Category Archives: Broken Neck

. scaling greater heights, a year after i broke my neck .

So, it has been exactly 1 year since I attempted a trampoline flip and broke my neck. How time flies … A year later, I have embarked on my 1st solo trip to Bali (which was an adventure itself), left the comfort zone of my first job and am starting at a new place, exhibited my handmade leather wallet at the Singapore Design Week, did my 1st ever couchsurf in Hong Kong and climbed to the top of the Macau Tower!¬†Just like most challenging things in life, it takes courage and determination to overcome fear and achieve a profound sense of pride and satisfaction!

Everyday … Do something that reminds you you’re still ALIVE! ūüôā¬†

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. 6 months post neck injury .

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Wow.
Has it really been 6 months since my life-changing injury? Fast forward half a year¬†since that fateful day, my spine doctor and physiotherapist have given me a clean bill of health. I’ve been discharged from therapy sessions and my doctor is surprised that my neck has healed¬†way better than expected. During our last review 2 months ago, he warned me of the possibility for a neck surgery to realign one of the bones and I was so distraught by the news that I kinda sank into a temporary state of depression. Now, I’m relieved to say that my neck is probably about 80% of what it used to be, minus a certain degree of flexibility and range of rotation. Sure, it might not have recovered 100%¬†but I’ll take it for I know that it could have really been worse. Thank you everyone for your encouragement and also, for staying with me throughout the entire recovery process! ūüôā

Without a doubt, this year has been¬†by far the toughest year in my life. I have talked excessively about my broken neck and to a lesser extent, my experience with alopecia areata that left me with a small bald spot on my scalp (thankfully, the hair has grown!) but what I did not mentioned on this blog was that I had also broken off from a long-term relationship with the boy just barely 6 weeks prior to my injury. Broken heart, broken neck, broken hair and more importantly, a broken soul. To say that the past 8 months of my life was a nightmare is a total understatement. It was almost as if I was watching a real-life drama scene unfolding right in front of my eyes, only that it was happening to me. To say the least, the series of traumatizing events had changed and reshaped my life in many ways. As much as I think I have coped with everything with as much optimism and strength as possible, I cannot deny that I felt very lost in many aspects of my life. For the first time ever, faith, love, work (albeit temporarily since I was on hospitalization leave) and yoga were completely taken away from me and¬†it left me feeling a whole host of mixed emotions. What was my purpose in life? Where is my sense of identity? What can I do to feel productive again? There were a lot of philosophical questions that I had pondered on as I spent the past half a year to re-think about life.¬†While I don’t believing in living my life totally based on societal standards and goals (e.g. get a job by 22, married by 25, have a first child by 27, second child by 30, you get the drift), it can get very frustrating when life takes an unexpected turn from your¬†dreams¬†and comes to a standstill.

At this junction, you have 2 options – Do you crumble under the weight of these crushed dreams¬†or do you take it in your stride and press forward?¬†The truth is I was definitely not happy with the turn of events but I knew that given time, things will fall right back into place. Time and patience. And I was right. However, being someone who likes instant gratification and results, I was resistant to some changes and fought hard against them. Which, on hindsight, was a¬†terrible¬†waste of energy and emotions. Nonetheless, I refused to let my neck injury and break-up get the better of me and started living my life vicariously once I got off the horrendous halo vest. Even with my neck collar, I went on¬†heritage tours to offshore islands, made my own leather goods, visited many festivals of all sorts, hiked up Bukit Timah hill, settled my financial planning & investments and gasp, even baked rose-caramel macarons – something which I would normally have not done! In a way, this injury¬†taught me to stop procrastinating about some things in life (although procrastination is still a weakness of mine) and put action into the plans that have been placed at the back burner. I’m excited¬†to be making lots of plans for the months to come! ūüôā¬†

