Yesterday (2008)… All my troubles seemed so far away…
I was completely out of it. The body beautiful had finally given up on me and I was in hospital undergoing an operation where due diligence required that I was to be put to sleep.
Almost eighteen months prior to this, Humpty Dumpty was sat on a wall. It was New Years Eve and family tradition dictated that a large cake of fireworks was to be lit right at the stroke of midnight. That was to be my job, a simple enough task requiring not too many brain cells, and I was more than happy to undertake it. The trouble was, was where was the best place to position the offending firework for maximum impact for the gathering hoards? Living in a terraced house back in sunny blighty does have its limitations, and among those limitations, is the small enclosed area to the rear of the property, that we call a back yard. It simply wouldn’t do. The only viable alternative was to park the firework on top of a flat-roofed shed at the side of the house where the burgeoning masses could congregate on the street outside and join together to witness the timely festival unravel.
As the clock tower of the local church began ringing in the New Year, the fuse was lit and it was time for me to run like ‘bloody hell’ to escape being a part of the snap, crackle and pop of the explosive mixture of burning roman candles and rockets. This definitely wasn’t bonfire night, so a guy was definitely not to be a part of the display. So, donning my best James Bond attire, I legged it to the edge of the roof and leapt for my safety without the aid of safety nets or a base-jumping suit, or parachute. And that was when Humpty Dumpty had his great fall.
Within fractions of a second, I was eight foot lower down than I was earlier on, all collapsed in a desperately pitiful heap on the ground. The take off was perfect, one of the best take-offs I had ever performed, the very best even, but the landing was a little bit on the awkward side, to say the very least. Having launched myself off the shed roof, I gripped the top edge of it with my left hand in order to steady my rapid descent, whereby it quickly unfolded that I would inadvertently tear my shoulder to shreds through over stretching it… at considerable speed, caused by a more than scientifically significant mixture of my weighty frame and gravity. Sir Isaac Newton would have been proud of me.
On landing, everything around me instantly went black, and the day to day business of simply breathing became a considerable strain. The blood rapidly drained from my now pallid face, I was sweating profusely and yet, ice cold to the touch (and this time, it had nothing to do with the local weather). Shaking like a jelly, I knew I was going into the early stages of shock.
The darkness slowly faded back into a blurred vision of normality as I struggled back to my feet and slowly edged my way towards my family, by which time the 150 shot cake of a firework had receded from its magnificent climax into a smoky smouldering ring of empty cardboard tubes.
My demise had taken me less than a whole three minutes.
Within minutes of relating this unfortunate adventure, I was carried (more like dragged) indoors and ceremoniously laid prone on the carpeted floor of the living room where the womenfolk quickly gathered round to administer lashings of well-intentioned but very unqualified first aid, massage to the suspect arm, copious cups of hot sugary tea and not too much by the way of sympathy.
It was within the space of about twenty minutes that I was eventually deemed fit enough to not warrant being given a death certificate or further urgent medical treatment and being labelled a bit of a tit for what I had just done. I was however, out of immediate danger, still a little sore and presumed to have been merely winded by the whole experience. And the rest of the evening, night, early morning celebrations were allowed to carry on as normal.
As the rest of the New Year progressed, my shoulder injury faded into what should have been just a distant memory.
Everything was fine up until the following April when the shoulder took its painful revenge on me, whereby every time I moved my arm, a sharp searing pain would knock me sideways, causing severe nausea and dizziness. The arm was beginning to stiffen up too and its movement was becoming increasingly limited. Naturally though, I being the rugged and manly man that I am, dillied and dallied… and lived with it for as long as I possibly could, but things eventually got so bad that I had no other option but to go seek out some professional medical help.
Physiotherapy was the first step toward recovery, where I was taught to minimise the pain through specific exercises and shown how to retrain my arm to move as it should do. Progress was very slow and it soon became obvious that more help was still needed. X-rays proved there was no damage to any of the surrounding bone structures and it was a later MRI scan that indicated a severely deep tearing to the upper muscles of the shoulder was the cause of all my discomfort.
Needless to say, I had also by now, developed a full-blown frozen shoulder to boot. My arm was now totally immobile.
Now medically speaking, the ball and socket to the (very much over-simplified) shoulder joint would normally be lubricated with a substance not too dissimilar to that of a liquid honey. But in my case, the ‘honey’ had somewhat solidified into what can only be best described as the honeycombed centre of a Malteser. This was what was diagnosed to be the problem affecting the movement within the joint, for which there is only one real cure. Which brings us quite nicely, back to the present day of this story.
It was not so much going to be an operation, no one was going in as such, but the prescribed procedure was to physically wrench the joint apart and during the process, re-liquefy the lubricating agents between the bony structures through concentrated bouts of rapid movement. Something that could quite easily have led to the annihilations of either the surgeons by myself or myself by the surgeons had I been a fully conscious witness to it all. So it transpired that in the best interests of all involved,m I was to be anaesthetized, because at worst, I could expect some broken bones during the unceremonious wrenching of my immobile arm, or a full blown dislocation of the shoulder joint along the way.
