Thursday, 19 October 2017
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P 72 and the randomness of it all…My arm is killing me, aching from shoulder to elbow. The slightest movement trebles the discomfort. Ouch! Ouch!! Ouch !!! OK, OK, OK take another painkiller.

For all my misery I realise I am very lucky to have just a cleanly broken humerus and a steel plate to replace a shattered olecranon (tip of the elbow bone). It could, of course, have been a lot worse.

Look at the three guys opposite. Lefty, fell off a chair broke his hip. Centre, ripped his right cruciate ligament gardening and Righty cracked his thigh bone just out walking. I hadn’t realised that old age so easily opened the doors to such atrocities. My other two quieter roommates of undisclosed age, have apparently even more complicated medical conditions/confidential histories. These are not discussed. It does not however prevent them from entering into the random banter that circulates when we have the ward to ourselves.

I arrived in bed P 72 having somersaulted over the handlebars of a “Specialized”, (you’re kidding me), flashy road bike with thin threadless tires. My road speed was no more than 5 miles per hour so I didn’t travel very far. After ten minutes of very timely comforting from two pedestrians followed by an agony-filled taxi ride, in a yellow Prius driven by a Sikh from Amritsa, I paid an 8 hour visit to the San Fran General ER dept.
By the way this ER bore no resemblance to the Clooney version. Fire and police department uniforms mingled with a liquorice all sorts of medical gowns, handcuffs, orange overalls and hospital machines. This was the real thing.

With my arm in a full elbow sling three days in bed followed. I binged on “Homeland” and “True Detective.” Then I boarded transatlantic turbulent flight number UNO, (never before have I experienced bodies and trays defying gravity with such ease for so long). With extreme relief we eventually touched down in Heathrow and thence via ALI transport I joined the old age sextet temporally lodging in the Cambridge ward.
Cruciate ligament is on his mobile again, and in his poshest voice is beseeching some receptionist in a South Kent care home to offer him immediate accommodation. He wants to get home, closer to Ramsgate because his wife doesn’t drive. However, according to the current rules and regulations he is in the wrong post code. Kent does not have a contract offering after care with National Health providers domiciled at his/our current address.
When he switches off his mobile the quintet, who have heard every word of his woes, offer their barbed comments. I, of course, add my two pen’arth. “If you think you’ve got a problem being in the wrong county, wrong post code, well what about me I’m in the wrong country.

Actually the bureaucratic formalities of my Portuguese status and participation in the National Health Service were minimal. The European health card worked with the minimum of hassle. The Social Seguranca refused to speak English so I contacted the Zorge Institute in Amsterdam, the initial provider. They performed immediately.
After a three day stay I walked out of the hospital unaided. Yes, cast and all, I was back in the real world, well a very limited real world. One in which dressing and undressing one handed, became a bit a joke for the family and an embarrassment for me. Anyway slowly, I can’t do anything quickly any more, I resumed a small role in society. As one handed dressing was such a challenge I wore the same clothes for 5 days. Shaving was also a no go area so I eventually partook of an introductory offer in a recently opened gentlemen’s fashion establishment on Fulham high street.
It was a real poofters paradise, soft thick brown leather chairs along with 40 different scents and hair lacquers on offer. Every chair even had its own individual hair washing basin. This was my first experience of such decadence, fancy breaking your arm simply to get your face steamed for the first time in 70 years. And friends, this “barber” took such gentle care with his switch blade that I actually suffered the steam jet for 50 minutes. When he was finished I was well and truly cooked, Crikey, what a waste of resources, and yes, he actually missed a big section on the right side of my neck.
After my close shave I felt motivated enough to tie on some cling film and take a shower it was heaven. We do tend to forget how wonderful the simple things are. I began to feel much better.

New clean clothes have of course followed with the empty swinging left sleeve a novel modelling feature. My appearances have brought many numerous conversational encounters. It seems that every third person I meet has suffered a broken limb at some time. And they all want to compare notes with me. “My cast was removed after 6 weeks but then the physio was so terrible.” After such encounters I normally don’t feel so great. But of course I recover and feel that yes, I will ultimately make it back to the land of the normal living.

One last comment, if I may. Looking out from bed P72 at the illuminated world of West Surrey, underlined my oft expressed view that we all regularly offer comment on how to improve society without a full understanding of the subject under discussion. The NHS is of course one such popular topic. Well after my hands on, sorry arm repair experience, I will desist from any future debate on this subject. It is just too complicated, too large. When I read that over 400,000 people visit A and E departments every week, with around a fifth (80,000), being subsequently admitted into hospital. I realised that any comment about 12 hour shifts, dementia questionnaires, friends and family surveys, regular 4 hour observations /drug distribution and overall costs, are bound to be really superficial. The complexity and the unremitting size of the NHS issue are just too immense to be solved by the uniformed tinkering at the edges.
I am just so grateful for what they did for me.