So, am I any different from the old Stephanie pre-injury? Well, not really.¬†I wish I can say that I now have the courage and wisdom to figure out what I want in life and live a life of my dreams. But nope, I’m not at that stage yet. However, what I have learnt through my own ordeal is¬†to not allow trivial issues, or most issues for that matter, to get me down. People will always have their own opinions and judgement but always know that no one should or can¬†dictate how you should live your life. The heart wants what the heart wants. At the end of the day, do what that makes you happy, even if you run the risk of being labelled unconventional or even, different. On a similar note, I’m also trying to learn how to embrace changes and go with the flow because sometimes, things are simply not within our control. The more you try to resist these changes, the harder it takes for you to accept them.¬†Finally, while I’ve always been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing family, supportive relatives and great friends, I cherish and appreciate these relationships even more so than ever now. I cannot express my gratitude enough to my support group for being there for me, through the bad and good times. These days, most of my evenings or weekends are spent with loved ones, friends or bringing my furkids for long brisk walks! That’s also¬†the reason why I barely have the time and energy to blog as much lol.

If you are still following me through this long blog entry, thank you for hanging in there! Honestly, I still cannot believe that it has already been 6 months since I was first told that I¬†had broken my neck and might be paralysed for life. It really didn’t seem¬†all that long ago when I had to be bedridden in the hospital. Now, what remains of that incident are 2 scars on my forehead (no thanks to the halo vest) and crankiness of the neck. I’m ready to close this traumatizing chapter but not forgetting the life lessons that it has taught me as I move forward in life.¬†To take nothing for granted and know how¬†blessed I have been. ūüôā

To quote a fellow broken neck survivor, Chantal, “Through the pain, I found strength. Through the struggling, I learned to fight back and overcome everything I have faced. Through adversity, I have found beauty in life.

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. super touched to return to work to this .

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. around the world in 24 hours .

29.07.2014. Possibly the happiest day in my life for this year. The day when I received news from my spinal surgeon that my neck¬†fracture has healed completely and I’m ready to start living my life without the neck collar (at home, for now) and move¬†my neck again! ūüôā However, there’s a joint between the C1 and C2 bones that didn’t fuse properly so surgery is not exactly out of the picture yet. Nonetheless, there is simply no words to describe the joy I feel to know that¬†I can regain some sort of normalcy again. Finally, after an awfully long 4 months wait, things are¬†slowly but surely getting back in shape – My fracture is healing well, hair is growing back in my bald spot, completed an express course of orthodontic treatment and am now proud to flaunt my straight teeth and finally, I underwent a cosmetic surgery to revise the depressed scars (aka halo vest scars) on my forehead.

The journey to recovery has been one hell of a ride,¬†with way too many¬†emotional outbursts than I could possibly handle. Some days, I mopped around in bed, constantly living off negative energy and wishing for the days to¬†zoom to the time, when I can proudly proclaimed that everything has fallen back in place. Yet, by doing so, I realised that I was rushing¬†through life just trying to reach to the destination. My goal when I can “get back to my old life”. ¬†Joel Osteen mentioned in his book ‘Every Day A Friday’¬†that “Many people only live for the mountaintops.” This basically means that most of us are constantly so focused on big-ticket events, such as a job promotion, wedding and vacations/travels, that we put our lives on hold until those things happen. I’m very sure that many of us are guilty of that, aren’t we? Likewise, at the lowest points of my recovery, I was hoping and praying so hard¬†to speed forward in time so that I can be normal again. Because I thought normal will bring me happiness. Yet,¬†there was no denying that I felt even more demoralised whenever I spend a day idling around and doing nothing productive. So, I tried to make the best of each day while waiting¬†longingly¬†for that big day to come.¬†Most of the time, I think I did pretty well for someone who had a broken neck. I have had strangers who came up to me and praised me for having the courage to¬†embark on workshops or island-hopping trips despite my lack of tip-top condition. Looking back, it is the days where I filled my time with meaningful activities that made me smile with glee … And not the days, where I sulked in misery, in my bed.

