise the trauma they were suffering too. Some days were better than others, and in a rare moment of clarity, it occurred to me that whilst I was lying in that hospital bed I knew exactly how much it hurt at any one time. Someone that visits and sees you in such a sorry state can only imagine how bad you must feel, and will always think the worst.
I lost the three fingers from my left hand, and my left leg ended up about 3 inches shorter, partially paralysed and I have virtually no movement in my knee. Not great for someone that wanted to get back to cycling and water-skiing, but after a lot of thought, trial and error, I managed to adapt my bike and skis to enable me to have a go. I now water-ski to a higher standard than I had ever achieved before my accident, and ride my bike regularly around my local trails, just pedalling with my right leg only. I am ashamed to admit it, but when I ride up a steep, rocky hill past another cyclist that has two good legs, I can’t help but smile!