We last left off with me laying in an emergency room at 12 at night being told I was going to have a cranial traction halo attached to my head with a spanner.
I had the below device attached to my head.
At this point you may notice that those bolts seem a bit sharp right? Well their function is to basically be turned into your skull so that the device has something to hold on to. I was given a few shots of local anaesthetic which scared the hell out of me for what was to come because they were so painful. Those shots do not numb a thing.
One of the nurses came up to my left the other to my right, my hands were tied down. At this point I’m thinking “Uhhhm didn’t this Doctor say this wouldn’t hurt?” I was given a leather strap to bite on and the doctor began… attaching the device. Let’s just say I hit the ceiling and cried like a baby and was glad it was over. PS. Its not as quick as you might think to get that thing on. After I was so high on meds I don’t remember the rest of the night just waking up in ICU the next day.
The device is administered thus:
My first week thereafter was intense, with hallucinations and PTSD which I was treated for. I had 2 more moments after that first week where I wondered could life get any worse? The first was when I got out of ICU and being used to having someone on call 24/7 with fast response times there was an adjustment for me. I was unlucky enough to have what seemed like dispassionate nursing staff in my ward. I was confined to my bed and instructed not to move for fear of my spinal cord being damaged. This meant all bodily functions had to take place in that space. As if I hadn’t lost enough dignity yet I was made to wait on one of the days for my “Bottle”, which was right next to my bed by the way, but I could not access. As a result I was reduced to a kid and pee-ed myself. Still pressing my nurses button frantically which took another 10 minutes to be responded to. I laid there staring at the same spot I have been looking at on the ceiling for the last 5 days weeping, feeling like death would have been better.
The second incident transpired 14 days in when my cranial device came loose on the right side of my head and started to tear away at the skin on my skull. Desperate not to go through another spanner incident I attempted that night to hand tighten it myself. Late at night when the rest of the patients were asleep in my ward I made my move. Stuffing my pillow in my mouth so as to have something to bite down on and muffle my voice. I made my attempt. I was partly successful as it stopped tearing skin but wasn’t straight. The doctor noticed this the next morning and that afternoon he reset it… without anesthetic. Yay!!!
By the time I got out of hospital I had lost 21kgs. The first time they removed the cranial device and asked me to stand I thought “Hell yeah toilet here I come!!!” it’s amazing what you learn to appreciate but it was not to be. I fell to the floor with no balance and the pain of trying to stand on muscles that had atrophied to a point where they were basically non-existent. Talk about skipping leg day hey.
I was released from the hospital when I could balance and walk a bit better but had to wear a brace similar to the one below for a further 4 months.
I started to try and rebuild after that. Through the whole process I had gained a lot, but more importantly I gained a new perspective on life. All the things I may have considered problems suddenly seemed insignificant. I changed as a person, I matured overnight.
But through all the changes my true passion rose back to number 1 on my priority list. It had to. Before I went into the hospital I was a person who was giving core classes and stand in spin classes as well as lifting heavy. I was used to being strong. Now sitting and standing up for long periods was a problem. My neck muscles had atrophied due to the supports and cranial traction which meant I was in constant pain and developed a bit of a hunch. I lived on schedule 5 and 6 pain killers for 2 years. My doctor only gave me permission to lift after a year but it was so painful I couldn’t dumbbell press more than 10kgs. I lost my desire to go to the gym. I believed that this would be my life going forward. Pain killers and stranded on a couch. I gave up on training and focused on other things.
After the second year I started to realise that pain killers 2 to 3 times a day had to be having an effect on my kidneys. So one day I woke up and decided that was it I would only use them when I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. In any case I had been on them for so long I had almost become immune to their effects. I tried to get back into the gym on and off over the next few years but I found that I had slowly been losing mobility in my body.
Eventually I was so tight and sore I went to see an orthopaedic surgeon. We recapped and did some scans to find that my L4-L5 disc was now worn and protruding pressing on to my spinal cord. This was as a result of spending the last 6 years with a misaligned body caused by scar tissue in my neck and skull region so my body just basically went into spasm to different degrees in different areas to protect my spine. I had actually managed to train consistently at that point for 6 months and again I was faced with a choice. Give it up or suffer more. My core was now compromised due to the nerves affected.