I guess, what I want to share is that¬†no matter how bleak you might think your situation is, always have faith and believe that it will always get better at the end of the day. It’s perfectly normal to moan and get upset because we need an outlet to release our emotions and feelings but don’t waste too much time wallowing in that dark corner. Attempt to enjoy¬†each day as it comes because when you look back, you will realise that it is a pity to let those days go by without making it productive. And of course, always surround yourself with your support system because they¬†will be the ones who will help get you to your destination eventually. ūüôā

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

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On the many occasions when I’m feeling utterly depressed or paranoid, he never fails to¬†remind me to think of the happy moments in my life.¬†Because these unforgettable¬†memories will be the catalyst to trigger happiness and positivism within me.¬†And I did. While I’m not one who fuss around big birthday celebrations, I have been lucky to celebrate many birthdays aboard. Last year, I had my best birthday celebration (so far) at the happiest place on Earth, with the company of those dearest to me. It was that special day at Epcot, Disneyworld that I often thought of¬†whenever I needed a morale booster. After all, I got to ‘travel’ to 11 countries in 24 hours! Pretty awesome huh! ūüôā

¬†Canada:¬†Learning about O’ Canada at Chateau Laurier and taking a stroll at the Canadian Rookies and Butchart Gardens
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United Kingdom:
Taking in the sights of the quaint cobble-stoned streets, quintessential English buildings and cottages and of course, not forgetting the world-famous red phone booths!
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France: Bon Appetit at Les Chefs de France restaurant, followed by a walk at the Seine waterfront and ending with a photo op at the romantic Pont des Arts bridge.
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Norway: A ride on the viking boat at the Maelstrom attraction and we also saw why the film-makers were inspired by this beautiful country to produce the movie, Frozen.
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United States of America: New York City. Boston. Philadelphia. Newark. San Francisco. Los Angeles. Anaheim. Buffalo. Orlando. I’ll be back for more.
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Morocco: The Jewel of North Africa, the most exotic country in the world showcase in Epcot. Soaking in the ambiance of the bustling bazaar and intricately designed courtyard.
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Italy: People-watching at St Mark’s Square and the Venetian bridges of Venice. Looks almost as real as the originals in Italy!
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Germany: I’m not a beer person or any alcohol for that matter but when you are in Germany, you gotta do what the locals love!¬†
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China: ¬†Back to our roots. Checked out the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and the¬†Terracotta Army in Xi’an.
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Japan: The most popular and crowded country in the world showcase! Everyone seems to be so excited purchasing all sorts of knick knacks from the Mitsukoshi department store, from Hello Kitty merchandise to anime action figures to katana, to name a few. For me? I’m happy to satisfy my cravings for¬†Japanese instant noodles!
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Mexico: We joined Donald Duck and friends on a delightful musical journey through Mexico, passing by Chichen Itza, Mexico City and Acapulco! Love the lively energy and colours of the Mexico pavilion! 
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. finding strength in hard times .

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Now that I’m finally off the halo vest, I guess one can only imagine that life would be a lot sweeter and smooth-sailing for me. Physically,¬†my neck seems to be on the right track to recovery as the last CT scan revealed a good reduction of the cervical fracture. And yes, I’m truly ecstatic to be freed of the vest and regain some of my¬†sought-after freedom. Yet,¬†I am still trapped in a dark place – emotionally and mentally. The past 2 weeks have been a real roller-coaster ride of emotions, knocking me down and off course for many days. Days living with the Aspen neck collar is a lot better than my days in the halo but there are still many restrictions. I’m a true blood Sagittarius, which means I love my freedom and independence and it is even more stifling now that I’m technically more mobile but am still not able to do much.¬†My sense of self-esteem and confidence have plunged to an all-time down as I have to let go of the once adventurous lifestyle that I grew to love, continue living with this uncomfortable neck collar for the months to come and face up to the¬†2 depressed scars (pin sites) imprinted on my forehead every single day.

I know that the road to recovery is going to be one hell of a ride¬†but the reality is ¬†that it is so much tougher and harder than I ever thought it would be. I pride my strength and optimism for getting me through the hardest 6 months of my life but these days, my spirit and soul are falling apart. It’s getting challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me, I know that time is of the essence and one has to be patient for everything to fall into place, eventually. However, to have patience¬†in a world where we crave for¬†instant gratification, is simply torturing. It doesn’t help that an idle mind is the devil’s playground … It creates endless opportunities for me to mull and dwell over negative thoughts. Really bad for the soul.¬†While I usually hate to wallow in self-pity, I find it increasingly easy to have regrets about my decision to attempt the flip on the trampoline. You know how it goes … had I not attempt it, this would not have happened and I would not be in this state.

