Christmas past and Christmas present

This has been my 9th Christmas since breaking my neck. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to still be here and I do not know how many years I have left to enjoy. That’s why it is so important for me to look back to that first Christmas in 2007 and appreciate all that life has blessed me with since.

This Christmas was more than I could wish for but 9 years ago was a very different story.

I had been in hospital for 7 months and my rehabilitation was going well however, I was still a long way from being in a stable condition.

Surprisingly, my consultants were going to let me spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at home with my family and friends. My parents house was turned into a mini hospital and one of them had to be with me at all times, day and night. I did not realise the responsibility they were accepting as I was still weak and my health was unpredictable .

Mentally and physically, I was a shadow of myself. I had gone from having an athletic, muscular physique to skin and bone. I spent so long ‘nil by mouth’ then lying in bed watching any muscle tone deteriorate that I was almost unrecognisable from the healthy young man going on holiday only a few months previously.

My lungs were still very weak, trying to adapt to the ventilator and needing constant suction to stop my oxygen levels dropping too low.

My amazing nephews, Christmas 2007, who I have always been so proud of.

What I remember most is the pain. I was in an incredible amount of pain. It felt like hundreds of red hot screws were being drilled into the back of my head and no amount of morphine would provide relief. I would spend all night crying and screaming at the torture of my head being in contact with a pillow. There were times I would have given up and chose death over the thought of a life like that.

Mentally, I was also in lots of pain. People would comment on how great my attitude was and how well I was dealing with everything. If only they could have seen beyond the mask. I do remember being scared that my life had nothing positive left to offer. Looking back it’s clear that I was in a bad place, balancing denial and depression all dressed up with a smiley face.

That’s why this Christmas was so fantastic. I have my health and the pain is manageable. I am happy, inside and out. I still struggle at times but I have my amazing family and friends to lean on.

9 years ago I wouldn’t have believed life could be so good but the healing power of time has been very kind to me. I still face challenges every day of life but I tackle them with my past as my strongest weapon.

So I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. If you are in a bad place then I hope time will guide you to brighter days.

Merry Christmas

@stevenceltic81

The Accident Revisited

Bitterness, grief, disappointment, self-accusation. All easy and strangely comforting but ultimately, destructive. Enjoying the positives is the difficult choice but the only rewarding one.

I wasn’t expecting the response that greeted me when I posted last week. It’s amazing how the support has never disappeared. Thank you all for your messages on here and on twitter. They encouraged me to start reading my old posts again and I’ve just finished The Accident.

I wasn’t expecting to find it emotional but bloody hell, that was heavy.

I’ve never forgotten the details of that day, I suppose you wouldn’t, but reading about it again after all this time has been a wake-up call. Reading it again has challenged me to face some realities, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The strange thing is, the accident does not seem important now. As much as it was a terrifying experience to be lying face down in the water, essentially waiting to drown, I very rarely think back to that day any more. I don’t spend time wondering how things could have been so different. What’s the point?

I believe that for whatever reason, that day unfolded the only way it was meant to. So the accident is not worth regretting. The life that I lost, not worth mourning. What I need to do is deal with what I still control. The person I am, the way I treat others and the attitude I choose every morning when I wake up.

I believe that for each of those three things, the accident has bettered me.

I am a better person because I have left much of my negativity and my self-destructive life choices behind me, somewhere between that swimming pool and where I am now.

I hope I treat others better now but you would need to ask the people who know me. Hopefully, the realisation that life can change, and even end, in the blink of an eye has made me appreciate the people around me and treat them accordingly. If not then that’s another good thing to come from reading about the accident again because I am going to double my efforts.

As for my daily attitude, I hope my writing in this blog is proof enough that a destructive injury does not need to destroy self worth, confidence and a sense of purpose.

What I am trying to say is that no matter what challenge life has in store for you, there is always a positive. It might not be apparent straight away but if you look for it then I truly believe you will find it.

I am going to keep reading back over my old posts. I am pretty sure there will be experiences that are difficult to relive but the accident and everything that followed has made me the person I am today. I will try my best to be grateful for those experiences and when I can, I will let you know how I get on!