So it was operation day, and after arriving at the hospital at seven o’clock in the morning, I slowly formed the opinion that the favoured choice of anaesthetic was to be nothing more than severe boredom on my part. I waited to be seen for my op… and waited… and waited some more. It was two o’clock in the afternoon now, and I still hadn’t been seen by anybody. Starvation could have been another option for me going under, having been ‘nil by mouth’ since seven o’clock the preceding evening. It even occurred to me that I may have been completely overlooked, in which case all my fears of not coming through this whole episode alive would have been totally wasted.
Then it all happened at once.
I was summoned, plonked on a bed, asked a million and a half questions about my medical history by a million and half different people for the million and a halfth time, when it was subsequently discovered that nobody had asked me for my signature on the treatment consent form. Luckily though, another hungry thirty minutes, had that quickly sorted.
And so I was wheeled off to see the anaesthetist. After a quick game of darts to the back of my hand, he soon gave up trying to find a vein to park his cannula in, so it was a case of double or quits with the darts, this time to the inner elbow. Later that day, having finally locating his cannula, the anaesthetist pumped in some all over nerve relaxant so he could, by method of inserting twelve inch long needles into, around and what felt like through my neck to the shoulder, sedate the nerve signal routes from the shoulder to the brain (his words) while injecting some form of more powerful numbing agent.
Now as butch as I really am (hard as nails even), I winced and whinged at every insertion the anaesthetist made and it soon became clear that this wasn’t going to happen while I could lay there watching him. The pain was grossly intense and needless to say, quite unbearable too. So within seconds, the anaesthetist changed tack, stuck a needle into the back of my hand and I was instantly rendered completely dead to the world. (Wimp.)
It was ten past four that same afternoon when I was later taken to ‘recovery’ and finally trawled my way back into consciousness.
As I awoke, it appeared I was mid-sentence, recounting some of my favourite anecdotes (not unlike this one) to a bevvy of beautiful nurses who had all gathered round for the recital. Within five more minutes, I was fully aware of my surroundings and appreciative of still being alive while coming through these dastardly doings of the medical echelons relatively unscathed. Instinctively I knew why I was there, and immediately put my arm to the test.
Oh-my-God!!! I watched as I wriggled the fingers to my left hand. They still worked, so next I would raise my arm. Hang on a minute! What arm? My brain sent the signals and my eyes stood guard, but tucked beside my torso, my arm was nowhere to be seen. Neither could I feel it. I had visions of spending the rest of my life auditioning for re-makes of the Addams Family where I would play ‘Thing’, the severed hand that answered the door and carried numerous trays of drinks across the floor.
I was then told that my arm was still temporarily paralysed (anaesthetised and not working), but it would only be that way for a couple of hours, and boy, what a sensation that was!
Now, after any kind of anaesthesia in a hospital, there are three major tasks the patient must perform before being let back out into polite society.
The first two were easy and attacked with much gusto. I simply had to be seen to eat and drink something. A simple enough task thwarted only by constantly sliding down the hospital bed and having only one arm to rely upon to drag myself back into position again. The third task though, was to prove a little bit harder.
You see the third of my jobbies, was to simply go jobbies. Easier said than done. Having already had a couple of totally unconnected operations in earlier times, I already knew about this, so all morning I had resisted going in preparation. The trouble was, because of the sheer amount of time I had been kept waiting prior to the op, I had been forced to go and relieve my bladder just beforehand. And at this stage, you could have run me twice through a mangle and I would have still not yielded anything, and guess what? I didn’t.
I was to spend the rest of my days a permanent prisoner on a hospital ward, purely for the want of a pee.
It was soon time for me to get dressed. This was going to be nothing but fun and I knew it. With no more than a dead-weight giant salami trapped between my left hand and the rest of my body, I twisted and contorted in all directions as I struggled to conceal my half naked adonis of a body (honest). I was only a tee-shirt and trousers away from full common decency with dignity intact but the journey was to be fraught with light-hearted hysteria and giggling fits as what used to be my left arm went on a journey of its own accord. Revelling in the new mysteries of my total lack of control over my appendage, I showed considerable care, courage, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness in my quest for the slightest amount of direction and eventually I mastered the job in hand.
So there I was, fully dressed, with unbuttoned jeans held together only by a belt and shoes with their laces blowing in the wind. I was a glittering, shiny example of all the successes of modern day medicine for all to see and by way of a reward for my tenacity, I was spared the ceremonial passing of fluids and allowed to go home with my family chaperone. It was seven o’clock that evening when we finally got back home, whereupon I immediately got into bed and fell firmly asleep. I woke a couple of times during the night, once for a wee (HOORAY!), and once for a bowl of cornflakes (Gannet).
So here I am now. The morning after the night before so to say. Fully aware of my surroundings, with two fully functional arms, and by way of a bonus, none of the afore promised pain. In fact, all I have to show for this whole experience, are the numerous holes to the skin around my hand, elbow and neck (more perforations than a tea bag maybe) but, all in all, I think I can say, this operation, manipulation, procedure thingy, has been a resounding success.
And all that remains at this point, is for me to fully thank everybody concerned in making it that way. I thank you all but will refrain from recommending such malarky, unless it is really needed of course.
To be continued…