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Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Week 16/17– The weeks seemingly flying by to the ever present backdrop of this global pandemic  and national uncertainty I was hoping to check in with some kind of amazing up-date, alas not currently but then that’s probably me not being able to see the woods for the trees ! The weeks taking on the their new normal working again but with some changes as mentioned  in previous blogs, adapting to make sure things can still get done and during those working days it aids as a distraction to thinking about my neck – but even then it’s like a shadow following me around day to day without the need for sunshine to create it, but seeing this week 15 out meant a week away in North Devon something pre-booked a while back it would be my first holiday of 2020 all bar a nice week in Hotel NHS SJR Oxford lol. The last week of full on physio before the week away so we decided to pack up the TRX system and weights so as to try and keep things going as I wasn’t sure if missing a week would then mean a bigger step backwards in recovery, apart from me constantly aching inside, my neck flexation seemed again to be the same old same old! Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Setting off on rain drenched Saturday heading southwest with the stop off on route in Tiverton for some lunch and supplies wasn’t a memorable place note to self on the return. It’s been some time since venturing this far south/west , memories flooding back of sunny rides along the Tarker trail with a young Shea, from Barnstable to Instowe, visiting Tapely House, Westwood ho. Another stint with Anita, Steve Howard and Claire staying in Croyde bay surfing and kiting, another time with Anita and the boys KB & Tate them having surfing lessons, walks to watersmeet, and surrounding areas so it holds fond memories.  Apartment was self-contained and a minutes’ walk to the large beach of Woolacombe and Puttsborough, just off the back of the latest storm the surf was erratic and messy and pretty big, thoughts of getting a wetsuit back on and doing some body boarding was on the cards as was going for a few rides injury permitting, but first and foremost that hand in hand walk on the beach with wifey getting that sea air in our systems.

The plan was to try go for a ride along the Tarker trail again as it was flat with a view for ice creams on the beach front of idyllic Instowe. Forecast was to be sunshine and shower day so dressed accordingly for a bike ride. Setting off from Barnstable train station the Tarker follows the estuary towards Bideford basically an old railway line. Hard work pedalling into the wind I got immersed head down cranking it along to Frimington, before being told off by wifey!  Was a good point to stop and have lunch in the amazing café, the food was awesome ready for the next stage trying to hold off the ache, picture stop and the heavens opened up into the driving wind typically in your face short lived and the sun was back out and the trail just disappeared off into the distance at times you were peddling and going nowhere fast and we made  it to Yellend, place of an old works but someway short of Instowe and that beachside ice-cream. A check on distance by wifey and the carried away with myself reality kicked in we had a 9K return leg and I was starting to suffer but the return from this point would at least be wind assisted, getting the hammer down the long stretches meant I didn’t need the head up all the time as it was feeling heavy with exhaustion, some sit ups and stretch out’s whilst riding and I just had to stop for a stretch and – re-group. Finally home leg and we were back and I was absolutely spent but from a 5K loop to a pushed 18K was pretty awesome as much as it hurt. Still emanates from the neck being held taut, that constant position just aids the muscle groups going into their own bodily lockdown, that in turn just wears you down to a point you struggle to keep your head aloft.  Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

