In April 2001, I received an email from the writer of a site called The Angel Harris Collection. They wanted some technical advice but also asked if I had anything to contribute to their site. After a bit of thought I decided to write a short piece about some aspects of my life. So I wrote an article (Internet Archive) about some of the injuries I've suffered. In June 2003, I wanted to add a bit more to what I'd written but found that the site was no longer being updated and it had disappeared completely by 2014. Here's the updated text of Ray's Injuries:
I'm 42 years old (in 2001) and there are only a few things I've ever learned abut life.
1) Never take life too seriously
2) You'll regret the things you don't do far more than anything that you'll ever do that turns out badly.
3) Just when you think you've seen it all, it'll still surprise you.
Apart from time spent with my friends my most vivid memories are of when I've managed to hurt myself, not because I've ever been horribly injured or pained but because most of the accidents I've had have been really stupid. Luckily most of them have been to my head.
My first head injury was when I was about 8 or 9. After an argument in our bedroom, my younger brother decided to get his own back by burying a cricket bat in my skull. Running downstairs to my parents, they called an ambulance and went to find my brother. They found him trying to hide under the bed. When I got to hospital they shaved part of my head, and put a load of something on it that matted into the rest of my hair to keep it in place. It was great, I managed to spend play and dinner times for the next couple of months inside the classroom in the warm.
One school holiday a few of us kids went up to Blaise Castle. This is a sham castle built on top of a hillside. Running round and round the hill is a path. Being at the top of the hill we decided it would be fun to ignore the path and run straight down the hillside. By the time I saw the drop it was too late to stop. I tripped over a tree root, somersaulted through the air and landed on my head about eight feet below. Back up the hospital to be treated for shock and concussion.
When I was around 12, running around the school playground one day I ran round a corner of one of the school workshops and ran straight into the steel pillar which held up the bike sheds. The impact broke my glasses and bits of glass managed to get into my eyes. The trip back up to the hospital was great. The crew let me sit in the front seat. Once there, they shone the brightest light I'd ever seen into my eyes, it must have been about a zillion watts and started removing the glass. Once it was all out they put some yukky yellow stuff in them and told me to close them. When I tried to open them I couldn't - they'd glued them shut until they healed.
When I was 20 a friend, Ian, and I set off to visit a friend of ours who was at university in Stirling, Scotland. On the way up we stopped off at a university friend of Ian's in Barrow. By the way, I was far too thick to get into any university, anywhere. Ian's friend came from a "nice" family. When dinner was ready I picked up my knife and fork and started to "dig in". Unfortunately everyone else started to say prayers. Oh well. Later that evening we went out on the piss. Coming from the West Country we'd brought a couple of gallons of scrumpy up with us and proceeded to get very drunk. Drinking on the beach when the pubs had shut we decided to light a small fire in the dunes. Being a dry summer it rapidly got out of control until it appeared all the grassland for miles around was ablaze. We left the scene, with me sat on Ian's car with a gallon container of cider in one hand and holding onto the roof gutter with the other. Driving along the coast road, Ian rounded a corner, my hand slipped and I found myself flying through the air. A short while later I was in Barrow Royal Infirmary, soaked in sea water, sand and blood. After a couple of hours we left the hospital and went back to Ian's friend's house. The next morning this guys parent's didn't mention the fact that overnight I had acquired a fine collection of bloodstained bandages, a great deal of skin was missing off the back of my hands and face and I'd lost seven teeth. As I said they were a very nice, genteel couple. We spent the day wandering round Lake Windermere eating magic mushrooms.
That evening Ian and I left for Stirling. It was so nice there that although I only had a fortnight's holiday from work I stayed there for around two years. I never did get round to going back to my old employer to see if my job was still open. The first job I got was as a barman in the Station Hotel, this place was so rough that having a good few teeth missing made me look like most of the regulars. I worked there for eleven days before I'd had enough and left for other employment. In those eleven days there were 8 fights. The police were there 14 times, ambulances were there three times and every night we'd have to collect various items of furniture from the street.
