Mind the threshold

This post comes to you from hospital.

In the brief second before you hit the ground – the hackneyed phrase is ‘your life flashes in front of you’ – so, yes, in the brief moment after my toe struck the threshold and my body thumped down on to the hard tiles of our bathroom floor, in that moment, my life would, I am sure, have flashed in front of me, had  I not been preoccupied with stretching out wildly for something much more interesting which might cancel the thump and its all too predictable consequences.

There will be many stroke survivors who understand that previous sentence horribly well. All the work you have put into recovery, those balance and strengthening exercises, the hours on the treadmill, the endless exhortations of physiotherapists to keep active, but to be sensible, all, all, put in jeopardy, by that one careless moment with your eyes fixed on the loo when you should have remembered that your left foot could misbehave at any time.

I lie on the ground, immediately realising that I have been a silly boy, and that being a silly boy has consequences, for myself and for my loved ones. Johanna is aghast; Archie is aghast; I am completely fed up. Kind neighbours help me to get to my feet. I stand, supported but shaky, but miraculously pain free. With help, I take a few steps. Bang. The worst pain I’ve ever felt, radiating from my hip and piercing its way into my torso and down my thigh. I hobble slowly to bed with help, fantasising that next morning I will waken and the whole event will be a fleeting, horrible dream.

It is not, of course. The next morning – a glorious sunny Deeside day – but not for me. For me, the telephone wrestle with NHS 24 and its tortuous journey through the ‘If you have… ‘ menu, the inevitable covid questions, the human who needs to know your symptoms, but doesn’t know where you are geographically, her colleague who asks the same questions, then passes the details to the local health board, who phone me back and tell me to dial 999  and call an ambulance, which I do, painfully exasperated that I should just have started with that option and why couldn’t they have done that for me, and, and…. But, of course, it’s much worse in India, and possibly worse in much of the world, though the pain of injury is identical wherever you are.

Sunday morning, therefore, spent in an ambulance. An hour’s journey and a 90-minute wait till we are admitted, the ambulance crew courteous throughout, though I’m sure they could be doing better things with their time than waiting stationary outside a hospital in the Aberdeen sunshine. The same courtesy when we are finally admitted despite all staff being occupied continuously and masked to the hilt. Bloods taken, blood pressure measured, canula inserted for liquid Paracetamol. Huh! This pain laughs at Paracetamol. More questions. Finally, an x-ray to be arranged. Another hour passes. The pain increases with time and immobility. X-ray completed and – great joy – they can find no fracture. It’s ‘soft tissue damage’. So how to get home? I can’t stand; I can’t walk; but I can sit – and wait. The staff are endlessly patient, so I should be too. Behind the scenes discussion. They struggle to find a bed, but by 9 p.m. I am in a ward. I am finally assessed by a doctor at 11 p.m. – 12 hours after I left home, more than 24 hours after I fell over, which, of course, is the point at which I should have called for help, but Saturday evening? You don’t like to call them out. Silly boy.

And now I sit here – Tuesday morning – listening to the chatter of nurses, the endless call of buzzers, the rings and beeps and musical notes of phones. The distant cries of ‘Squeeze your buttocks’, ‘you’ll need to stand up to get your bowels moving’ and ‘how do you transfer normally?’ It’s like returning to the stroke unit, except I have a single room and it’s more painful. It’s deja vu.

Today, Tuesday, clutching a zimmer frame, I  can at least shuffle to the toilet, and that’s progress. Now, there is a sentence I thought I’d never write in my life.

Update Wed pm – it’s a fractured pelvis, picked up on a scan today.

About Eric Sinclair

Writer, stroke survivor, whippet owner, music lover, charity volunteer
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22 Responses to Mind the threshold

  1. Poor Eric! I think this will be ringing bells for most people. The conversations with NHS 24 when you can’t think straight for pain and anxiety are the ones I remember most vividly. It is good news that there are no bones broken. Lauren’s father-in-law broke his hip when he fell on ice two years ago- and healing takes a long time. Love to you all. xxx

  2. Will says:

    Eric, I wish you well for a successful and speedy recovery.
    A moving account of the frustrating process of NHS care. On my brief encounters I wonder why it does not cost even more, and I can be impressed, but surely there must be a better way to organise and deliver the service.

  3. Sandy Davis says:

    I am very sorry to hear of your woes, Eric. But at least you are able to communicate thanks to modern technology. Echoing Will’s comment above, you have also managed the extraordinary feat of having a face-to-face consultation with a doctor.
    You have endured worse, and I am confident you will make a good recovery in the Deeside sunshine.

  4. Eileen says:

    Oh no. Wishing you a speedy recovery and sending a virtual bag of grapes (and a sneaky tot of whatever takes your fancy) I hope you’re allowed home soon.

  5. Graham James Brown says:

    Hi Eric So sorry to hear of your latest tale of woe. You sound quite cheerful but I cannot imagine what you are going through. Good luck with your recovery and best wishes to Jo and Archie.
    Hope to see you up and about very soon.

    All the best,


  6. Colin Oliver says:

    What have I told you about practising the fandango in small spaces? And now Jo’s going to have to do all the walks with Archie! Honestly!
    Really sorry to hear of your latest escapade inside the NHS Eric, but glad your wit remains intact. Gives me something to aspire to.
    It only hurts when you laugh – we’re both going to be OK.
    Wishing you a very speedy recovery. All the best. Colin

  7. Maureen Hunter says:

    Sorry to hear of your recent accident Eric, I admire your humour which I am sure will help you through. Wishing you a good recovery and return home safe to Jo & Archie.

  8. Fiona Maclean says:

    Sorry to hear of your accident Eric and hope yes you make a good recovery. I’m sure all the Deeside Writers will be wishing you all the best too.

    • Eric Sinclair says:

      Thanks Fiona. You can tell Jane I really appreciated her feedback on the full length of my ‘Green’ story

  9. So sorry to hear this news, Eric. Hope you are soon on the mend.

    • Eric Sinclair says:

      Thanks, Jenny. I hope life is good with you up there. I’m really enjoying the Creative Writing MA – it’s keeping me sane at the moment

  10. Alan Flynn says:

    Aw Eric. So sorry to read your blog (for once).
    What happened to you is a risk that’s always in the back of my mind, and I imagine it’s the same for lots of us.
    I know what you mean about that left foot. My own left foot can trip me on a flat floor if I let it. I’ve also broken a few things since my stroke – mostly wine glasses to date fortunately – but that’s more to do with my eyesight. Or maybe the wine; I dunno. I just seem to have clumsy moments.
    No-one else seems to see me as being clumsy, but that’s possibly because I’m always concentrating on walking in a straight line and not stumbling. Practice makes perfect. Although like you, I’ve had my lapses in concentration. Which isn’t such a good feeling when you’re doing a clifftop walk….. 😁
    Still, luckily no disasters to speak of. Although I did fall into the River Tay that one time……
    Anyway, I hope you make a quick recovery from this. Next time I see you on Zoom, I promise to be sympathetic and not to make fun of you!
    But I’m guessing you’ll be postponing your appearance on Strictly for another year…..

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