So there I was, laying on this sun bed on a sunny beach in Thailand – and my legs weren’t moving. The jet ski operators were now starting to look a little concerned but it didn’t stop one of them joking that I’d had too much ‘boom boom’ (I believe it is their colloquial expression for sex). A police ‘officer’ came a long, offered me water, and after about ten minutes of me repeating the words “ambulance” over and over they finally decided to call one.
About five minutes after that my friend Keiren arrived back from his fantastic jet skiing experience. Keiren showed me the casual concern one shows their crippled friend when he’s lying on the beach, and his father being a doctor who told Keiren about his daily life, proceeded to tell me some of the things which could potentially be the problem. To my dismay.
The ambulance finally arrived, and as I was heaved onto a stretcher and Keiren leaned over and said “all eyes on you Jonny” I looked around, and surely enough everyone was watching me being carried into the ambulance. I do remember somewhat dramatically saying “doctor, morphine, please” – not that there were any doctors, or any morphine – but it seemed appropriate.
The first hospital I went to was a shocking experience. I was lying on a very hard plastic board. Remember I had a lower back injury and the full weight of my body was pressing against this board which was agony. No one spoke any English, I wasn’t asked any questions, I went for a few X-Rays and was put on an I.V drip. It’s quite disconcerting to see needles sticking in your skin. I remember uttering two magic words “health insurance”. This is when everything changed and realizing I had money and health insurance they decided to send me to a real hospital – the Bangkok Hospital in Phuket (confusing I know).
I found myself in yet another A&E on another hard board. I just wanted to get through this, and find out something – anything. It was then that a team of shark investigative insurance members pounced upon me. I was weak, I couldn’t move my legs at all and all I wanted was a mattress to rest on – anything but the board. But I couldn’t rest, because for them to administer any treatment they had to first confirm my insurance details, a process that would take hours. They would then have to check my story and injury to make sure I qualified for this insurance.
I just want to thank my dad William for bothering to take out insurance for me. The day before I left for Thailand he asked me if I had insurance, to which I replied “na I’ll be fine” and to which he responded “well, just in case I’ll take some out for you”. Thanks Dad, good call.
The first piece of terrifying news I heard was when one of the medical insurance sharks told me that it was “unlikely that my insurance policy covered my accident” because I was jetskiiing and that was deemed a dangerous activity and hence self-inflicted. I was mortified – especially because I was told the hospital cost 400 pounds a night, 600 dollars for one night. That would have bankrupted pretty darn soon.
Keiren arrived at this point with my insurance details and my possessions, it was at this point that he said “Hey Jonny, I brought the camera!”. At the time I think most people would have responded with swear words. On the other hand I knew that in years to come I’d appreciate the photos of the incident, so here they are below. I decided to go for a variety of photos, a preposterously happy photo but mainly just my normal expression.
My happy photograph!
It turned out that out of all the insurance plans my Dad could have purchased, he purchased the one which covered a wide array of dangerous activities. Good thinking Dad!
After a complete and detailed account of the incident was recorded, and my medical insurance finally verified I was allowed of the hard plastic board which was causing me agony and allowed onto a bed. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a bed so much until I could rest my broken body onto that deliciously comfortable bed. It was wonderful.
The doctor came to see me later, examined my legs with some reaction seeking devices, and I just about managed to clench my toes. Ok good. So I’m not crippled for life. I went for further X-Rays and CAT Scans to find out I had a lower spinal compression fracture, and a little later on when my right leg was unable to support my body the doctor hit me with “bad news, I’ve also discovered you have a fractured hip”. The good news was that at least I would be able to walk again in a few months!
Laying in bed for the first 3-4 days was absolutely horrible. I could only move my arms, and my neck, but I couldn’t use my back to support my neck – so I was essentially lying there pretty much useless. I was in a private hospital, so the room was great and the nurses too – but they couldn’t speak much English – although they had the best intentions in the world.
Suddenly everything become so difficult.
