My brush with (my own) death

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 9, November 2014, Page 425 Editorials

Practising physicians realize more than most that people’s lives can change in an instant. Accidents happen all the time to your patients—you just don’t expect them to happen to you.

I remember the car hitting me but the rest is a bit foggy, which perhaps is a good thing. All I can say is thank goodness for helmets, as mine definitely saved my already underfunctioning brain—judging by the alteration in its former contour. My bike fared about the same, as, apparently, with enough force you can break a carbon frame in half. On the upside, I now have a new unicycle. Apart from my stable cervical spine fracture with secondary left upper-limb nerve damage, I came out much better. I was able to walk out of the hospital on my own steam, adorned by my new hard collar. I will sport this bold fashion statement (everyone is wearing one this season) for a month or so but I will heal in time. 

I alternate between being thankful for being alive and not paralyzed, and feeling sorry for myself. My former life has temporarily been put on hold. I can’t work and am not allowed to drive. And I can’t swim, bike, or run. Sleeping is also a challenge. I have new appreciation for my patients who suffer from nerve pain. The best way to describe the zinging pain down my left arm into my numb fingers is that you can’t get away from it. With a broken bone you can often find a position of comfort, but nerve pain follows you everywhere. I also have a new appreciation for narcotic-induced constipation. 

Lying on the road, in the ambulance, and on the stretcher in the ER gave me time to think about what just happened and how close I came to leaving this planet. My heart goes out to those whose lives have changed without the hope of recovery. It is a sobering thought to consider how close to death or paralysis I was. We are all only an instant away from tragedy, so I challenge you to think about what you would do differently if you knew you were going to die soon. My list includes some of the items below:

•    Embrace those whom you love and make sure they know it.
•    Surround yourself with positive people who uplift you and inspire you to be a better person.
•    Let go of all things negative as negativity is wasted energy and leads to nowhere good.
•    Don’t wait on your dreams.

I realize this editorial comes off a bit sappy, but it’s not my fault as I recently faced death and have a head injury, so be patient with me. Lastly, remember what Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of each of her talk shows, “Be kind to one another.”

David R. Richardson, MD. My brush with (my own) death. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 9, November, 2014, Page(s) 425 - Editorials.

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