Finally going through one of the last bags from my hospital stay, its called my ‘Silly Bag’ and when I tipped it out one of the first things I found is my diary… Maaan! I used to practically sleep with that thing! My life was mapped out to 15 minute intervals some days, and I never went a day without looking at it, every single page was full or scribble and notes of stuff I had to do, Until the 23rd Feb, and then every page from there is either crossed out, or blank. Was quite a shock to thumb through it and see the things I had planned and the stuff I was going to do.. All cancelled. So much I missed out on.
But after that, underneath the black book of my ordered life, is about 50 cards, this huge amount that just about covers my entire bed!! From everyone who wrote me while I was in hospital. From all these people who I never knew cared, or perhaps I kind of knew they cared, but I never really understood just what that meant. And even from complete strangers who had no reason to care, I still don’t know why they did.
It is so very easy to go through life planning every single thing, and hating the things that come along and cause stuff to go awry, I especially hated it when I had something written in my diary, and it didn’t happen as planned.
I admit, I used to think I was easy going, patient, and a good friend to people. But the fact is, over the last few months, I learnt a lot about what those qualities actually mean, and why I didn’t have any of them
And most of it, didn’t come from inside me, actually all of it did not come from inside me.
After the first surgery I had, I woke up in hospital, and my surgeon uttered a phrase I was going to hear from him a lot during my time under his care-I think we are winning. He said that a heck of a lot, and frankly after the first few times, I was not sure if he wasn’t just saying it. In fact, one day, as he tapped on my leg, pricked me with needles, and told me to move my foot this way and that, and I watched as my foot just would respond to my attempts to move it, as he was touching me and I could not feel anything, and honestly, I felt defeated.
Then he finished his exam, and said, well you know what, I think we are winning.. So of course I smiled at him and thanked him and he left. And I curled up and cried.
Because I didn’t feel like a winner, not right at that moment. Nothing was going to plan, I was supposed to be home carting water for our cattle, and going to work every Wednesday and Thursday, and then going overseas in a few weeks. It wasn’t meant to be like this!!
But, my plans, and Gods plans are not the same thing, and no matter whether you believe in the existence of a higher being or not, one thing is certain-best laid plans are the ones most likely to go awry. And in my case a good thing too.
Its so easy to not be thankful for things, especially the little things in life, they pass you by and you never really notice that you missed them. But in a place where you have no choice but to notice things-because honestly staring at a wall sulking only works for so long when you are in hospital for a month. I started to notice things, and little things become a lot bigger when you take away all the crap we surround ourselves with to make us feel like we are ‘in control’ and to fill our lives up. Now I am no saint, I didn’t sit there having epiphanies all day, in fact I spent most of my time on youtube or facebook, or watching silly movies. And I didn’t read a single book all the way through despite being given many for that purpose. And I did a lot of colouring in and playing with lego.
Even so, I realize that loving your friends isn’t about reading their facebook updates, or sending an occasional text, although that became important to me, (despite my lack of reply-sorry guys) love is what I learnt in hospital, because I never knew how loved I was. Through no virtue of my own, people were sending me cards and flowers, and chocolates, and I didn’t go a day without a visitor, despite the nurses telling me that many patients, especially rural patients, don’t get many at all.
I wanted to write about the miracles that saved my leg, about how had Emily not turned my leg immediately when she found me, out of sheer instinct and no training, I would have lost it then and there from lack of circulation. How had the Royal flying doctor not been in the St George airport that day, to pick up another patient who decided not to use them, I would not have been flown out that day, and I would have lost my leg and potentially died because of serious and rare complications-swelling and circulation problems, how I somehow ended up with the best ‘lower leg orthopedic surgeon in Queensland’ despite his 4 month waiting list, in a prestige hospital that doesn’t take emergency patients, and the list goes on.
But the thing is, my real miracle, is the people who rallied to help me get through this, my sister who took time off work to be by my side, who came and sat with me every single day despite being exhausted herself. My parents who drove some 500 km to spend a week with me, despite our cattle desperately needing them to stay home, my two younger siblings who singlehandedly did the work of 5 people, to allow my parents to come away.
And that’s what is expected. What is not expected is the people who flocked to support me from unexpected places, friends who cared way more than I expected, bringing me unexpected things, like chai tea, because I love it, and cant get it at home. A teapot and teacup so I can have it anytime I wished, lego and coloring in books-of horses no less, so I didn’t miss my own. My teddy bear that held a heart saying ‘I love you more than chocolate’ and my penguin to squeeze when it hurts, I woke up many times in hospital only to find teddy tucked under my chin, and penguin gripped firmly in my hand.
There is so much more and I cant list it all, but these things were brought to me at my lowest points and lifted me up. And more than material things, my adoptive parents who looked after me so my own could go home and rest easy knowing I was ‘ok’
Being taken out of my room, to the coffee shop downstairs, or having coffees brought up. A cousin who would ride a train for over an hour, just to bring me up a chocolate and a quick chat, the friend who would pop by on his way home, or in their lunch hour, for no reason..
I was known in hospital as the girl with the flowers, and nurses were coming into my room just to see if it were true, did I really have that many?
One nurse sat beside me and admired the flowers, and told me sad stories of people who sat for months in hospital and didn’t get a single visitor, phone call, or bunch of flowers. In those moments, I learnt a little of why I might be winning.. Because I was learning. My dad always has this saying whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I would just like to add, that only if you learn from it.
I learnt to be grateful. I learnt to be happy. And I learnt that to overcome doesn’t mean that you come out standing victorious on a pile of dead bodies like some medevial action movie, it means to withstand a storm. To remain, and to stick with it, even when you don’t want to.
I most importantly I learnt that withstanding a storm, is not something you do because of surface materials. Its what is underneath holding you up that matters, and underneath me, I had no sandy foundation, I had and have some of the most amazing friends and people in my life that I have ever been blessed to meet.
My life is NOT ABOUT ME! My strength to withstand does not come from me, it comes from the people who stood to hold me up when I wasn’t able to stand.
Since being out of hospital, I have gone to a drought resilience talk, done by Suncorp bank in town, and there they had a speaker, a psychologist talking, and he asked the question that we should think about the hardest and most difficult time in our life, and then to think about what got us through that time. I didn’t have to think too hard about what my toughest time was, and to think about what personal strength got me through it? Well none! I got through it because of the people who visibly came to the fore to hold me together. Most importantly, I learnt that these people had always been there, but I had never credited them with the importance that they deserved.
The advice I can give to anyone who asks, as a result of what happened is only this, surround yourself with people whose qualities far exceed your own, and then don’t be shocked when they rally and love and support you in ways you never dreamed, and never underestimate what they do in your life behind the scenes, don’t wait until all the rest has been stripped away to notice how amazing they really are.
I am still learning, I am still making mistakes, I put deadlines on my recovery, and I try to predict how far love extends, to find an end to things, to measure it. And I don’t meet my deadlines, my plans are still going awry, and when I think I have found the extent of love, it reaches further into the expanse than I thought possible. I am still on crutches, I wont be able to ride a horse again for 12 months maybe longer, and maybe not ever again the way I wish and hope to be able to.
I will not ever get back to the way I was before, I have nerve damage, I have a wonky leg, I have some pretty impressive scars. I also have the most incredible friends and family ever, I have learnt that my personal strength extends further than I ever imagined because my friends wont allow anything else.
No, I wont be the way I was before, I will be better, I will be stronger, and I will overcome. I wont forget, and I will get back on my horse, both literally and metaphorically. And when I do, I credit the people in my life, family, friends, and in some cases complete strangers who stood to help me when I needed them the most.
I am winning.