Hospital memories part 1 – Spain

I opened my eyes in a brightly lit hospital. An oxygen mask covered my mouth. I was unable to move my head, I had a metal halo screwed into my skull. I tried to raise my arm but my body lay lifeless. Nobody seemed to be speaking English. Nobody seemed to be aware of me. I could only muster a mumble but was unheard.

Never in my life have I been more scared, confused and utterly helpless.


Another cheeky nipple shot. Control yourself ladies!

I have no idea how long it had been since my body was dragged from the water but I started to recall the events of earlier. My only option was to try and put the pieces together while waiting powerless.

A couple of different nurses tried to talk to me but with my lack of Spanish the best their English extended to was “hospital” and “wait”. Visibly frustrating for them as well as myself.

Taking any guess at timescale would be pointless. The morphine drip hazed my judgement of an already confusing situation. It felt like a lifetime but eventually a British looking woman arrived with a team of doctors and nurses. She began to translate.

In hindsight I realise that the information provided at that point did not register with the impact it should have. It is possible that she tried to gently cushion the blow but it is more likely I filtered out what I didn’t want to hear. I do not doubt she would have covered the basics, I had broken my neck and my condition was still very fragile. I would be paralysed from the neck down.

Before she left she told me that I had friends who had been waiting downstairs and asked if I wanted to see them. 5 minutes later Ryan (my very closest friend) Ross (The Groom) and Liam (The Best Man) were by my side.


Ross, myself, Ryan and Liam many years ago when we were youngsters

One of the first things I remember was asking who won the Scottish cup. We were travelling the same day as the final and I was relieved to find out that Celtic won with Peppier-Doumbe (remember him?) scoring the goal. Prioritising this was a reflection of my state of mind and the lack of importance I was paying to my situation.

I was insistent that they would go and enjoy the weekend, I would be fine. I felt guilty for causing so much bother on the first day and didn’t want them making a big deal out of nothing. I appreciate now what a difficult situation they were in. How would they get me to accept what was happening when I was still unwilling to face the situation?

They eventually left under the strict instruction not to contact my family. I didn’t want to worry them insisting I would just explain it all when I got home. I never realised how deeply I was emerged in denial but looking back now I was clearly out of touch with reality.

It was not long before the three of them were back. I had been talking some more with the doctors and I was starting to get my head round what had happened. When Ryan insisted that he would need to phone my parents I dejectedly agreed.

I would never wish this task on my enemy and to this day I am grateful to him for undertaking the horrible responsibility. I will always feel guilty for putting Ryan and my family through that experience. Writing this is difficult as it forces me to recall conversations that caused a great deal of pain to people I love.

Ryan called my mother’s mobile from my own phone. My mum was pleasantly surprised to see my name appear, assuming I was calling to let her know I was having a great time. As soon as she heard Ryan’s voice on the other end she knew something was wrong. He didn’t get very far before my mum broke down and dropped the phone. The image I have of her shaking in the hallway will always torment me. My dad, who is very calm and methodical in emergencies, picked up the phone and took in the rest of the information. After trying to settle my mum he had to find the words to break the news to my sister. He made the call and explained to her what had happened. My sister threw up where she was standing. I hate to imagine how horrifying that phone call must have been, one small mistake causing so much pain to others. My brother-in-law and my father finished the conversation before going on to make more difficult phone calls to family and friends.


My loving mother and father

I will never forgive myself for putting them all through that. My actions should not have placed such a heavy burden on my friends shoulders. My actions should not have had my parents terrified they would never see me alive again. My actions should not have been the cause of so much pain and worrying for so many people. It was not just my life that felt the impact of my actions. It was only with time that I recognised how far-reaching the ripple effect was.

That damage cannot be undone and painful imagery does not fade with time. I am told that my apologies are not necessary but they are all I have to offer. The personal consequences of my actions are much easier to accept than the knock-on consequences they had on others.

Within one hour flights were booked for my mum, dad and sister. Ryan organised a hotel near the hospital.

I don’t know how long it took for them to travel but my friends were constantly by my side. Ryan, Ross and Liam seemed to be working in shifts to keep me company. Only once did I allow the rest of the group to visit. I had caused enough disruption and wanted them to enjoy the weekend as much as they could. I was starting to realise by now that this was not a realistic request.

Hearing the voice of my mum was comforting but I was terrified for her. She was talking to Ross and Ryan in the corridor and I could hear the distress underneath a thin mask of composure. My dad and my sister were there also but my mum came in alone first.

Despite us both having spent so long worrying about what to say she just stood at the side of my bed in silence. I looked back and some time passed without any words. I smiled and my mum placed her hand on mine. I could not feel it and she knew I could not feel it but it mattered to neither of us. My mum smiled back and no words were needed. I don’t remember who spoke first but after we began talking my dad and my sister joined us.

I am not religious but my parents are. I was happy to pray with them, it gave them comfort.

Over the next couple of days my friends travelled home, with the exception of Ryan. He stayed to be there for myself and my family. We all appreciated that. The hospital allowed someone to stay with me 24hrs a day, despite it being against policy.

