100 nights in hospital

Wait — how did you end up in hospital?

It’s a bit of a long story and a series of unfortunate events. The first thing to know is that my bones break more easily than other people thanks to a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta. I’ve broken lots of bones growing up — but nothing as serious as this. My first hospital stay as it relates to this post came in September 2015 after I tripped outside Mighty Ape and broke my leg in several places and shattered my pelvis. It took three surgeries, a stint in HDU and 6 weeks flat on back before I was even allowed to get out of bed and learn to walk again. Eventually I was upright and discharged, and thanks to crutches and a leg brace, I was back to work — determined to pick up where I left off. On my third day back at the office — I was hit by a car while crossing the same road. A careless driver who simply didn’t look drove her car into me head on, struck me to the ground breaking my shoulder in several places, my elbow and my ankle. Back to hospital pumped full of morphine I went — where I ended up in the same ward with the same team of doctors and nurses that I had only just waved goodbye to the month before. Two more surgeries and another hardware store worth of titanium plates and screws later — I was back on the road to recovery!

My work gave me purpose.

I was lucky that my work at Mighty Ape was slowed down, but never put on hold by my time in hospital. This goes against the advice of many, who argued that work should be the last thing on my mind and that I should switch off and focus on my physical recovery. But honestly, it was a huge part of what got me through. Thanks to a creative healthcare assistant named Dave, my laptop was fully accessible to me even when I was flat on my back for 6 weeks. I was fully connected by email, Slack and phone. For sure I was not as productive — constantly interrupted by doctors, nurses, visitors — often too tired to work, but I worked for several hours a day, every day, and remained fully plugged into what was going on back in the office.

My friends at work made me this cute card

Technology kept me connected.

Being stuck in hospital even 10 years ago would have been awful. 100 years ago — unthinkable. Not that hospital in 2016 is a super fun place to be — but with Wi-Fi, an iPhone and a laptop — it’s remarkable how much of your everyday existence just automatically comes with you. I was connected at all times to the people I cared about through my phone. I was texting all the same people. I might not have been out in the weekends, but I was receiving the same group SnapChats and viewing the same photos on Instagram. I was missing out — but not as much as I could have been if I was relying on people picking up the phone to call me. My friends often asked if seeing a live stream of photos of what they were up to made me sad — it didn’t.

SnapChat helped me keep connected

Goals to work toward.

Obviously I had two big goals to work toward — getting discharged from hospital, and walking again. Every milestone toward these goals was something to look forward to and cause for celebration. Some of the important ones included being strong enough to:

  • Sit up in bed after spending six weeks flat on my back
  • Stand up without assistance
  • Leave my bed to use the shower, toilet or just sit in a chair
  • Move around under my own steam using a walking frame
  • Use a wheelchair to take myself around the hospital and outside
  • Use crutches safely to navigate stairs and be considered for discharge
Standing for the first time in about 8 weeks was a very good day
Learning to walk in my Mario pyjamas

Unconditional love.

Before my accident I was a relatively fit and healthy 33 year old, enjoying life the same as anyone else my age. Sure, my underlying condition meant I opted-out of certain activities — you wouldn’t see me playing rugby, going skiing or generally anything that risked contact or falling over — but from the outside looking in I was just the same as everyone else. That was how my partner Alex knew me too — but that all changed overnight. One of my greatest fears throughout it all was that I would emerge the other side a different person and somehow unlovable. I was terrified that the person I was would be changed forever and I would be left alone. I was wrong.

It was fun to get out of hospital and spend time with Alex again
Driving my new car for the first time was fun

I surrendered control — sort of.

Growing up I’ve become a bit of a control freak. I’m seldom happy unless I have control over my environment and my choices. I crave independence — learned to drive at 15, lived away from home since age 20, lived alone until my 30s, run my own businesses and generally marched to my own drum. Breaking your leg, pelvis, elbow, shoulder and ankle — all at once — has a way of undoing all that. Overnight I went from doing everything myself, to not being able to shower by myself. I couldn’t even reach over and plug my iPhone into the wall by myself. If I wanted anything at all — even my tooth brush and a cup of water to spit into — I had to ask for it. This was very uncool and very not me.

My new friend Dave made sure I could always reach my laptop

Doctors gave me hope.

I don’t think I’d have come through the experience the way I did without hope that I’d get better and that the fight would be worth it. When I think back at what was said to me in the days immediately following my injuries — it turns out that doctors are really good liars. I was told that I’d be “good as new” that I’d “get it all back” and that it was “too soon to tell” how quickly I’d get there. Truth is, physically speaking, I’ll never get it all back — the injuries I sustained cannot be perfectly reversed and my body put back exactly the way it was before. My surgeon described my pelvis as like a dinner plate that had been dropped from a great height — totally shattered and requiring 12 hours of surgery to put back together. They knew the injuries would mean arthritis, pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion. But they didn’t tell me this and the shielded me from the truth — and I’m thankful they did.

I was pretty excited to be leaving

I made genuine connections.

During my time in hospital I was vulnerable like I had never been vulnerable before in my life. People I’d never met before saw me weak, helpless and I was totally at their mercy. This isn’t how I normally choose to run my life, but strangely, it enabled me to form real connections very quickly. When I was finally discharged — I was devastated and cried openly in front of other people for one of the only times in my adult life. I was so grateful for the care I’d received from my nurses that I was genuinely upset to be saying goodbye. Of course some of them were just doing their job — but so many of them felt like they were doing it because they genuinely cared and just loved helping people. By many, I was treated like a member of the family — like I was their son or brother. This was a humbling experience and a reminder of the lengths some people will go in the service of others. I spent 100 days and nights with these great people — and their friendship, humour and compassion helped me through the darkest times.

Honestly though, you get used to anything.

It’s true that us humans have an uncanny ability to adapt to a new normal. My reality for the first 8 weeks in hospital was a life confined entirely to my hospital bed — but this quickly became normal to me. Despite being unable to move around or physically put myself into a different environment, I was able to divide up my day around my meals, my visitors and my appointments with different medical staff. I quickly developed a routine and my days became filled with things to do.

Ready to face the world

Twice was enough thanks.

Looking back at my time in hospital, I became quite skilled at making the days fly by, staying productive at work and connected to my friends. I opened myself up to vulnerability and found out a few things about myself. But life is definitely better on the outside and I hope not to go back anytime soon. I do however take some comfort in the knowledge that I got through it not once, but twice. I believe when it comes down to it most people would be exactly the same — and with the right attitude and the right support, you can get used to just about anything.

Airport security is always a fun time

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Dylan Bland

Dylan Bland

Love web, gaming, cars, business, politics and philosophy. Live in Auckland, New Zealand. Rebel without a cause.