• Dan Cardwell

Patience: Zero/ Home is where the hurt is

You know when people pass away after a long battle with illness and their friends and family say things like ‘they were so brave’ or ‘I never once heard them complain’. Judging by the way I behave after breaking my leg, if I was ever unfortunate to face such a thing, my family and friends would say ‘He was more scared than anyone I’ve ever seen’ and ‘he didn’t stop moaning all the time’ and ‘It’s sad that he’s gone, but, I could do with the break’.

Even the physio was getting annoyed with me. She was just about to go through all the manipulation, exercises, the pain and getting me out of bed. When your leg is broken and you have to move around on crutches, it really is hard work. It feels like hardcore exercise. Thankfully, the ward is oppressively hot, and they’ve stuck the two oldest guys who always feel the cold near the window, so there’s never any fresh air coming in either.

The physio went to help me get out of bed. As her hands went near to my leg, I let out a whimper. She laughed at the fact that she hadn’t even touched me. I can’t help it – I’ve always had this thing when I moan in anticipation of pain. Often, the anticipation elicits more of a response than the actual pain itself. I’m pretty chilled out most of the time, but when it comes to health and pain, I am a full on panicker.

My childhood GP used to think I was a hypochondriac. Although, in fairness to him, every time I saw him, I was moaning about being ill. I used to think he would just dismiss me because he had a thing for my Mum – I was sure there was literally no diagnosis he wouldn’t skip past fast as possible to enquire after her (“I’m afraid we have to amputate. So, how’s your mother?”). But, in retrospect, I could see how my constant trips to see him could’ve become tiresome. Although, having heard my brother’s experience of him (my brother was a less frequent visitor to the surgery so was taken more seriously), it’s something I should be glad of. My brother’s younger than me and I was a little kid at the time, so you can understand his lack of understanding when he got concerned one day at noticing one of his balls hung a lot lower than the other. He booked an appointment to ensure this wasn’t medically worrisome, only to be told by the doc that it was perfectly normal.

“If you go home right now and compare your testicles side by side with your brothers, you will see they all hang at different lengths, it’s perfectly natural.”

Thankfully, my brother took his word for it.

Anyway, despite the NHS staff being properly gawd bless ‘em fantastic, the chronically underfunded service places more of a premium on beds than a Premier Inn on their shitty breakfast, so as soon as you get the hang of crutches and can make your way to the loo without the aid of other humans, you’re out on your ear. Which worried me.

Don’t get me wrong – my home had my wife, my TV, my own toilet and things like temperature control and fresh air. I wanted to get home. But I hardly felt steady on my feet and my home did suffer from a distinct lack of trained medical professionals. And drugs.

So now I’m home. Sadly, I failed the stair test the morning I left (literally as it sounds – they tested if I could get up the stairs - I managed one step and found it so exhausting and painful, as I looked at the rest of the staircase I was supposed to climb, it took on the resemblance of one of those Escher drawings). So, we had to arrange for kind friends to loan us a single bed, which they set-up in the living room. I’m basically laying around in the lounge like the Grandad from Charlie and the chocolate factory. Except, I have a genuine reason, and won’t be able to jump up and get moving just because a bit of free chocolate is on offer (and I bloody love chocolate).

And my wife is doing a great job. She’s running around after me, helping prepare me for when I have to wash at the sink, bringing me tea and coffee all day, helping move pillows to try and make me comfortable, bringing me more tea and coffee, bringing me food. Leaving me a flask of tea when she goes to bed.

But now, I’m panicking. It does hurt a lot more at home – there’s no special bed that folds to get comfy or raise to get up. There’s no physios on hand to help you as you try to stumble around. And, they didn’t give you any advice on what to do in specific situations – the other day, I slipped and put out my bad leg to steady myself, which resulted in pain, but also a lot of swelling. And I was freaking out – is it best I rest it, or will that slow down recovery, should I be doing my exercises and moving about anyway, ignoring the pain to make sure I build the knee up quicker? It keeps me up at night. Well, that and all the caffeine.

So, in my panic, I’m laying here, moaning in anticipation of pain, moaning at actual pain, moaning that I don’t know what to do when I hurt myself, moaning that I don’t know if to rest or exercise.

I wouldn’t blame the wife if she would prefer I had a terminal illness to be honest. I think she’d be sad I was gone, but she could certainly do with the break.

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