Listen to Suggested Audio:
Marianne Faithfull “Sister Morphine”
“I’m indestructible!” shouted the freckly teenage girl bombing along on her Giant Stonebreaker mountain bike. Topless because of yet another spontaneous dare.
That girl was me in early summer 1996. I’d always been the up-for-some-gratuitous-mayhem, excitable, outdoors type with a penchant for the questionable.
After some particularly gruelling biking over the rough terrain behind my domain, I developed a persistent headache. “Attention seeking” concluded the doctor (and why! this phone’s text predictor too!). And so paracetamol and ibuprofen abuse began. The headache grumbled on but didn’t stop me. I was indestructible remember?
Roll on, crack on, pedal on a few months later, BANG!!! Blinding light, pins and needles, pissing up the back of my Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge tee and then…numb. Hemiplegia. Am I dying? What the fuck??
Chaotic A&E examinations, scans, bloods, stabilisation and a urinary catheter. Blue light to neurosciences and all I could think about was coffee, my Sega Megadrive and if my fringe looked okay. “I’m a mess with breath like a bus depot floor. And where was my t-shirt??”
I had an undiagnosed arteriovenous malformation and my superior sagittal sinus decided to finally crack under pressure. It was a pretty rare tangle of weakened vessels that can rupture and cause death or significant impairment. I was tough, kicked death out of the room and settled for hemiplegia and incontinence. A bit of grand mal epilepsy to keep me on my feet. Wait, I can’t even walk!
Weeks turned into months and Miss Indestructible proved miraculous. Students loved my hyper reflexes, physios were fascinated with my newly acquired pelvic tilt and I just loved my cranial scar. I soon ditched the catheter and like Hannibal Lecter, could stand up strapped up on a vertical stretcher. The Hand kicked into action and after neurosurgery and a seizure reminiscent of the “Make it stop! It’s burning!” scene in the Exorcist, my lower half soon twitched into numb, weak function.
Twitching, convulsing, pissing and cussing I began the gruelling road to progressing to wheelchair. I chose blood-red à la the Plymouth Fury used in Stephen King film Christine. You ever tried going from A to B one-handed? I left black donuts in the hospital corridors with speedy frustration. Fucking hilarious though and I mean that. Us neuro patients enjoyed our sick humour.
The day of reckoning finally arrived. Walking ten steps aided by a Silent Hill weapon of a walking stick. And so it was done. Friends gave me tenners, family weeped and I thought “Virgin Megastore here I come!”. I had to add Cat People to my Malcolm McDowell collection.
Since 1997 I’ve healed and hit a plateau. One thing learned from this epic life threatening experience in the summer of ‘96… “I’m indestructible!”