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.