So much potential

Time to get blogging again. To my old followers, I hope you are well and happy. Hopefully you are still out there and we can reconnect. To all of my friends who have been by my side throughout my journey, thank you for being there. Your support means the world to me. Life would not be the same without the confidence I enjoy knowing you always have my back.

To those reading my blog for the first time , welcome! I broke my neck almost 10 years ago while on holiday in Spain. The accident left me paralysed from the neck down and unable to breathe on my own. I am attached to my ventilator 24 hours a day. Please, feel free to read The Accident  if you have if the time and if you have any interest in finding out more about what followed then Nothing but the Memories tells my story, as best as I can.

It has been a long time since I posted regularly (just trying to get the website and my voice recognition to behave together again) but I always left the door open knowing that someday I would come back and I think I am at that place. There have been many changes in my life that have brought me here but right now I find myself writing with a sense of frustration.

I love my life, warts and all. That’s why I get frustrated when I come across people with so much potential left for having a great life but feel trapped by their disability. There is a way to be happy again despite living with a disability, a way to have a purpose and a way to be thankful for all that you still have. That’s not to say it’s easy.

I have been through long spells of depression when waking up in the morning comes with a sense of disappointment. When I simply cannot be bothered with another day going through the motions and smiling because that’s what people want to see. I wish I could share some secret remedy that flicks a switch and makes everything better but I don’t think there is one. Sometimes we just need to accept that life can be shit but I know that does not need to be permanent.

I know now that with the right support and the right attitude life can be great again. My life is different, very different, but I am lucky in so many ways. We all have challenges in life, disabled or not, but for most of us there is an answer. Sometimes that answer is just time and some patience but sometimes we need to have courage and make a conscious decision to change.

That is the situation I found myself in. A couple of years after the accident and I was still using my disability as an excuse to live within myself. I didn’t look after my body, I drank too much, I took too much medication, I was angry at the people who deserved it the least, I wouldn’t talk about my feelings and I was doing just enough to exist. I wasn’t living. Not in the true sense of the word. Looking back now, I’m amazed my friends decided to stay by my side. I must have been a miserable pain in the arse!

I will be forever grateful that they did as their support helped to drag me through the process of turning my life around.

I don’t want to preach, I’m not qualified. What I want to do is encourage people to look at their life and decide if they have the power to improve it. If I can reach one person then it makes all this blogging worthwhile.

Anyway, I am back and I will post as often as I can. I’m not going to go on about what happened to me, those posts are there already. I’m going to be talking about what happens next. Actually, I’m going to be talking about what can happen next if you decide to squeeze the most out of the life you have been gifted with. I made that decision some time ago and thanks to love of my family and friends I am lucky enough to be here talking about it.

Steven

@stevenceltic81

A line in the sand

Friends,

I am sorry it has taken me so long to post anything. I realise now that my silence has worried some of you but that was never my intention. Life has kind of taken over is the best excuse I can offer.

I decided to take it easy and post less. That developed into taking a break and that has eventually developed into calling it quits. Not a decision I have taken lightly.

This blog was the perfect tool for me when I needed to explore my feelings and come to terms with my life but I am a different person now. A much happier person.

The new me has moved on. I don’t need to be looking back on the past because I am busy enjoying the now. While I hope I have helped some people through my posts, this will be my last one.

Health is up and down but in general life is great. I am enjoying it more than ever and I have, amongst other things, this blog to thank for that. It has helped me lift the burden of many issues that were weighing heavily on my shoulders. It feels good to shrug them off.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the encouragement and friendship you have offered over the last seven months.
Without it I would have given up on this blog long ago so I owe you more than words for helping me complete the process. All I can offer is a thank you but please know that it is not a flippant one, I mean it sincerely.

I won’t disappear. I will pop by and say hello on your blogs when I can and I hope that you keep writing. You all helped me at some point and if you helped me, you will be helping others.

So this is a line in the sand but I will never say never. The day may come when I need the blog, and you, to help me out again.

Thank you for helping me through this trip. I can say without exaggerating that it has been the most valuable experience of my life and it has set me on the road to a much happier future.

