My name is Trevor Gavin and I’m a photographer based near San Francisco. I’d like to share a very personal story of my darkest time. It’s a part of my healing and a part of moving on. It’s the only way I know how to express my emotions.
I am humbled and so thankful to all who have been there for me. As with my other adventures, I find joy in sharing my experiences. I share the good, and now the bad.
On March 9th 2016, my world turned upside down… quite literally: I woke up in a hospital bed with no recollection of what put me there
My head had been shaved and stitched, I had tubes flowing in and out of me, including one coming out of my head. Everything at this point was very foggy, but I quickly learned what put me in that hospital bed. I was in disbelief no matter how many times I was told. I had taken a pretty gnarly fall on my skateboard riding through the streets of San Francisco on my way to a market for something to drink.
I landed square on the left back portion of my head, resulting in a fractured skull and internal bleeding in my brain. I hardly had any other signs of a fall, it all went to my head.
No, I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Lesson learned.
A witness called 911 when I lost consciousness. I wish I could thank that person because knowing myself, I would have gotten up and shook it off; not realizing the severity of my injuries. I wouldn’t be here to write this if so. The ambulance driver took this picture on my phone to show me that I needed to get help.
I was taken to SF General where the ER rushed me in for emergency brain surgery. I was diagnosed with a epidural hematoma, which needed to be drained. I found later that 15-20% of these injuries are fatal. Scary. I remember none of this although I was moving around, speaking and conscious.
My wife and best friend were at my side the whole time; close family and friends coming later into the night as the word spread. It saddens me to hear about what they experienced that night. So much uncertainty on the final outcome as I was rushed into the OR. Everyone was worried sick as they prayed for the best. Thankfully, four hours later I came out alive, the surgery went well. My family was told I would make a full recovery, although it was uncertain on how long it may take. I also came out with a bad hair cut and new tough guy scar.
The hospital stay was a blur of bad food, pills, visitors and discomfort…I don’t remember much of it. I was in the ICU for three nights before they moved me into a room for another two. Before I knew it I was whisked away in a wheel chair with a towel over my head to a mini van which was my transport home.
I was very sensitive to light after the surgery. At this point I could still hardly walk or eat but it was nice to be in a more familiar environment. Sleep was tough and I had to have a towel on every pillow I laid my head on due to it ”leaking”. (Sorry, I know that was gross.)
The first few weeks were the hardest. I couldn’t feel half of my head. I couldn’t watch TV, browse the Internet, or read. The house had to be dark because of my sensitivity to light. My mom came down to stay with us to help my wife take care of me as we had a five month old baby at home as well. I was taking so much medication they had to set alarm clocks every four hours and write which meds were due at what time. Percocet; anti-seizure; Tylenol; anti-nausea, etc.
Between the baby waking at night to eat and me needing pills every four hours, they weren’t getting much sleep. The support I had from my wife, mom, family and friends was amazing. I can’t say thank you enough. It’s very special to be able to see how many people care about you all at the same time. I’m so grateful.
I received calls/texts, get well cards, care packages, toys and visitors. So much so, my wife had to balance what could be passed my way and when as to not overstimulate me during the early stages of recovery. We had to minimize sensory overload by limiting my exposure to sounds, images, lights, feelings, smells, thoughts. Not an easy thing to do, especially if you’re me.
One of the best gifts I received was a face mask that blocked out all light. This allowed me to go outside, breathe fresh air and take in the smells around my yard. It felt so good to sit outside after being cooped up in a dark room all day. This allowed me to take naps outside on my hammock which were my best friends at that time. Naps were golden!
LEGOs were my next best friend. Took me a little longer than normal to piece together but it was so fun while keeping me occupied and entertained.
After I began to get my strength back I had my wife shoot a few portraits to be able to look back on. Stitches in, weak, face swollen and still on medication.
With the bad you have to take the good. I had incredible help with my business. My team stepped up and kept things moving forward. I couldn’t ask to have better people at my side in times of need.
On the personal side, I had a beautiful baby girl who I was able to spend more time with than I normally would not have been able to. I cherished this time. My little girl grew up a lot and I was able to be apart of it. I was there as she learned to sit up, crawl, and stand on her own. It’s amazing how fast they learn.
As time passed and I gradually started feeling better, I found different things to pass the time and allow myself to heal. One of the most important was escaping to the mountains. I went to the Lassen National Forest area where I had grown up to sit around to do nothing but enjoy nature and take in the fresh mountain air. This seemed to be the best thing for me. I felt more rested and had more energy when I spend time in the great outdoors.
Photography also helped me get by. I took many photos with my daughter being the main focus – a cute happy subject. I visited the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve often – another old stopping ground from my childhood. Photography allowed me to get my mind working again and release some creativity; while giving me some much needed physical activity. Taking short walks was a great way to get my stamina back. It’s amazing how fast you loose your strength when something like this takes you down.
Here I am alive and 4 months into what should be a full recovery. I now have a bad ass head scar, some plastic and titanium screwed into my head as a constant reminder. Writing this has given me the opportunity to look back at these last few months. At times it feels like it’s creeping along and other times it’s flying by. It can be frustrating, yet I’m reminded how far I’ve come and how lucky I am to heal so well.
It’s difficult for me to think there was a chance I could have left my friends and family behind. Thinking about not being there for my wife and my daughter as she grows up is hard. Life is fragile. I am using this tragedy as something to grow from. This experience has forced me to step back and see things in a different light… a view one seldom gets to see.
I feel truly blessed, I have an amazing group of friends and family and I am very lucky to have them by my side. I have a new baby and wonderful wife that has been a tremendous help and companion through this whole process. Thank you again to all that have supported my family and me. It has meant more than you will ever know.
About the author: Trevor Gavin is a photographer and filmmaker based near San Francisco, California. He’s the CEO and Creative Director of ALCHEMYcreative. You can find more of his website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This article was also published here.