After I got home from Scotland I found myself a room in a shared house. One night I got on my bicycle and set off to the local Chinese for a chicken curry. On the way back I put out my hand to signal I was going to turn right and, well that's all I remember for a couple of minutes. Picking myself up off the road I couldn't see my bike so I started walking back home, it was only a couple of hundred feet away. Someone grabbed me, sat me down on the bonnet of a car and told me I was going to be alright and the ambulance was on it's way. I can remember thinking a) who'd been hurt? and b) why was it raining so hard? Sat on the car people started bringing me strange mangled, broken objects. Mostly bits of my bike, someone helpfully said they'd thrown the frame into a nearby garden.
The ambulance arrived and I got inside. The crew had me sit in a strange position, my right hand holding my left wrist and my left hand on my right temple. On the way to the hospital I was thinking, if I'm in a ambulance why the hell was I still getting wet. Arriving at the Royal Infirmary I started feeling a bit sick, realising I wasn't going to be able to eat my supper without being ill I gave the crew my chicken curry, still safe in it's aluminium foil container. The nurses busied themselves around me as soon as I got into A&E then said they were very busy and I was to lie quietly until a doctor could see me. It was a strange time. I later found out that I'd got myself run over the same night as the race riots down in Saint Pauls. There was a guy who'd also been run over, he was a bit more unfortunate than me in that he'd been run down deliberately, and the car had even reversed back over him. Someone else had borrowed his dad's car to take his girlfriend out and had crashed it. His parents arrived and from behind my screen could hear his mum saying how everything was all right and how was her poor little boy, while his dad was shouting at him about how he'd wrecked the car and by God he'd pay for it.
A while later a doctor arrived to see me, he explained that I'd damaged my head and that I'd a broken wrist. Even when he was stitching me up I didn't really believe him until I sat up and looking behind me saw the pillow was completely saturated and in the hollow where I'd had my head was a pool of blood. He also explained that he was needed elsewhere and if I felt up to it, could I find my own way down to radiology? About half an hour later a nurse found me wandering around the wards and led me to the X-Ray department. Watching a thin stream of blood making it's way down the glass plate I asked the radiologist if they thought I was going to live. The next day I was allowed home, I phoned a friend, asked them if they wanted to hear something really funny and we spent the day in a local pub.
The accidents above really didn't hurt that much. The next two were excruciatingly painful, and funnily enough both were to my legs.
When I wore "The Green" I got myself involved in the UKLFOP (United Kingdom Land Forces Observation Post) competition. The competition tests your strength, endurance, stamina and technical ability in a number of military areas such as first aid, navigation, mine clearance, the rules of war, aircraft and vehicle identification, military doctrine of various armies, survival techniques and, of course, blowing the shit out of anything and anyone who stands in your way. Once the two or three day competition starts sleep is a thing of the past. You'll go over obstacle courses, run miles in full kit over orienteering courses, fire unfamiliar weapons, set booby traps and try and find those which the people in front have left for you, go on forced marches with 5 gallon jerry cans - full of course - strapped to your back and then be asked to identify what type of tank is in the woods 200 yards in front of you, when all you can see is the first three feet of its gun barrel. I did this competition for a number of years until one day ...
I was making my way along the top of a 20 foot high wall when I lost my concentration and fell off. The competition really does get to you and you'll find yourself on an adrenaline "high". To cope with the demands you're making on it your body is producing endo-morphs (natural painkillers) like they're going out of fashion. Which is why, four hours later when I cleaning my rifle I first became aware that my leg was aching. A couple of minutes later my knee was stiffening and was very, very painful. One of my mates went and got our officer who told me to try and stand up. This I did, realised that the pain was very intense, then fell over in a faint. At the military hospital, the doctor put his fingers under my knee bone and pulled. When I finished screaming I got back down off the ceiling and he asked me if that had hurt. I had damaged the cartilage in my knee, luckily it very rarely causes me problems now, but I spent a very long, painful two months of off work.
