When I set to write my last blog post the plan was to write about something more meaningful, personal and that would require a certain degree of vulnerability. That clearly didn’t happen. Instead I ended up going off on a tangent the result of which was me writing about my somewhat trivial fascination with Japanese culture. In that post I tried to give a background and offered up my reasons/justifications for said fascination. To be entirely honest at the time it was just easier to write about something less emotionally taxing. But now that I have allowed myself that diversion I am going to once again make a more concerted effort to actually write on what initially planned to write about. So here goes.
Almost five years ago I was the victim of a near fatal stabbing that left me hospitalised for almost two months. During that hospitalisation I underwent what was to be a life saving surgery on my right leg. The story behind my stabbing is something I will not go into in this blog as I have written about it previously on this blog. During that vicious attack I had been stabbed on the inner thigh of my right leg. Because the vein in my leg had been lacerated by the attacker’s knife sides I has been losing large volumes of blood. The purpose of the surgery was to try and repair my vein as well as stop the life threatening blood loss. Whilst my surgeons managed to successfully to stop the bleeding and replenish my blood supply they were unable to successful repair my lacerated vein. As a result they were forced to tie it up, the consequence of which was that it essentially became useless to my body.
After the surgery I spent about a week in the Intensive Care Unit recuperating. It was here whilst drifting in and out of consciousness that I first noticed the massive wound that was still very much open even after the surgery. At first I wasn’t sure if it was the sedatives I was on that were making me hallucinate. When I was eventually weaned off the sedatives I was able to confirm that yes indeed my open wound was so hollow I could have literally put my fist in it comfortably. I recall being baffled by the stitches that appeared on both sides of the open wound and wondering why I hadn’t been fully closed up. Starring at my own insides was proof of how close I had come to death. That didn’t stop me from struggling to accept that as my doctors had put it ‘my surgery had gone as well as it could have considering the circumstances.’ They explained to me that they had only partially stitched me up and left the area around the knife’s entry point open to allow the wound to heal naturally. Since I had some flesh removed in the attempts to repair my vein, it was impossible for them to stitch me up completely. The wound had to fill out naturally.
Whilst I never voiced my concern at the time I could not imagine that gaping hole on my inner thigh ever closing up. I desperately wanted to beg my doctors to close me up, but I knew I was fortunate to be alive and I knew that my vanity was getting the better of me. Whilst I was dealing with all these conflicting emotions my doctors informed me that it would be weeks before I could feel any meaningful movement in my right leg. They were optimistic though that with time and a bit of physical therapy that could all change. At the time I don’t think it actually sank in that the doctors were basically telling me that there was a chance I would not be able to walk again. I was too preoccupied by my open wound which was a vulgar reminder of what happened to me.
Long story short, about three months after the surgery I was able to slowly start using my leg again. Not much longer after that my wound had fully closed up. I was reminded of this experience recently. I had been feeding my inner culture vulture when I came across about the Japanese art of Kinstukuroi.
Kintsukuroi: (n.) (v. phr.) “to repair with gold”; is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
When these pieces of pottery were originally crafted they were beautiful in their own right. They were crafted with care. They were functional. They were unique. But somehow they got broken. Perhaps they were treated carelessly, maybe even banged down on a table in anger. Or perhaps they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were mistakenly sent tumbling to the floor. Whatever happened, the pieces ended up strewn across the floor.
Instead of being deemed useless and being thrown away, these pieces were instead put back together using gold. And the result is not a piece of pottery that is returned to its original condition. The result of this repair work is a bowl that carries in itself the marks of the past. There is no hiding that it has been broken before. It is scarred. Rather than being concealed, the damage is celebrated and becomes a defining feature of the object. As a general rule, the repaired pottery acquires a far higher value and enjoys greater appreciation than it had in its previously undamaged state. It’s still the same bowl, and yet not the same, since it is now defined by a new, fresh aesthetic. A new beauty.
Even after my wound had healed I struggled and was embarrassed by the remaining scar. I was so ashamed of my scar that I became I would not allow myself to be physically intimate with anyone lest my hideous scar might turn them off when I was at my most vulnerable – with my pants down. This wasn’t only further exasperated by the fact that for weeks after my surgery I couldn’t recall having got an erection. Not even the mandatory morning glory. Nothing. To say that during those erectionless days I looked at my scar with contempt would be a gross understatement. I was convinced that something had gone horribly wrong and feared the worst. I self diagnosed and told myself that blood flow to that part of my body had been become restricted. That had to be the explanation. Turns out it was all in my head. I was physically fine if not psychologically so.
Anyway it took me a very long time before I started seeing any form of beauty in that scar. But as with most things in life I eventually became more philosophical about my whole experience. Slowly I started appreciating it as a defining feature on my person. A feature that would time and again through all the other challenges that life would continue throwing at me served as a reminder that I was a survivor.
Another consequence of my surgery was that I now faced a greater risk of developing blood clots. These blood clots could potentially be fatal if they made it to my heart. And the time immediately after the surgery was the period of greatest risk, although I would always be at greater than I was previously for the rest of my life. When I was immobile for the first three months post surgery I was on blood thinners as a precautionary measure. But after I regained use of my leg I was encouraged to become more physically active as a more natural way of reducing the risk of blood clots developing again.
Because of this I had no choice but to be consistently more physically active than I had been before. Just over a year after I was stabbed I was in the better shape than I had been before the stabbing. I finally got the all clear to make the 18 hour flight home from Melbourne to Harare. This is a trip I had wanted to make immediately after the stabbing but that my Doctor had refused to sanction as such a long haul flight in the physical condition would have almost definitely resulted in blood clots flaring up again. But after a year he felt I was now in good enough physical condition that my body I could make the flight without any serious consequences to my health.
Whilst my parents had visited I hadn’t seen my siblings in almost 7 years so you can imagine my excitement and relief. My doctor made it clear that because that I had become more physically active than I had been before I had improved the circulation of my blood naturally and as a result reduced my risk of developing blood clots. Over the years I have tried to maintain an active lifestyle and have even challenged myself to do things that my pre stabbing self wouldn’t have necessarily done. In the process I have managed to tick of some activities of my bucket list. I have hiked up as well as abseiled off Table Mountain. I have also bungee jumped off the Victoria Falls Bridge. These are just some of the things that are I know are a direct result of that brokenness I experienced.
It is with the power of hindsight that I have only started to acknowledge how that whole episode in my life made me into a better person than I was before or could have possibly been without it. It is now possible for me to appreciate and express gratitude for this brokenness and this new beauty. My life is so much richer for it now. And it also turns chicks actually dig scars … winning!
Written by Tafadzwa Tichawangana