I remember plenty of laughter. I like to think that we helped each other through those days. There was no place for tears or self-pity. All we could do was stay positive and take one minute at a time. I am still proud of how the family held each other up.

An interpreter, and therefore a source of information, made herself available round the clock from then on. With my mother’s medical background she and everyone else had a good grasp of reality. I was still somewhat ignorant, but they do say it can be bliss.

This has taken much longer and been more difficult than I anticipated. If you have stuck with me until now then I thank you very much.

At this stage of the story I am about to be go into surgery. Telling the tale of what followed will be another intense experience. Raw memories that I deliberately avoid.

I will pick it up later




  1. declan leonard

    once again,wow.gripped-again. “one small mistake can cause so much pain to others” is something that stood out because it applies to many in society.your words suggest you haven’t forgiven yourself,i hope i am wrong because you should.your pals were there for you because thats what they do.
    your story is very interesting and while i wish you didn’t have one to tell i admire you for telling it.keep going mate.brilliant as always.hh

    • The forgiveness issue is a strange one Declan. Sometimes it’s easy to mistake that kind of humbling gratitude for guilt. I would say I have completely forgiven myself for causing it, it was a harmless act after all. I don’t know if I can forgive myself for being the cause of it. Two different things but difficult to describe.

      Thanks as always mate, appreciate your thoughts

      • declan leonard

        its amazing how things happen in life,the smallest thing changes your path in life which i know too well.thanks for sharing your story

  2. Trish Brown

    That must have been hard to write Steven and I have no doubt the rest will be too. I’m not normally lost for words but I am reading this. Hope this doesn’t sound awful but there is a calming inspirational and incredible message to all of us in your latest blog…thanks for sharing this Steven. I’m in no doubt that there will be so many people reading this who for whatever reasons have issues to face in their lives…they will be inspired by you I know I am x

    • It was hard to write but it is only looking back at what happened that I can truly appreciate what I have to be grateful for.

      I wanted to have something other than memories, something documented, but I could reflect on. If I can help someone else in the process then it will be all the more rewarding.

      Thanks as always Trish X

  3. Trish Harman

    Words can never express how inspiring your story is. I feel like I’m in that hospital in Spain watching it all unfold. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Not to sound cliched but it is my pleasure. I’m gaining so much more from this than expected and comments like yours make it all the more rewarding.


  4. Trish Brown

    Steven tell me you are defo going to get all the blogs when finished published. I can picture you at book signings already 🙂 I hadn’t seen the earlier blog about attitudes…brilliant. OMG there are so many of those people about…”does he want to try them on”…..get them told. Right night night this time promise xxxx

  5. You write so clearly. Powerfully. I felt like I was ease dropping on your friends making the call and your parents getting the calls. I don’t know yet how to respond to what I’m reading. I feel like I’m back at the beginning of this particular part of your life and starting with the shock of it all. I will keep reading. And am thankful you are willing to share your insight and your story.

    • Thank you Colleen

      Lots of people tell me that they don’t know how to respond, usually because it is difficult yet enjoyable at the same time. It was exactly the same writing it. Although some of the memories are unpleasant to recall having clarity of the whole event allows me to be grateful for everything I have left.

      Very glad the writing style appeals to you. One of my main goals was to share the experience and not just tell the story, hopefully I can keep you with me on the journey.

      Appreciate the comment

      • I plan on sticking around. Your openness and style are very appealing. It is difficult knowing how to respond to others we don’t ‘know’. But it’s part of the process of discovery.

        I look forward to sharing this writing journey with you.

  6. In tears here Steven.

    • Plenty of people having the same response, feel like I should apologise!!! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  7. Simon

    This is one of the most powerful and emotional stories I have read in a long time Steven. What stands out for me is the strength yourself and your friends and family found in each other through the early stages after the accident. Really hits home about how important family is and makes you realise how much you take them for granted.
    As always your words inspire me and I’m grateful you have chosen to share your experience with us. Hail Hail

    • It’s no exaggeration to say that my friends and family saved my sanity, if not my life. They gave me the inspiration to fight through and to keep a positive mindset at the same time. Very lucky to have them there for me, and they still are.

      Thank you for responding Simon, I’m very grateful.

  8. Maureen

    Think I’ve said it before, but u r a true inspiration, how u put this into writing is amazing, must be heartbreaking for you to relive it, thanks for sharing it with us x

    • It is difficult but definitely not heartbreaking, the opposite actually. Makes me grateful for what I have and who I have around me.

      Thanks as always Maureen X

  9. Kenny

    Hi Steven, your story is both difficult to read and uplifting at the same time. Family are true mates always come through and give us the support and friendship we need in all situations. Your family and friends have proved they are the real deal as have you. You’re a top bhoy, look forward to meeting you one day! HH mate

    • It truly was a testing time for all of them. Happy to say that the bonds are just as strong today as ever.

      I am pretty easy to hunt down on a match day, just let me know.