But I have survived this traumatic experience. Other than the broken neck, I’m in a relatively good shape and health. My family loves me dearly and have been a pillar of strength for me throughout this journey. I was blessed with visits from relatives and friends every day when I was glued to my back on the hospital bed for 2 weeks. And, now that I cannot be too active for a period of time, it is the¬†chance to pick up new skills and hobbies (am already at it). At the end of the day, everyone has to deal with their own fair share of hardships in life; but the difference is that each of us have a choice to make. Either to sit in that very dark corner and waste energy dwelling on the past, or to view the experience as an enlightening opportunity to re-discover life. As tough as I might be, I’m no robot and am only human. I’ll mourn over my loss of many things but I’ll also get right back up, press on and slowly rebuild my life. The end is a new beginning.

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i love you

Now, there are so many people who I would like to thank for being there for me over the few months. Truth to be told, I never expected to receive such an overwhelming amount of¬†love and support from so many people¬†and it has truly been a humbling experience. Sometimes, I wonder to myself, what did I do to deserve such an out-pour of love from each and every one of you. When I was at the¬†lowest point in my life, it was you guys who gave me the encouragement and motivation to develop the strength and press forward. Thank you. ūüôā ¬†Pls bear with me as it is a pretty long list but I wouldn’t want to miss¬†out on anyone.

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Dad
, for dropping everything and keeping me accompanied throughout my 2 weeks stay in the hospital. You have no idea how much it means to me to have someone close by my side every time I open my eyes in the hospital. Closer to home, you are my inspiration – You have never once allowed your handicap to get the better of you. If anything, you have always live life to your fullest and taught us so much about living vicariously. Mum, for being my sole care-giver – It is the hardest job in the world! Thank you for bathing me, feeding me, listening to my rants and wails, giving me advice and encouragement, the list goes on. You have been there for me 100% and I honestly wouldn’t know what I would¬†have done, without you. You are my rock!¬†Grandma, for feeding me¬†with nourishing food that aided in my fast recovery. Ginette, I know that it sucks that your older sister had to get herself into trouble when you are back for a visit and you had to spend your vacation time in the hospital with me. Thank you for easing my anxieties whenever I had a mental breakdown.¬†Amanda, for holding the family together after Mum’s car accident and¬†sacrificing your personal time to care for me. And of course, for teaching me how to bake a loaf of bread! :p¬†

Aunty Jo, Ah Bo, Ah Bo Lina and Uncle Anthony, Aunty Alice, Aunty Angie, Aunty Cindy РWords cannot even begin to express my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for the tremendous amount of physical and emotional support that you have showered me with. While I must admit that some of us had been on relatively distant terms, this accident has, ironically, brought us closer together. I really appreciate that some of you (you know who you are) have opened yourselves up and shared with me stories of your own struggles and difficulties in life that had certainly served as an inspiration. Thank you.

MK – Things are no longer the same for us but thank you for being there when I needed someone the most. For accompanying me at the hospital every single night without fail, introducing me to many sitcoms that I have, now, come to love, challenging me at QuizUp and reassuring me that things will eventually fall into place whenever I have my multiple meltdowns.

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Sara – We might be living at the extreme ends of the world but this does not mean that I have received any less loving encouragement from you. Thank you for sending me so many inspirational verses from the Bible, songs and messages to keep me going when I’m¬†feeling the blues.¬†Together with Imogen, you girls gave me 1 of the sweetest gift that I could ever ask for when you got together your girlfriends from church to write me¬†a super motivational card. Pls help me to thank each and every one of the girls for reaching out to me even though we don’t know one another.

Claire Р Thank you for always entertaining my messages (the serious and nonsensical), even though you have your own set of concerns as a soon-to-be-mummy! You have no idea how much your messages help to keep my mind occupied and sane! :p

Soy and Shermin – I love you girls. I might¬†be terrible with dates but please know that it doesn’t mean I care for you any lesser. Thank you for¬†visiting me so many times, satisfying my craving for Korean cuisine and being playmates to both Frosty and Simba!

