So, having escaped, the days rolled rapidly round, and after less than a week since I left, the ambulance drew up to take me back to gaol.
Naturally when your appointment is for 12.30, patient transport is booked for 10am. Even on a wet day, with a ‘plane landed, and border queues, it does not take two and a half hours to get to the hospital in Gib.
It is a 20 minute walk. OK, I can’t do that, but it is ten mins in a vehicle. Allowing for ten mins to carry me down the stairs, that leaves two hours and ten mins to wait, assuming they are running on time. I took a book. In fact it could have been worse. The ambulance turned up at 9.30 in case I was ready, but luckily the front door was shut and our intercom doesn’t work. Note to self: do not fix intercom.
The driver asked what was happening. I didn’t know, just a chat with the consultant, I said.
No, he said, they’ll probably take off the plaster, rip out the stitches, and put a new one on. I felt faint. That didn’t sound like see the consultant. That sounded like something that needed a local anaesthetic at the least. I decided he was wrong.
In the hospital I was taken up to OP orthopaedics in a wheelchair with a dodgy sticky-out bit for legs in plaster. I spent my time trying to find better positions for my leg and little time reading my book. Arrival time, 10.20. A mere two hours and ten mins, as predicted, to wait. With my leg in a very uncomfortable position.
But, just before noon, things started to move. Or, someone moved me. To a strange room with a bed. And things that looked like someone might DO something to me. Not a nice how’s it going chat with my consultant.
‘Can you hop on the bed?’ asked the nurse briskly. ‘And don’t put that foot on the bed. No shoes allowed.’ I hopped. I left the other foot sagging on the floor.
Nurse Brisk came back and proceeded to start ripping my leg apart. Or the bandages and plaster.
‘Just going to have a look, see how it is,’ she said briskly.
The trouble was, the whole thing was stuck together with blood. My blood. Post op.
Did it hurt? Oh yes. I screamed and yelled as she yanked off various sticky bloody bits.
‘I’m going to have to get a colleague,’ she said, and marched out. So far we’d only taken off bandages. The plaster still had to come off. Why couldn’t they take it off in tiny pieces?
Nurse Colleague held something. My leg, I think. Nurse Brisk yanked. My ankle felt like it had been fractured all over again. Wonder if they have sound proof walls?
I shouldn’t have been surprised. The plaster had been covered in a light shade of rose carmine since the op when blood had seeped through everywhere and stained a couple of protective bed covers. At the time, I was told it was normal. Maybe so, but blood everywhere does not make for easy plaster removal.
No I didn’t look. No I didn’t take photos.
Two dressings got ripped off, one on either side of the ankle. Ouch! and Ouch!
Betadine was rapidly applied all over.
‘You’re healing really well,’ said Nurse Brisk rather more kindly.
Consultant had a cursory glance. ‘Nasty fracture, as I told you.’ Long pause while he admired his work. ‘But it’s looking good.’
And then, as orthopaedics was chocka, I was shunted down to A&E for a back slab, ie a half cast to the back of my leg.
A&E was not impressed. Six staff hanging around a desk asked why ortho couldn’t do it. I was wheeled to a plaster room while I waited for busy staff to finish chatting at the desk. I asked for the bed to be raised so I could read my trusty book.
Busy staff arrived. Another Nurse Brisk who was clearly in charge of instructing Nurse Junior about the intricacies of daubing legs in plaster.
Should bandages be wet or dry? How long to leave to dry? The perfect consistency? Stockinette or tubigrip? (naughty Spaniards use tubigrip) How much protective gauze and bandage to use?
I reckon I could get a job as a plaster technician after that, plus a fair amount of personal experience.
Then they went. I was still uncomfortably on my stomach. This, it seems, is a good position for applying a cast. Not for me it wasn’t, my back was killing. I hastily wriggled over, and started fidgeting. I needed my book. I needed to go home. Had I been abandoned?
No. Two smiling angels appeared after ten minutes uttering the wonderful words: ‘We’re here to take you home.’ And so they did.
Trouble was, after the incident upstairs, Nurse Brisk had said, ‘I’ll book you in for next week to take out your staples.’
