Thursday 17 October 2019

I'll be needing stitches...

I had a busy day last Wednesday. I think it's fair to say that, since redundancy, my days haven't seemed quite as busy as when I was working 11 or 12 hour days every day.... but last Wednesday was definitely a busier day than average: a hospital appointment first thing, an appointment to take one of my MyGuide clients out for a walk at lunchtime, an interview with the charity that are looking to appoint me as a trustee and then the second week of the short course on creative writing that I'm taking at Nottingham Trent University.  By the time I got home at around 9pm, I was very much looking forward to sitting down with my tea and watching a bit of disposable telly.

At about half ten, I popped upstairs during an advert break (we were watching Elementary on Sky+. so we could have just skipped forward, but I needed to grab something from the bedside table). As I rounded the top end of the bed, I was unscrewing the lid on my drinks bottle when I was suddenly falling. I think my legs gave way, but as my hands were busy, I didn't have any time to react to this before my knees hit the ground and my chin hit the bedside table.

There was a short pause as I gathered myself and did a quick mental inventory: what just happened? have I really hurt myself? I was naturally a bit dazed, and my immediate reaction was to feel my teeth to see if I'd knocked any of them out in the fall. They seemed okay, but my ears were really hurting for some reason. At this point, I realised there was blood coming from somewhere, so I headed to the bathroom mirror to assess the damage. Through the beard on my chin, I could see a gaping cut. It wasn't more than an inch or so across, and it wasn't pumping blood, but it looked pretty deep.


By now, my wife had rushed up the stairs to see what all the noise was about, and together we applied pressure to the cut and tried to work out what we needed to do next. It was tempting to do nothing and to just try and cover up the cut and go to bed, but I'd had a pretty nasty bang and the cut looked pretty deep, so we settled on calling 111, the NHS urgent care hotline. The operator on the other end of the line methodically ran me through the concussion protocols and then tried to assess the cut. I was coherent and seemed to be okay, but we agreed that the cut likely needed stitches and I probably needed to an x-ray. They passed my case on to the A&E department at QMC and told us to get there within the next hour.  It was a pretty efficient process and this call effectively acted as the triage for the hospital, and once we got there, all we had to do was to wait our turn. But there's the rub: we got there at about 23:30, and the screens were showing an 8.5 hour wait.

So we waited.

On my way back from my class, I'd wandered through town at about 20:30 and marvelled at the packs of students in fancy dress marauding through the city on their way down to Ocean. They were quite the spectacle, many wearing nothing more than a pair of speedos, and most of them being extraordinarily drunk for such a relatively early hour. As things worked out, I now saw several of the same people at the other end of the day, arriving at A&E covered in blood. Not a great way to end the evening, but most of them seemed in good spirits. Literally, I guess.

The staff were brilliant.There just weren't enough of them. One doctor and maybe three nurses for the whole department (there was another doctor, but he was called away). What made things worse was that several of the people waiting were clearly suffering from various mental health issues and were there because they simply didn't have anywhere else to go. It's heartbreaking to watch people sitting there with problems that an accident and emergency ward is never going to be able to fix. The staff are amazing, but they can't work miracles and they've been handicapped by a decade of austerity.

By the time we got actually seen by the doctor at about 6am, I was staggered by how cheerful he was, and how, even 11 hours into his shift, he was still looking for blankets to give to some of the shivering students. I was examined, X-rayed and stitched up. The A&E doctor thought he saw a fracture, so I was referred up to the Head and Neck ward, which was just opening up for further consultation. The consultant there explained to me that he was fairly sure that I didn't have a fracture, but because the A&E doctor had documented one, they needed to be super careful to rule it out. Did I mind waiting for a CT scan? Ah, what the hell. What's another couple of hours when you've already been there for ten?

So we waited. We had enough time to get a coffee and something to eat, but then it was the scan and a final consultation to hear the news that I almost definitely didn't have a fracture. They were worried about what's called a "Guard fracture", apparently: named after what happens when a sentry faints at his post and lands directly on his chin, causing fractures on the point of the chin and on the hinge of the mandible on either side (which is why the ears hurt).  I left the hospital with a sore jaw and a couple of stitches, but the feeling that I'd been really very lucky indeed not to have anything worse. A fracture might easily have involved extensive surgery and pinning.

It was a very, very long day.

The thing that I really don't want to think about is *why* my legs gave way. I think we probably know why, don't we? I've an underlying weakness in my legs, especially my left leg, that has been getting worse and worse recently. I've been moaning for a few months now how much harder running seems at the moment. I guess this is another thing that can happen. 

Understandably, I don't really want to dwell on this. I appreciate that something like this can cause as many mental problems as physical, but I really don't want to live my life like that. Maybe it's excessively stoical of me, but who wants to live their life like that?

Mad props to my wife for helping to pick me up and then spending a long, uncomfortable night at the hospital before heading off to work once we got home. I just went to bed, but she's hardcore.

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