One day I did a parachute jump for charity at Thruxton aerodrome. Things went very well, right up to the moment I crashed into the ground like a sack of spuds. I'd thought I'd just twisted my ankle slightly, grinned and carried on. Later that evening, sat in the pub, it began to ache, but not that badly. Later that night I woke up and thought my foot was on fire. It was so painful I thought I was going to be sick and it took nearly an hour to get down the stairs and phone home. My brother called round my flat in the early hours of the morning and took me to the hospital. He must of hit every single bump in the road and given a bit more I would have happily ripped his head off and spat down his neck, then tore one of his arms off and hit him with the soggy end. It turned out I hadn't just twisted my ankle, I'd damaged the Achilles tendon. Oh well, another painful six weeks off work.
In 1984, I owned a Renault 4. I bought it from a place named "Buy a Wreck" or something similar in St. Philip's, Bristol and as the name implies, it was. When I bought it there was all sorts of things wrong with it. The windows wouldn't slide open because the tracks were full of dirt and had things growing in them, the wheel bearings leaked, the clutch was going and one day one of the drive shafts fell off into the road. Another thing that was wrong was that one of the bonnet hinges had broken and needed repairing. My brother made a new one for me by welding a nut and bolt together. As soon as he took the heat off of it I picked the thing up. What a dumb thing to do! For weeks I went around with the impression of a screw thread melted into the skin of my thumb and forefinger!
Me and my Renault 4, July 1984
British home electric sockets are very safe, right up to the point you decide to bypass one of the several safety items built into them. On the sockets the live and neutral terminals are gated. Because the gates are only opened when the longer earth pin of the plug is inserted it stops people pushing things into the socket. The plugs themselves are fused, and the plug has to be out of the socket before it can be unscrewed. The cover has to be in place to stop the pins from being pushed out when the plug is inserted into the socket. One day, I was repairing an electrical appliance and I couldn't decide whether it was just a blown fuse or the appliance itself was broken. I unplugged it, took the plug cover off and replaced the fuse. I have no idea why, but I decided that it was too much trouble to replace the cover and thought that if I covered the pins with my hand then I could push the plug back into the socket without them coming out. It worked! But less than a millisecond later I realised I'd made a bit of a mistake. My palm was creating a nice electrical path between the live and neutral terminals. The result? A 250 volt electric shock and a burned hand.
This wasn't an accident but an infection I once got. It's related to mumps and is unbearably painful. Imagine someone hitting you in the balls with a brick - repeatedly. That's how painful it is. For a couple of days I'd had a pain in my groin. Being a delivery driver I thought it was a strain as I was getting in and out of the van all day, and thinking it would get better on its own didn't go to a doctor - a very bad mistake. One morning I woke up and was struck by a terrible pain in my testicles. They fucking hurt. Looking under the sheets I could see why. Waking my wife I told her she'd better get a doctor. What was wrong? Well, my genitals looked like a couple of jaffa oranges in a paper bag, I think you'll understand the reason I was a bit concerned. The doctor arrived and that was the start of a very strange week. After he finished examining me the doctor gave my wife a subscription for a whole bunch of medicines and pills. She told me not to worry as it wasn't life threatening but was going to get worse before it got better. The first thing they put me on was strong antibiotics, these had the side effect of making me feel sick. Doses of aspirin every couple of hours to keep the fever down. The mixture of drugs was making was giving me diarrhoea and so a few more things to stop that. All in all I felt miserable, I couldn't stand the slightest weight of a sheet on me, my balls ached all the time and my temperature went up to 104 and stayed there for two or three days. By then I was past caring what happened to me and besides which I was hallucinating anyway.
About a week later I felt well enough to try and get downstairs. That wasn't a particularly clever move on my part and I spent another two days rolling around on the sofa trying to find a position that didn't hurt. A couple of days after that and being particularly stupid I thought I was well enough to go to work. I got halfway there, turned round and had to spend another four days in bed. By then my boss had received my sick note, looked up orchitus and had even spoken to his own doctor about it. He phoned me, gave me his condolences, wished me well and laughed his stupid head off. He was still laughing a week later when I was finally well enough to go back to work.
