This was the event that dramatically changed the course of my life in a matter of minutes. It is something I reflect upon as a person might do if they were involved in a car accident that disabled them severely in a fraction of a second.
3 December 2009 was a Thursday. On Monday and Wednesday of that week, Tracey and I had played squash for an hour each of those days, and were going to go again on Friday. We both loved those games as they were great for fitness. I had played a lot of squash and loved the game, but a long time before. Tracey had never played up till that time.
I was a bit concerned that the knee problem that made me stop playing years before would arise again, but it didn’t. Tracey continued to improve rapidly over the months before December and the unequal battle at the start quickly developed into a genuine contest.
Late on that Thursday morning, unshowered, unshaven and pretty disreputable, I decided to cut some of the privet hedge that was getting out of control in one spot, intending to fill the green bin and then shower and become respectable for the afternoon.
Using a pruning saw, I cut long thick stems with my left hand [I am left-handed] and pulled the cut branches down with my right.
After about 15 minutes sawing and getting a little hot and sweaty, as I was threading a cut branch through the uncut ones, the fingers of my right hand suddenly started to twitch and feel as if I had touched a hot electric wire, tentacles of burning electrical sparks running up the fingers into the hand. The fingers were dancing visibly.
Naturally, I stopped working, but wasn’t unduly concerned, thinking that somehow I must have pinched a nerve somewhere in the arm. It was hot and I stood under the shade of a nearby tree, quite confidently expecting the sensation to go away at any time.
But it didn’t. On the contrary, the tentacles of fiery electricity started moving up my arm slowly towards the elbow. I became a little more concerned, but was still convinced it was some passing phenomenon that would stop and I would get checked out by my GP. I waited still under the tree for it to pass.
But then the arm itself started to jerk rhythmically with a pulsing sensation and it finally got through to me that something very odd was happening. Yet not for a moment did I suspect the real cause of the event. What seems so obvious now with the benefit of hindsight couldn’t have been further off my radar at that point. Pinched nerve. A muscular spasm….
But I did know one thing. It was not under any control by me and it was not stopping. It was extending further and further up the arm towards my shoulder.
I guess it must have been sheer denial, but the thing I did next was gather up the gardening tools with my left arm and put them under cover, and then, with my right arm now seriously in spasm, I walked on to the verandah and sat down, still convinced that any time it would stop and then I’d tell Tracey about it and we’d check it out. But as I sat there with the arm out of control, the penny finally dropped. This was not going to stop by itself, it was getting worse, and I needed help.