Biker’s disguised anguish ‘behind a smile’ after horrifying crash
Gary Dawson was only 19 years old when he was involved in a car accident that would affect his life forever. The aftermath of the crash would see him slide into addiction, loneliness, and melancholy after sustaining injuries that left him screaming with his eyes’. A regular appointment to his doctor will dramatically change his life. Despite being paralysed from the chest down, he has a career, participates in sports, has travelled the world, and is able to drive twenty years after the injury. By narrating the narrative of his 20-year rehabilitation journey, Gary brings hope to individuals dealing with the emotional toll of a life-changing accident.
Gary Dawson, lying in a hospital bed, peered up at the fluorescent lights through the creases between his eyelids. His mind was cloudy. He was completely perplexed.
Gary understood he was no longer dreaming when he moved his body. He had been crippled from the chest down and would never be able to walk again.
Gary was unable to talk owing to an oxygen tube in his windpipe, leaving him to deal with the incomprehensible ordeal in his thoughts alone. “All I could do was shout at somebody with my gazes,” he confessed. “I was saying, destroy me, I can’t accomplish this.”
Before that fatal day, the 19-year-old electrician’s apprentice from Oldham had enjoyed clubbing and riding sports bikes.
But all changed in the blink of an eye in May 2003, when he fell from his Suzuki 650s while slowing down at a set of traffic lights.
The bike crashed and chased Gary down the road before slamming him against a car, forever altering the trajectory of his life.
Gary was stabilized at Trafford General Hospital before being transferred to Salford Royal, but the harm had already been done.
When a consultant saw Gary’s test results, he said something Gary will never forget: “These results are incompatible with life.”
He was then sent to a private hospital for spinal stabilization surgery on his spine, which had been crushed just below the level of his shoulder blades.
Unfortunately, he argues, the doctors were incompetent in negotiating with spinal damages, and Gary couldn’t control vomiting and his skin had shifted yellow for only 24 hours.
Gary, now 39, was streamed about to the Salford Royal in misery, where his soul destroyed. Over the next four hours, his heart stopped several times, but he was saved each time by being resuscitated by the cardiac and A&E teams.
When a huge blood clot near his heart was identified, a consultant informed his family that he could die within the next 15 minutes.
Gary eventually went into a coma due to organ failure. The crew amazingly saved his life after more than ten hours of resuscitation.
Gary awoke from his coma ten days later to the sad news of his stiffness. “I didn’t understand anyone who was disabled,” he said. “And despite living in a coma for ten daylights, I couldn’t sleep.”
“My mind was going, believing that my life was destroyed.” I was making a mental list of everything I’d never do again.”
Through a fog of pain and medication, Gary recalls his consultant telling him that he’d never walk again, but that he was the luckiest person alive.
“In one double, it handled amazing to be applied, but in the next moment, I was so unhappy because I accomplished’t want to be disabled,” he continued. “My emotions fluctuated like a heart monitor.”
Recuperation and rehabilitation
Gary’s lengthy road to recovery and rehabilitation began when he was admitted to Southport Hospital’s Spinal Unit. “I regarded as if I had beaten the lottery.” “It was amazing to be there with my counterparts,” he commented.
“For the first time, I could see signs of life.” It significantly improved my mental health. I noticed folks heading to the gym, the pub, and even the shopping.
“I satisfied three different gentlemen there, and we only talked all night.” It was wonderful just to speak to folks who understood how I managed.
“And I adjusted fast to wheelchair assistance, and everyone on crew was excellent.” I had a wonderful happening in healing. I stayed there for seven weeks in all, and they train you how to be self-sufficient within the spinal unit. So I spoke to myself, “This is sharp, I’m separated, I’m heading home.”
“However, I was also beating myself up. My mind was telling me that I was useless and weak. I was still fixated on what I couldn’t do. “I felt so exposed and terrified.”
These are dark times.
Gary credits the support of his family and friends for guiding him through his gloomy thoughts. “But there were still so many negative thoughts in the back of my mind.” “I just kept them well hidden,” he added.