Christine – You are amazing, do you know that? Thank you for your weekly visits to my house, updating me with the latest office happenings, being my personal mailman to HR, and¬†keeping my spirit up when I’m down.

Chern Chieh –¬†It touches me that you have made the time and effort to visit me even though¬†work has kept you pretty hectic and busy.¬†Thank you for always¬†being such a supportive confidante and personal cheerleader!

Kristin – Thank you babe for rushing down to visit me on the day that I was hospitalized, and also for squeezing time between your hectic schedule to have dinner with me at my place. The lavender diffuser plant helps keep me calm at night!

Swiss – It’s funny how our friendship has evolved, from acquaintances¬†who barely knew each other to good friends who can talk about anything under the sun.¬†Thank you for visiting me at the hospital even though we were still strangers at that point of time; your actions have proven to me that there are people who come and never leave your side. Really appreciate your endless stream of gifts and messages that kept coming!

Eileen, Jia Zhen, Christine, Elisabeth, Loisa, Cherie, Jane, Jocelyn – Eil and JZ, thank you for being there for me when I broke my neck at the trampoline park and of course, for giving me the teddy bear that accompanied me through my hosp stay and the endless support through our special chat group. To the rest of the girls, thank you for springing a surprise visit on that faithful night when I was already tucked in bed, ready to call it a night and for all your prayers. Jane, for sending me the smiley face bouquet of flowers that certainly brought a smile to my face!

Wendy, Rachel, Eveline, Daphne, Maylyn, Linda, Shu Ling, Candy – Thank you for dropping by my place and being my guardians-cum-bodyguards at Wendy’s wedding reception!

Serene, Jingwei, Zhennan, Wai Mun, Victor – I’m so blessed to have you guys at my fellow MT friends! Thank you for your various visits to me at both the hospital and my place, and gifts of all sorts – From baby food to vitamin C to face masks to a colourful garden windmill. And how can I ever forget the afternoon of fun, food and games – Saboteur! Thank you for going the extra mile for me, guys!

Amanda, Jasmine, Shi Hui, Xin Yi –¬†Thank you for putting together one of the most lovely package – doggy toy, balloons, flowers, and cards! Your gifts definitely brightened up the otherwise dull hospital room, even the doctors and nurses were singing praises about it. Amanda, I cannot thank you enough for helping to cover the bulk of my workload in my absence and Jasmine, for being a listening ear whenever I needed to share something.

Jessy, Cheryl, Kenny, Junie, June, Janet, Wei Sing, Vince, Kailing – Your visit had certainly cheered up a girl who was utterly depressed over her bald spot the day prior to your visit. Thank you for convincing me that I shouldn’t go down the route of moping over my hair loss and that it was way better for you guys to come and entertain me ! And of course, for sharing part of my workload while I’m on leave.

Daniel, Say Inn, Aaron, Ka Chun, Jia Yan, Sharon, Wei Shi, Joseph¬†–¬†Thank you for taking the time out to visit me at the hospital and your follow-up messages to make sure that I’m doing fine!

Kenston – I cannot thank you enough for offering to cut and wash my hair over the 10 weeks that I was in a halo vest. I know that it was a nightmare for you to wash my hair in that device but you did it. Also, thank you for always counting down with me to the day of the halo vest removal! ūüôā

Wei Ping – Just a week prior to my accident, you advised me against from embarking on too many adventures. Well, I should have listened to you! :p Anyhow, thank you for making a special home visit to adjust my new pair of spectacles and also for the box of chicken essence and witty card!

Havas Worldwide and Havas Media – Thank you for sending over the baskets of flowers and fruits. It was truly a delightful surprise!

Phew. But I’m not done yet! There are still many others who have sent me countless of messages ¬†and words of encouragement via Whatsapp, FB and my blog¬†to spur me on.¬†It was through every one of you and your actions, thoughts and prayers that I was (and still am) able to find the strength to fight on in hard times. Thank you.

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. still behind bars .

