3 Lessons You Can Learn from My Epic Boogie Board Fail!
by Tamer Issa, PT, DPT
I suffered what at the time seemed like a terrible accident, one month ago on the Saturday before the 4th of July while at Rehoboth Beach for a weekend getaway with my family. I was happily boogie boarding with my 2 boys and family friends when a wave decided to pile drive my face into the bottom of the ocean floor. It all happened so fast. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. When I was finally able to come out to the surface and stand on my feet, I could tell something wasn't right. My left arm was limp and I was unable to raise it. My face felt like it had been smashed by a sledgehammer and blood was coming out of my nose and mouth. My neck felt like it was snapped back violently, and it was. It became apparent that I just lost a battle with the Atlantic ocean that I did not choose to fight.
To cut to the chase- I’m fine, thankfully. I was immediately checked out by lifeguards and a medic quickly assessed the situation. Amazingly, I was able to walk away. My wife and I decided to do the prudent thing and go to the closest emergency room. Six hours later and a CT scan of my neck, face and head showed good news- a broken nose in 3 places and a pinched nerve in my neck that caused the short-term arm paralysis, and numbness and tingling of my left thumb and index finger. That’s right, I did say good news because it could have been much worse. A broken neck, paralysis, skull fracture, brain hemorrhage, a concussion, and possible facial surgery was all on the table. Call it luck or a guardian angel, doesn’t matter. Here is what you can learn from my experience.
Unless you live in a cocoon, accidents and injuries will happen to you, but how you respond to them is what matters most. While in the ER, my mind was racing with negative and fear-driven thoughts. “Why me?” “Why now?” “How long will it take for me to recover from this?”. I quickly realized this type of thinking was not going to serve me very well. I focused on my breathing and started feeling grateful for not being worse off, even before knowing the results of the CT scan. If you become injured in an accident or suffer an injury that is clearly going to affect your life, try to focus on accepting what has happened, find gratitude, and start to think of your recovery. As hard as that may sound, it will be a beneficial approach to a potential life change.
Do what you safely can to help yourself in the first 2-3 days after an accident or injury. I was guarded because of my neck, my face was swollen and painful (for good reason), and I was compensating in the rest of my body. I found positions of relief, I iced my face 3x/day for 3 days, focused on breathing and meditated, took the prescribed medications, minimized compensations through walking, and started taking a supplement that helps with healing and cell recovery- Bromelain. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bromelain is used as a dietary supplement for nasal swelling and inflammation, osteoarthritis, cancer, poor digestion, and muscle soreness. Two days later, I was no longer taking the short acting pain meds.
I was told by the ER doctors that I should expect swelling and bruising within the next few days. To my surprise, I didn’t have any significant swelling or bruising (check out the pics below). I am convinced that these self-care steps helped with my recovery. If you get injured, start doing whatever you can to start helping yourself. It’s easy to resort to meds and to fear movement. If you are not sure what you should do or can do to help yourself, seek the advice of a competent medical professional.
Adopt a Positive Mindset
I have been practicing yoga, exercising, eating right, meditating, getting more sleep, and managing my stress better for the past 12 months. I am convinced that the immediate self-care steps that I took and the positive lifestyle changes that I have adopted allowed me to walk away from this accident relatively scotch-free. I have no way of proving this, but this is what I choose to believe. I don’t believe I would have responded or recovered as well in the past when I hadn’t been taking care of myself and was more stressed out. The lesson here is that the compound effect of positive lifestyle changes make you more resilient and allows for optimal healing. A positive mindset can be very powerful. It will help you focus on recovery and make you more emotionally and physically resilient. Use it when you are recovering from any surgery or rehabbing from an injury. It sure beats the alternative of feeling victimized and being fearful.
The numbness and tingling are almost completely resolved and I’m currently getting physical therapy to address my neck and left arm weakness and pain. Will I ever dare to enter the ocean and go boogie boarding with my kids again? You bet! Remember these 3 lessons of acceptance, immediate self-care, and adopting a positive mindset the next time you are recovering from an accident, injury, or surgery. It will serve you well.