Tag Archives: halo brace blog

. amy purdy: my inspiration .

These days, in between finding random activities to occupy my time and having a lot of rest, I’ve also been inspired by many who have overcame personal obstacles in their life and go beyond their limits.

One of whom is Amy Purdy, a double amputee who had lost both of her legs below her knees at 19 yrs old to bacterial meningitis. At that time, she was given less than a 2% chance of survival with respiratory and multiple organ failure. In addition to losing her legs, she also lost her spleen and received a kidney transplant, donated by her father, when she was only 21. Honestly, that’s a lot of hardship for someone so young to go through.

Nonetheless, this determined and spirited lady not only triumphed over adversity but also began to live life with a renewed intensity. Despite the challenges, she went on to win a Bronze medal in the first ever para-snowboarding competition at Sochi Paralympic Winter Games 2014, danced her way to the finale of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ season 18 and even participated in the hit reality series, ‘The Amazing Race’! Wow, impressive! 🙂 Inspired to use her story and life experiences to drive a greater purpose, Amy went on to start Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit organization to provide a range of action-sport development programs for people with physical disabilities. This gave the disabled community an opportunity for a new lease of life in the sporting industry. A true example of someone who has fought against life struggles through sheer tenacity and perseverance and inspire millions to live an amazing life beyond limitations.

amy-purdy-snowboardsource

Of course, if given the chance, I would have reversed the situation and never wish for a broken neck. But you know, this is life … Things change, accidents happen. Two weeks into my neck injury, I suddenly lost a small chunk of my hair; The chunk of hair practically fell out from my head overnight! A visit to the dermatologist confirmed that it was a case of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease where one’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles for no reason. I confess, that was also the only time I cried out loud, Why me? As if it wasn’t already tough dealing with a broken neck, I had to be confronted with the fact that I might possibly suffer from more hair loss and be bald! All of a sudden, I lost the will to fight this battle momentarily and allowed myself to wallow in self-pity. Losing hair was a tough pill to swallow – As superficial as it might sound, most females take pride in our lovely locks and to have that taken away from us, it’s utterly depressing and such a blow to our self-esteem. Honestly, at that point of time, I didn’t think that I would be able to find anyone who will love me anymore because of this bald patch.

Yet, as Amy Purdy said in her TEDx speech, “Our borders and our obstacles can only do two things: (1) stop us in our tracks, or (2) force us to get creative“, I knew that these challenges will not bring me down. Compared to so many others, my problems are just a scratch on the knee. If someone like Amy is able to push through the seemingly impossible and live such a fulfilling life that continues to inspire millions, I shouldn’t let such obstacles stop me in my tracks. If anything,
I’m even more determined to grow from this experience and re-live life with vigor and zest. Two months into the injury, I’m glad to say that my neck has been healing well and surgery is most likely out of the picture. The hair condition has been under control (aka no more new hair loss, yay!) and I’m just waiting, patiently, for the hair to re-grow. Patience, what a hard virtue. There are the good days; and there are the bad days but life’s quite good.

If you have not heard about Amy Purdy, please find some time to watch the video of her motivational speech below. I hope you are as inspired by her as I am. 🙂

amy purdy dancing with starssource

“My legs haven’t disabled me; If anything, they have enabled me. They have forced me to rely on my imagination and to believe in the possibilities”
– Amy Purdy

. halo vest: life behind bars .

Got your attention, didn’t I? This particular post is written specially for those of you who might have chanced upon this blog by searching for terms such as “C2 neck fracture” or “halo vest”. My guess is that you might have found yourself in the same shoes as me – Currently nursing a c2 neck fracture with a halo vest.

Hello There! 🙂 Since my accident, I had a couple of friends who prompted me to share my experience with others on my blog and it has been something on the back of my mind since. Reading other people’s experiences of coping with a neck fracture and living with a halo vest had helped me tremendously to adjust to a new lifestyle so I would also like to do my part and pay it forward.

To get you started, here are a couple of other neck injury related entries:
(1) The Accident, (2) Being bedridden, (3) Thankful for the second chance at life

Life behind Bars

PhotoGrid_1400305742411

Life in a halo vest is certainly no walk in the park. In fact, second to lying on my back 24/7 for 10 days in the hospital, it’s the next hardest thing I have to deal with. For the first couple of days, I unleashed a floodgate of tears as it was difficult moving around with this 4kg metal contraption screwed into my head, let alone trying to adapt to a normal life. Not forgetting the frequent backache, shoulder ache and neck pain. 

