30 Sep “It can’t happen to me”. Well it did and this is my story.
Friday the 26th July 2019, 1030am North Curl Curl beach.
I was Surfing a wave and ready to come in and did a small re-entry and dived off the board hitting the sand with my head.
As I felt my head hit the sand, I could tell I had no movement in my body.
Laying face down in the water I tried to grab my leg rope from my board to bring it to me but I could not move, my arms and legs would not respond. I said to myself “I hope a wave will turn me”. Almost immediately a wave came in and I didn’t turn.
The next wave came and still I didn’t turn, at this point I took a mouthful of water and started to think there was nobody around to help me. So I thought “just relax don’t panic” and the next wave came in and still I didn’t turn. Another mouthful of water and I thought to myself “10 seconds left to go and that’s it I am gone”. There was nothing I could do but look at the sand underneath me and wait for the end.
There was absolutely nothing I could do and I felt the next wave coming and I knew once that wave hit that was it, my time on this planet had come to an end. Then “bang” massive pain, my head was lifted out of the water and I could see the beach and a boy saying “are you alright, you alright, you alright?” Water was coming out of my mouth and I took a big suck of air and said “no I can’t move”. He was saying to another man “grab his arm”, then to another “grab his board we will drag him up”. As they were pulling me out of the surf, I saw a pair of arms dangling in front of me and I thought “are they my arms?” because mine were supposed to be beside me. At this point I knew my neck was broken and I was saying to them “be careful of my neck, I have broken it.”
Next moment the 4 became many as 10 to15 surfers paddled in to help me.My mate Griggsy was there and asked, “Tim what’s wrong?” and I said “I have broken my neck”. I can’t tell you the enormous number of thoughts going through my head at that point in time, who will run Zen Chi Ryu my martial Arts system, who will manage Shusai my security company, how will I be an effective father and husband, will I be in a wheelchair for life etc, all I knew for sure was my life was going to change forever and it would not be for the better.
They laid me down on the sand, thankfully they knew not to move me unless they had to. Griggsy was keeping my face out of the sand.
The pain in my chest and from my shoulders to my shoulder blades was something indescribable, something I have never felt before; burning pain that reached into my very soul and if anything touched me it was like I was in hell.
Laying on the beach waiting for someone, anyone, anything to help with the pain I told the boys to turn me over but they would not, the pain was nearly impossible to handle and I was on the verge of blacking out.
The tide was coming in so the boys had to move me up the beach but I could not move as the pain was too strong. As the tide continued to rise they built a wall of sand around me to stop the water. (Incredible how a group of surfers left the break to help).
Shortly after this I felt some relief because help had arrived in the form of an ambulance. I can’t tell you how that made me feel, these people are angels on wheels when you have an emergency situation like I was caught up in.
The Ambo’s settled me down although I was still in incredible pain, then they turned me and I think I woke the dead with a scream from my very soul. I cannot remember the entire trip in the ambulance but next thing I knew I was at the Royal North Shore Hospital. I had sand all over me and as they brushed it off, I felt pain like I have never felt before, words cannot describe it and I hope you never have to experience it.
Next thing I woke up and Deanne my loving partner was there and I think I said I was sorry for the last 26 years of shit I had put her through. I remember seeing my son Jayden and Griggsy; that made me feel better.
A strange thought entered my head, “if I go to sleep, I am not coming back” so I told them where I kept some cash. I can’t remember what they said but I didn’t want to close my eyes because I kept seeing myself in the water face down; it was like Groundhog day, I kept on reliving it, it was a night mare that would not end. I must have passed out. I awoke and there was Deanne, I knew she was looking after me, this gave me some peace of mind. At this point I was still in enormous pain and could not move at all.
The doctors told me I had smashed C2 and cracked C3 and I was lucky to be alive. In surgery they took bone from my hip to rebuild and stabilise C2.
The next couple of days are a blur but Deanne was still by my side and my children all came in to see me. This was a major point in my recovery because there is nothing like the love and care of friends and family; they are there to help and want nothing in return. A good friend Harold came in and told me he would look after my dojo and students which was a great relief to me. Harold came in most days and helped me with my training which gave De a well-deserved break. I have to say he was a little unfair when counting how many reps I was doing in physio because he would go 10, 11,12, 3, 4 etc so I was doing double the requirement but in the end it worked out just fine.
At this point I was still having night mares, Deanne continued to give me strength and confidence and was there every day, helping me with everything. As the days went past Deanne remained by my side and friends were still coming in to visit every day.
I started to recover very quickly and Deanne and friends provided all the support I needed to get back to being fit and healthy.
So at this point I have had 13 days in hospital and I have feeling back in all parts of my body and I am walking. People and nurses can’t believe it but I can because I have lived all my life by 3 little words Conceive, Believe, Achieve and I believed from the very beginning that I would get better very quickly.
The Doctors said the next step was for me to be moved to a rehab hospital and then I get to go home.
21 days in and I am at Mona Vale Hospital rehab centre and it looks like 5 days to go and I will be home with De and the kids. These 5 days I worked hard in all the exercises, plus I walked as often as I could and I knew it was time to go home and face life again.
26 days after the accident I am home and Deanne has taken time off work to make sure I am ok, my new nurse Ha-ha she is a tough one.
I still have a long way to go but I will be back on my board having fun again very soon.
It’s incredible how people say they will never do things again. The support of Deanne, my mates and exercising every day has made me strong again; I would not have dealt with this ordeal without every ones’ support.
I would like to give a shout out to the incredible doctors and nurses at Royal North Shore Hospital Spinal Unit, they really do care and are fantastic at what they do for everyone.
I hope to see you all in the water soon and don’t forget us surfers look after each other no matter what.