Aim for the moon if you miss you still land in the stars
My name’s Nikki Rodwell, I’m just an ordinary woman learning to become ‘extraordinary’ by carving out a wonderful life and steering myself towards my full potential with the help of lessons learnt by my life experiences, my wonderful husband and an amazing opportunity which presented itself to me in more recent years by the name of ‘Tropic Skincare’, a brand with whom I am now an Executive Manager. In addition I can now add the lessons I’ve learnt through a recent traumatic injury resulting in a broken T12 vertebrae and damage to my spinal cord.
So you know I’m an “all or nothing’ kind of girl right? Well I would say I am. I’m all in or I’m not really interested. Do a job properly or don’t do it at all I say! After all, I’d never broken a single bone in my body, then look what I did last year! Spectacularly smashed my T12 vertebrae to smithereens.
Well… I’ve been thinking recently how I should continue with this blog, unsure what to write about since I don’t really want to bore you with intricate details of my recovery when its slowed right down like it has recently. But then I feel guilty at my lack of writing, failing to be consistent or finding an ending to give you all, especially as some of you have been incredibly kind in telling me you have loved reading my ramblings. I just kind of stopped! Well what is that programme where they say ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish?’
Whilst searching for a way to continue I have found something to keep me motivated to ‘write’, instigated from writing this blog….. can you guess?
I’m writing a book! There I’ve said it. No going back now! I’ve announced it in black and white! I’m writing a flipping book! Now I’ve gone and got you ALL as my accountability partners to see this through. Well actually, to be honest, parting with £1500 has kind of done the accountability bit already. I’ve signed up to a self-publishing school who help with the writing, publishing and launching of the book. They claim to get their students from Pen to Published in as little as 3 months but then they don’t know I have a Tropic business to run and a team of ladies to support! Plus 2 doggies and a recovery to work at. So, my goal is set to complete 10 months to a year from now.
Now you may laugh when I tell you that I got ‘writer’s block’ before I’d even started writing (lol) but I was overcome with training modules, zoom ‘mentor’ calls, and being brought into the school’s ‘mastermind’ community’ on FB in my first week. Gosh that’s scary, me part of a mastermind group?
‘Nikki Rodwell your specialised subject is?’
‘How to unsuccessfully train Labradors? How to spectacularly elongate your recovery to just the right level where you are not expected to get the ironing board out again?’ Oh yes that was it…… Mastermind!!
So, the ‘writers block’ came in my first week because before you start writing, there’s a definite process of mind mapping, planning and creating your work of art. There are certain rules to your structure and style and of course it is going to be read by people I have never met who aren’t the least bit interested in me so has to be written in a way to really engage the reader! Who knew it!
I literally had to rack my brain to find where to start and where to end, and what the plot was going to be, even though that seemed pretty obvious being it’s my memoir on events of last year! It turns out I can’t just copy and paste my blog (as if the thought would have crossed my mind!! ).
Now I did write a book (well I wrote something) about 10 years ago when I first moved to Norfolk. 16 chapters to be precise. It obviously has been shelved but I initially thought this would be the book to focus on and that now would be a good time to resurrect it. However, in my initial call with this publishing school, my mentor and I reached the conclusion to scrap this idea (since it would most definitely NOT have followed any of the rules) and start again! Wow he could tell how bad I am at writing without even reading it! LOL He convinced me that if I started again with a fresh story using the process I was about to learn it would set me up for writing more books in the future.
J K Rowling here we come!!
So, events of last year is what my memoir is to be based around and maybe if I do still resurrect the other book it can be ‘prequel’ in my trilogy. (Whoa … am I getting ahead of myself here?)
So thank you for reading this, and if you have enjoyed my blog posts and feel you would be interested in my book when it gets here, please bear in mind I will be looking for a ‘launch’ team, a group of people who get the ‘early bird’ copy of my book to help market it for me and leave me honest reviews!
Wish me luck!
Reach for the moon, if you miss you still get to land in the stars. xx
A different blog and a little out of sync with my previous blogs about my journey to recovery from my spinal injury….. but with the current climate I just felt an urgency to get this off my chest so if you have a few minutes to take the ‘time’ to read, I would be very grateful.
How often do you use the excuse ‘I just don’t have time?’ Be honest…. We’ve all done it! But some of us more than others, and interestingly in my line of business I hear it a lot! I also know from what I see that the most successful people are usually the busiest people and they are the ones who ‘find time’, mainly because they have their priorities and life organised in such a way they aren’t running round in circles wasting more time than necessary being stressed by ‘having no time’ and they embrace ‘being busy’. I’ve seen busy mums juggling numerous children, jobs, being on the committee for every imaginable group, running the home single handedly whilst managing a successful ‘home business’ at the same time! To the other extreme I’ve seen people who potter around at home in the garden with no jobs or family commitments complaining of ‘stress’ and being too busy all the time, exhausted by doing their weekly shopping!! So you see I really do believe it all to be a ‘state of mind’.
For those who know me…. You will know that I am an ambassador for Tropic skincare and have been for the past 4 ½ years. You will also know how passionate I am about what I do and the joy it has brought me. As well as being empowered by meeting and making so many new friends, having opportunities like my trips to Lapland, Mauritius and South Africa, I have also been fortunate enough to have built a business that still brought me a full-time income even whilst in hospital with a broken back for 4 months! It has shaped me into the person that I am today and given me a confidence I never knew I had.
So, as well as having no hesitation in recommending our amazing products (recommending sounds so much better than ‘selling’ since I have never considered myself a sales person!) I also have no hesitation in ‘recommending’ people to join my amazing team of Tropic Troupers! This is no different to the way you would recommend a great film you’ve seen or an amazing restaurant you may have eaten at. When you truly believe in something you don’t hesitate to recommend it. However, with my business I have learnt to acclimatise quite quickly to hearing people’s knock backs and excuses and yes, guess what the most popular reason is….. you’ve guessed it ‘I just don’t have time!’
So I would ask everyone I have asked or recommended to find out about becoming an ambassador before…. have you got time now? Have you got time to do a 2 hour online training presentation with me and watch a few training videos before embarking on your own exciting beauty business? Despite the current climate and probably a lot more time on your hands, I bet for most the answer would still be ‘NO’ I haven’t got time…….. because I know that deep down, time is not really the issue. 9 times out of 10 people refuse to even just take a look, not just at the Tropic opportunity, but at any opportunity of something new because of one reason that afflicts all of humanity these days. Let me expand…
As cavemen our natural instinct was to have a daily fear of impending death as we never knew what was round the corner. There were lions and tigers and other animals hunting us down for their next meal!! Yes it’s true! Can you imagine living on a daily basis not knowing if you may be a tiger’s dinner? We were programmed to live with the constant stress and fear of staying alive.
Obviously with evolution we no longer have to use our fight or flight instinct daily from being hunted by predators. No, but instead, we have a new fear, a different fear…. the greatest fear that we are globally inflicted with nowadays and that is …… (drumroll)
The Fear of ‘Failure!’ Something we have created and subconsciously let affect our every action and thought through our journey of life!
We have wrongly believed most of our life that the flip side of success is ‘failure’. That it is something painful, negative, to be avoided at all costs! Yet we learn so much about ourselves in pushing ourselves to achieve big goals that even if we ‘fail’ to reach the actual goal we have achieve so much in the ‘doing’ and that in itself is ‘success’. So you see failure is a good thing…. And a necessary part of success!! If you say ‘no’ to opportunity or trying something new, or making change, that ironically is more of what our perception of ‘failure’ really is.
Its better to try and fail, than to fail trying!!
Each failure builds us to the next big success! It is what we learn on the journey that is most important and makes the difference!
