On the evening of February the 21st this year I suffered the misfortune of splitting my left elbow open whilst attempting a skateboarding trick. It stung at the time and, once my pads were off, I was horrified to see a gaping cut at my elbow joint.
Whenever I get hurt, I don’t really get fixated on the pain in the moment unless it’s excruciating. Usually my mind projects ahead, thinking about the near term impact the injury will have and I immediately begin working out when I can expect to recover. A couple of years back I had to make a calculated bail whilst skating in the same pool at the skatepark, landing awkwardly on my right heel (in a pair of Vans I never skated in again) and right from the moment of impact I thought; “Damn it! That’ll be two weeks at least.” I was wrong, it was closer to a month before I could walk properly on it again, but the instant self assessment is something of a gut reaction regardless of the accuracy.
When I saw my split elbow in the mirror and then the reaction of the guys at the reception in the skatepark as I was patched up, I tentatively figured I’d be out for two or three weeks at best whilst my body repaired itself. Unfortunately, a week later my arm had become painfully swollen and I was put on an emergency course of antibiotics, double the normal dose, to help fight off the aggressive infection that had taken hold.
The wound took a full month to close up and it was a difficult injury to live with. For example; I had to wrap my arm in cling film for the shower then wash myself with one hand, as I couldn’t bend my left arm. I also missed a lot of time at work because, after the setback of the infection, I had to go to either the hospital or the medical centre to get it redressed rather than doing it myself.
I love being active so much that as soon as I could go skateboarding and ride my bike again I was delighted.
However, I would only enjoy a couple of weeks of relative fitness before a serious misjudgement of speed whilst descending a hill on my road bike led to a crash that could have been so much worse. The badly sprained but, fortunately, not broken left shoulder I sustained left me in constant pain over the weeks that followed. The pain will go away in time, but the frustration at injuring myself in such a careless way will have me rue that moment for a good while longer.
As both the skateboarding and cycling accidents were captured on video, reliving them in the third person only served to fuel the what-if’s in my mind. It turns out there’s nothing quite like a slow motion replay of your misfortune to make you wish you’d done a lot of things differently. The skateboarding mishap was just an unfortunate combination of physics and running out of talent. The cycling one, by contrast, was just sheer idiocy and it was just dumb luck that I wasn’t more seriously hurt.
Of course there’s no going back to change the outcome of either event, so I have tried to put a positive spin on things and treat the recovery from each as a learning experience regardless of the frustration. It’s been humbling how professional and thorough the NHS staff have been with me considering my injuries were pretty much self inflicted. When I felt stupid, frustrated, in pain and helpless at the same time it was a comfort that nobody scoffed at, let’s face it, a grown man essentially falling off a skateboard and then a bike!
So, besides the scar and the aches I’m carrying forward, it’s the empathy I’ve been on the receiving end of that I hope I’ve banked and am able to pay back down the line.
That and finally learning the lesson about self preservation!