Fighting on...

I had my accupuncture today ... and not before time.  The pain's been off the scale this week.  I saw my pain consultant today as well and I'm being encouraged to stop practising Karate.  I can't though.  Have you ever done something in your life that feels 'right'?  You click with it?  That's how I've always felt about Karate.  I wish I'd been able to afford to grade etc when much younger.

I'm at the stage where I was in 1995,  Getting ready for a 1st dan grading.  Except then I was hit by a stolen motor vehicle that found me in it's path on the other side of a hump backed bridge.  I was waiting for traffic to clear.  An elderly couple were slowly getting out of a taxi.  My son was dozing in the back in his baby chair.  He was about 8 or 9 months old at the time I think.  He may have been older. 

I was on my way to pick up my ex partner from work.  The taxi hadn't parked properly so oncoming traffic couldn't clear the spot either.  My steering lock was on full lock to the right and I was waiting for a gap to escape in.

The next second my mind registered that moment that says something dangerous is about to happen and I saw a flash of light in the rear view mirror and a split second later my ears were tinkling with that odd cacophony of twisting metal and breaking glass.  My car was an old Ford Escort mark 2 with no head rest.  I was later told that my fitness through karate was what saved my life as the whiplash was severe, so severe that it still affects me now, 11 years later.

I remember getting out of my car and the red mist descending over my vision.  I ripped open the driver's door as he was trying to make his getaway and grabbed him by his throat and started to lift him out of the vehicle.  He floored the accelerater and my grip on him was broken as he sped away.  I don't remember seeing his face ... I just remember feeling, 'you could have killed my baby boy'.

My car was badly smashed up but I chased him for 2 or 3 blocks before my son's cries got through the red haze and I seemed to be coming out of the mist.  Then the pain hit me.  It started around my neck and then radiated down both arms and it was severe.  I started shaking owing to the seveity of it and the onset of shock.  I saw a telephone box and stopped by it and called for a police unit and an ambulance and then set to calming my son down.  Those baby seats are brilliant; Joshua was fine, just shaken up.  I couldn't lift him though as I now couldn't move my fingers or my hands and all I could do was talk to Josh, my arms limp by my sides and the most severe pain was ringing my neck.

The ambulance arrived first and strapped me down to a stretcher to immobilise my neck as they feared any movement could have serious consequences at this point.  Josh started crying again and the medics couldn't calm him.  I told the medic to put him on my chest which he reluctantly did ... and Josh calmed down straight away.  My boy was safe and I was grateful.  We blue lighted it to the hospital, where they examined me, kept me in for a few hours and then released me with some heavy painkillers and a soft collar for my neck.

For the next few days I couldn't grip anything to dress myself and the pain killers were pretty useless.  I was Josh's primary carer in those days, around my part time job with Kingswood Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).  I was their tribunal case worker and my workload was always a heavy one.

I remember going back to work ASAP and swallowing the pain and trying my best to ignore the discomfort it caused.  The armed forces attitude of 'go'til you drop' got me through it.  Incidentally, it was owing to the difficulties caused by this road accident that a very switched on GP interviewed me and referred me to the appropriate mental health team.  After some probing they told me that I had been suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since serving in Northern Ireland between 1983-1985.  This was a moment of enlightenment regarding an earlier chapter of my life and the missing pieces of the jigsaw about my past clicked together for the first tiem in over a decade.  The MoD had never conducted a discharge medical on me, even though my Sergeant was aware of ertain difficulties I was experiencing close to my time of leaving.

I don't think it was all that long before I went back to Sensei Ed Stark's Dojo in Bristol.  The problem was that every punch and kick I did felt like it was re-tearing the injury.  I was told that I had a severe soft tissue trauma of the neck.  I kept trying to train but the pain was too much and I felt I was going one step forward and two steps back at all times.  I had no option bu to stop training.  It wasn't long before I moved back to Cornwall again.  A job came up as Manager of Truro CAB and I went for it and took the post.

I went back to train at the Newquay KUGB dojo that I had done all my gradings with until 1992 or 1993.  We'd gone up to Plymouth to be graded by Sensei Otah every 3 months and then 6 months for the 1st kyu grading.  Unfortunately my body was still generating too much pain and I couldn't do any consistent training, as the pain was too much and it kept ripping open the old wounds.

My pain consultant asked me about the Karate today, and why I wouldn't consider doing something like Tai Chi instead.  I told her that I need this one battle.  If I can get my 1st dan, I can slow down the training after to a more realistic level for my injuries ... but between now and December I have to be resigned to maximum pain.  Unfortunately, the pain got so severe on Sunday that it stopped my 'flow' with a kata as the pain was making me tense way too much on some moves and I ended up in a downward spiral.

The grading is a battle within - it's as if I'm saying something to the Road Accident - maybe I'm making a statement to myself.  I'm not as sharp as I was in those earlier years - I'm older, still in a lot of pain and my short term memory's been severely affected by the PTSD.  I don't know even know if I'll be able to do the grading if there's a break between segments as the pain gets a lot worse if there's a break or a lot of pauses between movement.  My body starts to lock up and stiffens really quickly ... to the point that I can hardly walk without a high degree of pain.  But I don't show it if possible ... Veterans' pride; we walk tall and whenever we can ... and some of us have faced worse things.

I have had to accept something today though: I can't keep pushing my body to this level.  It stops me doing my therapeutic work ... which is what I live for as it helps me to cope with the PTSD which is my main disability.  I also have to retain some degree of mobility to be able to interact with my children and I don't want to end up in a wheelchair being a burden to them.  So I know that I may never be able to do another grading again after this one.  I'll try my hardest though and will see what happens in December.

I suppose I'd better get on with some work ...

Have a pleasant evening.


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