But trust me, life will get better after the initial weeks. I’ll be honest and real  with you to say that you will need to make major adjustments to your life and be dependent on others, but it can only get better. 🙂  There are days that get incredibly hard but I always tell myself that I’m very lucky and blessed to have survived a broken neck and this halo vest is giving my neck the chance to heal by itself and hopefully regain most of its original mobility. So yes, despite the fact that living in a halo vest is a bitch most of the time, I’m thankful that it’s keeping me alive and I try make the most out of it.

PhotoGrid_1399607054452
Is it even possible for you to sleep with this thing on your head?
Oh yes. In fact, as bone healing requires a lot of energy, I sleep more than I ever did before my injury. Make that 12-15 hours a day. But it is usually interrupted blocks of sleep as I tend to wake up at every 2-3 hours interval. Personally, I find it most comfortable sleeping 60 degrees upright, on my back, on a recliner. Put a small towel in between your neck and the bars for extra comfort.

Can you remove the vest to shower?
Unfortunately, no as you have to wear this halo vest 24/7. What I do is to wet a small towel with diluted soap and sponge bathe; My mum helps me to clean my back while I do the front. It is, however, not an issue to shower the lower part of the body.

PhotoGrid_1397982771432

How about washing your hair?
Personally, this is a nightmare for my family and me as we have tried various methods to wash my hair but to no avail. On this note, I must say that I’m very lucky to have a stylist who’s willing to go the extra mile and wash my hair for me. Living in the tropics with high humidity means my hair gets oily and dirty very fast so I try to make do with twice weekly visits to the hair salon although slight dandruff still remains as a problem. 😦

IMG-20140421-WA0002

How do you even fit into any of your clothes?
Well, I don’t. Honestly, I don’t even wear any top when I’m at home. For modesty sake, I’ll have a handkerchief covering my private bits at the front and another at the back but otherwise, I pretty much walk around “naked”. This is also the only time I can go bra-less with a valid reason lol. When I do head out, I’ll usually don a large-sized boyfriend shirt over the vest. Or a boho dress for special occasions.

IMG-20140517-WA0003
I miss exercising!
Trust me, I do too. With yoga and aerial arts out of the picture (and for a long time to come),
 I felt like I had lost a tiny part of my identity. As I had mentioned earlier, bone healing takes up an incredible amount of energy and I get tired and sleepy pretty easily these days. All the hard work gone into working out my core and muscles seem to have gone to waste. 😦  Welcome flabs! But I know how important sleep/rest is to aid in recovery so I’ll do whatever it takes for a faster and complete recovery.

What else do you do to fill up your day?
Sleep! Honestly, I used to have such a hectic lifestyle that I hardly have the luxury to do nothing. I know it sounds so cliché but I do reflect a lot about life and try to take each day as it comes. These days, I seek pleasure in catching up on many shows – From American sitcoms to drama crimes to documentary shows – , reading, playing with my 3 lovable dogs and catching up on a backlog of blog entries. It certainly helps that my relatives and friends ensure that I have some form of social interaction by visiting me at my place. 🙂

Oh yes, I even booked myself a house-call manicure and pedicure just to pamper myself!PhotoGrid_1398677865478

. turning into Frankenstein .

After what seemed like an eternal wait, the spinal specialist informed us that I would be treated with a halo traction with a 7 pounds weight for the first few days before being fitted with a halo vest. This halo vest would allow the broken bones in my neck to hopefully fuse back and heal by itself; However, depending on the recovery of my fracture, surgery could still be an option.

Although I was slightly sedated, the memory of having the halo crown fitted into my head is definitely something that doesn’t escape me. For that 15 minutes, I could sense that all eyes were on me as I was given a dose of local anesthesia at the 4 pin sites (2 at my forehead, 2 at the back of my head) before the drilling started. Drilling, you might ask? Yes, the drilling and screwing of the 4 titanium pins into my skull to secure the halo vest. The pain was tolerable but I must confess that it was even more bizarre to be relatively wide awake and hear the sounds of the pins drilled into my skull. A memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’m now officially Frankenstein!