That's then end of the article of I originally wrote for the Angel Harris Collection in 2001
In June 2003, someone posted an advert in the Lycos UK forums, I posted back that the forums weren't for posing ads, and the person who posted the ads said I was a bonehead. My reply to that was to send them the URL of my article on the Angel Harris Collection site. Revisiting the site I realised that I really should do a follow-up to the article. Here it is ...
The marriage to my first wife ended very oddly, she became an alcoholic paranoid schizophrenic. When we finally parted company it wasn't on the best of terms. In fact she tried to burn my house down.
A little later I was chatting online to an American woman, a few years later we were married and I moved to Terre Haute, Indiana.
I'm now 44 (in 2003), and have moved from England and now live in America. The injuries still haven't stopped.
One day, I was eating a nice snack of raw carrots, a little later we went to a fast food place. An hour or so later I was throwing up and not feeling too well at all. I blamed it on the fast food, and went to bed. The next day I was fine again. A couple of days later we were both eating carrots and a little while later were both violently ill. It's a good job we've got two bathrooms, else things could have gotten very messy. We took the carrots back to the shop, who sent them back from the producer. Did you know that carrots are washed in a chlorine solution? Neither did I till we heard back from both the stores and producers legal department. I won't bore you all with the legal stuff that went on afterwards.
One day I woke up with a stomach ache. As usual, I thought it wasn't anything serious and just took some indigestion tablets. A couple of days later I was throwing up, had a high fever and was just too ill to do anything. Things got so bad I simply had to go to a doctor. I ended up having months of tests and spent loads of time unconscious in hospital while they prodded, stuck tubes into me, and made me drink gallons of stuff to completely clear out my digestive tract. The last was particularly weird. I didn't know what I wanted to do, be sick or shit myself. Some days I compromised and did both at the same time. Very, very messy. We spent several thousand dollars until they finally diagnosed what was wrong with me. I'd have days where my temperature would go over 104 and stay there. I had some very interesting hallucinations. After a while I was sent to another city for even more tests. It turned out that I've developed Crohn's Disease. I now take 20 tablets a day to keep it under control. During all the testing I also found out I had a "horseshoe kidney" that is a kidney that never separated properly during my development.
Some of the testing was very interesting, a pity I wasn't conscious to see what was happening. When a nurse tells you "I'm just going to give you something to relax you" what she really means is "bye, bye, you're going to wake up in around four hours and you won't have a clue what we did to you." I had loads of high contrast stomach x-rays, cat scans, colonoscopies, upper and lower gastro endoscopies and even something called a camera endoscopy. To have any of this they need your intestinal tract as clean as it can be so they give you something called NuLytely. You have to drink between 1/2 and a gallon of this stuff the day before you turn up to the hospital. And what an exciting day it is - if you like spending lots of time in the toilet. According to the instructions "... this will provide a good prep of your colon. The NuLytely will cleanse your bowels over the next several hours." If you're keen on explosive expulsion of everything you've ever eaten, from both ends, then I can't recommend this stuff highly enough. To think that Princess Di did this sort of thing for fun - and paid for the privilege.
One thing they did to me and what I was awake for was the camera endoscopy, it's very interesting and very new. I even wrote a paper on it for my data communications class. Here's a part of it ...
The normal way of looking at problems of the gastrointestinal tract is to use contrast (Barium) X-Rays and / or Push Endoscopy. For problems with the small intestine there are certain disadvantages of these systems. X-Rays can be hard to read and endoscopes can only penetrate the first foot or so of the 7 metre (22 feet) long small intestine.
In the 1980's, Israeli Gavriel Iddan decided to find a better way to investigate problems in the small intestine. His company, Given Imaging (Wikipedia), announced the capsule camera prototype in 1998 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use in August 2001.
