Well, Poot!

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‘Poot’ being a polite way of saying what I screamed to the unfeeling skies late on Thursday afternoon when I tripped up a little step in the garden, fell awkwardly, and dislocated my shoulder.

There was the inevitable moment of flight, the sudden intervention of gravity, and then I was aware that my outstretched hand had somehow hit the ground wrong and it was taking my rigid left arm forward at an angle which boded No Good At All1. I am no svelte young thing, so when my torso weighed in at the moment of impact, there was an ominous crunching and tearing sound which reminded me of 500 giant cows all ripping up a section of lush meadow grass at the same time. I knew then that Something Bad had happened.

Instinctively, I rolled onto my back, and was informed by my entire nervous system that the Something Bad was extraordinarily painful, and, having managed to completely immobilise my arm, was settling in for the long haul. There was no way I could bring my arm close enough to my body to attempt to get up. I tried grabbing it with my right hand and gently easing it over (Oh fuuuuuuuu …. cckkkk, that hurts!), and I tried inching my body around to meet it (“GAAAAAHHHH! No-no-no, that’s worse!) and in this I was hampered by the presence of a narrow flowerbed bordering my garage wall. I was on my back with my arm stretched out sideways at 90 degrees and I could not move. It was a dead weight – albeit a painful one.

I don’t know if any of you have ever dislocated a shoulder. I am told that it’s one of the most painful of dislocations because an awful lot of very large muscles keep your shoulder in place and when it is out of place, they go into spasm to let you know that Something is Wrong and needs fixing, and it needs fixing now. But they don’t do it all at once – oh no. Over time, they gradually increase their grip and so, just as you are getting to grips with one level of pain, they ramp it up and make you cry again2. I don’t like opiates, but after two hours lying there waiting for an ambulance and in screaming agony, I was thinking extremely friendly thoughts indeed about them.

By the time the paramedic got to me, I’d been laying on rapidly chilling concrete for two and a half hours. My pain level had passed my previous worst a long time ago, and seemed to me to be hovering around a 12 on the 1-10 Chart of Degrees of Pain. This may, to be fair, have something to do with the fact that I have fibromyalgia, which helpfully amplifies any pain signals going around and adds a few extras of its own, but as I said, shoulder dislocations have quite the reputation.

Obviously, people at risk of dying from cardiac arrest, bleeding, poisoning, burns, or any other critical condition are going to take precedence, also small children and the frail elderly – and damn right, so they should. After all, I was only suffering extreme pain and some non-life-threatening damage. But I wonder if those idiots think – really think – about the consequences of calling 999 for a non-urgent problem? You see, what happens is that when a true emergency call comes in, there literally may not be an ambulance at the station to send out to it. They have to wait for one to come back in, complete any paperwork (I assume? There’s always paperwork …) and then send it out to the next on the list.

Should I complain about the delay. I am undecided. I fell at around 4.30pm, the first paramedic came at about 7pm, was brilliant and very quickly gave me that blessed morphine. He had then to wait for the grown-up ambulance and a second guy to actually get me off the ground after air-splinting my arm, which they did so gently and efficiently and with the help of Entonox (wonderful stuff), and I was transorted to A&E where I had another wait for x-rays before the dislocation was finally reduced at somwhere around 11pm. That’s seven hours3.

But.

There was apparently ‘high demand’ for the ambulance service that evening. There were a lot of other people in A&E that night, all needing treatment, some of them critical, some of them in worse case than me, and all hoping that they would be next in for treatment. The nurses were brilliant, the radiographer and the doctor efficient and kind, everyone endlessly patient. They were all doing their best. On the one hand, I am extremely grateful that we have a freely available and free-to-use NHS. I won’t be getting any bills, there won’t be an insurance claim (unless I bent my sunglasses) and I certainly won’t have to remortgage the house. On the other hand, it is a hell of a long time for an over-60-year-old to lie on the ground in pain, getting freezing cold and both busting for a pee and desperate for a drink. And the sling they gave me to keep my shoulder still is complete crap and flat out does not work.

But hopefully, those on the critical list who also rode to hospital in an ambulance on Thursday will have been treated much more promptly, and with a bit of luck and the skill of those wonderful healthcare professionals are now doing OK.

1 – Yes, I know I’m supposed to fold and roll, but I failed, OK?

2 – And scream and swear and roundly curse all of those stupid, selfish people who have ever called an ambulance for a bruised knee, because they’ve been sick for a week and now the doctor’s is shut, because they think they might have been bitten by a spider, or simple to save the taxi fare or to make a point.

3 – What was the first thing I was taught about dislocations when I did my veterinary nurse’s training? The sooner a joint is put back into place, the more likely it is to be successful. Ah, well.

A Conversation with OH

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We were going upstairs.

I was ahead of OH, but we were both struggling with fatigue after a long day doing not very much at all1

Me: ‘Aaaaagghhh! I’m sure there are five more stairs here today. Who’s been adding steps to our staircase?’

OH: ‘I dunno!’

We made it to the top and he paused.

OH: ‘Can you count?’

Me: ‘You want me to count? Why? What do you want me to count?’

OH: ‘Oh, nothing … I just wondered, because I’m sure it was more than five!’

We are in our early sixties. I’m sure we shouldn’t be feeling like this all the time. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been ill for so long, on and off, with this fluey bug thing we picked up back in November? And I do know that interrupted sleep can really do a number on you, and we both wake far too many times in the night …

I know early sixties isn’t old, as such, but we feel it. OH has various disorders, including Type 2 diabetes (though he doesn’t really accept that he’s any more than ‘borderline’) and now has a trapped nerve in his shoulder which is causing his hand to go numb, which means he drops things. I have various disorders, including fibromyalgia, and a cough which has persisted for months. Neither of us has any energy. So we are off to another round of ‘further investigations'; he for physio and an appointment with a orthopaedic consultant, and I for a chest x-ray (for starters). Oh, deep joy.

We know people of around our own age – and some older than us – who do exciting things like cycling around Peru, or climbing mountains, etc. And we want to know how they do it! To me, these days, cooking dinner is an achievement, and I have a huge dog bed in the bath which is waiting to be rinsed because I got halfway through washing it and my neck and shoulders seized up.

Is this the Winter Blues, do you think? I mean, we both did quite a lot of walking – stairs and everything – when we were in Italy last year, and an envelope through the door yesterday reminded me of a day-long dog show trade stand I usually manage to pull off (with help from OH, of course), and which they’d like me to do again this year. Anyway, I don’t feel depressed. Just old and creaky.

I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to ask when was the last time I used that treadmill, aren’t you? And I’m going to say ‘I can’t remember, but at the moment it’s covered in boxes which I tossed up there when I was tidying up for Christmas’ and then you’re going to say ‘Well, there you are, then!’ in that way that people do, and you’d be right. So let’s take that as read.

Tomorrow morning, I promise. I will at least get those boxes sorted and dust it off, okay?

And then, we’ll see…

1 But which felt like a long day doing a heck of a lot of things on account of the fact that we’ve both been unwell for so long. We’d walked the dogs and been shopping, and made cups of tea, stuff like that.