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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale

10 Years Since I Woke Up!

Updated: Apr 7, 2020


Now pretty much marks being in excess of a decade since my regaining consciousness. This was from being thrust into a non-induced coma in the early hours of the 1st of January 2010 and… Coming around gradually sometime in that March. Surrealism to the superlative is the only accurate recount of this that I could offer of this pivotal existential shifting.

To call this ordeal an intense and overwhelming experience would be an understatement. Expressing this is the purpose in writing Battling a Brain Injury: the life that Jack built served and it’d be futile to try and recount these fresh and raw experiences here; not to mention something that I’d find tiresome. I regard this more as an anniversary style piece of writing in giving acknowledgement to the experience of ending an unnaturally long sleep.

Such a significant and dicey segment of my life is something that I ever really feel any want or need to volunteer into any conversation. Time is a healer and whatever of the umpteen clichés that I could choose to use here would feel almost redundant, as I really do feel with gratitude that I am now so detached from this traumatic episode. Still, not accepting the gravity of the situation and reflecting on in with reverence is something that would make me quite the fool; or just in complete denial. As with graduating, moving into your first home, getting married, having children etc. etc. it was a key life moment.

Certainly during the latter stages of my coma, I was coming around for something akin to being placed in an atheist’s sort of purgatory. There was definitely some relief on my part, though with all honesty, I said “wow” to just about every piece of information related to me during the earliest stages of reawakening. Even surpassing the point where I knew in my heart of hearts that it was impossible, I still based my seeming to be incredibly diminishing parameters on the fact that I’d reawaken from this apparent nightmare sometime.

Of course, now that so much time has elapsed and many remarkable new experiences have been obtained, memories of having once been so ill are thankfully all rather stale. It is recognized that every time that you revisit a memory it will be subconsciously altered to be understood in line with our personal narrative. In spite of this, I still feel that although thanks to advancements in medicine, it is far from exclusive to be a person able to summon recollections of being comatose. The individuality of all head injuries and all brains may be nothing much beyond obvious in itself and with that here is what I think may be worth nothing about my experience with the benefit of over 10 year’s hindsight.

From my experience, being comatose was actually pretty cushy for the most part. It may well be as part of my defensive mechanism, I have no memories of any physical discomfort. This is right from being flung over a wall beside the A406 (on the north circular near to the Great Cambridge Roundabout to anybody in the know) to my regaining consciousness. Far too busy healing for any of that caper.

Naturally I was unaware of the horror and heartache that was to follow, I now have an emotional response that could be described as something like ‘womb-envy’ to account for this lost period of existence. Less than glamorous as my tracheotomy, catheter and feeding tubes were, they were doing all of the work. Lying there is all that I did. It was only as my awareness increased that things became spicier.

As my urge to become part of the world again properly intensified, I managed to kick myself out of bed whilst still unconscious and according visitors at the time, I was rarely still. Often people have asked me whether I can remember dreams during a coma. Yes definitely is the short answer. There is absolutely no way of verifying my presumption that these would have been at the tail-end of my being asleep (creepily I was often active with my eyes, apparently) beyond what I’d regard as common-sense. Suffice to say that I feel so far within the third person when talking about any of this. As negative as the ordeal was for me and some of my closest friends, relating this conjures no greater emotion is me than any other life-event. It’s something tragic that happened and this can never change.

As with numerous life events such as my birthday being when it is, having a younger sister and being a native of London, it was something completely involuntary that is then my responsibility to relate to in the way that I see fit. Overall I and more than satisfied with the way that my life has progressed since the cataclysm that I was involved in and I’m grateful for paradoxically having this luck in being able to transfer this to a more than decent quality of life. It antagonises me to hear of any claims that we are responsible for this achievement in that we “fight” disease in somehow implying that our success at doing so rests on our inner strength or courageousness. Survival rests on the fortune on being offered the option of recovery in a brutal game of chance. I find that the ignorance of implying that anybody losing the battle as was in any way weaker as beyond offensive.

The NHS is my real saviour and I cannot express how much I admire the invaluable institution. With this Corona chaos with which the world is now consumed, I cannot overstate how thankful I am that we were free of this epidemic at my crucial time of recovery. I cannot even bear thinking about us being in a quarantined state and not being able to have any hospital visitors, as I see them all as so fundamental to my recovery. Believing that life continued – although it was almost impossible for me to understand – was so necessary to my improvement. I mean, a family member placing a bet for me on the April 10th 2010 Grand National for me and us all watching my chosen horse Don’t Push It galloping to victory from my hospital bedside T.V. was one of my first positive interactions with the outside world giving me a positive sign!

Anyway, if there’s one positive lesson that I really believe both my traumatic experience and the current pandemic should highlight is that no man is an island. We’re all in this life together. Caring about each other and sharing our resources is something of which the necessity of is being proven in the crudest way. Let’s all unite in taking that step back from life and harnessing our potential of bringing happiness to ourselves along with those with who we surround ourselves. A healthier world is something that humanity must unite in desiring at the moment. Individual selfishness must be combated if we are ever going to achieve a fairer virus free world.

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