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  • Mark Berridge

My Rehabilitation

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

I underwent emergency surgery on the evening of my accident. Face down for over 5 hours, as two parallel 23-centimetre rods were inserted into by back. This fixation of my spine would protect my crush-fractured vertebrae, alleviate pressure on my spinal cord, and provide my only hope of regaining mobility.

It took significant willpower to gather hope and my resolve leading into the operation, but it was the next day that really tested me. Suddenly I was much more aware of how complex my situation was and how distant my hopes of recovery were, hopes that were barely 12 hours old. I could barely move, my pain was intense and the cold numbness in my legs was haunting. I chose to reward myself for how I tackled each moment and set about doing the smallest actions that I could control: breathing deeply to protect my lungs; straining to flex my feet and toes a millimetre; and pushing myself a centimetre up the bed.

Mentally it was tough. I latched onto windows of hope and dealt with periods of despair. There were waves upon waves of fear triggered by my current circumstances or obstacles ahead (real and imagined). I felt guilt that I had let my family down; that they would be impacted forever by my moment of misfortune.

There were many important moments of blunt truths, uplifting visits, incredible kindness, expert medical guidance, and timely inspiration.

Through all these ups and downs, I persisted. 11 days in acute care, then 6 weeks in a rehabilitation unit, where I spent 3 hours every day in the physiotherapists’ gym striving to get better. 3 months of intense day hospital treatment, followed by a further 6 months working with a physiotherapist up to 4 days per week, plus once per week with an exercise physiologist. On top of that, rehabilitation at home was my daily ritual whether that be stretching, strength and balance building exercises or hydrotherapy. A few days every week I did “pre-running drills” because I had formed the intention to run (once I had stopped crying), on the day the spinal specialists told me that running would never be possible. I spent 9 months gradually building my capacity to do these drills.

15 months after my accident I jogged (shuffled) a lap of an oval.


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