Shocking announcement of my injury

So here I am back in this familiar place, to do all these familiar test on my left hand.
Something was different today, I could tell before I had a chance to speak to my OT.

“Today is the day you will be discharged from OT till you get the next bout of botox.”

Good news! This meant that I have officially graduated from the system, so-called there was nothing more the OTs could have done for me. At the same time, I felt a little sad. I knew that there were still alot of work needed for my left hand and arm. I am still far off from where I once was. So does this meant that the OTs think that this is  the end of the journey for me? I don’t know. I try not to think too deep into this and probably just have to keep my head down and work hard (once again) and hope for the best. fingers crossed*

My OT then recapped my whole injury journey with an intern and it made me realised how long and cruel this journey had been.
On day one, i couldnt use my left hand and legs.
Some days later I managed to stand, then transfer myself from bed to chair/wheelchair, and bit by bit, my right hand got stronger, till finally, one day when my left hand decided to wake up and we could actually do some quantitative test for my left hand. I sure love quantitative tests, part and parcel of being a scientist i guess, totally sucked in by numbers. Hey. Numbers don’t lie. That is the beauty of things. Then came the shocking news.

OT: So, Zac, you are actually an official C1 incomplete spinal patient.

Me: Huh? What? I thought I was a C4 incomplete.

OT: Nope. You had a C4 fracture but you are really a C1 incomplete. This is how we term things. The lowest vertebrae that is unaffected by the injury will be reflected. Because you have deficits starting from your C2, you are then termed as a C1 incomplete.

My jaw dropped. Never did I know it was THAT serious.

OT: So, do you know what are the implications if Zac’s C1 would have been affected?

Intern: Zac would have only been able to move his head after the fall?

OT: Nope.  He would have died.

I felt cold from within, all over again.

OT: C1 controls the respiratory system. So, if it was damaged, Zac’s respiratory system would have stopped functioning and unless someone were to perform CPR on him immediately, his journey would have ended there.

I felt so thankful to be in the position I am in now. To be able to live. To be able to be given a second chance at life. Literally, a second life.

Intern: My goodness. You must be really lucky Zac. How many years ago did this accident happen?

Me: 6 months ago. Almost exactly 6 months ago.

The intern was shocked. I can see it in his eyes.

OT: And I will have to be honest, Zac is a fighter. He comes in smashing the workouts daily, never giving up and till today, I have no idea why he is recovering so fast and well. Nevertheless, I am happy for him and I am sure his family is.

This OT session will be embedded in my heart. This conversation has reminded me of this near-death accident I had. Often I hear people saying “If i were to be paralyzed, I would rather die”. Let me tell you know that is a lot of bull. I would rather be paralyzed than to die. I am really thankful.

After all the rehabilitation, I could not help but ask myself “what if”. I could not help but think about the accident. I could not help but think how badly things could have gotten and this, made me think about my accident very differently now. Like very differently. I know i almost died. I know i could have been paralysed for life. I just did not know I was this close. I would say a differences of 1 mm would have been the end of chapter on earth.

SO, me being me, I just had to drive by the accident site again.
“FACE IT HEAD ON” I hear it screaming in my head.
I stopped the car, took a real good look. Let the memory replay the accident in my head.
I took my time to ensure I was able to walk away from here knowing that I am undefeated. I know that I have to be at peace with the situation, with myself.
I embraced the crash. the pain, the helpless and the near-death. I think I did.
I was ready to go.

I got into my car, and unknowingly, I drove myself to McGilivary, the place where I was heading towards when I had my crash.

The view that greeted me at McGilivary. “Come get me” it says.

The sky looks so clear. The grass felt soft. How I missed the 400 m track.
I had just finished a big rehabilitation session with the physios and I had just done a 30km time-trial yesterday. I should have known better than to start running. As everyone would have known by now, I couldnt care less.

Off came my jumper and I started running. This familiar place, this wonderful place where I had so many wonderful memories together with Grant, Gab, Alex and James. As i was running, I recalled the first session I had with Grant. I could remember the exact workout that was done that night and unfortunately how I was dropped by everyone. When I came back on the 100 m bend, I remembered how Gab, Stuart and I used to do the intervals during the winter with them doing 1000 m and me doing 900 m. This very line on lane 8 was where I stopped while I watch Gab fly off to complete his 1000 m. I even remembered Gab grumbling saying “why does Zac have it easy? its 100 m shorter than me”.

The ending of my first ever 900 m repeats.

As I took my rest between the 400 m, I could “hear” Grant telling me how I should have as little rest as possible between the repeats because I need to learn to function with all these lactic in me. I took off and gone for another 4 sets before I threw up. Amazingly, I threw up at the exact same spot as I did on my first training with Grant. I smiled to myself.

It feels bloody good to be alive. 

Never felt so happy to be throwing up. 

Today was the first time I actually ran with ease. I could actually think of all these while I am running. I felt free for the brief moment. As i ran my last 800 m, I prayed and gave thanks to God. Thank you for keeping me a little longer.

Hopefully I will be able to build up more sets and speed in time to come.
Hope to be back training, throwing up, building all the lactic in me.
I am not going to back off. Life is too short.
I will join you on the 1000 m repeat again Gab. No short cuts this time round.

I will be back.

prepared and written by Zac Leow

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Sportsman Scientist Husband Victorian

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