20140417_124711
Now, I have always been an active and very independent person so having to lie flat on my back 24/7 for 10 days was excruciatingly tough. The anxiety first kicked in on the first night when I suddenly experienced a series of panic attacks and pleaded for the medical team to give me anything that they could – be it sleeping pills or tranquilizer – so that I can return to sleep as I felt utterly restless to be bedridden. I was that desperate. Fortunately, the situation improved with each passing day and by the end of the 10th day, I was pretty accustomed to lying flat on my back.

My days in the hospital were often spent staring at the ceiling (not that I have a choice, anyway), getting spoon-fed for all my meals, looking forward to the daily X-ray where I get to enjoy fleeting moments of air-conditioning since my room does not come with an air-con, and lots of feeble attempts to get a good sleep. Sleeping was a bitch. My back and shoulders ached terribly from the pressure of lying on the bed (hot muscle lotion was my best friend). I could feel the bulk of my muscles craving for some sort of movement and exercise but to no avail; the part of the body that I ‘exercised’ the most were my fingers… Through the use of my mobile phone! Hahaha. A slave to modern technology.

Nonetheless, I knew the extent of my injuries and was determined to be a good girl by keeping as still as I possibly could. It was extremely tough. But being bedridden and having to depend on my family and the medical team for even the most basic thing – from being spoon-fed, to getting sponge baths and even getting cleaned after excretionreally made me appreciate my life and not take such basic necessity for granted. My ‘hard work’ was rewarded when the doctor pushed forward my appointment to be fitted with the halo vest a day earlier, which also meant a day earlier for me to finally get to move around!

hospital 1
After 10 days of anxiously waiting for the big day, I was finally fitted with the halo vest but the journey was only half completed as I still needed the help of the physiotherapist to get me to start walking again. Yup, that’s what your muscles do when they haven’t been used even for a few days … They need “help” to remember their function again.

Here’s a picture of me having my very first meal on my own since my accident!
A task so simple, but one that I took so much pride in. 🙂

hospital 3
Everyone says that I’ve been such a trooper – for being so strong and positive despite having undergone some of the toughest months in my life that finally accumulated with this neck injury. Honestly, I didn’t think I have so much strength and optimism within me to find my way out of the depths either but now, I do believe that adversity helps build one’s character and I’m coming out of this bit of struggle by becoming a better person.

Of course, I couldn’t have been so strong without the support given to me by these incredible people in my life. My family for being my pillar of strength during some of the darkest moments in my life; relatives, friends and colleagues for the daily hospital visits and showering me with gifts and nutritious food! 🙂 I’ve truly been so humbled by all your support and love; Please know that I really appreciate each and every one of you.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
― Haruki Murakami

hospital 2
Next phase. Living with a halo vest …

. all it took was a flip on the trampoline … .

… To land myself with a broken neck and an accident that is set to change my life forever.

The plan for 5th April? Attend a free aromatherapy-yoga class for an article that I was working on, followed by 2 consecutive hot yoga classes before meeting my girlfriends for an hour of fun at the trampoline park. Well, we all know that the plan worked out perfectly well until my quest for an excitement albeit (on hindsight) recklessness pushed me to attempt a forward flip on the trampoline. My first attempt went well and I was filled with confidence, so off I went for a second flip.

Unfortunately for me, the second flip didn’t end off quite as expected and before I knew it, I heard the following sounds …

CRACK. repeat multiple times.

For a split second, I lost consciousness but I could recall that the first thing I did, upon regaining consciousness, was to move my hands and legs as I was terrified that I had broken my neck and might be paralyzed. Phew! No loss of feelings and sensations in all my limbs. Immediately, I voiced my concerns to the crew at AMPED Trampoline Park @ YOHA that I might have possibly sustained a serious neck injury as the cracking sounds that I heard sounded pretty grave.

Frankly, what followed through was a series of “NOT TO DO” when suspecting a neck fracture. I was reassured multiple times by the AMPED crew that I didn’t break my neck and it was common for people (both the crew and participants) to, I quote, hear similar cracking sounds when they pull a muscle or ligament in their neck. On hindsight, I should have known to always trust my body and instincts; However, at that point of time, being in a state of pain and confusion left me acting against my better judgement. I was convinced by the crew that my injury was nothing more serious than just a bad muscle strain.

