SIMON, 21 years old
Unlike the other stories, I will tell you this one.
I discovered it on tiktok in December, and I was immediately fascinated by its story.
Simon’s story begins in Romania, on July 25, 2019 at 11:25 p.m., he climbs on the roof of a train to take a selfie and is struck by an electric arc of 27,000 Volt. He is thrown onto the rails, and can no longer move. His friends go looking for him but the station master explains to them seriously that if he was hit by an electric arc, he is surely already dead.
But that night he did not die.
His friends end up finding him further down the rails, with 3rd degree burns. The firefighters arrive very quickly on the spot, and the only thing he will tell them is that he does not want to die.
He was evacuated by helicopter to Bucharest, after which he was repatriated to France and placed in the severe burns section of the Lyon hospital. His family and his girlfriend are already there and he is in a coma for 1 week.
His description of the coma to me is quite chaotic, he felt like he was tied up on top of a cliff and the world was burning around him.
Under medication, he remembers feeling like he was in the tent where he was with his scoot friends:
“It was like a weird dream. I was in the middle of the tent, with my bag on my back, I could not move, it was shortly after that I learned that I was paraplegic. I see a friend tell me he’s sorry. I was trying to reassure him, I realized that I was talking alone in my resuscitation room. This is the most blurry moment for me because I was under anesthetics and was not in control of myself at the time. I opened my eyes and realized that I was in my hospital room talking to myself, comforting a friend who wasn’t there.”
He was very surrounded by his family or his friends, in a bubble of love. During the day, he received visits from his parents, his girlfriend and friends. He was also very supported spiritually by his family but also by his parish. His girlfriend moved to Lyon during his hospitalization and she came to see him every day.
At night, he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t have a phone and he couldn’t change his position. What kept him from sleeping the most was the loneliness. He purposely dropped his nasal cannula to sound the alarm and have a caregiver come to see him.
“At first I didn’t have a phone, it may seem silly, but it went with the hell I was going through when I woke up: I was really all alone in a room, tied up, without a phone and without distraction. During the day, it was fine even if I was being butchered, I felt that there was presence that I was taken care of. When you’re paralyzed casually you’re really at the mercy of caregivers, but it was okay. I felt surrounded.”
He suffered a lot during the treatments and he was very misty with Kalinox, a calming gas.
Finally, he “let go” the day to sleep and rest because he felt reassured. He gives a very dark description of the nights he spends in the hospital, he is in intensive care in a chair, in the dark.
“It was dark, I was in the dark, I really wanted there to be people around me otherwise I was panicking, I was crying, on the first few days I didn’t have enough strength to speak it was horrible like situation. I had found a way to remove what was helping me to breathe to bring in the caregivers, they came and gave me the cannula and I begged them to move me, to change my position, I told them that I didn’t I would never be able to sleep, and in fact I never fell asleep.”
He was very angry with himself for having the nurses come in every night.
During the visits, he realizes today that he was difficult to live with, he nevertheless felt confident enough to confide.
“I often played cards with my girlfriend and my friends when they came over, and even during those times when I knew that people were moving around to see me and comfort me, I had this need to bitch, to externalize, I didn’t was not well at all. I blame myself for putting them through this, but I needed to show that at that time it was wrong.
He will crack for the first time with his grandparents, because it is then that he will realize his condition. It is in front of them that he will cry first, and that he will give himself up.
After a long period of care, he underwent a major transplant operation. After that, there were only bandage changes to do in the morning. He was sent to Paris, to the Invalides.
Arrived at the Invalides, he began to get better and better, he took his shower alone. His family brought him a DVD player. It was during his period of hospitalization that he recovered his phone and his parents took him an unlimited plan. He says he became “addicted” to his phone.
He was not allowed to go out, but he was allowed permission. The first lasted a day, he left and came back by ambulance.
The second lasted a weekend, he was a little stressed because his room, at home, is on the 1st floor. He wasn’t comfortable with not having everything he had in the hospital to help him. He spent his first weekend with his best friend.
He had no more muscle in his legs, even with outside help he could not walk.
“My best friend came the weekend of my leave, he rode in the ambulance with me. He was sleeping at home, it was the first time I slept with someone in the same room since my accident. I was very stressed. It was during the first month, I couldn’t even sit up without a backrest. Finally, the night went really well. Besides, it had been more than a month and a half since I had slept anywhere but in a hospital bed. It also worried me a little, I was afraid of drowning in the bed because it was super soft, I no longer had control of my body.
His intensive rehabilitation began soon after, he had a weekly schedule printed on his bedroom door. He had physiotherapy, occupational therapy, balneotherapy, appointment with the psychiatrist, etc. He was still happy to start this program despite the fatigue, he was starting a new life.