A chill out was needed, with the sun now out and the new Lockdown dawning we spent a day mooching around Lynton and Lynmouth, lots of walks up the rivers and pasty’s on the beach good mental recovery tonic as we planned my first off road ride around the coastal path tomorrow. After a relaxed evening, watching the sunset and some light exercises the plan for the coastal ride was to ride to Ilfracombe and back, a little pensive but also excited. Anita was going to keep me reigned in along with the bike not having a seat dropper and flat pedals aided her and stopped me getting carried away on my first foray. Instantly felt good setting off along the coastal road overlooking the beach before peeling off onto the grass and pathway, popping up near Mortehoe to join the coastal path , a mixture of cliff top grass and pathways before some rock sections near the cliffs edge and plenty of undulating terrain to deal with but also plenty of stops to take in the scenery, take some shots and videos of the adventure, it felt good really good but like riding with those toddler reigns on but I guess that’s good in a way, we had made it to Rockham beach could see the lighthouse but a check on distance with the return in mind Ilfracombe was a long way out , so we decided to head back along the same route that would amount to 16K ish but again nearing the end the back was taut, the neck was stiff and the head was starting to drop with exhaustion.   Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Another relaxing evening and some stretch out’s with some added hydro work on the back and neck muscles better make the most of this shower. But a positive day yesterday ok so I’m still a long way off feeling completely bike fit , legs are on point climbing but still nowhere near the evening pre crash.  Another sunny day lifting the lockdown first day gloom but also an amazing birthday morning too, thanks to Wifey I now have mini shiny stars in my pants and stuck to my body lol but a great start to the day, the beach was busy with walkers and the dudes were out catching the last of the swell, we decided to pedal the beach to Puttsborough and then the coastal path around to Croyde bay and back through the narrow Devon back roads a round trip of some 10K there or thereabouts with a stop for we hope fish n chips on the beach.  Boy the beach seemed to drag on the wheels depending on where you rode, not aided by a strong head wind to was a real workout, this side of the coastal path was different more cliff top meadow as we made our way out to Baggy point, then a choice of lines down into Croyde but the it was a ghost town so Fish n chips had to wait, steep climb out of Croyde heading out on the road over the headlands before dropping back into Puttsborough and back onto the beach traverse aided by the wind this time, starting to feel it now as the ride was more constant today that in turn speeds us the knackering “ think that’s a word but it works “ Made it to Woolacombe and the café was open yipppppppeeeeeee  no fish but pasty n chips on the beach with a brew sitting in the warm November sunshine fitting end to a really great week. Back to the pad for coffee n cake, a cake with a difference had a massive firework tune plying candle on it AWESOME ! Before popping to the beach to watch the sunset once more, then home for fizzy bubbles and tea does a day get any better?  Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Saturday home lockdown style meant the roads would be empty or less busy and as luck would have it they were. Anita was out on the Sunday so I had a lazy one, met some clients and home to do nothing much as another full week loomed and back onto physio groove.  Keeping up the home stretches and TRX session, add some press-up’s now and some light dumb bell straight arm side lifts in a hope to keep building some strength up. Felt a step back in physio as it was more a general once over beating this session with the aim to be back on track the following week, still chasing BUPA to try and secure more sessions seems an uphill struggle for something that you pay for but hope to never use!  Another chaser to the Surgeon as I’d had no response since September and it’s long overdue my second out-patients visit, the tease of them sorting some NHS physio out also hasn’t come to  fruition either Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  The week flew past nothing out the blue to report but after watching “ Being Frank “ on the BBC a story about the news reporter Frank Gardener, this coupled with “ Any one of us “ I’d watched a many weeks ago and made me cry, both stories about spinal injuries both very different journeys, I guess they hit home because I was millimetres away from very different recovery journey myself thank god I’m not. One thing that I found interesting was that there is a spinal injury on average every 4hours in the UK ! Fcuk ME ! a large proportion also seem to be people diving into shallow water !? Huh !? Why how surely something you’d check first? Another thing that I found interesting and I myself have had those thoughts were your dreaming your shredding, sending it on your bike then you wake up and reality kicks in and your nowhere near that stage but wish your dream state was reality and your fucked up body is your dream state, both worth a watch but you might need your tissues.   Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Weekend was looking rather dire but Anita was out for a wet muddy shred with Top Gun ice lady Heather, So I kept busy on the home front, the same could be said for Sunday Anita out again with Adders for another helping of mud fest “she’s made for it“.  Managed a little spin in the afternoon as the sun made a guest appearance again seemed ok no further forwards in my eyes than it’s been before and the doubts creeping back in again that it never will be so was on a bit of downer and you guessed who gets the rough end of it Wifey, Anita and whilst I truly appreciate her comforting words it doesn’t erase the dark thoughts whirling away in my head. Another full week ahead and another session with Mark this coming Tuesday, I hope to hear from BUPA or SJR hospital you can but live in hope. Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