Human nature has taught us to be cautious and stay in our comfort zone in order to ‘avoid’ the risk of facing any failure! Saying ‘yes’ to something new and unknown is most definitely outside of that comfort zone and most will talk themselves out of taking a ‘risk’ or ‘trying something new’ just in case they ‘fail’. With my offer I believe that quite often people have internal conversations saying things like ‘ I’m not the sort of person who does sales, I’m not confident enough to speak to people, I don’t want to be one of those pushy people, It’s probably one of those scams, I Don’t Have Time!! etc when deep down they are thinking ‘what will my friends think, what If I’m no good at it? What if I make a fool of myself and don’t make it work? What if I can’t learn something new?
Ironically most people are not content in their lives and looking for something which is missing, be it financially, maybe something for them, making a difference to others, or that certain ‘new lease of life’ …. which invariably can only be found ‘outside of their comfort zone’
Albert Einstein said:
‘ Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’
This sadly describes what an awful lot people do, staying stuck in a job they may not be happy in, or a relationship that drags them down, or making excuses to avoid making changes that would help them better themselves or their lives in some way. Instead they do the same thing day in and day out and wonder why they cant reach that point of contentment, feeling their full worth, or finding success.
The great news is that as humans we all have equal unlimited potential… the potential to ‘level up’ and achieve a 10/10 in some or all areas of our life. The only place it can be found is ‘outside’ of your comfort zone, and believe me, the rewards are huge there, but sadly its a place a lot of people refuse to go!
Now don’t get me wrong…. I’m not assuming that becoming a Tropic ambassador is the answer for everyone to reach their full potential (in fact for some, they really should steer clear!), but I do believe we all need to be a little bit braver and say ‘YES’ to things we may normally shy away from! Make ‘time’ for a new challenge, do something you haven’t done before and ‘think big’ !! That is how you go from the small bubble in the picture to the large bubble where ‘magic happens’.
So who do I believe should take a look at the Tropic opportunity in order to find out whether it could be something for them??……. EVERYONE WITH SKIN of course! 😂 😂 No just kidding!! Well obviously ladies (and I have had 2 men in our team) whoops that sounds wrong!! Well those who have an interest or passion for beauty, skincare, makeup OR sharing our green beauty message and making a difference to the planet and helping others to make healthier choices.
I do have a fantastic team of eclectic women (and men) of all different ages and backgrounds who all have different reasons ‘why’ they became a Tropic ambassador. The thing we all have in common is that we said ‘yes’ to an opportunity and we all support, uplift and empower each other in our journeys to get whatever it is we most want from our businesses. Believe me, the comradery and support you get with Tropic is unlike anything you’ve probably ever experienced before. Of course, if you want a really successful business (whereby you can give up your day job and achieve everything you wish for) you will have to work for it, as nothing comes for free in this world, and I wouldn’t sugar-coat it in any other way. However, the flexibility of being your own boss means that you dictate your pace, and you dictate your income. If you like to get creative, have a budding entrepreneur trying to escape from within, like a challenge and most importantly ‘don’t give up at the first hurdle’ then you too could have the potential to really meet your ‘full potential’.
As a Tropic Ambassador, we all have the same important message to get out to the world which is that ‘Beauty should not have to compromise our health’ and together we can create a ‘Greener, Cleaner and more Empowered World’ 💚.
Thank you for reading and of course do get in touch if you would like some more information about becoming a Tropic Ambassador. xx (Nikki.firstname.lastname@example.org)
My wheelchair adventures didn’t get off to a great start when I was winched via a hoist into my new wheelchair. I must have looked like a crushed bug dangling there, but Martin found it very amusing and was growled at by myself when he asked if he could video the occasion! I definitely did NOT want this most un-elegant moment recorded on Facebook! Safely planted in the wheelchair it hurt much more than I could have possibly imagined. I had no idea how many of my muscles needed to rebuild and strengthen. I couldn’t lean or move in any direction very far at all and trying to wheel the damn thing was not only complicated (I couldn’t work out which wheel to pull or push to turn it), but it hurt everything everywhere! Within half an hour I was whinging to be put back into my safety zone of the bed! I was told I needed to learn to build up to 4 hours so decided I would have to push myself through and do at least an hour today.
The nurses literally dumped you into the wheelchair and left you to get on with it! No softly softly approach, if you wanted something, you had to wheel yourself over and get it yourself. If you asked to be hoisted back into bed you would remain there until the following day. I felt massive anxiety worrying that it would always feel so ‘alien’ being sat in this chair, and the realisation hit me of just how much recovering I needed to do. It was one hell of an endurance test trying to remain in the wheelchair and it didn’t help that I was scared to move since my flipping catheter felt ultra-sensitive and kept triggering bladder spasms which were horrendous! My headphones and music became an integral part of helping me through these moments, as did my ‘calm’ app and learning to breathe! I learnt to breathe through the discomfort and the panic with time, but poor Martin had a very snappy and difficult wife to deal with on his first visit! I put a smile on for the camera… but believe me it was fake! The relief I felt when I got back into bed was blissful.
On Martin’s second day of visiting me, I was introduced to my physio team and was shown how to use a ‘slideboard’ which is a little like a large wooden skateboard (without wheels) and is used to transfer from bed to wheelchair, and later on to toilet, car seat etc. I successfully managed to do this whilst being supervised. When I was transferred back into bed a couple of hours and a lot of whinging later the slideboard was returned to the physio department and a moment I’ll never forget was when I asked the nurse where I was to get my slideboard from the following day.
‘Oh, you will make your own slideboard in woodwork’ she replied.
My jaw hit the floor in disbelief and I responded
‘You’re kidding right?’
Martin was sniggering and when she assured me that this was not a joke, and yes everyone gets to make their own slideboard in ‘woodwork class’ Martin couldn’t withhold uncontrollable fits of the giggles … he knew what a useless muppet I am when it comes to household ‘handyman’ type jobs. The vision of me in a woodwork class was too much for him to bear!
It was a Sunday and Martin was heading back to Norfolk. My goals were written down that same evening; to be able to do an unassisted transfer by the time he came back in 4 days time on Thursday, which would mean they would allow me to do a transfer to a toilet! YAY! I could see the freedom of being able to get myself on and off my bed into the wheelchair would give me. My goal was smashed the very next day and physio signed me off to do transfers on my own! In fact, not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but only a day later I was signed off to do ‘lift and shift’ transfers completely bypassing using the slide board meaning I never actually had to go to woodwork to make my own! Obviously something I relished in telling Martin ! I had strength in my legs to stand so using my upper body strength a lift and shift involved angling the chair next to the bed, lowering the bed to the correct height and then shifting myself across into the seat of my wheelchair.
I loved my first physio class and told my personal teacher that my goal was to be walking when I left the hospital and that I needed to be pushed. After assessing me, she set me the goal of using a frame to stand and turn in 10 day’s time. It may come as no surprise to you that I smashed this goal in just 5 days, and her face when she watched me walk around the gym using the frame made me feel proud as punch!
By far my worse memory of being in Sheffield was the bladder spasms. I think it was my sphincter muscle that would clamp into a painful spasm for about 30 seconds and I had to breathe through it like a labour contraction! I pleaded with the staff to give me something and having been put on antibiotics in case it were a bladder infection, I was so relieved when a lovely nurse decided that my catheter just ‘had to come out’ …. she believed my body was rejecting it and was trying to do the job itself. So Cathy was finally removed and my fanjita was having a partaaaay! It was free… I could move without getting spasms and best of all…. I COULD PEE!! Whilst I narrowly missed getting to the toilet the first time due to my dodgy wheelchair skills, I can safely say I had no further accidents and the relief of having my bladder AND my bowel back under my own control was like the best thing I could have wished for! My minions had worked!! It is something that I am so grateful for to this day, and it is very rare for a SCI (spinal cord injury) patient to regain these functions, even if they are able to walk.