He returned to his mother’s house, only to discover that the NHS’s safety net and 24-hour care had vanished.
“I was back in the real world – and I was absolutely terrified,” he went on. “Because mum’s house was inaccessible, I had to use a commode and go to my grandmother’s house to take a bath.”
“But, more importantly, my friends had all moved away to university, and my parents had returned to work.” Their lives had progressed, but mine had not. This was quite difficult for me.”
Gary, who now works as a support network manager for the charity Spinal Injuries Association, relocated to an independent living facility, a purpose-built home in a cul-de-sac surrounded by other people with disabilities. Gary was pleased to leave his mother’s house, but he felt completely alienated and unprotected.
I was too terrified to leave the house, he admitted. “What if I slipped out of my wheelchair?” What if people mocked me?
“So I accomplished what I always do: I suppressed after my expansive smile.” That accomplished’t function since my coping strategy evolved into booze and pills.
“I’d wake up, have Jack Daniels for breakfast, and then smoke weed all daytime.” I didn’t swallow anything. Then I began self-harming. I was so annoyed and enraged that I wanted to punch my immobilised legs.
“I ruptured the veins in my leg one day, and the blood ran into my muscle.” I was sent to the hospital for suspected deep vein thrombosis. Nobody ever questioned me.”
Gary’s weight has reduced to six stone after six months in his own house.
“All I can remember is just consuming JD, smoking weed, and not drinking anything,” he stated. “I was mourning from malignant anaemia.” Because I wasn’t driving, my home thought I was failing athletic mass. When my pals came to visit, they’d bring me alcohol. Everyone brought me bottles of Jack Daniels for my 20th birthday, and I had about 15!
“I preserved a notebook and reported down whatever reached to overlook.” ‘I want to convey someone,’ it sounds. ‘I want to die,’ I say. I felt envious of folks who could move around freely. Nobody, nobody knew what I was going through.”
Getting back on track
Fortunately, a regular visit to his doctor got Gary back on track. “My GP was amazing,” he continued. “She anointed me antidepressants, which greatly improved my insomnia.” I was competent to concentrate largely agreeably once I was competent to catnap nicely. I quit smoking, drank less, and began eating again.
“Getting my driver’s licence made a significant difference.” I regained control of my life. And if I woke up at 3 a.m. feeling irritated or upset, I could drive to my 24-hour Tesco and chat with the employees – it was a welcome distraction.
“But the best part was that I could now go to my local disability sports club, the Bury Blue Devils.” And my life completely changed after that first day.
“I was back with my peers.” Everyone in the room was aware of the handicap. It was great to suddenly be able to talk to folks about how they were spending their lives.”
A promising future
Gary entered a provincial basketball group before entering the TeamGP schedule, where he followed sports centers and prepared up to 50 hours a week.
“I was swallowing perfectly, and I slowly acquired energy and my powers produced,” he described. “I was competent to overpower my sorrow via sports.” I drove it via the deep and started to visualize a fortune. Basketball offered me something to shoot for. Everything that had previously terrified me suddenly seemed less frightening.”
Gary began helping with the Spinal Injuries Association while in rehab, spending several years conversing with in-patients at Southport’s Spinal Unit. Gary applied for the post of community peer support officer after a fortuitous meeting with a SIA support worker in Manchester, and he’s been working for the charity ever since.
‘I’ve had the most incredible life,’ he said. “I’ve toured all over the world and cycled all over Europe for the SIA.” I’m currently in a wonderful association. I still have mental health concerns that haven’t completely resolved themselves, but I’m not depressed.
“I’m always afraid that someone will believe me, and some daylights strangers invite me the numerous personal questions, which troubles me.” And I consistently feel insecure when I have to go somewhere new in my wheelchair. I labor with body dysmorphia, and it’s consistently on my senses.
“I would loathe for anyone to go via what I moved around.” I nearly didn’t arrive here at all since I didn’t mean anyone how I was fishing. Behind my smile, I hid everything. But you must speak with someone. You absolutely must.”