The adage about always wear a clean pair of knickers before you go out is well worth following. It was one my grandmother was fond of repeating, ‘in case you get run over’. I doubt my knickers would have been the first thing on my mind but who knows.
Work or walk?
I was happily working away on the computer – rather than allowing myself to be distracted by interesting blogs – when Little Rat came to see me. All dogs have their own way of asking to go out. Some go to the door. Some bark or whine. Some run up and down or dance around. Others put their head or paw on your knee. If I’m in the sitting room, Snowy goes to the door. If I’m on the computer he walks in to see me and gives me a purposeful look.
‘I’ll take him if you like,’ said Partner. ‘You carry on working.’
‘It’s OK, you do enough. I’ll take him. It will give me a break.’
It was 1 May and bank hol, and Partner was having a well-deserved day off from the construction site.
I took Snowy up to one of his favourite playgrounds, the top of a nearby disused military bastion dating from the 19th century. It’s quite dangerous with wide deep gutterings running across the roof and lots of pipes and tubes to trip over. One side has no parapet to speak of and is a sheer drop to the yard below. The other side has a high parapet but the gun openings have no protection to stop you falling the 100ft to the car park below. Snowy has no fear of heights and often jumps up to look down. I walk in the middle of the bastion well away from the edges and carefully pick my way over the gutters, tubes and pipes.
Snowy was sniffing something. I called him, looked back and he came charging up to join me. I turned ahead again to plot a safe route and he barrelled into me from behind. I was on my back on the floor before I knew it. The pain was already shooting up my left leg. This was not good. I looked at my left foot. This was worse. It was not straight. It was skewed nastily to the left. Too much so.
Great. I’m stuck on a disused bastion where no-one goes (hence taking the dog there) on a bank holiday. Without a mobile of course. Dog now running around like an idiot trying to help.
I crawled to a curtain and sat on a step. I tried to stand and quickly sat down before I passed out. No limping home for me. How long before Partner came to look for me. Nightfall? It was around 1pm at this point.
‘HELP,’ I yelled. Repeatedly. Eventually a young couple walked past far below me on the other side of the road. They looked up, saw me, and decided to ignore the mad woman waving at them and shouting for help. Clearly thought I’d been on the vodka. If I had I might have fallen better.
There is a bar on the ground floor of the bastion that opens selective hours so I continued to yell for help hoping it was open for bank hol. Sometimes I switched into Spanish: ‘¡Ayúdeme!’ Some people walked past and didn’t even look up.
No idea how long I had been yelling for, but suddenly a couple appeared up the dodgy steps. Snowy ran to check them out so I had to reassure them he wasn’t a bitey dog. The man immediately rang for an ambulance and then gave me his mobile to ring Partner. His wife explained they had heard my calls for help, but didn’t realise where the sounds were coming from. They thought perhaps it was a married couple having an argument. (??) It was only when they heard me calling in Spanish that they decided to investigate – en route to the bar below. ‘HELP!’ may be shorter and easier but ‘¡AYUDEME!’ is clearly more successful. I’d even got to the point of thinking about adding ‘Au secours!’ to my multi-lingual appeal for help just before they turned up.
Partner appeared and caught Snowy. The ambulance service came and took ages to strap me up and stretcher me down the dodgy steps.
Readers who have been with Roughseas/Itchyfeet and Pippadogblog for some years will be aware that I am not fond of hospitals and that previous tumbles – with Pippadogblog seven years ago damaging fingers, hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and the sprain to the same left foot last year – have all been dealt with successfully using time and rest at home.
But even I couldn’t see this one being fixed with time and rest, much as I would have liked that.
At the hospital, I was rushed through to a nice little room and a smiley nurse came to take details and say how bad my ankle/foot/leg looked.
Did I want painkillers? No. (This was to be a recurrent theme)
Doctor will be along soon. In the UK that would have meant some time tonight. In Gib it meant soon.
Off I went to X ray mega fast. And back to MI.
Cheerful doctor and same cheerful nurse told me what a nasty break I had. (That will teach me for wanting a ‘break’ from work – it was a little too literal.)
For those of you who, like me, appreciate the techy info, I had a bi-malleolar fracture and a dislocation. In other words I’d broken both bones on either side of the ankle and it was also out of joint. Not a good one for self-healing. It would need an op the following day and in the meantime they would try and straighten it up and plaster it.
Cannula and drips were stuck in and I lay there like meat on a slab. Nurse kept saying how brave I was rather as you would to a six-year-old. She said she would have been screaming in agony. I thought she was over-egging it but Partner reckoned she was serious. They brought in a strange machine and told me to breathe into it if I had too much pain while I was getting plastered. I didn’t bother.
There was no home sweet home for me that night. They found me a bed and Partner went off to bring some overnight goodies. He also took what was left of my jeans, destined to become shorts with one leg now cut off well above the knee.
On the way to the ward I saw a neighbour.
‘Hola’ I says. Or maybe ‘Buenas tardes’.
‘Was it the dog?’ (Jewish people are not fond of dogs)
‘The little one,’ I replied and then off I was whizzed on my trolley.
I was homed in a nice large empty room by the window. Quiz. Which hospital in Europe has beautiful views of the Rock, the Straits, and Morocco?
In the evening I watched the sun set over Morocco and in the morning I watched dawn come over the Rock. Very nice.