I had a beaming smile on my face at my next ward round with the Consultants and Drs as I walked into the room with a frame! My physio was there to ensure I was okay and to report on my speedy progress. After a list of questions … including personal questions about my bowels and passing wind…
‘are you able to hold a fart in Nikki?’ my consultant asked,
I looked perplexed and answered ‘why would I want to do that?!’ an answer I can now see is very amusing!
The moment came and the Drs told me they had decided on a discharge date and that so long as I continued with my current pace of recovery I would leave on 4th OCTOBER!! OMG! I was elated. I had blown the theory that despite being a walker I would be in for 6-8 weeks and my original goal of wanting to be out by the end of September was only short by a mere 4 days. As my title to my blog says…. ‘Reach for the moon, if you miss, you still land in the stars’ I was going home!!
Having waited for nearly 7 weeks to hear the news that I was going to Sheffield (Specialist Spinal Unit), I burst into tears when I finally received the news which felt like all my Christmas’s had come at once! I was literally elated. Bizarre, considering I had no idea where and what I was going to, but I just knew it was the right place to be going to get the fullest and best recovery in order to start walking and get home. I’ve never been to Sheffield in my life. I wasn’t planning to do any sightseeing, but my limited knowledge knew it was a very industrialised city and located not too far from Leeds where my daughter is at uni. I’d heard that the hospital was going to be very different to what I had become used to, a bit like boot camp, which sounded right up my street! My only reservation was how far away I would be from Norfolk which meant I wouldn’t have any visitors other than once a week from Martin. It did feel a little like I was being sent off to boarding school, but it was exciting…
So, on the 5th September, I was wheeled off from Gately ward after 7 long weeks and after some emotional goodbyes, I had my first feel of fresh air for nearly 2 months and briefly felt the sun on my face before being loaded into a transport vehicle. The journey was a bit of a shock after being handled so delicately. In fact, it was positively scary being swung around roundabouts and feeling all the bumps in the road at high speed as I lay there on the stretcher gripping the sides with my arms. I could feel every vibration and bump as though my spine were now made of glass! My catheter bag was clipped to the end of my stretcher (unfortunately) and getting the urge that I needed to pee yet again, I asked my non-communicative assistant on the journey to check the bag. He did this fairly reluctantly and discovered that it had been clipped off which meant it wasn’t draining into the bag which he quickly adjusted. The journey was awkward as well as uncomfortable so I was relieved 4 ½ hours later when we arrived and I was wheeled onto Osborne ward where I was greeted by 2 nurses with very strong Yorkshire accents welcoming me. It hadn’t even dawned on me they would speak differently. I really did feel far away from home now LOL!
My new home was a small ward with about 30-40 other spinal patients. The rooms either had 1, 2 or 4 beds in, some were even en-suite! I was put in a room right by the reception … RESULT! I had the room to myself as the other bed was unoccupied. It was much more spacious than the bed space I had been used to, with a single wardrobe as well as drawers, to take whatever clothes had been packed in my bag by Martin! I had my own overhead TV which was FREE?! (I’d not watched any TV at N&N) things were looking good! The food was definitely an improvement and there were even hot breakfasts, I started to feel like I’d checked into a hotel!
I was transferred across to my new bed via a slide board and further differences in hospitals became apparent immediately! The male and female nurse (I’ll keep the names anonymous) asked me to roll myself to the side?! HUH? I looked at them shocked and explained how I had nurses roll me at the N&N.
“You’re with us now, you aren’t ill, and you aren’t as fragile as you seem to think, you’re injury has healed and it is perfectly safe to move!”
Although I felt slightly apprehensive having been treated as ‘special’ and yes ‘fragile’ on the N&N ward, I did as they said and gripping the side barriers of the bed rolled myself over so they could help remove my clothing. They helped me to get my pyjamas on, it was soooo nice not to be in a hospital gown anymore! They believed in wearing your own clothes here and NO nappy type pads in the bed either!
The nurses at N&N had been so careful when lifting my legs to change my socks almost using a ruler to check they didn’t lift them a millimetre too high, but here…. well you would have thought they were doing the flipping Can Can with my legs!! I did have to yelp a little to let them know just how stiff and un-flexible my muscles had become. I had to trust they knew what they were doing and go with it!
After I had bloods taken (which took 4 attempts), and the consultant and various Drs had been to carry out some tests to check my level of injury by seeing what bodily parts I could move and where I could feel a pin prick from head to toe, I was allowed to be raised up in the bed. A nurse came and started measuring my legs and hips…. I looked confused.
“It’s for your wheelchair” she said. My face must have been a picture….
I had told Martin categorically that I would not be needing a wheelchair! I had made up my mind I was going to be a walker and would NOT need a wheelchair under any circumstances. I was horrified that a leaflet I had been given at the N&N on spinal injuries only had pictures of people sitting in wheelchairs, and NO-ONE walking or standing… where was the hope in that? I knew that some SCI patients could walk and I was going to be one of them! I guess that maybe I saw it as a personal failure if I were to be in a wheelchair. How did I honestly think I would get from A to B? Was I going to fly or be carried? How would I get to Physio lessons, or even to the luxury of the toilet when that time came? Being I had 7 weeks of extreme muscle wastage and needed to learn from scratch how to walk again there was no other way to have independence other than with a wheelchair. It was wheeled into my room and left by the side of my bed the following morning and I gave it a look of disgust.
Oh how that would change… I would not only grow to love and embrace my wheelchair; I would defend it and everyone who uses one but also learn to manoeuvre it like Stirling Moss does a racing car. How wrongly people perceive wheelchair users! Yes, many are paralysed, perhaps severely disabled, but many can also take steps, or actually walk. I have since discovered that people talk more loudly to you when you are out shopping in a wheelchair, since they think you may be deaf too! They also talk more slowly and give sympathetic looks like my brain isn’t working either! LOL
My first morning and first experience of getting back to normality was when I was wheeled into a shower room on a kind of bed that converted into a shower bed! It was the first time in 7 weeks I had felt a shower on me and as the nurse let me hold it and shower all over my body (whilst lying down) the tears poured down my face. It felt like a little piece of heaven. The warmth of the water flooding all over me was inexplicably comforting. I apologised for crying to the nurse, who told me I wasn’t the first! In fact, this wasn’t my first shed of tears that day, I had awoken to the sound of birds and the dawn chorus early that morning which had also stirred me to tears. I can’t even say that I had ordinarily noticed the birdsong prior to my accident, but the beauty of hearing pure nature outside gave me a feeling of hope and feeling connected to life again. The simple things you miss in hospital really does bring a new awareness.
Feeling fully refreshed and clean, I was wheeled back to my room covered with towels, where the same male and female nurse from the previous day slid me back onto my bed and assisted me with getting dressed. We chatted and I was intrigued by their accent. It was when I explained my intention to be out (discharged) by the end of September (today was the 6th September) that the conversation stopped and they looked across at each other with a knowing look …
‘What?’ I asked innocently…. aware that they knew something I didn’t,
“Well we can see you have good movement in your legs, and your outlook is probably very good, but you’re here for the long-haul Hun, even as a ‘walker’ you will be here for at least 6-8 weeks. Count yourself lucky some are here up to a year!”
Well that burst my bubble! I tried not to look like the spoilt brat who didn’t win the pass-the-parcel prize, but my lip went, and the tears poured down my face. As I gasped for breath, I admitted my own naivety in aiming too high this time in order to achieve the quickest outcome. They were both really re-assuring and whilst I was told I would definitely get the best result possible according to how much I participated and the effort I put in, even in the best-case scenario I was looking at 6-8 weeks. This hurt so much as my goal meant everything to me.