      Thanks Kenny HH

      • Kenny

        Good to hear Steven. I will track you down at paradise soon pal. HH

  10. thereek

    The description of hearing your Mum’s voice then the first meeting with her I personally found challenging. And that was reading it. Not experiencing or writing about it. Takes real guts to record such intimate moments and you must have dug deep there. Keep it going.

    • Most definitely the toughest moment up until then. Had agonised over what it would be like when she got there. She is a very emotional and sometimes fragile kind of person but she really came through for me, coped in a way I didn’t think possible.

      Thanks as always Des

  11. Darren

    A good writer has the ability to make you draw pictures in your own mind to follow the story and allows you to experience the emotions that they felt in those moments, you have a real talent there. I found that difficult to read steven but very uplifting, you didn’t deserve what happened it is just the type of thing that all guys get upto on holiday. There is a quote from the shawshank redemption I like “get busy living or get busy dying” Its clear to me that you have chosen the former and quite right too, looking forward to reading more of your stuff in the future.

    • Thanks for giving such a well considered opinion.

      It is encouraging to know that you can transform my writing into images and feelings of your own. It gives me the motivation to continue the story. Admittedly, not all of it will be as interesting and I’ll go off on tangents but I am just getting started.

      With regards to being busy living, I am doing that now more than I was before the accident. It can require something to be almost taken away for you to truly appreciate having it, that is how I am with life and hopefully a little of that can rub off on others.

      Thanks again Darren

  12. I remember making “the call” to my Mom. I remember asking her to sit down. At the end she said, “but Becky will be okay” and I said, “No”. That’s all I recall. Devastating news by phone; never good. Waking up in a strange hospital unable to move; even worse.

    • I can only imagine, I would feel sick with nerves trying to think of the right words. I suppose in the end there are no right words for something like that, it just has to be done.
      I hope you are both keeping well x

  13. Patricia Gow

    Words fail me Steven. Such an ordeal fir you all , family friends but you most of all. Your courage shames me. I’ve been blessed to be able to communicate with you . All my love . Pat

    • I have genuinely ran out of ways to say thank you Pat. Your words mean a lot X

  14. Hi Steve

    We write our blogs for a similar reason, to help ourselves but mainly to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation. I know I have not just helped amputees, but their families too. The life changing conditions we go through do not only affect our lives but the lives of those around us. I think that as long as a positive can come from a negative then it is no longer a negative. I’m sure there will be many positives that come from your decision to write this blog, about your experience and journey to where you are now. Keep doing what you’re doing as your doing it so well 🙂

    • It is true that most people would not realise the impact disabilities can have on those we rely on and who rely on us. My accident has changed many lives in many ways. To be honest, sometimes I forget that and take it for granted.

      Thanks for the encouragement and continued support

  15. It is so very comforting to hear what a supportive family you have.

    • My family and my friends still continue to surprise me by the loyalty and devotion they show. I am very lucky.

  16. Jacks

    Okay, I’m reading this backward at the moment! lol Your friend that phoned your parents is amazing. Must have been the hardest thing he ever had to do. Cannot start to imagine what your family went through in those moments, but they sound amazing!!!
    ps. Keep up the nipple shots! 😉

    • He is an amazing guy. Unfortunately he emigrates to Australia next Tuesday, going to be a big loss. Still got my family and the support of many other great friends.


  17. I can only imagine your mom’s fear and pain for her child. A dear friend of mine’s daughter in law was paralysed in an accident on the 8th of December 2012. It has been a very tough journey for them as a family and your blog gives me hope. Thank you for sharing these painful memories.

    • Feel free to share it with your friend, if you think it might help in anyway. Even pass on my e-mail address.

  18. Steven,
    I have read your story previously…and could not speak…today I am reading it for the fourth time… words…I am 63…you are so young….and I think of the suffering you have endured. You did not plan for this to happen; yet, you are clearly worried about your family, your friends, who were affected by your decision to dive into the pool. You have no self-pity——–incredible to me——–you are concerned about your effect on others and the hardship you cause your family. YOU are amazing! Being a Mom myself to three daughters, I know a little what parents feel and think, and this I know to be true, parents love you and would go to the ends of the earth to help you! and I am sure they feel no blame towards you. ..they only want you to feel love…to be “okay.” Your life certainly took a horrific turn —I am posting your story on my Facebook page, as it is unfolding to me. I think your blog is BEAUTIFUL as you are! You live each day! You give it your best shot! …and your will to do this, makes me realize that I need to do the same! YOU ARE AMAZING!

    • I don’t know how to properly thank you for a comment like that. Words wouldn’t do my gratitude to justice.

      Just going to say thank you and please know that I mean it sincerely, you have just helped ease what was a difficult day x

  19. Colette

    Warning … cliche alert. I’m a sea of utter BS and nonsense on social media your story is so important. Instead of all the talk, you’re actually saying something. Something about life, choices, consequences and ultimately reinforcing what we all know … it’s about ourselves, friends and family and how we deal with life together. Thanks

    • Thanks Colette. Social media is indeed a breeding ground for people to talk shit but lots of good stories in amongst it if you look hard enough. Thanks for the comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: