In The Beginning Was The Word, and The Word Was God-Dammit-I’ve-Broken-My-Neck!

Hello, I’m Gareth and this is my shambolic attempt at a blog all to do with my life as a disabled or ‘differently abled’ person! I’ve never actually understood people who use that expression, “I’m not disabled, I’m differently abled!” Are you? Really? Surely if you were ‘differently abled’ then instead of walking you’d be able to fly or teleport, something that a regular person couldn’t do. (Disclaimer: If it so happens that you can do one of these things in place of walking then I will be the first person to apologise, acknowledge you as ‘differently abled’ and then beg to know your secret. But for the rest of us, I’m afraid we’re just plain ‘disabled’). And you know what, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing unless you yourself decide to make it one. I’m sure it’d be wonderful if we lived in a world where every illness and affliction had a simple cure, where there were no wars, no poverty, no famine, and every time a person farted a bunny was born. But we don’t live in this idyllic, methane-layered, rabbit-ridden society. We live in the real world where things aren’t perfect and sometimes you’re dealt a bum hand. And it’s in these instances above all others that you need to remember that life is what you make it: Choose to give in to your bad situation and fall into an emotional pit that you may never climb out of, or choose not to accept that the cards you’ve been dealt have to mean it’s game over for you and look for the positives in the situation, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at the time. Cling to them, use them to drag yourself out of this pit of despair you’ve plunged yourself into and open yourself up to the world of possibilities that are still out there. Aaannnddd breathe. Seriously, how am I not touring the States as a motivational speaker?!

Anyway, I’ve no idea if this is how you’re meant to start off one of these things but I’d been sat watching midget fetish videos deep in thought for long enough, so I figured I may as well just bite the bullet and see what came out when I started furiously bashing keys. This could (and quite possibly already has) rapidly descend into the incoherent and nonsensical ramblings of a madman, so I apologise in advance. Although, in my defence, I did suffer a rather severe blow to the head 10 years ago…

I suppose that’s where I should start, the injury. I could write a novel on the events of 2005 but I’ll try and stick to the basics for now, although I don’t really know what constitutes as ‘basics’ and what doesn’t so we could be here a while! At the very start of 2005 I was just your average 22-year-old: A dashingly handsome, charismatic, philanthropic, charming, and above all, modest, university student of superior intellect, a Tony Stark-esque figure if you will. *Sigh* and with that solitary Iron Man reference, the truth comes out…I was in fact, a short, socially awkward, comic book reading, film watching, game playing, closet geek, and I’m sure many people who know me would say I still am! But I was a university student, that much is true. I was studying English at the University of Stirling and was about to enter my final semester. I’d managed to somehow convince my parents to get me insured on my dad’s car and had driven up from my home in Teesside to university for New Year and (after several days of fun and frolics) on the morning of January 3rd I set off back. It was a 200 mile journey and all was going swimmingly until I got within about 10 miles of home. I don’t remember why exactly, but I had to suddenly swerve out of the way of the back end of a car on the motorway, causing me to go into a skid and begin sliding towards the central reservation. I remember thinking to myself, “Please don’t hit it, please don’t hit it, my parents are going to kill me if I hit it!” And then with a crunch, the driver side wing mirror was torn off. “Balls.” The next few seconds are a bit of a blur, but at some point during my dance with the steel barrier the car flipped, going (according to witnesses) head over heels and then rolling sideways. All I know is that on the second flip, the roof came down on my head and knocked me out. Next thing I remember is waking up in what was left of the car, which had thankfully come to a halt the right way up, and having the fire brigade cut the roof off so the ambulance crew could scoop me out and pump me full of sweet, sweet morphine…*ties tourniquet round arm, starts smacking up veins*. I then spent the next 5 and a half months in the spinal unit of James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough: 2 weeks intensive care, 2 weeks high dependency, 4 and a half months rehab. I had broken my neck and severely compressed my spinal cord at a C5 level and whereas the cord wasn’t completely severed, it was damaged enough to make sure I wasn’t going to walk out of hospital. Hell, I could barely push!

Ever the hit with the ladies…

Some things never change!

So, in a nutshell, that’s how I came to be the special little fella I am today. The injury has affected all 4 of my limbs to differing degrees. My biceps are fully functional, I have a small amount of tricep on each arm, my fingers are hit and miss but my legs are more or less dead weights, although I can move a few toes here and there, something that obviously comes in handy whenever I ever feel like ever-so-slightly wiggling them to a catchy song I hear! I also have sensation and feeling throughout my body, not like I used to by any means, but good enough to know if I’m in pain or if my shoe is coming loose or if someone is playing footsie with me under the table (usually a cat), so I’m grateful for small mercies. BC (Before Crippling) whenever I saw someone in a wheelchair, I always just assumed that their legs didn’t work for one reason or another and that that was their only issue. You don’t realise just how much is affected when you damage your spinal cord, losing the ability to move certain limbs is the tip of the iceberg, I can’t even sweat below my neck…a silver lining that has saved me hundreds of pounds on deodorant over the years, although on the downside I no longer have an excuse to go in front of the mirror and do that homoerotic diagonal spray across the torso that they do on the adverts!

And there you have it. This has been my not-so-brief opening blog which I hope you’ve, at the very least, found tolerable. In the next one I plan to talk about what I’ve been doing since the accident and what’s made me start writing a blog.

Oh and for anyone who’s looked at the blog title, read this post and then done their maths, I know society considers me an *scans dictionary* ‘ad-ult’ (?!) and I know this is called Diary Of A Gimpy Kid, but let’s face it, this is surely one of the more innocent examples of a 32-year-old man masquerading as a ‘kid’ on the internet!

G