I immediately phoned Martin and blubbed down the phone to him feeling like I’d been given a prison sentence. Cross at my own naivety of thinking I would get home by the end of September.
Whilst I was aware that I had been over optimistic and had no idea what was to come, a little stubborn part of me decided I was still going to secretly aim for the end of September and try to prove everybody wrong! Aim for the Moon ……
What is a miracle? I mean seriously…. not in the Jesus healing the blind sort of way, or walking on water. Well I believe a miracle is achieving the unexpected or ‘out of the ordinary (Extraordinary)’ for YOU. We are all capable of achieving miracles.
My hero/guru Hal Elrod wrote a book called ‘The Miracle Morning’ which resonated with me so much when reading a couple of months before my accident. I implemented his method of choosing to get up 1 hour earlier each morning (a miracle in itself for me!) and started planning my day, practising gratitude and mindfulness. As a consequence, my Tropic business had an incredible month in June, which brought high sales and new team members to my central team. It seemed his method really did work!
I was so in awe of this man who became my new ‘Mr Motivator’ that I wrote an email to him telling him about my accident and how much his book had impacted on me and that I was his biggest fan! Despite being a huge celebrity in the states (well he holds motivational events for 1000s and has his own podcast channel, is a successful author and has a humungous following), he actually got back to me! I cried whilst lying there in my hospital bed listening to him through my pink headphones watching a personal video he sent to me. He said that ‘despite my adversity’, there would be valuable lessons in my traumatic experience to learn and grow from. This was a man who had experienced something not too dissimilar from me, but in a different way. He had been involved in a head on collision in his early 20s and having broken 11 major bones, suffered some frontal lobe damage and died twice before landing in a coma for 6 weeks, he was told he wouldn’t walk for at least a year. 8 weeks later he walked out of hospital! He has also bravely fought off cancer some years later, and has been through many life experiences which he has always battled through by finding a level of acceptance and gratitude. His video gave me a well needed boost and I decided from that point forwards to accept my situation, no matter how grim, and do whatever I could do to get home as quickly as possible. My results were going to be a direct result of my own mindset! If Hal could walk out of hospital….. so could I !!
Around 10 days into my hospital stay sometime towards the end of July and on complete flat bedrest, my up-line manager came to see me and peering down at me said “Nikki I think you’ve got this, you’re going to win the trip!” Gosh I had forgotten about that! Here I was on a hospital ward unable to sit up, totally incapacitated and my Tropic business was still succeeding!
Each year Tropic offer an amazing trip incentive which I have been lucky enough to win each time since I became an ambassador 4 years ago. This time it was for a trip of a lifetime to Cambodia and Vietnam. Don’t get me wrong though, when I say win, it takes incredible hard work to achieve these all inclusive luxury trips and very difficult to do on sales alone.
As I tried to absorb my manager’s words I just thought ‘it can’t be possible’. Here I was stuck in a hospital bed at least until the end of August’ which was when the incentive would end. I had built up around 34,000 points since the incentive had started at the beginning of March and needed 40,000 in total. However, a couple of new June starters in my team were working hard at their sales and I was allowed to take points based on their sales up to 1000 points per person each month. I could see that my hard work practising ‘the miracle morning’ was paying its divdends now. I decided that I myself had to take further action as well though, since I didn’t want to end up a few hundred points short, that would be too frustrating for words, so I needed to do something pro-active myself! I set about from my hospital bed, using my mobile phone to set up an online e-pamper for my customers, promoting our gorgeous skincare products on Facebook asking everyone to shop online and add to their baskets for my e-pamper. Either my husband would take the orders to our Cafe for them to collect or they could pick up from the porch way at my home address. I generated about £350 orders which is 700 points. (This was all whilst the goings on were happening in my previous blog !) Also a lovely ambassador in my team kindly did one of my pamper bookings in August which generated another 1000 points. Many of my customers who were following my recovery on FB started placing online orders through my shop, so I ended up with about £1400 total in personal sales for the month of August equalling 2800 points! Pretty amazing even if I do say so myself! Coupled with the points I received from my June new ambassador sales I hit the jackpot and nailed the trip with a few weeks to spare! This gave me an incredible boost and a new goal to work towards since the trip was February 2020. I would have to be walking by then right?
I couldn’t hide my excitement when it became official on 16th August that I had won the trip. I shared the news with various nurses whom I was getting to know, and they were really happy for me, and grumbled that they were in the wrong profession!
So with the trip achieved and my wanting to get to the ‘Glammies’ at the end of September, I had to get on with my recovery. Whilst lying there flat on my back day after day, the one little thing that gave me a feeling of control was doing my exercises. Physio would come to see me 5 or possibly 6 days a week for some leg exercises and stretches. As fast as they gave me these exercises I added them to a chart for a daily routine so that I could practice them and do 2 or 3 times a day myself. I asked Martin to bring in some hand weights I had ordered online, and added upper body strengthening too, knowing this would come in useful should I be in a wheelchair. He laughed at me when visiting, seeing me with my headphones on and hand weights looking somewhat like Jane Fonda! The good thing about recording my number of reps daily was that I could see my own improvement albeit quite small at times.
Nobody gave me any indication of when or if I would walk, I was just told I was going to Sheffield Spinal Unit and was 7th on the waiting list! That seemed too long to wait (I’m not known for my patience), so I set my own goals and decided with or without the help of Sheffield I was going to get up and walk out of this hospital at some point!! I set the goal (publicly on social media) that I would take 20 steps by the end of August. Whilst this was slightly naive… as quoted in the name of my blog ‘Reach for the Moon If you Miss, You’ll Land in the Stars’ and that certainly is what happened for me.
Martin and I disagreed over my goal setting as he wanted me to remain realistic and not set myself up for disappointment. However, had I taken his approach so as to avoid disappointment I would have only aimed for the clouds, and probably not got out as quickly I did.
I was told after 4 weeks of flat bed rest that because there was significant improvement in the movement in my legs, I was to have another week of FLAT bed rest before being allowed to be raised up. WTF?? Why was I being punished for how well my legs were coming along! It was explained that to give my spinal injury the best chance of making the fullest recovery it was to my advantage to remain flat until the improvement levelled out.
Finally after 5 weeks of flat bed rest, I was allowed to be raised up to 20 degrees. I had no idea that with each 10 degree raise would come dizziness, a lowering of my already low blood pressure, and the back of my now scrawny little bird legs feeling like they were in an extreme yoga pose with the hamstrings feeling like they would tear! I could only remain up for 10-15 mins before having to lower myself back down flat. I kept a daily record of how long I could sit up for, challenging myself to increase the time each day. Bizarelly I felt quite upset when I looked at my shapeless scrawny looking thighs. Not only did my legs not feel like they belonged to me, they now didn’t even ‘look’ like my legs anymore either. The muscle wastage was glaring at me.
I also barely ate much, since lying flat gives you zero appetite, plus the hospital food was far worse than you could possibly imagine! Here’s an example …. the infamous Friday fish and chips! A pasty grey shade of goujon filled with some kind of minced fish with nicely underdone chips! Not a vegetable in sight!
It’s hardly surprising that my weight started to plummet and I asked visitors to bring me smoothies and vitamin drinks to try and keep my energy levels up and get my 5 a day! 7 weeks of that Hospital’s food was the worst dining experiences of my life!
I was aware behind the closed curtain to my right that I wasn’t the only spinal cord injury on the ward! There was a lady whom I never got to see being we were laid flat most of the time or hardly raised enough to actually get a glimpse of each other. It was apparent that she was a week or two ahead of me and was already sitting up with physio and this spurred me on to want to sit up too, which I knew was the first step to getting to take those all important first steps!
Finally a week (well 5 days) before the end of August and the day came when I was allowed to be sat up! Martin made a dash to the hospital for the momentous occasion.
I was rolled to the right and then with 3 physio ladies, (one to support me from behind, one to help lift me and another to support should I be very unsteady or faint) I was raised up. I was warned I would only be able to sit up for a matter of minutes and may well feel light headed or sick. It was incredibly painful being raised up (despite a dose of morphine) and once up, it was incredibly scary so I just focused on my breathing and trying to stop the shaking. My body felt totally alien. What on earth had happened. I was like a jelly fish with no muscles or bones, unable to support myself.
Martin blubbed his eyes out whilst I sat there. You’ll notice in the 3rd picture that my physio let go of me from behind and I managed to hold myself for a short while which was a great achievement on my first sit up. I managed a good 5 minutes before I had to be laid down again.
Right … game on, I was going to do this! I told physio that next time I wanted to stand and my goal was to take steps before the end of the month. Today being Monday and the last day of August the coming Saturday! The problem being no physio at the weekend, this would have to be achieved by Friday. The physio girls said I could try sitting up again and then the next step would be to try standing before finally being sat in a chair. Not what I had in mind! They didn’t seem hopeful that I would be taking any steps by the end of the week!
Two days later they wheeled this red contraption in to show me what a standing frame looked like. I insisted that we try it. It was sooooo difficult getting to a standing position! With a physio either side of me to help with the upward movement I made it, on my very shaky and weak legs, and as you can tell by the white knuckles, I gripped on tight as if my life depended on it!
The next day was Friday and the penultimate day of August. I knew my goal of 20 steps was unachievable but I literally begged the physio to help me reach my goal and achieve ‘some’ steps. I didn’t want to be sat in a chair, I wanted to take steps instead. Imagine my delight when they showed up, one of them holding a walking frame the next day!!
Needless to say I blubbed when I laid back down. I couldn’t thank the physio ladies for helping me to achieve this and being I actually took 2 steps forwards and 2 back on each foot and then after sitting did this again I achieved 16 steps! I felt satisfied that I had had a great landing in the stars!
I am jumping ahead to present day to briefly explain why now is the best time for me to explain about my accident, before heading back to what kept me motivated throughout my incredible journey to recovery. I had always felt my goal of verbally sharing what caused the accident would be to announce it with my Tropic team at our team meeting once I was out of hospital. That time has now been and gone. Nothing like a room full of women all hanging on your every word, to push yourself out of your comfort zone! Actually though, I really do find that the women in my business are so empowering and I know from getting to know an awful lot of them both in my team and other teams, that many suffer with a whole host of mental health conditions. In fact, many join the business in order to conquer their fears, anxieties or lack of confidence. I am blessed to feel so loved and respected by my team who see me as their leader. I do my best to encourage, support, and motivate them to have success with their Tropic businesses in the way I have with mine. We are all equals in Tropic, whatever our title, which is most unlike many corporate businesses. This and many other reasons are what makes being a Tropic ambassador so empowering! We share, love and lift each other up, which is why I wanted them to know all of me and felt compelled to share what happened.
Back to the accident…. Martin was obviously asked continually throughout the summer “how did Nikki do this?” to which he would reply “It’s too traumatic to talk about” and “we are just focusing on her recovery”. The few people who asked me on their visits were also told ‘I can’t talk about it just yet’. Bizarrely people try to second guess or fill in the gaps when not given the information they want. I’ve since been told by friends that they thought maybe Martin and I had been practising some elaborate new sexual position and I fell from the chandelier in the process… (I WISH!) lol. Others thought that I may have been spectacularly dragged off a cliff top by my over boisterous dogs or perhaps I had fallen whilst inebriated by alcohol! All great stories to tell as to how one may have broken one’s back!
Martin and I decided early on that we wouldn’t just make up a convenient lie to take the easy route. We felt that we needed some time to compute what actually did happen and come to terms with it, then subsequently, being led by me, would openly tell people the truth, but only when the time was right.
Well I had my team meeting last week, and having been received with warm hugs, and even an applause, I feel that now is the time to share with you exactly what happened. I have reached the point where I realise that if people judge me, then they are not true friends. None of us have the right to judge others…. for anything! I really don’t care about anyone who forms an opinion on me based on what was a horrendous experience which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.
Whilst in Sheffield at the spinal unit, I met many lovely people with spinal cord injuries caused by some very traumatic and often quite elaborate reasons, from falling off a horse whilst show jumping, wrapping their car around a tree and slipping on a rug to falling over the handlebars of a bike when hitting a stone! Each time I was asked how mine had happened my mouth just dried up and I was left like a gawping goldfish with mouth wide open and nothing coming out. People would quickly retreat and say “you don’t have to say if you don’t want to” but eventually I did. I found the most precise, accurate and truthful sentence to sum up my accident…
“I experienced a ‘stress-induced’ psychotic episode which led me to throwing myself off a roof.”
Now you can see why it was so difficult to share! (Well it was for me anyway). Like a lot of people say … there is stigma with mental health and being this is something a little out of the ordinary (hardly your average panic attack whilst ‘rescuing a cat off the roof’), the word ‘psychotic’ conjures up an image of a dangerous ‘knife-wielding’ maniac like the schizophrenic murderer in psycho 1, 2 or 3!! The truth is psychosis has many forms and mine is fairly unique in that it is not linked with a disorder or condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar. Yes, I did have delusional thoughts and lost touch with what was real and what wasn’t, but there were no voices in my head … just horrific visions of all my worst nightmares coming true and feeling utter fear that the world was about to end. (Which it very nearly did for me!).
I am 95% convinced my psychosis was triggered by my being put in a ‘hypnotic state’ in an online BWRT (Brain Wiring Recursive Therapy) session to break my addiction with Nicotine gum. This is a new type of ‘non hypnotic’ treatment that I was told was completely safe. I had also experienced other stressors in the weeks before when two of my daughters did not send me a birthday card which broke my heart, but I felt something click inside me and knew something was wrong almost immediately after the therapy session. I did a video on my FB profile back in July where I talk about this bizarre experience just 2 days later obviously not knowing what was to come. Whilst I had been promised that I would NOT be ‘hypnotised’ or ‘put under’ during our Zoom therapy session, I experienced REM with my eyes violently flickering and when I opened my eyes I expressed how my head felt ‘scrambled’ and I felt very peculiar. My eyes were very sore for the next few days and I thought I had conjunctivitis. The following day after this zoom session I started experiencing an unsettling feeling of anxiety (something I don’t usually suffer with) and I could not find focus or find the ability to concentrate. I struggled to do a pamper that evening and had to ‘act’ my way through it. Within days I had my first panic attack. Trying to convince myself that I could get through this, I struggled on, but eventually did tell Martin that I was getting very anxious and ‘I didn’t feel right’. I messaged and called the woman who had done my treatment to explain to her what was happening too.
Sadly, by the time I went to the Dr with Martin nearly 1 week later, I had already slipped into psychosis where paranoia and fear make you manipulative and clever at hiding things. I think I knew things were quite serious but merely said I was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. He prescribed me diazepam and mental health called me to make an appointment for 28 days’ time! A little too late since 2 days later not knowing the difference between reality and non-reality I threw myself backwards from a roof first taking a blow on a wall sectioning my neighbours’ gardens before hitting the ground. My only memory Is that I was living out all my worst horrific nightmares in my head and was trying to escape from ‘evil’. It was not pre-planned and I feel strongly that people should know it wasn’t an attempt to take my life! I went down to the end of our side garden to try and run away. I couldn’t make the jump into our village green and so decided to climb on a wall where I ended up on the roof of some outbuilding with a plan to escape through our neighbour’s garden. Martin found me however and the next thing he was on a phone calling 999. I panicked and with delusional thoughts running through my head and not realising what I was doing… threw myself off the roof.