WEEK 18 – Another full working week on the cards, with jobs pushed out as I just can’t work as fast as I would normally. Finally the SJR got back to me and wanted me back the SJR spinal trauma clinic this Friday 20th November, at last I might get some answers I’ve been looking for. Physio session Tuesday Mark carried out the usual pre-beating checks, had quick chat about my fears and the backwards flexation and the bit that still seems like a brick or was that just the heads of the screws were prodding trying to see what’s what?  Again ever positive he went over my progress and range now and then just drilling that into my negative mind-set and way of self-assessment, same tune that Anita keeps telling the seriousness of the accident and the surgery and the time scale! Does it ever sink in I thought to myself when immersed it directly and they are only looking in from outside, Mark bluntly says he as he sees it, No! you’re not going to get the range you had pre-accident  BUT again it’s not been long in the recovery process – Revert above , there is still loads of range left in those muscle groups yet don’t worry with that the beating commences. First session is always face down a gentle lead up to things far worse and today was going to be working deep along the vertebrae lower back up one side and down the other increasing intensity as he went, then the elbow came into play deeper harder, working, working those stubborn muscles, my breathing deepening on the threshold of it being to painful breathing deep tears in eyes at this stage “ and 5 and 4 and 3 and 2 and well done !! Fcuk ME needed five minutes to compose myself in the child’s pose teary eyed before sitting up regathered rolled towel in lower back “ Exhale “  oomph spine popped before clasping hands behind head for upwards spine stretch out before going sunny side up for some neck works. Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

Massive relief after leaving Physio this week and back to work, the rest of Tuesday was tough and I got home spent, painkillers and do nothing.  Wednesday I felt like I had gone back 3 or 4 weeks even to a point of turning my head left or right with my upper body & shoulders again FFS!!!  Flexing backwards again limited as hell even with painkillers on boards this was the worse I had felt in a long time I felt tired, grumpy and sad as the dark cloud consumed me again. Home tears with wifey trying to release those dark thoughts inside just let it pour out sometimes it does you good just to cry and vent.  Thursday felt 100 times better compared to yesterday but then I guess the fallout from such a hard session the body will rebel a bit but I think the tendons joined the protest along with the internal ambulance crews for a mark against physio cruelty! As the day wore on things eased up , back onto the home stretches and TRX works prepped and ready for a return visit to SJR spinal trauma clinic in the morning . Quiet emotional going back seeing the ward windows staring back at me but this time I was on the outside looking back in, provoked memories of the need to walk 5 meters from my bed to take a look outside and try and spot Anita driving in to brighten my hospital day. The clinic is in another part of the vast hospital site , but it wasn’t long before I was in for a new set of x-rays adjacent to the clinic. Then called up to see the consultant surgeon, then the remark from the registrar you look fit, I’ll take that as a plus, compliment or a chat up but she wasn’t my type lol. I guess seeing others in neck braces and other supportive aids, and me just waltzing in like I’d had no accident kinda fooled them a bit. A quick update from both of us, the consultant was amazed at my progress and what I had been up to, even being back on the bike some what in a tame kinda way, drew the attention of other consultants who gathered around the latest x-ray shots and the pre-surgery MRi scans, another glance back at me then back to the screens as I was called forwards for a closer look. I think then it really hit home how close I was to being in another road in my life and I can’t comprehend how that would have been, or if I would ever have coped with being a different ME, the impact on life and my amazing wife, my kids and family. Again he confirmed what Mark had said NO my neck rear flexation will never be the same, but it’s up to you how far you want to push those boundaries of movement as your easily 4-5 weeks more advanced than a normal recovery and it’ll take a year at least to feel completely normal, debatable with my normality n randomness but being 4 months into that and ahead of the average joe I hope come the new year and prior to my next visit in February for a full discharge I’ll be a better me. Bend it like Neck’ham Not!

With that it was back home very positive outcome, re-affirming what Mark had said about range of movements even with the metal works in situ, I sat in the car and pondered over the visit and my time here initially at the SJR welling up a little with those historical thoughts and my journey to date, yes I have come along way in a relative short space of time considering the severity of the crash, the operation , those long weeks ahead when I was stiff as a board, but an amazing wife, family and friends, Mark and Stu have been my wave  of recovery that I’m still surfing and will be for some time to come before it breaks on the beach and I’m back to being the new normal me, has there ever been a normal me!      Bend it like Neck’ham Not!