On the assumption that it was a muscle strain, my friends had one of our yoga instructor to check out my injury and for the next 20 minutes, he pulled my neck up and down, giving it a massage. Unbeknownst to me at that time, the tiniest action could have damaged my spinal cord. After what felt like an eternity, I cried aloud to stop with the massage as the pain was starting to become excruciating. The decision was made to call for an ambulance. Finally. Nonetheless, it was a series of wrong moves as I stood up, gathered whatever strength I had left within me to walk down 2 flights of stairs before I was wheeled into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

And because I could still move and walk, my situation was deemed as non life-threatening and I was soon transferred to the outpatient clinic, where I waited for another 3 long hours before my X-ray was taken. It was only after the doctor had examined the X-ray results of my neck before we realised the gravity of the situation. The verdict? It was no simple muscle strain; I had fractured my neck and needed to undergo a CT scan to further investigate the extent of my injuries.

Almost immediately, the A&E doctor and his team had me rushed to the emergency department where I had my neck immobilized in a hard neck collar and head blocks. I was told that I had to be bedridden as the slightest movement could jeopardize my injury and sever my spinal cord. Oh my God! I broke into tears and started crying uncontrollably as a cloud of negativity overwhelmed me. Truth to be told, it terrified me to no end that there was a real possibility that I could end up being a paraplegic. Being scared is an understatement. The CT scans revealed that I had fractured my C1 and C2, the first two cervical vertebrae that control the movement of our head and houses the nerves to our respiratory system. And no visible signs of damage to the spinal cord. I must have said this a thousand times since my accident but I am truly thankful to be alive and fully mobile despite the series of wrong moves along the way.

I lay completely still in bed, with an Intravenous drip insertion and a urinary catheter inserted into my bladder (one of the most uncomfortable procedure), as I await for the Orthopedic specialist to arrive … and what was also the beginning of the most traumatic experience of my life.

20140406_094353

The take-away from this entry? Always assume the worst when it comes to any neck injury and call for an ambulance immediately. 

. second chance at life after breaking my neck .

10414004_723341644389558_2118937830_a
Where do I even begin? 6 weeks have flown by since that fateful day that changed my life, forever. An accident that could have possibly left me either dead or paralyzed. To summarize it, I, being the usual adventurous me, took a leap of faith that didn’t quite end up as expected, crashed and broke my neck

(C1 and C2 vertebra fracture to be exact).  4 weeks since I have been trapped behind the metal bars and cage, aka halo vest. Emotions still run raw and deep whenever I looked back at how close I was to fatality but there is a reason that I’m given a second chance at life. A reason that I am still alive and able to use all my limbs. It might sound morbid but it’s the truth that  most people who suffer a broken neck usually don’t survive and those who do, chances are they usually suffer from a spinal cord injury which could potentially result in quadriplegia.

This resonated so well with me. To know what might have been is a terrifying thought and up till this day, tears continue to roll down my cheeks whenever that thought crosses my mind. I give thanks every single day to know that I’m still alive and fully mobile. When you experience something so life-threatening, it’s inevitable that you start seeing life from a different perspective and I was no exception. You become even more appreciative  and thankful of even the most basic and simple things in life, e.g. taking a shower (more to come in my halo vest post), walking, eating, exercising, being able to live with 3 generations under the same roof, etc.

In theory, I believe that we all know that we should live life to the fullest but too many of us are guilty of either complaining too much or making excuses for the stuff we want to do. I must say that my zest for life, coupled with my thirst for adventure and adrenaline, have led me to live a relatively fulfilling life thus far. Sure, there are its ups and downs and I’ve experienced my fair share of a roller coaster in life but for the bulk of it, I usually take my chances and have no regrets. Since my accident, it solidifies my belief that life is too fragile and short to live on ‘what ifs’ and waste it living on anyone else’s terms.

No point dwelling on the past or wallowing in self-pity about the situation. This accident, along with emotional distress that I had undergone in the months prior, actually showed me that I’m way stronger and more positive that I ever thought I can be. Never once did I push the blame to anyone or bemoan at the situation and allow myself to sink into depression or self-pity. I choose to believe that things happen for a reason and when the storm is (finally) over, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, all it takes is to have faith, lots of support (I’m so grateful every single day for my family, friends, relatives and colleagues who have showered me with so much love and emotional support through my recovery) and be patient. And I know that at the end of the day, I’ll be a stronger and more determined person who is going to accomplish more things in my life that I will be proud of. 🙂 

I promise I’ll get to the details of the accident and life with a halo vest soon but for now, I would like to end off this blog entry with one of my favourite quotes:

“Today is life – The only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep thrugh you. Live today with gusto.”PhotoGrid_1402630252665