For me and everyone else

10 years ago today I was released from hospital after a bad skiing accident. What started out as having some harmless fun turned into a ruptured (completely blown apart like a dropped egg) kidney, narrowly missing the liver (in any part of the world that would have been a sure death). I was extremely fortunate that the doctors at Pirogov hospital (Sofia, Bulgaria) showed wisdom and didn’t operate to take the kidney out; instead they chose to simply sit me out and give the organ a chance to piece itself back together.

I will not go into how painful that turned out to be, as it somewhat contradicts what I’m writing about. I am glad to say several months later it was perfectly healed with nothing but a hairline scar as a reminder. I have also been told that in almost any other country I would certainly have been operated on.

A person with one kidney can live life completely normally, but an active/risky/adventurous lifestyle would forever be out of the question – any damage to the healthy kidney could mean a lifetime married to a dialysis machine.In this day and age people think it’s a doctor’s job to DO something to PRESCRIBE something to PERFORM a procedure that makes it all better, but listen to any doctor and they will tell you how amazing the human body is at healing itself and fighting its own battles.

Sometimes all we need is a comfortable environment and the support of family and friends and to just struggle through whatever is wrong with us, not jumping onto the reaction-wagon and grabbing the nearest knife. I believe good doctors are not the ones who always jump in with ‘guns blazing; but ones with the wisdom and knowledge to know when something REALLY needs to be done and do it but also the courage to know when it’s best to step back and let nature do its thing.

I was given a second chance at an active lifestyle. There are two positions most people might take in such a situation –

“I got away with it, I was only given one body and I am not risking it again”

or “That was terrible, I couldn’t ever imagine being incapacitated, but this is what I do. I was given a life to enjoy and this is how I enjoy it. I will learn from my mistake, but I will not stop pushing myself. To cruise through the remainder of life would be even sadder”.

It is perhaps unfortunate that we can’t fake the natural chemical highs that we get as humans. We can’t trick the brain into producing adrenaline by ‘pretending‘ we’re in danger, we actually have to perceive danger in what we’re doing. We can’t trick it into producing a stream of dopamine by pretending we’ve come through a massively difficult ordeal/adventure like climbing a difficult mountain, running an impossibly long distance or completing that massive project – we have to actually DO these things and place ourselves in those situations to feel that excitement and reward.

Whether that’s a blessing or a curse one could argue both ways.

In my opinion the reward and intensity we get from certain experiences is very much linked to the potential pain and harm from when things go wrong. We would not be in as much awe or rally drivers or BASE jumpers were it not for the massive cost some of them pay. Even love in its full-on intensity would not be as sweet if didn’t have the flipside of the terrible pain from its loss many have experienced, ironically making us appreciate and long for the highs. It is foolish to ignore and avoid, at all costs, the negative and painful side of everything we do, or to actively seek it out; I think we need to accept it and embrace it as an integral part of what makes something feel good.

My lesson to take away therefore must be – Never stop doing something you enjoy because of fear of when it might go wrong, getting it wrong is a necessary and inseparable part of getting it right!

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