I wrote this last May/June. So it will serve for a different annual review.
A year in review
It’s been the oddest twelve months.
The day I fell over last May I felt as though I was watching myself in a slow motion film. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.
I’ve had falls before in my adult life but managed to avoid hospitals with bad sprains and quite probably fractures. But when I couldn’t stand up, let alone put weight on it, even I bowed to the inevitable.
It’s not often unemployment is a blessing, but I couldn’t have managed if my partner had been working. He couldn’t have managed, as absolutely everything fell on him.
And to be honest, he’s still doing everything outside the house, my feeble practical contribution to our life is limited to cooking, washing up, and the (very) occasional cleaning.
If I’d had an office job, I’d have got the sack for not being able to get to work after months, weeks maybe, let alone a year.
From being frustrated in hospital, gazing out at the big wide world, imagining the sun and the breeze on my face, I’m now used to being relatively housebound because I lack the confidence to go out in the busy streets.
Gibraltar is busy at the best of times, but when cruise ships come in and spew out thousands of passengers, even people who can walk properly avoid Main Street and use one of the parallel back streets. Oh and I’m vain. I don’t want to be seen limping.
On May 13 last year (2014), I insisted on coming home. I’d spent 12 days waiting for the op due to fracture blisters and another three days trying to learn to hop with a frame. Crutches were a no. They were quite happy to keep me in until I could have managed on crutches. Oh no. Not another weekend in that hermetically sealed building (windows didn’t open) gazing out at the sea, the blue sky, the Rock, Morocco.
A few weeks before that anniversary of May 2014, I woke up with a shooting pain. I thought I must have stubbed my toe hobbling around the flat but didn’t remember it.
‘Gout?’ suggested Partner. I groaned. Both my parents had it. Among the many supposed factors that lead to it, one is familial history, and another is … surgery. Also add in shellfish, liver, cauliflower, lentils, mushrooms, beer and goodness knows what else.
I remembered laughing at my dad when he first got it. He was in agony, had no idea what it was, and because he couldn’t walk, he called out the doctor. Back then, it was thought to be due to drinking port and eating game, the ‘rich man’s disease’.
Men get it more than women, and they get it younger than women. As ever, it’s one to add to the list for post-menopausal women. We trade periods for osteoporosis and gout. Life’s great as a woman.
It delayed our trip to Spain. Attacks typically last 3–10 days. The acute hurts-like-hell phase is probably three. Then it lingers around for a while. Lemon juice is meant to be helpful. So I guzzled loads of it. There are tablets. How does one get a prescription when unable to walk? Irrelevant as I don’t do tablets.
Weeks later, I got a pain in my side. I’d had it before but it went off. It was as though I’d been lying awkwardly. No, not appendicitis. Wrong side, and I had it removed fifty years ago.
This time, the pain didn’t go away. It got worse. It stabbed my back and my guts. I groaned all night keeping both of us awake until 5am when tiredness gave us a brief respite. A consultation with Dr Internet diagnosed kidney stone/s.
It eased off during the day, but started coming back again. I bit the bullet. Or more to the point, the Ibuprofen. Forget what I wrote about not doing tablets. This merited a painkiller. Which, I’d been given as a leaving gift from hospital 12 months previously and not touched.
And strangely, the pain disappeared, maybe the stone did too. Who knows. However both gout and kidney stones reoccur, so I looked up prevention. By the time I’d read conflicting information about eat/drink this but not that, my head was spinning. I found something that said drink beer so eagerly latched onto that. In the end I decided not to change anything about what I eat or drink, especially as much of the advice leant towards a vegetarian diet.
But if I was feeling sorry for myself, the tale of my neighbour jolted me into reality. She has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) ie she struggles to breathe. It’s got worse. No she doesn’t smoke, but she used to. She also used to work in a chemical factory.
She would walk to work but had to start using the bus. Partner caught the bus with her one day and she couldn’t walk from the stop to Morrison’s without pausing to rest. She was moved from a job dealing with people to a desk job.
Next, she had an oxygen bottle delivered to home to help breathing. It failed and she was taken to hospital. Every time they tried to drop it down from 100% oxygen she struggled to breathe. She was in for three weeks. During which time her evil employers told her to resign. And … she did. Workers’ rights. Where are they? Someone is struggling to breathe and she is pressurised to resign? Bad bad employers. Rot in hell.
So she’s not just flatbound. A lot of the time she is bedbound. At least I can breathe even if I can’t walk too well.
Another neighbour was talking about his problems walking. ‘Eventually my knees will give way,’ he said calmly.
Wishing my university friend a happy birthday two months back, she wrote back expressing sympathy about my continued lack of mobility, and informed me she had now broken her other ankle after having a similar break to mine a couple of years ago. She had gone on holiday in a wheelchair.
Going back to Spain, we were upset to discover both our elderly neighbours were ill with flu/cold. He’s 88 and she’s 85, I think. One day he came out to say hello. He looked grey. Very grey. Death-not-so-very-warmed-up grey. We feared the worst. It cast a damper over our visit. And then a few days later, he was out in the street, looking at least less grey. Phew.
So while it might have been a strange year for me, there is nothing truer than there is always, always someone worse off. Plenty of people better off, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be reliant on oxygen bottles to breathe. Limping pales into insignificance.
After two months, the kidney stones came back. The Ibuprofen didn’t work. A neighbour suggested gin. I sent Partner hotfoot down the town for a bottle of Larios. Dirt cheap in Gib, currently £5.45. And … it really did work. Amazing. I haven’t drunk gin for years, but kidney stones are evil. One website I looked at said they were worse than childbirth.
My neighbour who couldn’t breathe went back into hospital and died in July, I think. She was early 60s. ‘I’ve no life like this,’ she said in hospital.
A friend of Partner’s was diagnosed with kidney and liver failure. After a few weeks on the dialysis machine in Gib (there’s only one), he was transferred to Algeciras where he died. He was 51. No one had a bad word to say about him, and his funeral was packed.
And I’m moaning about a broken ankle?
When I can walk down the beach on New Year’s Day?