Brokeback Megan: Adventures in a Neurosurgical Ward

Disclaimer: this post has no real point and is basically a retelling of what happened to me this weekend.

Anyone who has met me for even a millisecond knows that I’m an insanely active person. I run, I practice yoga, I dance, and I just generally sweat all over the place. I love being a sweaty mess. But I met my match this weekend: backflips. There’s this gymnastics training gym that I have been dying to go to and play around in and, last Thursday, I finally went.  I had a great time doing backbends and handstands and flipping around on the uneven bars so, buzzed up and ready for more, I decided that it was a good day to learn how to do a backflip.  At this point I think I should mention that I wasn’t on my own–I was on a mat that was basically a bouncey castle, and I’m reasonably fit and flexible–so I thought it was a safe environment to be hurling myself around backwards in a ball. But the powers that be had other ideas.

Everything was fine–until gravity decided to show me that, yes, it does actually work. I came down hard and saw white. I don’t know for sure when I started to register the pain but, when I did? Yikes. I rolled over onto my side and thought “okay, we’re cool … okay, we’re not cool, but we’re not paralyzed.” I thought I was having a mammoth muscle spasm but, when that sucker wouldn’t quit, I pulled the plug and headed for the hospital. Fast forward a bit through a wait in a wheelchair in A&E (that’s English for ER), a doctor feeling around my spine and tentatively agreeing that it could be a muscle spasm but we’re going to x-ray you to confirm, some radiation, some more waiting, and one grim-faced doctor coming in and saying, “you’ve broken your back.” Specifically, I smushed my L1 vertebrae.

My first thought was that she was joking. When she didn’t say, “JK! You’re fine; stop whining and go home.” My second thought was, “my dad is going to kill me for being this stupid.” (He didn’t, but he did ask if I could get the neurosurgeons to check my brain once they fixed my back).  I spent a gloriously sunny weekend in a room in the neurosurgery ward and learned some things about myself: that I was insanely, impossibly lucky compared with everyone else on that floor, and that I am not good at lying still.

A slow day for me involved roundabout two hours of physical exertion. Normal would be anywhere from three to four, between a morning run, a pole class, and an afternoon yoga practice (I drink a lot of coffee).  So being told to lie on my back (seems counterintuitive, don’t it?) for not days but weeks has been a challenge that makes running a marathon seem like a cakewalk. And, I don’t mind telling you, it’s got me feeling a bit down. Particularly since it’s sunny and warm and the only thing in the world I want to do is go for a run down to the coast. Sad face.

But I haven’t stayed blue for long. Which leads me to something else that I didn’t so much learn as had confirmed: I have the best people around me.

My wonderful friends turned my hospital room (a private room! Did I mention it’s free? I love England) into a party and, since I’ve been released, they’ve done everything from check in and say hi to wash my dishes and bring me groceries. Far from home and the security of the people who have loved me my entire life, I learned that, once you start to make your way into the big wide world, your definition of loved ones just explodes.

We’re old enough now to choose our friends based on criteria other than dorm room proximity or a shared class so, if I can offer some advice, it would be to find the people who will bring you books and kiwis and chocolate and Wonder Woman underpants in the hospital and hold on to them with both hands.

Someday I’ll move out of this flat, I’ll get a real job, my taste in food and music will change. But the people I’ve managed to surround myself with? I’m not letting go of them.

You can contact Megan, the author of this post, at

One thought on “Brokeback Megan: Adventures in a Neurosurgical Ward

  1. Ouch!! Sorry the backflip didn’t love you back. :( But it’s a good message you have there about people who will bring you Wonder Woman underpants! Keepers! (PS feel better!)

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