Mohammed’s life changed forever on an unexpectedly idyllic spring day.
Tempted by the warm weather, he and a friend decided to make the most of the sunshine by spending the afternoon cycling.
The temperature was pleasant. The breeze non-existent.
In short, the two were pursuing their shared passion in perfect conditions.
And then Mohammed saw something.
He noticed a tree that was just beginning to sway a little too much out of the corner of his eye.
He didn’t know why the tree had begun to fall on such a still day.
But he did know that the tree was going to hit him.
“It was extraordinary, really. But in all the time since it happened, I’ve never thought, ‘why me?’ I have no regret. I simply accepted what happened and saw it as a challenge. Being truly honest, I’m just enormously grateful for what I have.”
Mohammed has so far spent three months in the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore and despite the cause of his injuries, he has found more solace in nature than he ever thought possible.
“My whole experience here would have been so much harder without the garden. The garden offers you solitude from the ward, lending you time to think and reflect, which is a particularly wonderful thing to do in such a nice environment.”
“It’s been a life-saver.”
A consultant urologist by profession, Mohammed has long been familiar with clinical environments, both prior to and during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Whilst the lure of the great outdoors has always been a powerful presence in his life, he acknowledges that it’s only since his spinal cord injury and since he ventured into Horatio’s Garden London & South East that he’s been able to wholeheartedly appreciate the things we tend to take for granted.
“The garden has really made a difference during the Covid period. When we weren’t allowed visitors, the world felt very small. But then you go to the garden and it feels like you’re somewhere away from it all. With the music on the Bank Holiday, it felt like the Caribbean!”
“Patience and gratitude are the things you need. Before, I didn’t appreciate the little things in life. The flowers, talking to people, everything. The garden is the nucleus of the ward and it’s the nice thing about being here. I’ve become friends with many people and outside you can just spend time with each other, learn from each other and discover how everyone’s doing when it comes to navigating their injuries.”
“A spinal cord injury resets your parameters. It makes you refine what you think is important. You realise your core values, which predominantly, for me at least, are doing positive things for other people and spending time with family and friends.”
Fortunately, since arriving in hospital, Mohammed has been able to see his loved ones, with his wife and children often making the journey to visit him in hospital.
“Most people can’t believe it when they visit. Whenever my family and friends have come to see me, they love it just as I do. It so lovely to have people here and the pods in particular are a godsend. It’s amazing and I can’t imagine how people coped without it.”
It will be several years before Mohammed knows the potential extent of his recovery, but he’s accepted that whatever will be, will be.
“I’m certainly looking forward to getting home, but I will always remember the garden and everything it has given me.”
“It’s all about breaking it down, taking it week by week, looking back and seeing what you’ve achieved; seeing the positives. For me, the most important thing is that I have my hands, which means it hopefully won’t be long until I can return to surgery.’
His serene, yet steadfast, sense of optimism is stirring.
“I’ve noticed the parallels between Horatio’s story and those of people like me with spinal cord injuries. Despite adversity, despite a life-changing experience, here there is proof that so much positivity can come from such things.”
“There’s a reason that the tree didn’t hit and kill me. It paralysed me. We all find it difficult to accept events that lead to uncertainty, or to terrible things, but all we need to learn is to let go of that.”
“We like certainty, but in reality, it’s stressful. A spinal cord injury is uncertain, which is why setting yourself small goals and achieving them is where you gain positivity.”
“Ultimately, I return to this again and again; you don’t know your true character until you’ve faced adversity.”