It’s very difficult for me passing the window at the top of our stairs now because the ‘said’ roof is in sight. It makes my blood run cold as the outcome could have been so much worse and I may not have been here to write this blog. I did take a photo for you though as I know if it were me I’d be curious as a reader….I will delete the photo from my phone once i’ve posted it!
I was rushed off by ambulance in a full body board and head brace to A & E. My poor husband was told after the initial scans that I could be paralysed from the waist down and doubly incontinent. There was no good news! He saw the x-rays and believes to this day that it’s a miracle I can even stand.
So, after my operation to stabilise my broken vertebrae and having been given the correct drug to get me out of my psychosis, I was back in the room. I was Nikki Rodwell again, flat on my back unable to move being told I would remain like this for 4 weeks before my bed could be raised. As reality started to sink in, I remember crying and looking into Martin’s eyes and saying how sorry I was for doing this to myself, or more importantly to ‘us’ knowing that this was going to change our lives forever and couldn’t be undone. He just held my hand and said “that wasn’t you who threw yourself off that roof, it was ‘mental health’.” Which I realised was so true. No matter what the outcome, he made it clear he was there for me and would be by my side ‘in sickness and in health’. I realised there and then that I had to fight this as hard as I could and make damn sure I got back home to him and our life as an able and fully functioning wife. Well as close as I could get to it!
This term mental health…. Something I feel some people seem to almost ‘enjoy’ labelling themselves with, whilst others pooh pooh it exists, when they themselves have their own form of undiagnosed mental health! I think ALL of us could do with a bout of counselling at some time in our lives, even counsellors themselves readily admit to needing it. There are a lot of people in this world who do not respect that people do truly suffer at the hands of ‘mental health’. I feel blessed that I do not suffer with a chronic disorder such as depression, anxiety or panic attacks as my heart goes out for those who do when it can have such an impact on daily life. By contrast I seem to be an all or nothing person. The happy, positive, life-loving individual who presents on social media is very much me. I’ve learnt to conquer my depression and social phobia which I struggled with in my earlier years pre 40s. The brain however is a very complex and seemingly fragile thing which ‘there by the grace of god’ can suddenly go wrong out of the blue for anybody and for me when it it is overloaded with certain types of stress. I am truly blessed that this wasn’t my time to leave this world and it was my back that took the blow rather than my head! They say ‘Pride comes before a Fall’ well I say with pride AFTER my fall and with my head held high, that I am a survivor of ‘mental health’. xxxx
The words ‘bowel care’ conjure up the thought of a Dr asking you lots of questions and generally ‘caring’ about how often you have a bowel movement, and whether it is solid or not! WRONG. With 4 nurses carefully rolling me on my side, one lucky nurse got to poke an enema in the form of 2 pessaries up my back passage to see if it would trigger a bowel movement. Each time they all came back to check me an hour later… I felt like a disappointment to them as nothing was happening and I had to endure a rectal examination with a ‘sweep’ of my bowel with a nurses’ finger rudely inserted high up my anus to see if anything was sitting up there. It wasn’t. As I said in my previous post I held on to my bowels for nearly 3 weeks (unintentionally)! I started to feel an increasing sense of panic as the days passed by, imagining my stomach would eventually burst ‘alien’ style and explode my poop all around the entire ward. I would check in with Martin daily on poop updates as I was desperate to give him the news that something had finally happened.
The nurses continued to dose me with laxatives and enemas but the top end of the bowel was impacted and nothing seemed to be moving down. This was due to my cocktail of pain meds causing constipation and my body lying horizontal with no movement.
The prequel to the main show was a very small amount passed after a ‘manual evacuation’ which is more unpleasant than most procedures I’ve experienced as a woman. This was nothing compared to what was coming….
When the flood gates finally opened and the back log of 3 weeks of poo started to make its exit, it reminded me of a landslide where a slurry of unstoppable mud would cascade down a mountainside!
I had sensation ‘down there’ which I kept being told by Martin was a ‘good thing’ but it really didn’t feel like it to me! Each time I felt it all gushing out, it literally felt like it was squishing down to my knees and would soon be coming out the end of my bed for all to see … do bear in mind that lying flat on your back on a nappy type pad in a bed with a thin white sheet over you is not the best position to pass a bowel movement, so this is quite an exaggeration as I don’t recall the nurses washing my feet! I was mortally embarrassed ringing my buzzer and asking the nurse to round up the troops to roll me for a ‘change’. Therein lies one of my problems: communicating to the nurses I need a change or ‘clean up’ as I would call it. I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘I’ve pooed myself’ or ‘my nappy needs changing’ so I would invariably say ‘I need a clean please’ to which some stupid nurses (usually bank staff) would think I meant I wanted to wash my face or clean my teeth and not take me seriously! I would be left for quite some time stewing in my own poo, resigning myself to eventually point out on her 2nd or 3rd return ‘I’ve had a shit and need cleaning up’! For God’s sake surely I shouldn’t have to spell it out so everyone on the ward would know?! The experienced nurses on the other hand knew just by the expression on my face what was required!
I would find it so hard not to cry, as the nurses (male and female) would roll me over to start cleaning me. I would feel like a helpless baby having its bum changed, but some nurses (the better ones) would talk to me, distract me and generally make me feel like it was no big deal, which it wasn’t for them! Towards the end of my stay at the N&N with certain nurses we would even laugh and sing my favourite rock songs whilst I was being cleaned up.
I would always insist before a ‘clean up’ that a nurse had to spray some of my Tropic ‘poo spray’ in the air to save the whole ward from any smells and to generally mask my total embarrassment. For 3 long days this slurry continued literally every 2 hours or up to the point I would go to sleep at night and finally get some respite from it. I’m sure I lost over a stone in those 3 days.
The good news when it was over, was that my tummy had returned to its normal size, the bad news was due to my compromising position I would continue to have daily ‘bowel care’ and laxatives plus a putrid drink called ‘laxido’…how long for I did not know, not even my spinal nurse could give me the answer. The original prognosis had been I would be doubly incontinent and paralysed from the waist down. Well I had leg movements which was promising and so surely my bowels were going to return to normal?
I had one moment of a scary reality check where I realised that I couldn’t handle the possibility of going home to my husband an incomplete wife (ironic use of the word being my injury is ‘incomplete spinal cord damage’ thankfully). What I mean is, the thought that I may have a catheter permanently in situ, or bowel issues meaning a colostomy bag OR daily bowel care to be continued at home as well as being disabled, which would probably mean we would never continue with things ‘normal’ married couples do with regards intimacy! This led me to feelings of fear and great sadness and I would listen to my classical tracks through my pink headphones to try and relax and breathe my way out of the despair and find a different more positive way to think.
I am known as the ‘google’ queen in our household and having read studies on visualisation and it’s scientifically proven results, in hand with conversations with a friend of mine who visited to give me some ‘healing’ I decided to focus on some self-healing and visualisation techniques. I started to visualise minions (yes from Despicable Me) in my bowel. Hundreds of them at different points from my stomach down the various sections of my bowel through to rectum, anus and finally sphincter. You may by now be thinking I am totally losing the plot but I believe to this day that this DID make a difference. I would rub my stomach and talk to them (not out loud obviously!) and they were all set at different crossroads of the tract, a bit like various railway crossings with gates and lights…. being told to hold back or release when ready for the train to pass through! There were also minions in their gym clothes relearning ‘peristalsis’ the art of pushing everything down from the top end of the stomach for a bowel movement. A job currently being done by laxatives. They were working out and strengthening all the muscle tone as well!
