Nearly dying was the best thing that ever happened to me. In March 2009, I had a motorcycle accident in Thailand. I fractured my skull, my spine, my ankle, my knee, my shoulder, my elbow, broke three ribs, perforated my lungs and had a brain hemorrhage. All in the middle of nowhere, deep in the jungle.
How did the day start? Well where do I begin? In Phuket, where my mate Dave and I hired bikes and hit the road. Dave is my best man and a great guy. He has a big heart and a soft soul. Dave looks like an old movie star and has the same style. We wanted to get as far away from civilization as possible.
We did that well on dirt roads and forest tracks along beautiful beaches and through shanty towns. You tend to forget how easily you can kill yourself on a motorbike, especially in Asia. We had gotten so far from civilization and left all of our worries behind. How quickly that all changed.
The sun started to set so suddenly. It was beautiful, but I was going too fast and having way too much fun, until I got airborne over a ridge which was awesome. Then I looked down. A giant pot hole and I could not miss. As much as I braced myself I was thrown through the air but one end of the handle bars had pierced my stomach and opened me right up. I landed and rolled down a ditch and ended up in a pile of bushes covered in blood and guts. Although the accident occurred deep in the jungle people rushed from everywhere.
I knew that I had broken my back straight away and because I had perforated my lungs I couldn’t speak. But looking up at this crowd of people who had come from nowhere I just kept gasping. . . “My back. My back.”
I did not want them to touch me. I knew I was in real trouble. By the time Dave got to me this crowd of villagers was all around me. He said that he did not want me to see him because he did not want me to see the look on his face. My head was split wide open and my eyes kept filling with blood. It was dark and I could see the stars above the shadows. Then a man in a uniform appeared. I do not know if he was a policeman or security.
I gasped for air and pleaded. . . “My back. My back. Don’t touch me.”
Then the man in uniform said. . . “OK, OK, We get Ambulance.”
Just as I relaxed they picked me up and put me on the back of a flat-bed truck.
“Nooooo,” I screamed.
I spent forty minutes in the back of that truck on bumpy dirt roads up and down mountains open from head to toe. I had four fantastic Thai people holding me down waving smelling salts under my nose as I came in and out of consciousness. I will never forget the intense pain. I remember looking at the stars but my eyes kept filling with blood. I wondered if I would ever walk again. I wondered if I would die. They first took me to a public hospital and I was still conscious but gasping.
“Insurance, I have Insurance.” I knew not having insurance or enough money to pay upfront might leave me on a hospital waiting room floor so I took out the maximum coverage, thank God! Once they heard that, I was magically transferred to a brand-new 5 star private hospital and I awoke two days later. I opened my eyes and a voice spoke to me. I didn’t know where it came from, but it was me, ‘This is the best thing that will ever happen to you.’
I believe … no, I know … had I had awakened with the opposite thought I would still be in a wheel chair today, or dead. That power of positive thinking helped me survive. . . saw me walk again when many doctors thought that I would not. Saw me out of intensive care in Thailand 3 months later and out of a wheel chair and off crutches within 12 months.
Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
Then I opened my eyes. They had sewn me up, my head, my shoulder, my elbow, my stomach, my knee down to my big toe. Pretty much the whole right side of my body. My head looked like a football with zig zag stiches from front to back like boot laces. They had certainly saved my life.
They could not operate on my broken spine until I had recovered enough to sign a waiver holding the staff harmless, because there was no guarantee that I would walk again.
I did not want to phone my family. I did not want to phone anyone. I did not want anyone worrying about me. I could hardly speak but I needed help. My first phone call was to my Insurance Broker and great mate. He said he will never forget his shock after our conversation. I sounded like I might die. He was thousands of kilometers away, helpless. The private hospital was a godsend, state-of-the-art and they put me in traction, hooked up to all sorts of machines with tubes and hoses spouting out of me here, there and everywhere. I never wondered if I would walk again because of regular shots of morphine.
As well as needing a spinal operation I also needed a metal ankle. Luckily my insurance picked up the bill just over US$200,000. I know many people stuck in horrible places in terrible ways because of no insurance. I have never done anything by halves so I gave morphine a good hard go. My nurses were attentive and I asked for more and more until one night my dreams turned into nightmares, my hallucinations intense and I fought imaginary dragons with swords and it scared the hell out of me, the dragons finally did it. Too much morphine is not recommended.
Dave and another mate of mine from Byron Bay visited when they could but I still had not notified my family. I needed to know whether a life in a wheel chair was the only option. I wondered whether I would be a Para-Olympian. Or would I be a bitter and twisted grumpy old man, angry at the world and what had happened to me. I kept reminding myself of my voice. . . ‘This will be the best thing that ever happens to you.' What did that message mean? In hindsight I meant that there is a place for positive thinking in life and never a
better moment than right then.
The doctors explained to me that people end up in wheel chairs not from broken spines but from broken spinal cords. A spinal cord is as fragile as a string of toothpaste and luckily for me, mine had not broken and the Thai doctors and nurses convinced me I would in fact walk again. Once I was sure, I rang my family who were shocked as I expected and of course both my parents wanted to fly over, although there was nothing they could have done because I was still in traction and would be for some time. I needed to learn to walk again. There was no flying back to Australia until my metal spine had set itself and I was strong enough to move...
An excerpt from Matt's story for the new men's book expected out late 2017 "Made By Scars - the men's series'
Matt Towner is a Writer and Publisher, TV Presenter and Motivational Speaker.