Now why give me pain and agony over two appointments? Couldn’t they have left it to the second one? Maybe not.
I told Nurse Brisk I would need patient transport. ‘We’ll see if they can do it. You may have to get a taxi.’
I laughed. I can’t get down the stairs. I can’t walk. I can barely fucking hop. You think I am going to get in a taxi? I didn’t say that. And when I rang, the patient transport had been booked for 11 for my 11.30 appointment.
They turned up at 10.59. Remember, I’m on first floor, twenty steps. The previous week, they carried me down in a chair. This week, the staff used their caterpillar track chair. Costs around three grand but goes up stairs. Still need two people to guide it.
I was tramadolled up to the eyeballs. Which means I’d taken one in prep for the staples out, and the plaster off. The bad news is that knowing what to expect was freaking me out.
It wasn’t like this when I was a kid. They probably gave me a local for taking out stitches. I certainly don’t remember the agony of them taking off plaster.
I arrived before 11.30. The nice wheelchair attendant (note, they are no longer called porters) informed the desk and I waited.
I was still waiting at 12.30, an hour after due time. I’d read a chapter of my book though. A nurse asked me who I was waiting for, blah blah. So did another one. It was Nurse Brisk in fact.
‘Who are you waiting for?’
‘You. To take off my plaster and take out my stitches.’
Truth is, I wasn’t annoyed. The receptionist was on day off, the nurses were trying to cover for her, and I was hardly going anywhere.
Plaster came off much easier. Phew!
Dressings were ripped off.
‘I’ll just get the extractors.’
No, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear at all. I didn’t dare ask how many staples there were. There were 17 stitches on my other ankle from my years ago op and this looked similar.
Even though I wasn’t looking.
‘You’re healing really well.’
Oh good. So good in fact that some of the staples had scabbed over. Not only did Nurse Brisk need to pull out the staples she also needed to rip off the scabs to get to the staples.
‘You’ll only feel a tiny prick. It won’t hurt. But do stop me if you want a break.’
I did. It was pricking too much, hurting too much, and it was nearly as bad as having my hair pulled through a swimming cap with a crochet needle for blond highlights. At least I looked good after that.
We started on the other side. The disposable sheet had nice red marks on and the nasty tin thing had goodness knows what in.
The tramadol had not worked.
‘You’re going to hate me now.’
‘I already do.’
The next torture was some wicked spray.
‘You mean it will sting?’
Nurse Brisk applies inevitable betadine. Grabs spray. Applies.
‘Not too bad?’ she asked.
‘When’s it supposed to start hurting?’ waiting for the delayed effect to kick in.
It didn’t. Never felt a thing. Probably still recovering from the staple extraction.
Dressings on. Another stockinette. Gauze. The reusable plaster in place and loads of bandage. Plaster trimmed at knee and toes.
Good to go.
And a holiday. A whole two weeks before my next return, and plaster off, and just to check ….
Not much chance of post op infection being missed though I have to say.
In other news
King of Spain, read about it on Clouds (later today).
Some books I read in hospital because being immobile means reading.
Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
Wrote Chocolat which was made into a film that I haven’t seen nor do I wish to.
It goes without saying that like Helen Fielding, Harris also went to my school. I really must write a novel. Perhaps I just need to say that I went to WGHS.
Mediocre is the kindest thing I can say. Man is stupid as he doesn’t recognise his predatory girlfriend and the plot and ending are just plain stupid too. It doesn’t merit a more thoughtful review.
King Rat by James Clavell
Clavell was Australian-born British, and later became American. Just to confuse the issue. But King Rat is based on his experiences in Changi POW camp. A good book, hard, tough, and yet vulnerability showed through. The characters are very well portrayed, the atmosphere is quite spooky, and the suspense is brilliant. A great read but not for the faint-hearted, eg, they breed rats to sell them for food to other prisoners …
Red Notice by Andy McNab
Implausible tale. Both in terms of character and plot. Good and easy read? Yes. Not as bad as woman’s realm, but not far off. OK if you are in hospital with little else to read. [Looks behind shoulder for Andy McNab]
Full of heroics and bravery and drivel.
