Strength in the face of pain or grief. (OED definition)

I heard someone talk on courage a few weeks ago, an inspiration and a challenge. It is not just the ability to face a challenge or an obstacle without fear, but it also requires confidence, a conviction that what you are about to go through is not beyond what you can bear.

When I lay in that hospital bed eighteen months ago, I did not know what lay ahead, or what the lasting consequences would be for my life. But I knew that I had a choice. I could let fear take over, and sink into anxiety, panic and depression. Or, I could acknowledge what happened, and try to make the most of it. I chose the latter.

That is not to say that I did not feel afraid, or panic, or have moments of real anxiety. Those first moments when I couldn’t move, and was told I faced spinal surgery were among some of the most frightening of my life. The unexpected events in our lives can challenge our innermost being, and reveal what we value the most.

I took courage in the fact that I was not alone, surrounded by family and friends and supported by many others. And even in the middle of the night staring at the stark white hospital ceiling, I knew I was not alone. I trusted in someone far greater than myself to be in control where I could not.

The key to courage is faith.

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Time for a faith lift…

I’m not sure if it’s too late in the year to be talking of New Year’s resolutions, but one of my resolutions is to finish writing a book. I began to write about a year ago, but encountered some obstacles on the way and have begun this New Year with a resolute determination to finish it this time.

Some of you already know the story, others will never have heard about it before. Yet I hope all of you who read this blog will join me on the journey I am about to embark upon in order to finish the book. I will share excerpts as I write, and invite you to take part in the adventure too. Many of you have been part of the adventure from the very start, being an encouragement and support over the past eighteen months. Thank you.

The event that sparked the desire to write, and inspired this blog in the first place, will form the basis of the book. A challenge of faith, of forgiveness, an experience of great pain yet filled with hope.

I hope that as I share my story with you, that it will encourage and uplift you too.

Published in: on January 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Ambivalent Anniversary

Anniversaries are funny things. They can offer a chance to reminisce about fond memories, or an opportunity to honour past events, the death or birth of a loved one.

Tomorrow marks a year since my accident. A year I very nearly didn’t have. A blessing, a second chance. A tough and difficult year.

It is with a mix of joy and trepidation that I will embark on a similar journey that I started last year but never finished. I am thankful that I can make the journey again, that I am able to return. Yet there is still some anxiety, some fear, some healing still to be done. The scars are not yet healed.

A year seems like a long time, and yet it passes so quickly. A year on, I am hopeful about what the next year will bring.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm  Comments (1)  

My Heroes

Last August an air ambulance saved my life. Today I ran 5km in a bid to fundraise for such a valuable service. Lives are saved daily by the dedicated paramedic team and pilot who serve vast areas of the country and provide a vital service.

I ran alongside a girl who had been airlifted on exactly the same date as I had been last summer. She had broken both her legs in the accident she was in. Both with titanium-enhanced skeletons, pinning broken bones together, we joined family and friends and took on the challenge of the race today. Battling with the heat and driven by the knowledge that we were not just running for ourselves, but for countless others who owed their lives to the services of the air ambulance, we pushed on through the pain and ran.

It was a tremendous sense of achievement to finish the run, and express our thanks to the crew that had done so much for so many. To be able to walk, let alone run is a gift many of us take for granted, but every pace I took today was my way of saying thank you.

Air ambulances are not funded by the government, but rely on private giving. They offer a service that can make a critical difference between life and death. Without them I would not be running today.

Find out about your local air ambulance here.

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 6:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Magnetic Personality

In the ongoing saga that is my long-term relationship with hospitals, today I went for an MRI. Having been for almost every other type of scan over the past year, it just seemed like another part of the whole adventure.

I have to say I was quite (irrationally) nervous. Knowing that my skeleton now relies on several pieces of metal to hold it together, the idea of entering into a room filled with electromagnets wasn’t quite my idea of fun.

My arrival at the hospital went smoothly, I traipsed through the labyrinthine corridors and finally found the reception desk marked ‘MRI’, conspicuously empty, with only a few porters hovering around the area. The waiting room was crammed full though, and when the receptionist eventually returned and booked me in, I squeezed myself into a vacant chair in the corner.

I don’t know what it is about small children, but their presence often distracts from any concerns or worries, and even conjures a smile on the grumpiest of faces. I had unwittingly sat next to one such child. The little boy was brightening up the waiting room with a beaming smile, and an endearing giggle. Unfortunately he had also picked the noisiest toy in the play area and was trying to replicate a one-man-band on a toy keyboard that played the same repetitive tune over and over again. This soon explained the mother’s weary expression.

Eventually (my nerves forgotten) the mother and boy were called in for their appointment which provoked high-pitched screams from the child, separated from his beloved toy. Minutes later, an anxious nurse emerged from the room, retrieved the keyboard and the crying soon subsided.

When the time came for my scan, I had forgotten all about my nerves, and the nurse seemed almost disinterested in my explanation of all my metalwork. I was told to change into a gown, and then ushered into the MRI room where I lay flat on my back on a large tray, and was padded in on all sides to stop me moving during the scan.

Being inside an MRI machine is a surreal experience. It’s strangely claustrophobic and incredibly loud, even with the headphones provided to block out the noise. It sounds like being locked in an engine room of a huge ship, but with every movement of the engine directed at you. It only lasted twenty minutes, but felt longer, and I distracted myself from the onset of pins and needles in my right arm by likening the rhythmic movements to the deep bass beat in house music or the powerful drums in heavy metal. I could have sworn that the last set of rotations the MRI machine made was based on a riff from a song by Rage Against the Machine.