Steven

Knocked down again

So, after my break from blogging followed by my unplanned and unwelcome hospitalisation I was grateful to be back and grateful to be with you all again.

I should have realised. Things were too good to be true. I really don’t want to post another tough luck story but I can only tell my life as it unfolds.

In the early hours of Friday morning I started feeling slightly nauseous. Just the overproduction of saliva and a feeling of ‘something not right’. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew my body was up to something, I assumed it would pass.

A few hours later I started retching into a basin, nothing but saliva to show for my choking and heaving. Or, to use a great Scottish word, boaking. Brilliantly onomatopoeic.

It didn’t take long for the situation to worsen. The next attempt at throwing up felt exactly the same but when I looked down the basin was red, I had brought up blood. Not a huge amount but enough to ring the alarm bells.

I wanted to wait five minutes to see what would happen before calling the doctor but the volume of blood increased. Each retch becoming more violent. I could not wait any longer before reluctantly (if you know how stubborn I am you will understand that) admitting I needed help.

In all honesty, the doctor didn’t do much. He only needed 30 seconds to realise that emergency services were required, he called through a blue light ambulance request. It seemed like only yesterday I was waiting on an ambulance due to my blood pressure problems. Now I had a new concern. Frankly, a terrifying one. Staring into a basin of your own blood tends to do that.

It was round about now that my parents popped in. Timing was a bitch, why did this have to happen this morning? They were packed and due to leave for an 11 day holiday in Greece. I am not a parent but when my mother told me they could not go I understood where she was coming from. Still, I was not accepting it. I tried to sympathise but continually forcing home the message that they were going.

I asked them to put themselves in my shoes. If they could just imagine my guilt if this passed in a couple of days. I would be busy getting on with things while they were stuck here missing out on a holiday. One they had worked so hard for and deserved even more. They could always get back quickly if needed but that point was brushed over as quickly as I could.

Eventually, just in time for their flight, they conceded and left in tears of worry. Not the way I wanted them to start their holiday but in my mind it was simple. This was better than the alternative, them standing at the end of the bed in tears of worry.

Anyway……

I was lying on my side to help the blood flow into the basin rather than back the way into my lungs. The paramedics transferred me from my bed onto the stretcher and yet again the blue light cleared the way to the hospital. I don’t remember much about the short journey other than more and more blood. Every bump in the road rattled my fragile stomach.

This is going to be difficult to explain but the concept of time is irrelevant when I am in hospital.

I get by one minute at a time, concentrating on that moment, not what has already been or what is yet to pass. All my energy is centred on riding out whatever I face there and then. When a new minute begins the previous is forgotten. As the minutes become hours it becomes impossible to count back. Even an educated guess has no basis, all I am focusing on is that minute in time.

I can honestly say that lying in hospital that Friday, on my side watching my own blood spurting out my mouth, I have never felt worse. I cannot remember ever feeling so defenceless and vulnerable. I shouldn’t need to articulate the thoughts that were going through my head, it was one very long afternoon.

As time did pass I was bringing up larger volumes of blood. The IV tube pumped morphine into my system for the stomach pain and anti-emetics (to prevent vomiting). Neither had much impact. They also had to replenish my body with fluids and the blood I was losing.

They eventually managed to manoeuvre my body into a safe position for x-rays which came back showing a dark pool of liquid lying in my stomach. It was vital to get a NG (nasogastric) tube up my nose and down into my stomach. Anybody who has experienced this will testify to the fact that it is a disgusting procedure.

The plastic tube needs to reach the top of the nose before it tries to bend round the top and back down the way. You need to swallow constantly to ease this passing. Eventually, if you are lucky, the tube starts to move down the back of your throat. You need to open your mouth wide (while still swallowing) so the doctor can guide the tubing down the back of your tonsils and then into your oesophagus. From then on it’s a straight journey down to the stomach. As I said, disgusting.

With the NG successfully in place the doctor started to use a syringe and pull the dark, thick blood from the inside of my stomach.

All in all they reckon about ½ litre was removed.

Like last time, I won’t go into the details of the days that followed. Blood tests, x-rays and more blood tests.

No more complications gave rise to the verdict that this was a one off case of gastroenteritis. Apparently it could have been caused by anything. That does not sit well with me. Just like the blood pressure situation, I want to know what caused this. Without a cause I can only wait helplessly on it happening again.

Another knockdown, a painful one. Like those that have came before and those that will come to pass I took it square on the chin, got off the deck and got back on with the fight. It did take a little more fight out of me but not enough, not nearly enough, to keep me down.

Another knockdown but still no knockout.

Recent troubles

It has been quite some time since my last post. In part I have been busy but there is much more to it than that. My blogging is going to be somewhat rusty!

Following my little break I was quite looking forward to putting some posts together. I had even saved a couple of very rough drafts, thoughts more than anything.

Then, last Sunday, I found myself being rushed into hospital.

Not many will know that I have been struggling with my blood pressure for the last six months. Sudden and drastic drops have left me teetering on the edge of unconsciousness every week. More alarmingly, no medical experts can explain the drops.

On Sunday morning my carers had no choice but to phone the emergency services for an ambulance. Usually I can bounce back from the drop within 30 minutes or so but that day my body did not have enough fight to handle the bashing it was taking.

Within a couple of minutes of being transferred into my wheelchair I felt the usual symptoms of my blood pressure dropping. Lightheaded, dizzy and faint. No big panic. I have fast acting medication, ephedrine, to boost my blood pressure back up.

After taking these pills my condition continued to deteriorate. I lost all vision, bright white light was all I could see. My speech was slurred and I was dry retching. I remember my carers trying to keep me conscious. They were repeating my name and asking me to talk to them but I wasn’t able to respond. Although I was aware of the voices, they were distant. I felt like I was somewhere else, floating in an empty space but as much as I tried I couldn’t snap out of it.

I don’t mind admitting I was scared.

I was aware that an ambulance had been called so I was concentrating on staying with it. Knowing that help was on its way gave me something to focus on, a reason to stay awake.

It took the paramedics about 15 minutes to arrive and by then I was able to hold down a conversation. If it means anything to you, my blood pressure was 51/27. At that level it was difficult to understand how I could still be conscious. On top of my symptoms, an ECG gave the paramedics cause for concern regarding my heart so I was hastily stretchered into the ambulance with its blue lights flashing.

The first few hours in hospital are a bit of a blur. So many different doctors coming and going, hooked up to countless machines, blood being taken, IV antibiotics and fluids being given, a couple of X rays and an ultrasound.

I like to feel in control of my health so when the tables turn and I need to hand over control I don’t take it too well. I can only imagine I must have been a right grumpy bugger for the doctors to deal with!!

My mood worsened further when I found that the hospital had no WiFi and no signal on the mobile. Perhaps inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but by God, I missed my Internet!

No point getting into detail about all that happened over the next week. Treatment was administered, monitored and then adjusted on three or four occasions. I am now back home with no answers and still feeling lousy.

I just want to know what is wrong. I can handle being unwell, I am more than used to it, but I get worried when I don’t know (and neither do any of the consultants) what is going on.

Regardless, it is good to be back and I still need to keep reminding myself that things could be so much worse. I am thankful for all that I have.

VIP Men’s table at the Simba ladies lunch

On the 15th of September the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow will host the very first ‘Lola Commons Fund for Simba’ ladies lunch.

The Celtic ladies have been snapping up tickets to help support this great event.

Now there is important news for all the men who would like to be a part of this day and show their support. There will be ONE VIP men’s table with 10 exclusive seats on offer to the highest bidders.

Simba is a charity that honours babies who have died, been stillborn or miscarried. Celtic’s very own Kris Commons and his partner Lisa Hague have launched the ‘Lola Commons Fund for Simba’ and are committed to raising awareness and much needed money on behalf of a charity close to their hearts. Kris and Lisa’s first daughter, Lola, was stillborn on the 1st of February 2008.

The ladies lunch is all set to be a fantastic event and has been greeted with the charitable spirit that makes Celtic fans so unique.

On top of a cocktail reception and lunch the day will be packed full of fun and guest appearances. Celtic players and their partners will battle it out in a Mr and Mrs competition and you can see Frank McAvennie’s chest being waxed by the wag’s. The 10 men will enjoy the luxury of the VIP area and be served their first couple of complementary drinks by the wag’s. Some special Celtic memorabilia will be auctioned off while plenty of other great surprises will be revealed closer to the time.