In early 2002, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and ulceration of the small intestine. After going through several CAT scans, push endoscopies and Barium X-Rays it was decided that M2A (mouth to anus) capsule endoscopy would be used.
In order for the imaging to be effective the gastrointestinal (GI) tract must be clean. This involves fasting for 2 days and swallowing a pint of Magnesium Citrate. You?ve heard of the expression "the bottom's fallen out of his world?" What the Magnesium Citrate does is to make it feel as though the whole world is fallen out of your bottom. The stomach area must also be shaved. On October 15, 2002, I went to the Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis to start the procedure.
An eight-part sensor array was attached to my abdomen and connected to a waistband containing the data-recording device and its power pack. The capsule was activated and I swallowed it. I was then allowed to leave the hospital and go about my business for eight hours before returning to the hospital. On returning to the hospital the data sensors and waistband were removed. The data-recording device was attached to a computer and the images downloaded. The images were of surprisingly good quality.
The system has several advantages for the patient. The preparation isn't that bad, and certainly no worse than that needed for the techniques tried earlier. One advantage is that I was conscious the whole time, unlike the push endoscopies where I was unconscious for an hour each time, and couldn't leave the hospital for up to six hours. The waistband is, until you get used to it, a bit bulky. The recording unit itself is light, but the batteries needed to run it get a little heavy after a few hours. The hospital also gave a warning to stay away from high voltage equipment, as the capsule is so strongly attracted to it that it may try to burrow its way through the intestinal wall.
The capsule itself is no larger than a large vitamin pill being 26mm (1 inch) long and 11mm (7/16 inch) in diameter. It weighs around 4 grams (1/7 ounce). It is made of biocompatible material that is resistant to stomach acid and powerful digestive enzymes. Amongst other things the capsule contains a colour video camera, 4 white light LEDs, a radio frequency transmitter and the batteries required to take 2 images per second for nearly 12 hours. Rather than use a CCD (Charge Coupled Device) the capsule uses a CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor), which gives superior results and requires less power. During its 8 hour trip through the body the camera will take around 57,000 images with its 140-degree angle of view camera. It moves through the intestinal tract by the natural contraction and relaxation of the gastrointestinal tract called peristalsis and is excreted naturally. The transmitter sends the information to the portable recording device, which is in turn downloaded to a computer for viewing. The images are of high quality and can be shown consecutively as a video or as separate images. The sensing devices also act as a position locator so that a "map" of the GI tract can be built. This allows the technicians and doctors to tell where inside the body the images are taken from.
The capsule itself costs around $500 and is (obviously) disposable. In my case, it left my body nearly 12 hours after swallowing it and the LEDs were still happily flashing away. The RAPID video system workstation needed to view the images costs around $15,000 and the portable data unit costs around $5,500.
The images out of this tiny device are amazing. My wife and I watched in fascination as the images were downloaded from the recording device and displayed to us as a video on the computer.
In April 2004, I was still taking the Pentasa and it looks like I may have to for the rest of my life. The Crohn's or whatever it is, is being kept under control, but only because I'm taking 4,000mg of Pentasa a day. That's 4 x 250mg tablets 4 times a day (a total of 16 tablets daily). Every now and then I try and cut down on the number of tablets I take, either on purpose or because I forget to take them, but I start to get stomach aches when I do this. My normal weight is around 160lbs (about 11.4 stones) but whilst I was ill I went down to just around 110lbs in a month - I was losing around 10lbs a week despite eating steak and eggs almost every day and a load of high protein drinks. One evening, when I still ill, we went to a restaurant. When we were leaving I overheard someone say, "Look how thin he is." When I got home I looked at myself in a mirror. It was pretty scary. I've never been a big person but I looked like skin and bone. Luckily, the Pentasa means I'm gaining weight again, but I think I started to burn off muscle tissue when I was losing weight so quickly. Any muscle tone I once had seems to have gone now.