If I wanted to drink some water I had to elevate my electric lifting bed to an angle which allowed me to grab the water, but not so steep as to hurt my back. Of course this was a very low angle, and let me tell you that drinking water from a 2 litre bottle while lying pretty much horizontally takes quite some practice. What’s more is that because I was lying horizontally it was very easy for me to choke on food and water. Let me tell you know that you don’t realize how much you use your lower back for, coughing uses a lot of lower back as it turns out. A cough was the most excruciating feeling in the world, and considering that I had to drink/eat practically horizontally, choking was a common occurrence. That feeling you get in the back of your throat where you instinctively want to cough is one I use to have for hours at an end, hoping that it would go away so I wouldn’t have to go through the agony of a simple cough. I used to take a sip of water and then bubble the remaining air up to the top of my mouth until the water began to dribble from both sides of my mouth running down my chin. Just so I wouldn’t have to cough.
Brushing my teeth was now done my nurses, as was my body being washed, and just about anything else. Something could be one inch out of reach and I’d have to call in the nurses to pass it towards me. The only English television channels were Al Jazeera and Russia Today which admittedly provided an insight into how the world was viewed from the ‘other side’ but didn’t exactly provide stimulating information.
The physical therapists started getting me walking again, and the first time I stood up with the assistance of a Zimmer frame walker I was exhausted after about four seconds. Before my accident I was a strong, wiry young man, and just standing up for 3-4 seconds exhausted me to the point where I felt like passing out. Of course I couldn’t just stand up normally because that would involved twisting my spine, I had to roll over onto one side, which due to the positioning of the bed meant I had to put pressure on my fractured right hip, take in a deep breathe of air and then quickly push myself up without twisting my spine at all. It took practice but agony is a great motivator.
I tried very hard with my therapy and soon moved onto crutches, which meant I could finally go to the bathroom on my own. This entailed 2-3 minutes of getting out of bed and getting to the door. Leaning against the wall and balancing on my good left leg while using my walking crutch to poke upon the door. Walking inside on the slippery surface, turning around by shuffling my entire body on my left leg, and then sitting down. Remember of course that when I sit down the pain starts again because I am meant to either be standing or lying (sitting exacerbates the spinal injury) and of course I have to keep my back straight and lean over to my left side. So I’m sitting in the toilet, pain blaring away as per usual, leaning on my left leg, keeping my back perfectly straight and what’s that? Oh right my hospital clothing has long straps which just fell into the toilet I’d used, fantastic! Well I’ll just take my top of, oh wait I can’t because if I don’t wear my spinal brace I’m going to injure myself. Well I’ll just put my trousers back on and call the nurses, oh wait I can’t, because my trousers are around my ankles and I can’t reach them without bending down, and I cannot bend down.
Issues such as this arose daily. Everything was just a struggle, and if you’ve never been incapable of doing things for yourself then you may know what it’s like, but you’ll never have that burning feel of infuriation combined with humiliation as you cannot even attempt things which were once done without a moment’s thought.
My weight started to drop dramatically while I was in hospital because of the quality and quantity of the food. Now before the accident I was 58kg at 5 foot 10 inches – so I was pretty light before hand. There are times when I’ve just been completely glutenous and looked in the mirror and thought ‘you fat thing you need to lose some weight!’ – but never have I looked into the body and been disgusted at how appalling skinny I was. Both my muscle and fat had worn away and I was now weighing 54 kg, I couldn’t even look at myself. At least when I had been fat I could look at my body, but I’d never been so repulsed by my own self image as to be unable to even look at my own body. My spinal brace stopped fitting me, and it had already been a small size adjusted to the smallest settings so there were no others.
Eventually after I dropped down to around 51kg the nurses starting getting a little concerned and moved me from what I can only describe as the starvation diet I was on, to far more calorie dense food. I managed to put a little bit of weight back on, but the quality of food was still very poor – just eating it without retching was difficult at times.
My medical insurance only covered ’emergency incidents’, and soon enough I was told that I had to leave. I half wanted to leave and I half wanted to stay. I wanted to leave because my weight was dropping and it was intensely boring. I wanted to stay because I had nowhere else to go and no one to look after me. Either way it was out of my control, and I managed to negotiate being sent to my relatives house in Malaysia.
If only I could say the hardships stopped there.