For the most part, Life’s been good to me.
I can’t claim to have scaled superlative heights, yet, if the existence of guardian angels is to believed, I’d say that my allocated celestial custodian had been pretty much on the ball.
Up until recently that is.
Events over the past seven years have put a bit of a dent into that belief.
Three months ago, in May 2017, I fell off a stool and fractured my left wrist necessitating an abstinence from work for at least four months. This was the last, so far (gulp), of a series of unrelated injuries that all began in 2011 with a massive chronic subdural haemorrhage.
Simply put, a chronic subdural haemorrhage is a blood clot between the skull and the brain typically caused by a head injury. More often than not, there are no initial symptoms. These only occur much later, and are caused by a pile-up of small but intermittent episodes of internal bleeding.
My primary injury was a fall I had while playing football.
You’re probably wondering: An overweight 50+ year-old playing football?! Sheessh! What were you thinking?!
Stating that you are not alone would be a gross understatement, but, be that as it may, at the time it was no big deal.
Severe headaches months later prompted a brain scan and a couple of inch-sized discs of bone were surgically bored out of my skull to gain access to, and eventually drain, the offending clot.
The procedure went off well. The only post-operative instruction was to take it easy for a month.
It was during that period that I started something that I always wanted to do but had neither the time nor the inspiration to do it – and that was to start a blog. All of a sudden, not only did I now have the time, I also had a unique experience to write about.
The blog has since grown. I can’t boast of a large following but I do get my share of appreciative comments and can recall of several occasions when total strangers have made my day by walking up to me to tell me that they liked a piece that I wrote or recently posted.
Happily, recovery from the injury has been full and complete.
So much so that, apart from a couple of dimples on the side of my head, the blog remains the only lasting evidence of that period of my life. And hence, recollections are surprisingly not distressing; in fact I’d go so far as to admit that they are actually pleasant.
Barely had the traumatic clips of those memories begin to fade when, in 2014, my back packed up.
Every 3 to 4 of years, for as long as I can remember I’d develop a back spasm so severe that it would immobilize me for a couple of days.
Things came to a head in 2014, when, marginally short of kicking and screaming, I was squeezed into the claustrophobic confines of an MRI chamber to confirm the presence of a prolapsed intervetebral disc in my lower spine.
This time around, and – in the words of my dear mother – thank God for small mercies, surgery was not necessary. I did however need to undergo intensive physiotherapy that kept me away from work for several months.
The physiotherapy helped. I did eventually get back to a normal routine but a persistent pain that lasted for well over a year left me with the nagging fear that another attack was just around the corner.
At that time I had just invested in a heavy lens to indulge in my passion for bird photography. The total weight of my camera setup, including camera body, lens, tripod and gimbal was almost 10 kilograms.
Looking back, it was the fear that I had only a limited period of time that I would be able to carry such a load spurred me on to increase the frequency of my birding trips. That in turn provided the material for my first book “Birds from my Backyard”.
I must say, (although I’m well aware of the proverbial pitfalls of prematurely numbering one’s fowl), my fears were unfounded. My back is much better and I have that phase of my life to thank not only for the aforementioned book but also a couple of others that followed.
Finally back to the present, three years later, with almost metronomic precision, I’ve fractured my wrist. I guess I must have exhausted my quota of ‘small mercies’ and it was surgery once more.
It will be at least another month before I can even begin to consider getting back to the preferred side of the operating table. To relieve the boredom I’ve taken my first tentative steps into having my images printed.
I now have 55 feet of prime wall space at my home dedicated to high quality prints. (I must admit, having a disability, however temporary, does have a few advantages. You can get away with things that you couldn’t even dream of getting permission for otherwise!)
I have also published a fourth book that had been languishing on my computer for over a year. With so much time on my hands completing it was a cinch and, even if I say so myself, it has turned out to be my best book ever.
Let me get one thing straight.
I needed all those injuries like I needed a hole in the head. (Okay, maybe that is not quite the appropriate turn of phrase as I’m already in proud possession of not one but two of those. I’m sure you catch my drift though.)
What I am saying, is a lot of really nice things have come out of the darker periods of my life.
In fact, the warm glow derived from those silver linings is right up there with memories from pleasanter times. So much so that if I ever get down to writing my memoirs, the inclination to document the bleaker chapters on a positive note increases with each passing moment.