January 2008 - still taking the Pentasa but no problems at all with the Crohn's now. I take 4x 500mg tablets a day, 2 in the morning and two more in the evening. If I stop taking it completely, which I've tried to do a couple of times over the last few years, then the symptoms return. Compared with what some people go through with this disease I've been really lucky.
March 2020. I'm taking just 2x 250mg tablets of Pentasa a day in the mornings. My stomach has never really felt right since 2001 and I simply cannot stand food first thing in the mornings, but I haven't had a bad attack in years and I still consider myself very lucky compared to some people who have the disease.
I was sat in the Ivy Tech college's student commons reading a text book when I realized that I couldn't actually read the words. The page just looked like a grey mass. Anyway after a day or two I was starting to get really worried and made an appointment with an optician. My eyesight, never very good (I've had to wear glasses since I was six years old) was changing again. A new set of bi-focals was all that was needed.
In the autumn of 2002, my wife asked me to trim a tree in our back garden. It was a nice day so off I went and cut our cherry tree down to a more manageable size. The day after, I was home but my wife was at work. I decided to go out with a rip saw and cut down the branches that I'd cut off the day before. Can you tell yet what was going to happen?
You know that feeling you get about 20 seconds before you do something spectacularly stupid? I remember thinking that if the saw slipped I was going to cut myself very badly. Guess what? It did and I did. Not only did I cut my hand from my wrist to my thumb nail but I had got such a good momentum that I actually did it again. I dropped the saw, cupped my cut hand in the good hand and ran indoors. There was blood everywhere. For a little while I was too scared to even look at what I had done to myself. I just held both hands under the cold water tap and hoped I hadn't done too much damage. It soon turned out that it wasn't going to stop bleeding. Both the kitchen and bathroom looked like I'd butchered something in them. I eventually wrapped a towel round my hand, and held it in place with a dozen or so elastic bands. I tried to phone my wife at work but I couldn't get an answer. I drove myself to hospital, where they stitched me up. It was the first time I'd looked at my injury and it looked for all the world like sliced ham. Then came the nurse and said my wife had phoned and was very upset. She's gotten home, saw all the blood and phoned the police thinking I'd been murdered or something. Then she started phoning all the hospitals in the area. She nearly fainted when she got to the hospital and seen what I managed to do to myself. I'm now not allowed near anything sharper than a crayon. A couple of weeks later it was my birthday, some friends of ours thought it would be dead funny to give me a pair of children's safety scissors as a present.
Part of what I did to myself - Autumn 2002
My nice new safety scissors
For a few days I had a bit of a pain in my side. One morning I woke up and was really sorry I did. For a while I wondered if I'd managed to break my hip in my sleep. It was that painful. Back to our doctors office. He examined me and said I was going back to hospital - NOW. My wife was in tears driving me there, I was nearly in tears because of the pain. I staggered into the hospital and told the receptionist to get me a bed and make me unconscious. I had kidney stones and it was like all the pain I'd ever felt all rolled into one. They finally gave me a shot of Demerol. It's wonderful stuff. The pain went straight away and I started hallucinating again. We were doing some decorating at home and I was wondering why my wife was floating near the ceiling showing me wallpaper samples. Weird.
They tried to get me out of bed into a wheelchair so I could be x-rayed, I really did try to help but just couldn't control myself, it was if my bones had been turned to rubber. After another couple of thousand dollars and a few days in hospital I was allowed home. On the way out of the hospital one of the nurses said it took so little Demerol to get me going that I must be a very cheap drunk. I wish I was, over the years it would have saved me a fortune. I asked the nurse if I could take a bucket of Demerol home with me, she said no, but the Vicodin they prescribed for me would be nearly as good. It wasn't, Demerol is a narcotic but Vicodin is only a barbiturate. Oh well, you can't have everything I suppose. Put it this way, Demerol means you can walk out in front of a truck and not worry about getting hurt. If you did get run over you'd probably apologise to the driver for getting in his way. Vicodin doesn't play with your mind so much but after getting squashed flat by a truck you'd probably still try and walk home. Whichever you take - believe me, you won't feel a thing.