I once read from a¬†fellow halo vest blogger that she had to¬†extend her “jail term” from 9 to 12 weeks due to an incomplete healing and that is¬†something that I’ve been dreading to hear. Well, turns out that I have received both good and bad news during my visit to the clinic today. Good news – According to the xray results, my neck fracture has healed beautifully and I can remove my halo vest. Bad news – My doctor wanted to be very sure that the healing is complete so I’ll have to undergo a CT scan before he can give the final go-ahead. Which basically means another week of no hot showers, no scratching of my back (the itch!),¬†more nights¬†on the recliner,¬†going braless, the list goes on …

But you know what? This halo vest has been my best friend, my faithful companion for 63 days, so what’s another week compared to the past 9 weeks? 1 more week till I bid¬†Adi√≥s to my titanium friend, for good. I’ll do my best!

. the key to everything is patience .

As with any life-threatening experience, there is always much to be reflected on and learnt. I have always known that patience is not my strongest trait. In fact, if anything, I am¬†relatively impatient and like to see the fruits of my labour¬†almost immediately. Yes, just one of those city dwellers¬†who like to get things done fast in order to¬†see the results. However, since my accident, I’m beginning to understand and internalize the phrase that good things come to those who wait and¬†be patient about everything.

Patience is the key to a lot of things in my life at the moment. The long recovery time needed for my neck fracture to heal properly and completely. As much as I would like to¬†return to a productive life as soon as possible, this injury is definitely not something that can be rushed, for the slightest mistake can result in paralysis or even death. That aside,¬†I’ll also have to wait for the hair to re-grow, scars at pin sites to fade after removal of halo vest, teeth to be straightened while on braces, amongst many other things¬†that I hope to expedite. Oh boy, for an impatient and fiery-tempered person like me,¬†having to wait patiently for things to happen is akin to¬†harvesting rice¬†in a drought!

Come Tuesday, it will mark the 9th week that I have been trapped in a walking prison of my own (aka halo vest). Yes, 9 whole weeks! At times, it’s¬†excruciatingly frustrating when everyone surrounding me are making exciting plans but I have to put a temporary halt to my life. 2014 was¬†meant to be ¬†a year of exciting changes for me … I wanted to¬†set greater heights for myself in yoga and aerial arts, embark on adventure trips with YMCA outdoor activities group to go kayaking, caving, trek¬†mountains and travel. In reality, I found myself being home-bound to give my body the much needed time to recuperate. Hence, it’s disheartening¬†to make plans to take 1 step forward in life; yet take 2 steps backwards at this point of time. When all is said and done, I’m proud¬†that I have dealt extremely¬†well with living with a halo vest for the past 2.5 months. If I can survive this, I sure can beat against other odds that life might bring forth. If all goes well,¬†freedom beckons in 24 hours’ time and I hope to walk away from the clinic halo-free tomorrow! ūüôā With the big day just less than a day away, I must confess that I’m a mixed bag of emotions … Full of anticipation to be freed and be a step closer to being productive, but also full of nervousness¬†because the halo vest has been my safety net for the longest time and I have absolutely no idea how my neck will hold out on¬†its own. Will I be like 1 of those bobber¬†head dolls?¬†Will my neck crack with the slightest movement? Will I ever be able to move my neck without having to turn my torso? The list of question is endless!

Physically, ¬†my neck should be ready for the next phase of recovery but¬†mentally, I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to take the plunge. There’s an overwhelming sense of anxiety within me and this psychological barrier¬†is what that prevents¬†me from stepping¬†back into the “big and unknown world”.¬†Figuratively, of course.¬†On a good note, I will be on a cervical collar for awhile so we will be taking¬†gradual steps to re-introduce strength¬†¬†and mobility to my neck¬†. Once again,¬†having patience is essential in the course of this journey.¬†Patience, a crucial life skill¬†that I have picked up from¬†my experience and I hope to carry forward post-injury.¬†

24 hours or 1440 minutes or 86 400 seconds left to go till the big removal. Let’s hope that my neck has healed and I would finally be halo-free tomorrow! Keeping my fingers crossed for the best piece of news, for I’ve been a good girl. :p

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