In 2013, I was the unfortunate victim of a serious car accident. Without going into detail, I woke up in hospital with my arms and legs in plaster. Recovery meant 5 operations, 3 days in intensive care, 3 weeks in hospital and 3 months off work. Naturally, this was a painful and difficult time, and at times it felt like full recovery was impossible. My reason for telling you this is to share with you two things I learnt during this experience.
Like many people, I was proud of all I had achieved, and I treasured my independence. Suddenly not being able to feed myself or go to the toilet felt humiliating, but of course I was powerless against it. So I asked for help. I was pleasantly surprised that the hospital staff were very willing to help me. They were busy, but they understood my situation and it was normal to them. Of course, my family also helped. Visits and messages from family and friends always brightened my day in small or large ways, physically or mentally. As I recovered, my needs changed, but by now I was used to asking for help, whom to ask and just how much was available. It was a vital support when I couldn’t help myself, that there was a veritable army of trained and ready people to help me: nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, healthcare assistants and the lady who brought the tea. All made their contributions, all helped. I learnt that there is always someone to ask, people are not shocked or horrified, as I had imagined, and people will help.
Recovery is a long and tedious process. Hospitals are not set up for entertainment, and sometimes the days felt like one long drag of discomfort, interspersed with painful medical procedures. I quickly realised that a full recovery depended not only on those excellent professionals but also on my own determination. But how to help myself? I decided to aim for one achievement a day. This got me through. Some days, I spent a lot of time anaesthetised, but getting through the operation was my achievement for the day. Many days, it was sitting up, using my phone, eating a meal – small things that we normally take for granted, but key steps I could celebrate. During the course of this, I learnt the power of a positive mindset and small victories. Sometimes it can feel hopeless, but there is always something you can do to make things better, even if it is just sit up in bed.
By asking for and accepting help, and taking things a day at a time with a success every day, I was able to recover more quickly than the doctors expected. I was soon discharged, able to spend time recovering with family, keeping my mind busy with work, as well as physiotherapy and medical appointments. I still have scars of course, but since the accident, I have managed to get married, have 2 children, and move to Malaysia from the UK. Just as the scars will always be with me, so will the lessons: there is always someone to help if you ask, and small victories can be very powerful. I hope that by my sharing some of this experience, you can consider these lessons without obtaining the scars!
Mr Iain Wilson, Mathematics