I remember being tackled and thinking ‘ow no, this isn’t good.’ I had broken my clavicle, dislocated my sternum, and ruptured the artery which supplies blood to the brain. As I lost consciousness, one of the parents – an off-duty medic – saved my life, using a kitchen knife to open my chest and allow air to flow.
My Dad wanted to jump out of the hospital window when they told my parents that there was no response in my pupil and the advice was to turn off the machines. They were distraught. But my Mum refused. She knew that I could pull through. The only option was a craniotomy. And a month later, at the third and final attempt, I woke up.
I think I rushed going back to school. I was 16 years old, impatient, and in denial. I spent the rest of that school year – more than seven months – with half a skull, and just a hat covering the gap. I couldn’t walk anywhere alone, for risk of falling. So, I had nurses 24/7. I needed to relearn everything, all my physical movement, my social skills, and cognitive processes.
For a long time, and for the first time, I was depressed. Really sad, and in a dark place.
Many of my best friends, they left me. They were too young and too ill equipped to deal with it. But in their place, new more meaningful friendships emerged – people who I wouldn’t really have crossed paths with before.
Sport, friendship, and family, these things healed me. As soon as I was allowed, once I had a metal skull, I was running. Running with the new nickname of ‘Titanium Tom!’
I feel like I have experienced every human emotion in the past seven years, and I received the rarest of gifts. The gift of understanding how precarious life is. When I got injured, that was the last thing I expected to happen that day. You learn in a moment, that you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.
When I was first told about M2M, I was sceptical. Too many times I have been promised the world by charities, and it hasn’t materialised. But right from the off, I was in physio, meeting cool people, being supported, and doing amazing things. Last week I climbed Snowden, this week the retreat, and in November I am heading to Nepal.
Often in social settings I try to mask my injuries. The twitch, or the spasms. But being here, with this incredible group of people, I can be completely myself. With a brain injury it is difficult to know what is ‘me before’, ‘me maturing’, or ‘me changed.’
One thing is for sure, I certainly wouldn’t have been doing breathwork before the injury. I did think, as I lay there, ‘imagine if my brother saw me now!’ But it works. And in life you have to do what works for you.Back to Beneficiary Stories