Through various strokes of luck though I found my saving grace. A physio who still looks after me today named Michael Mabasa. The first consultation he showed me what a mess my body was in. Rotated, in spasm, misaligned, even I was shocked. He looked at me and said “Boy you are a mess”. I sat there with a deep sense of disappointment once more. He looked at me grabbed my forearm and started to discuss the path that had got me here. I didn’t realise it at first but he was massaging my forearm and after a bit asked me how my neck was feeling? I sat there and realised that I felt less pressure on my jaw. He continued to release through massage. At the end of the session I was in tears because for the first time in 6 years I had less tightness and pain. I felt the tension in my body release. It was as if the weight on my shoulders was literally lifted off.
Over the next 2 months I was not allowed to lift a single weight and we started rebuilding my core. I will get into this later i.e. the importance of core stability in achieving hypertrophy goals as I feel it is sorely neglected by your average lifter. For now I’ll tell you, the exercises I did in the beginning of that rehab were the hardest I had ever done. They were the smallest of movements yet I would be covered in sweat. I did 3 to 4 sessions a week and was eventually given permission to lift again at 50% of my previous capacity. Amazingly in the month after I gained 5 kilos(not fat). Just by realigning things and getting my biomechanics working properly again I had gained that much weight. I didn’t even change my diet. I finally felt as though I could again get back on track.
It has been 5 years now since I was blessed to meet Michael. I see him one to two times a month for fascial release and realignment which I call tune-ups. I started with him weighing 69kgs after that initial spurt of 5kgs I was 74kgs. Today I weigh 90kgs with the hope of competing in my first show that should have happened 12 years ago. I’m a bit fluffy at the moment but hey I’m bulking! I had aimed to compete aggressively through my 20s and slow down and be more selective in my 30s about shows etc but 12 years on I’m fighting for my first appearance on stage.
I have found a coach after going through a few who finally gets what it means to be living with the challenges I face on a daily basis. We focus more on TUT type training rather than blood and guts style. Don’t get me wrong I still can lift heavy, but those days are for when I get bored. I’m all about the mind muscle connection which I have had to retrain in certain parts of my body since the injuries and misalignment cause neural inhibition to different degrees.
Life is not easy by any means now. I’m still in pain and stiff each morning of my life. My morning routine consists of spinal/neural stretches and a hot shower to loosen overnight tension. I talk to myself each morning saying “Come on Dubs time to get up! How bad do you want it?” Thanks for that Eric Thomas. There are days where I lose the battle and just call in sick to work. As I write this I can feel that one of my cervical vertebrae is rotated (Yes that happens to me and can happen to you) It actually physically protrudes so its pretty obvious. I have learned to live with different pain thresholds these days but I think I will see Michael this week to pop it back in. The pain killers and muscle relaxants are still a last resort and I have not taken any yet.
My family asks me why I keep putting myself through all this “bodybuilding” and some days I wonder myself. In fact about 2 years ago I decided it just wasn’t worth it so I stopped training. I would still do my core movements. But within 2 weeks I was curled up in a ball in bed crying in pain. My body now requires the constant forces applied to it from the compound movements I do it seems, to stay strong enough to get through a work day. So in the end I suppose not only did bodybuilding save my life – which is what the doctor told me when I had the accident – but it continues to help me live on a day to day basis. I’m trying to keep myself strong enough so that one day when medical science finally tells me they can synthesise a new disc for me from my stem cells, I will go under the knife.
For now, if you meet me there’s a good chance that some part of my body in in spasm and pain, but you learn to smile through and live with it. If you don’t, pain can turn you into a really ugly person. I promised myself to try and not let it get to me and always spread as much love and positive energy to others as I can. I mean things could be far worse right? With the break I had every medical professional that came to look at me was shocked that I was talking to them and not a paraplegic breathing through a hole in my trachea on a machine. Apparently I’m the luckiest guy in the world because we were talking about tolerances of millimeters. Until medical science comes to the party though I’ll be grinding away fighting the good fight.
In the next installment I will be discussing my goals that I have set with my coach and introduce you to him if you haven’t seen on my social media posts yet and what I would like to present to you the audience/reader and if there are any judges reading when I step on stage.
Till then… Lift strong and appreciate and cherish your healthy bodies!
Your Brother in Iron