I was happily established in my room. I’d got a commode wheelchair thing to zap to the toilet in fine Davros-style, I’d managed to get three books from a staff nurse, and even asked for vegan food. Not that I received anything as I was being starved for a possible op the next day.
The surgeon wandered in on Friday morning with the sidekick I’d seen in minor injuries the day before. If the swelling had gone down enough there was a chance I could be operated on that day or maybe Saturday. The surgeon cut open the plaster and took one look. He sighed dramatically. It wasn’t the swelling that was the problem – it was the fracture blister that had popped up overnight. We had to wait for that to go down so I was put back for surgery until Tuesday. In a way I was glad. I wasn’t psyched up for an op. He apologised for keeping me in over the weekend. Hey, room service for meals, lying in bed reading in a private room to all intents and purposes, who was I to complain?
My illusions were shattered. As soon as I was no longer an imminent case for surgery, I was moved from my exclusive accommodation to a smaller room occupied by two older women, ie older than me. Still I got another window bed, so I settled in to wait for Tuesday.
By Saturday morning the blister was even bigger. My surgeon came around again and said we would have another look on Monday. We might need to put off surgery until Thursday, or possibly even the following Tuesday. He took Sunday off, but another doctor came to admire the artwork on my leg. The blister was now resembling mutating jellyfish, spawning more of them around my lower leg and into the incision zones, thereby increasing the risk of infection both during and after the op.
‘I can’t see me having surgery Tuesday, can you?’
‘No. But it’s not my decision.’
My surgeon arrived Monday am and agreed Tuesday was a non-starter. Thursday didn’t look too hopeful either. Put back to the following Tuesday ie a glorious 12 days after admission. Bed blocking par excellence.
I’d already lost track of time. I felt as though I had been in for ever and yet it was only four days. I was in limbo. I couldn’t get outside, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t use crutches or a frame because when I fell I’d also damaged my right ankle and left wrist and they couldn’t weight bear.
My only contact with the outside world was the evening visit from Partner, ‘phone calls from a neighbour and a few emails from a couple of friends who knew what had happened. Otherwise, I spent my time eating, reading and sleeping in my strange bubble of a world.
Each bed has a private TV. I didn’t want the intrusion. The TV mechanic who comes around regularly to check them was most disappointed to find out I didn’t want to kill time watching TV.
‘It’s good for you.’
‘Well, first it’s one hour less in the day, and then two …’
Time is far too precious to kill, and watching inane TV does not strike me as a good use of time when I could be reading, writing, eating, sleeping, or even thinking.
But by the second Saturday I was a bit sick of listening to next door’s Telecinco so I put something on to distract me from noisy Spanish chat shows where everyone talks at once. More about my thoughts on TV on Clouds as this is the dramatic hospitalisation post.
This was better than I expected. OK vegans are grateful for anything. Lunch and tea/supper included a veg soup, a carb-based main course, and sometimes a salad, incl EVOO and wine vinegar. Fruit for dessert apart from when they provided jelly ??!! which I left. Breakfast was terrible toast or cereal. I would have considered cereal but they refused to buy soya milk for me. I saved a piece of fruit for brekkies and accepted a weak black tea.
And so the days passed.
Sleep, read, eat. Drive the Davros chair to the toilet. Get offered paracetamol four times a day for the pain I didn’t have. Blood pressure, temp, pulse etc checked three times a day. Blood tests. An ECG. When my temp approached 38 I was force fed paracetamol. Apparently it lowers the temp. I didn’t bother taking it one night. My extremely scientific control experiment proved that my temp dropped overnight without paracetamol.
The Tuesday of the initially proposed op came and went and was marked only as the first day without a visit from a consultant and my companion in the bed opposite went home. Not a good day.
Wednesday saw another visit from my surgeon. We agreed the following Tuesday was looking likely. ‘Not this Thursday’, I said.
‘Do you want Thursday?’ I do hope he was joking as the malevolent huge jellyfish were still happily mutating.
I glared and said ‘Tuesday.’
‘Tuesday it is.’ And off he skipped.
He came again on Thursday and Friday. He seemed to think the jellyfish family looked better. They looked the same to me. No-one came on Saturday. It was another peaceful uneventful weekend in limbo. I didn’t expect to see anyone on Sunday but one of the other doctors came to gaze at the jellyfish. It had shrunk. Suddenly the swelling had gone down and so had the blister. Amazing. Tuesday looked like a cert. I decided to make the most of my pre-op bliss and worry about the op on Tuesday and not before.
Everyone else ie all the nurses and auxiliaries seemed quite excited for me on Monday. I suppose someone else’s op is more interesting than them lying in bed for 12 days with fracture blisters, although had I charged for the amount of staff who had looked at them, and called their mates to look, I would have been onto a nice little earner.
On the night-time tablet run on the Monday before the op, not only was I offered the inevitable paracetamol, I was asked if I wanted sleeping pills.
Well, the operation tomorrow …
I rolled my eyes, turned over, and went to sleep. Tomorrow would bring what it would. I didn’t want to ruin a last night of pain-free sleep with pills. There was little point worrying about something I couldn’t change. The conveyor belt was on the move.
If you missed the link to the Clouds post about some views from a hospital bed, here it is again.
* Title inspired by that awful Paul McCartney and Wings from Band on the Run. And did I ever need a pint a day.