During my 16 months after my road traffic collision, I was very aware that I was in a ‘bubble’…
I was very aware that there could be a chance that life outside hospital may be daunting and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I made every effort to ensure that I made visits to the OT and Physio departments off the ward and also started to visit the hospital Café on a weekend. These trips out from the ward or my bubble help me get used to seeing the ‘real world’ and different people again. People did have the odd look at me, but I just smiled back at them.
I experienced many changes to my body which led me to be very conscious about myself. One of these changes was that I had to have a tracheostomy fitted. I would always wear scarves (even in summer) to disguise it until one day I went to the shops and we had forgotten to bring one with us. The worry I had all that time about people looking at me because I had a tracheostomy needn’t had worried me. It was my wheelchair people noticed, not my trachy, so from that day on I never wore a scarf again. It was a small part of my journey in starting to accept my new body.
I put a lot of weight on due to not being able to exercise and my body shape changed dramatically. I have low muscle tone therefore my stomach is very prominent. Over the years, I had to change my mindset around different styles of clothes and took my own positive actions as to how I improve my thoughts around my body shape. I often find it really hard to choose clothes that I like, will look right on my body shape as it is now and also hide my leg bag. This means that I spend lots of time either going out shopping or online shopping and there is a positive right there…I love shopping! I care about my appearance and by choosing to wear nice clothes and the fact that I always like my makeup done when I go out is something I can have control over.
The last thing I wanted to feature was how I have coped with the fact that I now need someone to do everything for me, including my personal care. In the early days after my RTC I found it really quite hard as I was very conscious about my body. I have a fantastic team around me who are so very sensitive and with who I feel comfortable with. I had to find a way of dealing with it and over the years I did…I just started to program my body to sleep through my shower and morning routine! I didn’t have to worry then!
I must look after my body even more since my accident, and the older I get the more aware I am of this. The long-term effects are that, apart from the paralysis, I have brittle bones, osteoporosis, requiring postural management, a tracheostomy in situ in case I require suction or for times when I do need some assistance from my ventilator, and I am susceptible to pressure sores. If I develop a pressure sore, it can mean me being extremely restricted in what I am able to do including showering, going out and being required to lay on my side for hours at a time in the hope it will heal.
I have always tried to follow the advice that I have been given over the years as I feel that if I take care of my body, I won’t restrict my day to day activities.
Everyone is unique, has their own story to tell and deals with things differently. I just hope that by sharing my experiences and coping strategies around the issues I had around leaving hospital and with my body image it shows, that although it takes time, that by talking to people, surrounding yourself with those who you feel comfortable with and accept you for being you, you can get there.
Be kind to yourself. Look after yourself. There’s only one you!