Bluebirds by Margaret Mayhew
The sort of book I run a mile from. Soppy pic of soppy woman on cover looking misty-eyed. It’s actually about WAAFs. A cadre of them sign up, get shipped out to RAF somewhere or other, where the boss of the station doesn’t want them.
But, the description of what WAAFs did, how they were treated, who joined up, is fascinating. To start with, they had no uniforms. Their senior officer was 22 (I think, from memory) and had gone on a quick AP course.
Obviously put men and women together and you get sex. A former services friend said it was a nightmare when the services were opened up to women. And this novel is set in the 40s. No pill. Which leaves those rubber things. I’m digressing but it must have been difficult having a relationship with someone.
The book follows four women in particular. Two of them were interesting, and two were boring as hell. Other minor characters were more interesting.
But to come back to relationships as these four seemed to have serious problems.
One of the boring ones had a boyfriend at home. He was sick and not long for this world plus he had a vile dominating mother. Boring WAAF marries him out of sympathy under his mother’s orders. Meanwhile, back at RAF whatsit, she is being pursued by a persistent Taff. She’s not keen on him, but when she finds out he is a fitter she picks his brains and finally moves out of record-keeping into mechanics. He is portrayed as obsessive and controlling. She is always a victim. Really? And she didn’t use his knowledge?
Later on she meets someone else who could equally be described as persistent, obsessive, controlling, and add to that manipulative. But he is OK. Huh?
But the best relationship disaster is one of the un-boring ones. She went to a posh school, so prob comes from upper middle class background, and her mother wants her to marry well. She was expelled from her posh school for smoking (!!!). She spends most of her time breaking rules because she thinks they are silly, and can’t really see the point or value of what she is doing.
Out of the blue, she is swept off her feet by a Polish pilot. They have a weekend away and she dreams of a future in a cottage with children and cooking … and … meanwhile, he doesn’t know what’s happened to his home, his family, his past in Poland. Wisely, her father agrees to their engagement, but asks them to wait before they marry. Would Polish fiancé really have wanted to settle into an English country garden when he came from Polish money and ancient lineage?
And then, there is the snobbish rich arrogant clever aristocratic pilot who she bumps into from time to time. He is beautifully portrayed. He is, after all, a beautiful person. Slightly long blond hair, always leaning against something and smoking, he doesn’t speak, he drawls.
This is a great anti-feminist character. In their first encounter, he nearly runs her over. In their second, he doesn’t see her and is busy slagging off WAAFs as low lifes. In their third, he figures his charm will ensure she will accept his invitation to dinner.
Later, she is standing at the bus stop in the freezing cold and he gives her a lift in his gorgeous Lagonda. But instead of taking her back to base, he locks her in the car, and calmly drives into London, a mere couple of hours away. So we must be impressed by this persistent handsome man who abducts a woman for dinner at the Savoy whereas there is something wrong with the persistent Taff who wants to buy a woman a cup of tea? Money and good looks speak volumes.
But wait, it gets better.
Our heroine goes to see him in hospital after he has crash landed and been burned. His mother writes to her and asks her to visit once he has been released because ‘she cheers him up more than anyone’.
So she goes and they have a fine time wandering around the family estate and playing cards and draughts and dominoes. Would suit me to be honest. On her last night, he broaches the subject of a relationship. She is, at this point, rat-arsed, tells him no, and attempts to stagger to her room. He helps her, and … follows her inside the bedroom, starts kissing her and of course they have sex.
Great example of No means Yes, and it’s ok to have sex with a woman who says no but she’s drunk so she’ll like it anyway. Because, the book went so far as to have her saying she didn’t want him to stop.
This is very very bad imagery. But you know what? It’s all ok in the morning because he apologises and offers to marry her. NO! NO! NO! That does not make having sex with a drunk woman, who has said no, make your crime OK.
If that’s not bad enough, later in the book, she decides she loves him anyway. So a happy ending all round. If anyone thinks that sort of behaviour leads to happiness then you are wrong. Or you have been reading too many trashy novels. Stick to King Rat.
All photos not really taken by me as, waiting for my transport home, I noticed a sign saying – no photos. Too late.