It’s never going to happen to you

I’m staring at the ceiling only able to move my eyes. Nurses are buzzing around me while the doctor asks me a series of questions while I try not to be distracted by the blips of my heart or the excruciating pain.

I’m at Crescent Head, about 5 hours north of Sydney, ripping up the surf and having a great time. I had been surfing for around two hours that morning when I finally decided that it was time to come in. I just wanted to catch that one last wave…

My hands are under my chest and I’m ready to pop up. The next thing I know I am flung head first off the board. Now imagine someone held you by your ankles and smashed your head into the floor. Ouch right? Even though my head hit sand it still hurts, a lot.

Now I am fully aware I have a neck but it was only when my head connected with the ocean floor that I have ever ‘felt’ my neck. Every bone, every muscle, every nerve and joint. I felt it all. It’s even worse when you are upside down, underwater and gasping for air.

Obviously when accidents happen people focus on what they can see. After about 5 people had asked me if my head hurt I started to get a little annoyed. As far as I was concerned my head was fine (unbeknownst to me was that I had a nice gash which was dripping blood). My neck on the other hand was a different story. I was petrified. You don’t mess around with neck injuries. I tend to associate neck injuries with either death or quadriplegia. Maybe that’s my fault for watching too much Grey’s Anatomy.

As I was lying in hospital so many crazy things were running through my head. It might have been a mixture of morphine and that you think about random things in these situations.

I thought about my mum freaking out and whether my dad would be fit to travel such a long haul flight to Australia. Whether I would have to go back to England and how much a CT scan costs these days. I thought about whether the nurse had ever fallen for a patient before and even asked the doctor to take a picture. Yes these things make no sense and are unrelated but that’s what was running through my mind at the time.

I’m strapped down, neck braced up and unable to move. It’s something you take for granted; tilting your head in reaction to a noise. I was wheeled from room to room, x-ray to CT, test to test. I just distinctly remember how alone I felt gazing up at that dull hospital ceiling. Everyone I love is quite literally on the other side of the world.

The doctor came back with my test results looking rather serious. He led with “you’re very lucky” which was always a good sign. By some miracle I managed to escape with no broken bones, no ruptured discs or any neurological damage whatsoever. I recall just saying “cheers dude”. Good one. The guy has years of medical training, a doctorate and is a skilled professional and I call him “dude”.

The effects of morphine and the sympathy of twenty Scandinavian women.

I’ve seen a couple of doctors now and they’ve all said the same thing; that I am lucky. Do I feel lucky? I’m not really sure. On the one hand I am laid up in bed, find it difficult to sleep and have to drink through a straw because I can’t tilt my head back. On the other hand I can walk. I can wriggle my toes and press my thumb and index finger together. It’s peculiar taking pleasure in something so simple. It’s like that moment in Kill Bill when she tries to wriggle her big toe.

I’m now on the road to recovery. Yes it still hurts and yes I am going to moan about it from time to time. But nothing or no one is going to bring me down. The physiotherapist says six weeks. I’ll do it in four.

I’ve been asked a few times whether I would stop surfing or whether I would be more careful. The answer to both those questions is no. Hate to say it but shit happens. I could break my neck surfing, choke on my food, have a brain tumour I don’t know about it. Life is beautiful and yet perilous at the same time. I’m not going to be scared to live. I love travelling the world. I’m still going to jump out of planes and off waterfalls and dive with Great White Sharks. I’m going to get my heart broken, explore the world and take chances. Do all the things that make you feel alive. That’s what living is.

I’ll be back on my feet soon enough. I’m going to recover quickly, finish physiotherapy in Sydney and head off travelling again soon.

Watch me fly.


p.s To all my family and friends. I love you. I don’t always show it and if I do it’s not always in the best possible way. I’m flawed, I know that. Forgive me.

  • Kirsten
    Posted at 17:45h, 20 April

    And this is the exact reason why we travel. Life is too short to do anything but. So glad you are ok. Sucks to have an in-your-face reminder about the temporary life we live. Despite you feeling alone at the time – you most definitely are not!

  • Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences
    Posted at 18:22h, 20 April

    Reminds me of the expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    Truth is you could have broke your neck at home. So why not enjoy life? That’s what it is there for.

  • Ant
    Posted at 05:07h, 21 April

    There’s no better place to “lie back and think of England” than Australia though, right? It’s moments like this that will shape your journey, well written. I really felt your pain (almost).

  • Jenny
    Posted at 07:36h, 21 April

    Ouch xx

  • Kirsty - No Place To Be
    Posted at 18:15h, 27 April

    I love the picture, you seem to be very very happy to have two women either side of you!!
    Hope you are feeling better now:)

  • Greg
    Posted at 23:58h, 27 April

    “Life is beautiful and yet perilous at the same time.”

    Well put mate….best of luck in a speedy recovery and here’s to future adventures!

  • What’s the plan Stan?
    Posted at 09:02h, 06 May

    […] been a few weeks since my accident. Whether it’s down to my positive thinking or due to the fact I am awesome (probably the latter) […]

  • ayngelina
    Posted at 14:30h, 31 August

    The photo made me laugh but wow are you ever lucky. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

  • Leigh
    Posted at 19:20h, 08 October

    Looks like the company helped the pain go away – or made it bearable. That was months ago now so you must be back in fine form.
    My son had 5 teeth knocked out and a jawbone broken in February – not exactly a neck injury but it will be almost a year before he’s 100% back…and that was only miles from his house. And the girls don’t swarm around toothless looking guys BTW.
    Shit happens anywhere, anytime. Hope there are no residual effects.

  • No Vacation Required
    Posted at 00:40h, 08 November

    This is exactly why we just wrote a post about travel insurance. You just never know. As we get into, our sister shattered her ankle while on safari. Yikes.

    Glad to hear that you re on the road to recovery and not going to let this be a set back. Speedy recovery!

  • Dalene
    Posted at 17:23h, 23 January

    Good on ya for coming through a very scary situation without losing any of your adventurous drive. Not too many people would do the same. Best wishes on a speedy recovery!

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.