Life is what happens when you are making other plans~ John Lennon
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind~Gandhi
The time is always right to do what is right~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

On the Edge: My Story by Richard Hammond

Now, if you're familiar with the BBC program Top Gear, you'll immediately recognize Richard Hammond as one of the presenters. He's often called "The Cute One" by the show's female fanbase or "Hamster" because of his short height or hyperactive personality. He seems to be the daredevil of the group because he seems to be the one to volunteer for the more dangerous stuff- camping out and trying survive like Bear Grylls on Wolf Mountain in Canada (BTW, this episode has it's funny parts, like when Richard angrily says "I'm a television presenter from Birmingham, not Bear F---ing Grylls" or he yells at the top of his lungs "Where the bloody hell are they?!?" or when he makes stick figures of Jeremy and James and throws rocks and knives at it, waiting for rescue), racing Jeremy and James on a bicycle through Moscow and more.

Curiosity got the best of me one night and I decided to see if there were any books about him. I discovered On the Edge: My Story. I just finished it last night and it was wonderful, funny, insightful.

Overall, a VERY GOOD book!!!
-There's a lot you probably don't know about this particular gentleman. He went to art school and is passionate about art, whether it be sketching or drawing. He's an avid cyclist, often using exercise as a way of fending off stress. He has been an avid petrol head, as anyone nearly obsessed with all things revving motors and cars in England, is called ever since he was a child.

-He has two brothers, Nick and Andy. Growing up, he always wanted a motorbike. And when he got bicycles, if they broke, he would strip them down to every last nut and bolt and rebuild them back up, even better than new. So it's no surprise to know he's good with motors and good with his hands. Like every kid growing up in England who wanted money but didn't want to ask their parents, he took up a paper round. As he got older, he got into jobs in the media, working with various broadcasting shows. In 2002, he auditioned for a new show that was to premier, called Top Gear. For those who have not seen it, Top Gear is about cars. It has three presenters: Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson. They all have odd stunts and missions with cars. With each stunt or mission, there are series of tasks issued to them by people in white lab coats.

-In 2006, while test driving a jet-engine car on an airfield in York, a tire blew out and it sent the car into a 360 spin, taking Richard Hammond with it. The car flipped several times before coming to rest in a grassy field, upside down, with Richard Hammond still strapped in. Luckily, he had been wearing a specially made helmet that protected his neck, but with his head thrashing about, his brain virtually rattled against his skull, causing it to hemorrhage. He was taken to the hospital and was told he had severe swelling of the brain. Luckily, no surgery was needed, but he was in the hospital for a while. His wife Mindy tells the story of what it was like to care for him in the hospital.

-She describes all the things that happened to him. Things like when he was able to get up and walk around, he wanted to use the bathroom like a man usually does. He stumbled and was very angry that a nurse was there to help him relieve himself as long as she promised not to look. She mentions that when Richard was first taken into the hospital, the doctors would have to gauge brain activity by inciting pain and this would cause him to thrash about, fighting off doctors and nurses. She mentions that he was constantly ripping out the drips that fed liquid and food into him, that he single-handedly removed the breathing tube, which his wife Mindy described as "like watching your husband commit suicide", he basically ripped the catheter out himself, which up until a certain point, had been helping him to relieve himself of bathroom troubles. She said that he was very funny about going to the bathroom, being, not surprisingly, very private about that. She says that even if he is the only one home, he will still close the door to relieve himself.

-One funny incident she describes is when his brain activity started to heal, she seen Richard fumbling around underneath a blanket covering him and she asked the doctor what he was doing. The doctor was cracking up as he said that Richard was a "scrabbler". Unfamiliar with the term, he informed Mindy that term applies to people, mostly men, who want to make sure that the one organ on their body that brings them joy with the opposite sex, was still there. He had apparently reverted back to the mindset of a ten year old, wanting to make sure all his appendages were still there and in working order.