As if this doesn’t all sound crazy enough…. I employed ‘lady’ minions (their wives) into my bladder later on to sort out my all ‘wee’ issues and ensure that I got full function back after catheter removal. To visualise, I made up an image of female minions in dresses with nurses hats on … not even knowing if there is such a thing as Lady minions as I never saw the film! Well blow me down, not only do they exist but I found this picture which perfectly depicts my image. (I told you I’m the google queen!)
Believe me …. When you have the thought of double incontinence hanging over you …. It really does take desperate measures!
On a near daily basis my bowels caused me the most distress… I hated the bowel care, especially when done by a male member of staff. It was being done every ‘other’ day and I would pray it was a nice nurse on those days who had a kind bedside manner and lots of patience. If you were lucky, it was done first thing in the morning and I would ask everyone at the scene to exit ASAP and leave me with my curtain closed for privacy when my violent stomach contractions would start. The tears would pour down my face as I listened to Beethoven, and visualised the day I would be at home again sitting on my own toilet in my ensuite looking out the window across the beautiful fields towards Sheringham Park. It was unbelievably horrible passing a movement but even worse was being checked and cleaned. On one occasion, the nurse had his finger up my rectum saying ‘there is still some more up there… give me a little push’. I burst into tears with mortal embarrassment and horror. All the nurses holding me on my side would then join in coaxing me to give a ‘little push’. WELL all I can say is….. when I gave birth to my first daughter some 29 years ago, I had an epidural which numbed me from the waist down and when it came to trying to push her out in the second stage of labour I couldn’t feel a thing, and the nurse said to me ‘just bear down and push… imagine you are having a poo’. Well here I was now in reverse actually being asked to bear down and push out a poo. They were kidding right? It was too much for me and I would literally shout “enough” and being I was rolled on my side with no ability to move or do anything to help myself I would cry “get your finger OUT of my bum and STOP right now!” I’m sure the patients either side of me heard all of this outside the curtain. The nurse would have to obey my wishes and the remaining nurses would reassure me and comfort me as they rolled me back. I would have a blub for 10 minutes and then get back to playing scrabble on my phone, doing a crossword, maybe promoting my Tropic business online, before my next set of obs or mealtime.
I became fearful of having visitors. Sometimes due to lack of staff or on a Sunday my bowel care would not get done until lunchtime and visiting hours were from 1.30pm onwards, way too close for comfort! Also, I started to find that I had a constant overwhelming feeling of needing to ‘go’ but 9 times out of 10 with my sweating and pushing and feeling the nerves in my rectum or anus twinging and seemingly pass a large bowel movement, I would be told when they cleaned me that I had only passed a ‘malteser’. (I apologise if this puts you off maltesers too!). The thought of passing even a malteser whilst having a visitor sitting next to me passing the time of day was just too much for me to bear. So visits would often be cut short by me making excuses or on one occasion when a dear friend showed up for a visit I was really distressed and told her I was really sorry but she would just have to turn right round and leave … ‘immediately’. Only my dear husband knew the fearful look in my eye which signalled I needed to go and he would quickly pull the curtain around me and give me 5-10 mins of privacy often for it to be a ‘false alarm’.
ALL TIME LOW:
Now let’s get to the shittiest and lowest experience of all and then we can hopefully move on to some more light-hearted and positive moments of my journey in subsequent blogs. I believe it was mid-August and around Cromer Carnival day which was also when my hubby was at his busiest in our café.
The morning started off well with me doing my exercises at 6am before the morning shift change of nurses. This prompted a 6.30 am successful bowel movement by myself (hooray I really was becoming positive I was going to regain my bowels and not have a colostomy bag) but it was also a relief because it would mean I wouldn’t need bowel care today. Smug victory for me! I rang the infamous buzzer for a nurse and after 20 minutes she finally came to say they were doing a ‘handover’ and I would have to wait.
I started ringing again at 7.20 and an agency nurse came. When I explained I was waiting to be cleaned she looked at me and said she had a whole ward patients who had ‘more important’ needs which had to be tended to. “Oh, so I have to sit in my own poo then?” I asked quite innocently. ‘Oh!’ She replied, the penny dropped! She had thought I wanted a bed bath. She went off to find some other nurses to help with rolling me … and never came back. Another hour later I ring again and a male nurse pops his head round my curtain and I’m nearly in tears saying “I’ve been waiting 2 hours to be cleaned’ …… He interrupts me saying “we are just in the middle of doing red trays… you will have to wait”. Red trays are for meals handed out to patients who need assistance. I am a red tray being I am not yet sitting up more than 10 -20 degrees. I’m now feeling really upset and say to him “well don’t bring me my red tray, I don’t want to sit up and eat my breakfast in my own shit”. Emphasis on the last word here, just in case he also may have translated ‘being cleaned’ as getting my face washed! He shook his head at me, with full understanding and left me lying there.
When someone called through my closed curtain and asked me what I wanted for breakfast I was now crying and replied saying that until I was changed I didn’t want anything. Still nothing. Now Martin had told me many a time to stand up for myself and complain but you feel very vulnerable and lose any sense of control when stuck horizontal in a hospital bed, I didn’t want to make a fuss because I felt the nurse would maybe then not be nice to me or not tend to my needs as well such as getting my pain relief.
I pressed my buzzer and when the agency nurse came I ‘firmly’ asked to see the ward sister….half an hour later when she arrived I burst into tears and explained I’d been waiting 3 hours to be cleaned up. She couldn’t apologise enough, got me 4 nurses to roll and clean me up immediately and went off to find me something to eat to replace my missed breakfast.
I felt pretty miserable now trying to face the day, and was also on catheter training which involves reaching down and flicking a little valve open and shut on the tube which lets your pee out. The purpose being it trains your bladder to get stronger. My valve release didn’t seem to fit properly and later that day as I reached down to release it …it came apart (again) and all the stored urine flowed out into my bed onto all the sheets, just as a friend arrived to hug me. (She knows who she is!!) I burst into tears and told her to stand back as I was lying in my own piss and needed to have my bed changed …she offered to leave but I insisted she stayed and I rang my bell again.
So just when you think you’ve had as much shit and piss as you can bear for one day…. the very worse happened. I was lying listening to some music later that afternoon when the urge for a poo came over me and I called to the agency nurse to come and pull my curtain around me. My neighbouring patient complained about having my curtain pulled on her side as it made her too hot and just a few minutes later the same nurse started to yank my curtains open saying ‘ I need to see you at all times’. I was horrified… “what? Even mid bowel movement?” I pleaded with her. “Yes” she snapped and there I was open to the entire ward feeling like I was centre stage with my knickers round my ankles! To be fair the ward patients weren’t paying me any attention but that’s not how I felt at the time. I pulled my sheet up over my head and cried. The indignity was too humiliating and poor Martin had a very distressed message from me. He was outraged and phoned in to complain and on speaking to the ward sister, demanded to know why patients who use a commode or bed pan had the privilege of a curtain being drawn around them whilst I didn’t.
I was so distressed this day that I asked for a tranquiliser, I felt degraded, vulnerable, abused, invisible, like I just couldn’t face another day of this hell. No amount of pain relief or ‘morphine’ numbed this psychological pain. Thankfully a really lovely ward sister came to see me after Martin’s complaint and could not apologise enough. I was reassured the agency had been called and a formal complaint made and that her behaviour was bang out of order and my privacy should have been respected. I would never have to be looked after by that particular agency nurse again. I was also going to be moved to a new room to a bed by a window with a view which really cheered me up. The sister sat holding my hand and made sure I was happy before she left. Nurses like her I remember for all the right reasons!