Needless to say, the experience was not half as nerve wracking as I had first thought, and I am discovering there is no end of entertaining events to be seen in an otherwise dreary and depressing hospital environment.

[No evidence of having been magnetised by the experience so far… but if you do find you’ve lost your phone/keys/spare change in coins etc. do let me know]

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm  Comments (1)  

Flashback No.5

I just saw two cars hit each other on the turning outside my house. It was just a bump and the drivers calmly swapped insurance details and examined the damage before driving off. It was the sudden sound of crunching metal that made me jump and look up. My heart won’t stop racing.

I did wonder how I would feel if I saw another car accident. I wondered if my memories would all come flooding back. I feared it.

I’ve noticed in the recent months how much horrific car accidents feature in the media. I don’t mean in the news, but on films, and TV dramas. I was eating my breakfast watching a TV series this morning when the characters were involved in a head on collision. Perhaps it’s a dramatisation of our worst fears.

Perhaps I just notice it more because it’s happened to me. I think I’ve just realised that it’ll never go away, but I hope the fear might begin to subside.

Published in: on February 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Six Months Ago….

The bright lights made me blink. I closed my eyes again. I could hear strange voices. I opened my eyes again and struggled to focus on the figure beside me. My mouth was dry, my eyes couldn’t focus. I felt numb.

The nurse beside me gently explained what had happened. I tried to turn my head to speak but the effort was too much, and I closed my eyes again. I slowly drifted back off to sleep.

What a horrible dream.

Except it wasn’t a horrible dream. It was a shocking reality, one that didn’t really hit home until the painkillers started to wear off and the flashbacks began. The car I was in had hit an articulated lorry in a head on collision. The speed of the impact was estimated at 100mph. I am lucky to be alive.

Yesterday marked the six month anniversary of the accident. It was with mixed feelings that I reflected on what had happened, looking at my scars again in the mirror. I have come a long way in those six months; learnt to walk again, got back to work and even started driving again.

Yet I still get nightmares, flinching every time I pass a lorry on the road, and the pain has not totally subsided. Each time I reflect on what has happened I realise how valuable, yet fragile, life is.

I have a huge amount to be thankful for, but I cannot undo the fact that my life was irrevocably changed six months ago.

Published in: on February 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Guilty of ignoring disasters

Just before I fell asleep last night, several alerts came in about the horrific earthquake that had just hit Haiti. For some reason I didn’t stop to think about it, but instead fell asleep lamenting the fact that the MET office had predicted more snow for today.

I’m sure the sense of detachment from natural disasters is common for many people; after all, if it doesn’t happen to you, it’s easier to ignore. But when I read more of the news today I just ended up feeling incredibly guilty. Of course I should care, hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands more are missing, their bodies presumed to be buried under the rubble. I looked up some of the reporters photographs, and suddenly it became all too real, as images of bodies lying in the streets were posted up.

I think sometimes it’s harder to make yourself feel something when things like this happen; it’s so far removed from our own experiences. The last time an earthquake hit Britain, I thought it was just someone taking the bins out at some ridiculously early hour in the morning, and went back to sleep. But Haiti’s earthquake has reduced palaces to rubble, destroyed essential infrastructure, and killed thousands of people. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of what has happened.

I do not envy the task of relief and aid agencies as they confront the chaos, struggling to make sense of the situation and trying to reach those who urgently need help. Haiti is already poverty-stricken, and the challenge of rebuilding and reconstructing its towns and cities will require all its strength and resources, not to mention the support of the international community.

I hope endless reports about the snow here will not obscure the significance of the disaster that has hit Haiti.

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Year Resolutions

I decided not to make New Year Resolutions this year. Instead I made a list of achievements that I would like to complete before the year is out. Some are realistic, others are downright fanciful, and some will require a lot of hard work and dedication.

I have been inspired by the tasks set by others. A year in photos is underway, posting 365 beautiful yet different shots for every day of the year. A fundraising campaign offers a chance to raise money for good causes whilst achieving some individual challenges. Some are just for fun, such as ‘the love of it‘ setting 52 different challenges for the year ahead, with others taking on a more serious note.

A New Year always heralds a new start, poses new challenges and will bring its fair share of difficult moments and outstanding highlights. The feeling of anticipation is contagious.

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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Thought of the day

I hope you’re all enjoying the lead-up to Christmas and the New Year. I came across a copy of one of my favourite poems the other day and thought I’d share it with you. There have been many adaptations and various claims on the authorship, but this is my favourite version.

I Had a Dream
One night I had a dream
I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets
of footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me
and the other to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
There was only on set of footprints.
I realized that this was at the lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This always bothered me
and I questioned the Lord
about my dilemma.
“Lord, you told me when I decided to follow You,
You would walk and talk with me all the way.
But I’m aware that during the most troublesome
times of my life there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You most,
you leave me.”
He whispered,  “My precious, precious child,
I love you and will never leave you
never, ever during your times of trial and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints
It was then that I carried you.”

Margaret Fishback Powers

I hope this inspires you as much as it has inspired me, and I wish you a very happy Christmas and all the best for the coming new year.

Published in: on December 24, 2009 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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