-Mindy does most of the talking through this part of the book. She describes how heart wrenching it was to leave the kids with a sitter while she ran off to Leeds, where the hospital with Richard in it was. Throughout the whole experience, she said that she still loved him no matter what, that she worried constantly about a man she loved, one she described as funny, highly intelligent, artistic and very loving. Doctors told her that he would experience a roller coaster of emotions; he could go from the highest of highs, such as ecstatic, happy, excited, to the lowest of lows, such as raging, depressed, or even sad.

-One incident that scared her was when she had run to use the ladies room she came back to find Richard rocking back and forth in his bed, with his hands behind his head, his face in the pillow. When asked what was wrong, he was complaining of severe head pain. Another funny incident involves Mindy sleeping on a mattress on the floor next to his bed and waking to find her hair and ear all wet. When she looked around, she found Richard's head was against the bars on the side of his bed and he was drooling in his sleep. She said she was angry that people would take advantage of his short-term amnesia, which was an unfortunate side effect from such a severe injury. When he would think that a lot of people in his room were there for a party, some would joke about it and take advantage of the situation by saying they were heading upstairs to the party while his patient, loving wife would have to set him straight and tell him there was no party. Friends and family constantly came to visit him, including the whole Top Gear crew, especially James and Jeremy, who often stayed there to relieve Mindy so she could go and sort herself out and not have Richard waking up alone and worrying.

-She said it was hard on their kids, Willow and Isabella aka Izzy, to see him. His left eye had sustained severe damage. It was swollen shut and nearly black when he first entered the hospital and Mindy wondered if his eye would recover. It has. Mindy worried that when their daughters first saw their father, they would be scared of him, with all the bruises and damage to his face. They were more happy just to see him and they made cards for him and kissed him on the head, which made him feel better. She discovered that with his short term memory, as a result of the injury, he was like a dog in the sense that if you left momentarily and came back, he would get excited. He always worried about where she was and she resorted to leaving him notes, letting him know she would be back and he would be fine. As time went on, he would get better. One tender moment towards the end of his stay in the Leeds hospital involved him coming back from the bathroom unaided by people and his wife holding him in a way that was unusual for man and wife. She held his head to her heart and patted his back, saying soothing things and telling him that everything was going to be okay.

-By this point, plans were being made for him to move to Bristol, to a hospital more specialized in brain injuries to finish his rehabilitation there. Once he was done there, doctors advised him and his family to go somewhere quiet to relax. With Richard Hammond being a pretty well known figure because of the Top Gear series, he and his family were constantly worried about photographers trying to take pictures of him when he was at his most vulnerable. During the ride in a medical helicopter to Bristol, Richard was on a gurney and his wife and a doctor from Leeds Hospital, who was escorting their patient, talked to Richard to keep him calm. The doctor and Mindy sensed that Richard was stressing out because she had been warned that too much stimuli in the brain could cause convulsions.
-Once in Bristol, he finished his rehabilitation there and it was decided that he and his family needed to go somewhere quiet to finish his recovery. It was decided that the Scottish Highlands was perfect. It was quiet, calming and perfect for a stressful event. Two ex-special forces guys would help him and Mindy out of the hospital quietly because there were numerous reporters and photographers just waiting for that million dollar or in this case, million pound photo of Richard. The ex-special forces gentleman went and collected Mindy and Richard's daughters, Willow and Izzy, and took them to a house in the Scottish Highlands via a Land Rover vehicle. There, he would re-learn everything he needed to know. He would regain his memory and Mindy warned Izzy and Willow to be patient with their father, especially if it seems like he was asking things 1000 times or if his moods took a bad swing.

-He eventually started taking up running and walking on the nearby nature paths and it seemed to help him recover. It helped him regain his muscle tone that he had lost while in hospital. One somewhat funny incident Mindy mentions is that Richard said he would be gone for only 20 minutes, which evolved into about 30-40 and she was about to go out searching for him, thinking the worst. But then, here into the house he comes, sweaty and muddy and flashing a huge smile.

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