“I felt super empowered and independent. At first I couldn’t sit alone in my chair, I needed someone to go on it. I had to call every time, sometimes just to go to the bathroom. There was a time when I went there on my own, I succeeded and I asked them to let me do things on my own. There I felt like I was in my little life, I had my habits. My mother brought me cereal every morning for my breakfast, I ate breakfast while watching anime. I then went to the shower, I went alone on my armchair I was very happy, I then went downstairs I went to see my physiotherapist. I formed a good bond with him. ”
By the way, he still had the impression of being locked up in the hospital. He rarely spent a day alone because his family and friends often came to see him.
One day, they put him on a machine similar to an upgraded treadmill. He was very assisted but on this machine, he will take his first steps since the accident.
“I remember thinking to myself how is it possible that everyone manages to stand on their legs, to get up? All the weight of your body is on two legs, it’s normal for everyone, it’s instinctive, whereas when you’re disabled it seems huge to you. My knees were locking, I was falling all the time at first. I didn’t bend my legs so I walked like a robot. When my family came and we played board games together, I wanted to get up to help them tidy up but I wasn’t able to yet and it frustrated me a lot. I can’t run anymore, sometimes I have this reflex of wanting to run, I tell myself that it’s simple but not at all. Normally I can still progress, but I tend to be quite pessimistic, I don’t necessarily see any improvement. The progress is so small that today I no longer realize it.”
Today he wonders if people tell him that there is progress because they want to believe it, because they are too optimistic, he no longer sees it.
He continues the rehabilitation despite everything.
“If I can progress, I will do everything for it. I think the exercises can help me improve a bit, especially in terms of proprioception.”
Proprioception is a daily handicap for him, we qualify this handicap by explaining that it is the fact that he is not aware of his body in the environment. He needs to look at his legs to understand that they are there, if he does not see them it is as if he “forgot” them.
The psychomotor tests that are done to him prove that he has everything to walk as before, only his legs do not want to respond.
He has always had a great need for freedom, he likes to do things unexpectedly.
“I like to do a little anything, a little crazy, which is what got me into this situation. I liked to go for a walk in the evening in the corridors of the hospital, I like to do things that make no sense, I need to get out of the nails to tell myself that my life is cool, and that I really did everything I wanted to.”
With occupational therapy, he made tremendous progress in upper limb strength. The occupational therapist offered him cooking at the end to rehabilitate his hands and arms.
“We went shopping to buy the ingredients, I was very happy when we went there, we got out of the hospital a bit, I felt like I was doing my little personal shopping. But she still continued to “torture” me by making me pick up food in a precise way and drop it as far as I could. I remember inviting my dad and my best friend over for a pizza I made. The second recipe was a tartiflette. I wanted to surprise my father because it was not very long around the preparation of this dish that I took my first steps. So I wanted to bring the dish back to him by getting up and walking without a cane, without a crutch, I did it and my father didn’t immediately pay attention, it was quite funny.
“Since my accident, moreover, I really prevent myself from thinking. I hate finding myself doing nothing, having to think. I always make sure to have drums, to have music in my ears, I never go out without all that. it’s only when I’m with people that I’m not connected. When I’m alone at home, when I’m cooking, I watch a video or put something in the background. I don’t want to give myself time to think. I continue to be on the screens or to speak with people until I arrive at the moment where I can no longer hold on and where I fall asleep otherwise I relive what I experienced in intensive care and I could go very very very wrong”
Today, he is getting better and better, he has not been very bad for a long time.
He is happy to talk about all this because he is afraid of forgetting. This is his story.
“I don’t really know why I need you to write this, it’s my story, I would be too afraid to lose this otherwise I would lose myself, it would be a kind of death if I forgot myself at this moment”
What is also interesting with social networks is that before his documentary came out and he suffered a wave of hatred, he had never really “questioned” himself in relation to his accident. Today he realizes that he did not necessarily feel guilty because he was really surrounded and no one had ever “condemned” him in relation to this act. He realizes that his condition is largely due to unawareness of the danger, he is very daredevil. He admits his mistakes. Although being surrounded helped him, despite some human weaknesses, he was able to show great mental strength.
“Today, looking back, I realize that if I wasn’t so impulsive, something like this would never have happened to me. When I think about it, I tell myself that if I had taken even a few minutes to really think about what I was about to do, I clearly wouldn’t have done it.
Digging a little deeper, he explained to me that he was diagnosed early at a very young age and that he has tree-like thinking, also called network thinking. It is the idea that thoughts all have sub-thoughts that connect, thoughts develop in many directions at the same time.
He is also an overthinker, this trait is characterized by not succeeding in not being overwhelmed by his thoughts and emotions. More commonly known as “mental rumination” it is something very tiring morally and mentally, he needs to be constantly entertained to put his thoughts on hold. Tik tok, his community and social networks in general helped him enormously during his rehabilitation and still today since it helps him not to think about things that are too dark.
I then asked him what he would say to someone reading this, if he had to say just one thing:
“I feel better today, I would even say that my life is better, I am aware of how lucky I am, I went through really horrible moments and today I am fine, I have had the chance to be well surrounded.”
Talking about disability with Simon brought me a lot, humanly.
And you, what is your story?