All you need to do if you want to be a VIP amongst 250 ladies is make sure you submit one of the top 10 bids, starting at £55.

This is the only place you need to come for information about the event and for updates on who will be the privileged 10 to be sitting at the VIP men’s table.

Want to make sure your bid is still in the top 10 come the 6th of September? Watch this space!

The bidding has already started so don’t miss out on one of the top events in the Celtic social calendar. I will update the list below as every new bid is received.

important update – To clarify, only the top 10 bidders will be successful and be seated at the VIP table. If more than one person has submitted the same value of bid then the seat will be go to who entered their bid first. If anyone wishes to increase their bid then it must be raised by a minimum of £10.

Another important update – The closing date for all bids has been brought forward. It is now mid-day on Friday the 6th.

Kevin Lawson – £300 @Kev_360
Paul Lamb – £150 @paolodilamio
Perfect Parties – £150 @perfectpartiesG
Steven McGhee -£150 @stevenceltic81
Joe Hendry – £140 @Joehen55
Peter Smith – £130 @Pcipete
Jim Cunningham – £120 @Lukiebhoy
Lawrence -£120 @sceeeb
Jim Nicol – £120 @jnicol1888
Iain McGovern – £115 @TynesideNo1CSC
— — — — — — — — — — — — —
Kevin Hamilton -£110 @speedy1924
Jimmy Prentice – £100 @jimmy_volta
Scott – £100 @CelticMindedcom
Sam McLeod -£100 @TheSamMcLeod
Paul Larkin – £75 @paullarkin74
Daniel Garry – £67 @MoonbeamsWD
Stuart McDonnell – £55 @thecelticshirt

You can enter a bid by sending me a DM on twitter @stevenceltic81 or an e-mail at stevenceltic81@hotmail.co.uk

Any questions then please use the comments section below and I will do my best to find out the answer. Sms click

Desert Island Tims – An audio blog with a difference

Desert Island Discs has been a popular radio show running for almost 70 years.

The show features a celebrity who is being ‘sent to a Desert Island’ and asked to choose eight songs with a personal meaning, a book and a luxury item to take with them. They talk about their lives and their reasons for choosing each song.

Desert Island Tims (a Tim being a nickname given to a fan of Glasgow Celtic Football Club) is a website and podcast download based on the same theme. ‘Celebrities’ amongst the world of Celtic are invited on to the show by the host and creator Billy.

I was taken aback when Billy asked me if I would record a show with him. It seems that my blogging and my constant presence on twitter and at Celtic Park had been making more of an impact than I realised. Naturally, I was delighted to accept the offer.

The link below will allow you to listen to my Desert Island Tims recording. If you have the time then please, feel free to listen and learn a little bit more about myself.

I talk about my youth, my accident, depression, my parents, religion, friends, family, my inspirations, my future and of course why certain songs are important to me.

Any questions then go ahead and ask, nothing is too personal.

Desert Island Tims – Tetraplegic Bhoy

What others do

I am starting to appreciate that a friendship with me is not an easy thing to grow.

My very best friend moved to Australia recently and since then I have been blessed with new friendships, many of them. They may not be as deep or have the history I shared with Ryan but there is time for that to grow, the seed has been planted.

Since the accident six years ago I’ve always kept the same circle of friends, only the ones who knew me as I was beforehand. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just didn’t make new friends. I knew I was lucky to have the ones I did.

Over the last few months things have changed. I have needed to plug the massive hole in my social life.

When I contemplated meeting people for the first time, starting new friendships, I worried about how I would feel. I always have been, and still am, very confident but this was going to be a big step forward.

Would I be paranoid? Would I be quiet, defensive, insular? Would I feel like a burden? Maybe even a charity case? As I said, I was worried about how I would feel. I didn’t take the time to consider the feelings and fears of anyone else.

I realise now, thanks to the honesty of some new friends, that they had just as many concerns as I did. Probably more.