My day ended with a message from my. wonderful hubby saying “stick with me kid, I’ve got your back!’ He was my voice, my advocate, my rock. xx
People who know me including my wonderful social media followers, will say (I hope) that I am a very upbeat person, sharing positivity, goals and dreams being set and achieved and generally that I am an optimistic and happy person who embraces life to the full. I’ve always shared so much positivity and my personal achievements on Fb and its very rare for me to post low moments or dwell on anything negative. What’s the point? Who wants to read about me feeling sorry for myself? I believe if we share negativity we will attract more of the same. Social media isn’t the place to whinge…. Close friends and husbands are the ones for this if it has to be done at all!!
However, the reality of some of my hospital experience is quite shocking and was not shared amongst friends or social media because nothing prepared me for it and it seemed inappropriate or just too shocking to me to share. I will, however, be writing in a little more detail in the forthcoming few blogs, to support anyone who has been, may ever be, or has ever known anyone to go through a hospital experience or injury similar to mine. Ignore the next two blogs if you wish to bypass this!!
The early weeks after the operation are a bit of a blur and yes, the mind has the proficient ability to blank out memory of the pain.. a bit like childbirth! I do, however, remember on one occasion yelling at the nurses to let me phone Martin at midnight and was crying (or maybe screaming) down the phone to him to get over and be with me saying it was worse than childbirth, put me out of my misery and how could he let me be going through it alone! I was given a large dose of Morphine and probably something else too and the next thing it was the morning. Poor Martin probably had no sleep! Apparently, I was pretty horrible to Martin on his early visits to see me, which upsets me because obviously he has been the most amazing support and pillar of strength to me throughout this journey. As well as trying to run our new café in the busiest of seasons, manage our home, dogs and my daughter whilst dealing with the stress of our new set of circumstances, he was trying to find time to travel the hour or so journey to the hospital, spend at least half an hour trying to park to come and visit me!
I was on complete flat bed rest for the first 3 weeks, which entailed quite a few difficulties… least of all being spoon fed or drinking from a straw. I found it quite claustrophobic with the sides of a hospital bed up and only seeing the ceiling. Martin came up trumps and found an ingenious bag from amazon which I would recommend to anyone in this situation as it fixes to the side of the bed (I did end up with green dyed arms by lying against it), but it soon became my comfort blanket with all my valuable items in it such as mobile phone, back scratcher, tissues, glasses etc.
Some weird and wonderful gifts started arriving from friends and supporters in the early weeks too, like playdoh (for hand dexterity despite my hands having full function) and the most bizarre glasses enabling me to spy (not so subtly) on other patients on the ward!
Cards started arriving by the dozen and the support I started to receive on social media spurred me to progress and share as much as possible.
I also had an array of different visitors ranging from those who just wanted to turn up to find out ‘the gossip’ and how on earth had this happened to me?, those who just sat and stared down at me from my bedside barely saying a word but kind of watching me sympathetically like I was a corpse in a chapel of rest, and then those who kindly took care of my needs, like shaving my legs and giving me hugs and words of encouragement! One thing’s for sure….. in the middle of a heatwave on a hospital ward with no air conditioning… you DON’T want chocolate being brought to you!
I found it strange how the first question that many people asked me was ‘Do you get bored?’ Well only a ‘well’ person would think this, imagining themselves lying flat in normal life maybe after a bout of flu or something. However, for me, it was hour by hour finding some relief with pain meds, having blood pressure and temperature taken every two hours, bed rolls every 3 hours ( a process with 3 nurses on one side of me and 1 the other side and rolling me onto my side involving a horrific sensation of my back being left on the bed and me yelling obscenities, only to have my back checked for sores and then rolled back again). All these checks were 24/7 plus I was constantly being wheeled off for scans or x-rays and having bloods taken.
In between all of this I would drift in and out of morphine induced sleep and on the rare occasions when I was pain free AND awake, I would be on my phone updating on social media or messaging Martin with a list of demands! So as you can see…. Boredom wasn’t an issue!
I decided very early on to start keeping a gratitude diary challenging myself to write 3 positive things a day which I continued for my entire stay whilst in the N & N hospital. Here are my first few entries… which were extremely difficult to write upside down! It shows my mindset was going to be very determined from early on… and this did set me off in good stead for my amazing progress to follow I believe.
During these first few weeks, I hardly ate anything so weight was dropping off me and yet my stomach was growing larger and larger and becoming distended like pictures I’d seen of malnourished children from 3rdworld countries! I was being given dozens of laxatives and stool softeners as well as all my other concoction of drugs… the pain in my abdomen just increased. I was given anti-sickness when my body started to try and eliminate from the upper end! I had a catheter in place and a very uncomfortable pad laid underneath me and it really didn’t register that when things were to finally happen my only option was for it to take place in the bed…. since spinal patients are NOT allowed a bed pan! Yurrrgh. I held on for 3 long weeks, and when a good friend of mine visited and told me during a brief hospital stay she was presented with the same predicament she held off until she got back home and could go on a toilet, I soon realised I wasn’t going to have this luxury as I wasn’t going to be going home anytime soon!
By far the worse part of my entire experience was yet to come…..
So, having been building myself up to start a blog earlier this year, I find myself now writing to share a completely different topic to what I had first intended. I originally wanted to share how my positive mindset, self-belief and new-found confidence had blossomed through my opportunity of becoming a Tropic Ambassadorand how I teach this to other women, but have since faced, head on, a traumatic life- changing incident which I am even more passionate to blog about in the hope that it can help others in a similar situation or at least give hope and belief that we ALL have control over our destinies, how we can cope with adversity and become the creators of our own happiness and success. Also I would like to help educate people on spinal cord injuries (SCI) along the way.
Just 3 months ago on July 17th2019 I was rushed to A&E at the Norfolk and Norwich General hospital in a full body brace and x-rayed to discover a complete fracture to my T12 Vertebrae with part of the bone pressing on my spinal nerve…. the most complicated part of the injury! I will talk about how this injury occurred in a later blog as this is the hardest part for me to discuss but it needs to be addressed as part of my recovery. The prognosis was grim in A & E and my poor husband Martin was given the worse-case scenario of double incontinence and possible paralysis from the waist down. With me intoxicated with morphine direct from a drip and in a completely delusional state somewhere in cloud cuckoo land, I have a very vague memory of him crying in my face ‘Nikki, did you hear what they are saying?? You may never walk again!’. It didn’t even begin to register with me.
The decision was made to operate and insert screws either side of the fractured vertebrae to stabilise it and give it a chance to heal. At the same time the bone would be removed from touching the spinal cord which as it turned out was to have ‘incomplete’ damage. For those new to spinal cord injuries, incomplete damage has the better chance of making a level of recovery and gaining some sensation although not always, and there is no exact science to explain how much recovery will be made. A complete damage is where the cord has been severed or damaged whereby no improvement is made from the level of where the injury is and below. You may remember Christopher Reeve (Superman) who broke the top 2 vertebrae with ‘complete’ spinal damage leaving him unable to move from the neck down and breathing with the use of a ventilator. I have seen patients in Sheffield with these injuries and it took my breath away and made me realise just how lucky I am. Tetralplegic is no movement from the neck down whereas Paraplegic is from the chest/waist down with some use of the arms.
The pictures show my damage which I finally plucked up the courage to see some 10 weeks later, and Martin’s new nickname for me is now ‘screwfix’ and I think you can see why! The scar was difficult for me to see as I am quite squeamish but it gives me a great opportunity to show how amazing our Tropic ‘Tamanu’ healing balm is as it will help to fade the scar! I like to think of myself as the ‘bionic’ woman and can’t wait to go through security on my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia next February!