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My holiday in hospital
“Stay away from wooden horses.” So wrote the anonymous decorator of my plaster cast. He was a nurse who had been unwise enough to ask me how that vital tendon which connects your heel to your calf got its name. He got a synopsis of the Iliad in return.
Six weeks earlier, I had broken my right Achilles tendon. I stepped into a darkened space, tripped, fell forward quite slowly and consciously. And, apparently, snapped my right tendon.
I hobbled upstairs to bed. Next day
I could get around ok, albeit hobbling. My right calf swelled, turned black blue and purple.
I went to see my osteopath, then my GP, who gave me a referral to the surgeon who had done one of my hip replacements. Both had been highly successful, and I had no qualms. I eventually faced the surgeon about six weeks after the snap.
Moral: I should have gone to the GP at the very least, the morning after.
As it was, the broken ends of the tendon had started to heal of their own accord, which would be problematic during any repair.
The surgeon, a grave, dry and humane man, booked me in for early surgery. On the appointed day, I turned up for admission to the hospital and continued the process of accumulating my own small mountain of paper work. I had laid the foundations a week before with my 12-page application for admission, in which I laid bare my medical and social history. Admission took
a long time, but four hours later I was being prepped for theatre. I met my anaesthetist, in whose hands my life would repose for the duration of the operation.
I shook hands with the surgeon, in whom I had absolute confidence, and he wished me luck. Another comforting utterance.
Sometime later, I woke up, and
a pleasant nurse who looked to me to be all of 12 years old in the dimmed ward light, did my first (of a long series) of ‘obs’, or observations: blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation in my bloodstream, general condition. I passed: or at least she moved on. ‘Obs’ were to be my companion through daylight and dark: every hour on the hour, asleep or awake, the lady with the ‘obs’ lamp would take my readings.
If the night was sleepless, it was
a welcome human contact. If I was asleep, it didn’t matter. I woke, did my readings and went back to sleep. They were a constant
and comforting early warning and commentary on my status.
I was moved into a recovery ward with three other pleasant and intelligent geriatric companions. In a too short space of time, two of them were wheeled away to other wards down the corridor, there to learn (we had all injured or undergone reconstruction to some part of our legs) how to use walking frames, hop on crutches, or if really fortunate, as I was, drive the mobility scooter, which brought back the joys of scooting at age six. You put your injured lower limb on a special rest on a wheeled chassis, and push off with the other foot. You scoot.
It was and remains, as I write this, an instrument of joy, freedom and ability. It has a cargo basket, so you can fetch and carry, for yourself.
It had been recommended to me by the wife of an old friend and former skipper: thank you, Jane. Heaps!
The crutches and the walking frame were a different matter: I managed enough on each to persuade the occupational therapist that I was fit for release, and so I was: let go. Two hours
later I was through the paperwork, and in a wheelchair on the way to my son’s ute and the trip home.
Mastery of crutches and frame is yet to be achieved. I had managed to break my tendon in the early throes of moving house.
It was agreed that I should recuperate in the new house while my long-suffering wife got on with the wearing business of transferring the remnants of our furniture and worldly goods from the old one.
So: I injured myself, went to hospital, had an operation, recovered and came home. It was a learning experience: confirmation of what I already knew – that the world is full of loving, caring and competent people who are, willing, to share their qualities in the service and care of this totally unworthy geriatric: all, from the GP and the osteopath, to the surgeon and the lovely ward nurses, were assiduous and loving in their attentions to me. The meal ladies, the cleaning ladies, the tea lady: I owe you all. Contrary to all the adverse comments heaped on ministers and managers, the workface hospital and medical service to this patient was above and beyond the call of duty and totally beyond reproach.
My thanks to all. Hobart is lucky to have you.
John Fleming II

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