It was all new to them also. Should they mention the accident? Will they avoid looking at the machines and tubes? What do they do if I am unwell? How were they supposed to feed me? To give me drinks? Can they ask me questions about my disabilities? And the main one, will they be able to act normally with me?

I never thought about it, that is a whole lot of stress. I understand now that it would be easier for people to keep their distance.

That is why I am incredibly grateful to those people, my new friends. They don’t see the disability, they see me.

I have experienced the opposite many times in the past. I don’t blame anyone, they feel awkward and I understand that.

Maybe that was down to me. If I wasn’t ready to build new friendships I could have created the awkwardness. Maybe it was them, just not the kind of people who can see past the wheelchair.

Regardless, it is now that I have needed to widen my social circle. Call it fate or call it luck but the right people have came along at just the right time.

To those people, thank you very much.

Hospital memories part 7 – Moving on

When I was approaching the end of my hospital stay I was given some advice by a nurse.
A wise nurse who I respect very much.

She told me that I should carefully consider my expectations of what life is going to be like.
She said emotional recovery doesn’t start until I try to build a new life away from hospital.
That I may find adapting to ‘normality’ more difficult than I would expect, maybe even depressing.

I see the wisdom in that now but I didn’t pay much attention at the time.
I was convinced that going home would make life normal again. Get away from hospital and all will be well.

My discharge had been in planning for the last 4 months. I had regular meetings to organise a care package that covered my health needs, to develop contingency plans for emergencies, to ensure my housing was suitable and to decide how all of my care would be paid for. The latter seemingly the most important to those in charge.

I had been in hospital for 16 months and my day of release was within touching distance. The 16th of September 2008, I remember it well.

As the day approached I was high, nothing could bring me down. I bought presents for all the nurses and care assistants who had been looking after me, I spent time saying goodbye to the other patients and I organised some well overdue parties. I remember hatching grand plans, life was going to be great again. Free from the shackles of hospital I was going to enjoy every day.

I wish I had listened to that nurse but instead I believed I knew better. I thought getting out of hospital would be the end of my problems. It didn’t take long to realise I was wrong.

I had forgotten what it was like to live outside of hospital. Over the 16 months I had lost touch with reality and convinced myself that everything would be fine, back to normal. That seems ridiculous now. Of course my life would be completely different but after 16 months I wasn’t thinking straight. Spending so long living in hospital is like a drug addiction that has severe withdrawal symptoms when taken away.

I was not ready for the depression that ‘freedom’ would bring, the depression I was warned about. The hospital was a cocoon of safety. I was surrounded by expert medical help. I felt ‘normal’ socialising amongst others in wheelchairs. I didn’t feel judged by my appearance.

When that safety net was removed I realised how much my life had changed. I was back amongst the same old people in the same old places but everything was different. I began to feel alienated from society. Everyone was looking at me, or so I thought. The places I used to enjoy spending time felt wrong, I wanted normal again. The way it used it to be.

If I heeded the advice given to me my expectations would have been different, more realistic. Convincing myself that leaving hospital equalled going back to my old life brought about a massive fall from grace.

Antidepressants didn’t work. I protected myself by building emotional barriers, I wasn’t going to let anyone in. I found some comfort in eating, constantly. My diet was so bad that I piled on weight but I didn’t care. My confidence was so low that for the first time in my life, personal appearance was irrelevant. I rarely shaved, washed my hair or brushed my teeth. I’m not embarrassed by that, it is now part of who I am.

This lasted for a couple of years by which time I was unrecognisable, both physically and emotionally.

If only I wasn’t so stubborn. If only I had listened to that experienced nurse and accepted she knew better than me but no, I was always right. I was in control and someone like me would never end up depressed. What a pigheaded fool I was.

I want others to avoid going down the same path as I did. If I can share what happened to me, pay it forward, then maybe I will help someone to prepare themselves for life outside of hospital. To be ready for the challenges and cushion the blows.

It is a tough battle that many face. A battle they will lose if they tackle it with the same dismissive ignorance that I did.
I have moved on now but it’s been some journey. From the protective bubble of hospital to the depths of depression and back to enjoying life again. The shackles are finally gone.

@Stevenceltic81

The rest of my Hospital Memories can be found here.