The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th November 2021

Big news: I am plaster cast free. Oh the joy. My wrist is stiff and a bit sore, I have to make sure I don’t lift heavy objects, I have a splint to wear when I am not exercising or engaged in an undemanding activity, and my sling is still a good idea when I am out and about.

I had been trying not have my hopes too high before attending fracture clinic this morning. Obviously I wanted the X-rays to show everything was healing well, but I didn’t want to pre-empt anything and come crashing down in disappointment. The waiting area is airy and light. We are all spaced out, or rather the seats are. Some patients might have been actually spaced out, I shouldn’t like to say. Michèle had been there yesterday. I don’t think there’s a way we can make our appointments chime, though it would be nice. Instead I wondered if I were sitting where she had sat yesterday (no, she was in the area reserved for wheelchair users), and that made me wonder about a series of narratives, tales of different people sitting in the same spot throughout the day.

I settled down to read more of The Sun is Open by Gail McConnell. Two weeks ago I became suddenly a fan, having previously been entirely ignorant of her work. It was while I was in Northern Ireland. Two days after Uncle Bill’s 100th, there were the annual John Hewitt Birthday Readings. For a while I have thought I’d like to attend, and that thought was cemented last year when Roger Robinson and Sinead Morrissey did the readings and had a discussion online. So Fiona and I had tickets. Only Fiona was not well, so I attended alone.

What a friendly welcoming bunch the John Hewitt lot are. A lovely man, very dapper and with silver hair took my name and made me welcome. I didn’t recognise his name, but it turns out he’s a literary agent and an actor. We were chatting, and he told me Tome French, one of the poets, was already inside ( I was the first member of the audience to arrive having allowed myself lots of time as I didn’t know where the venue was and thought it more than likely I should get lost). I picked up a book of poems by another of the poets Siobhan Campbell and was immediately taken by her work. Lucky perhaps, as she arrived while I was reading it. I bought two books of her poems as gifts, and decided to leave it there. The third poet arrived, Gail McConnell, dressed in black but with a bright yellow checked jacket.

I recognised some members of the audience from other literary events I have enjoyed down the years. People were talking to each other and it would have been easy to have felt excluded, but somehow I didn’t. It was as though I was included, though silently in the warm embrace of the John Hewitt Society.

It was a small audience, an intimate audience. I settled down in my seat. As it was in a lecture theatre at the university there was a comfortable ledge to rest my beslinged arm and throw my coat. I didn’t take notes. The lights dimmed. The evening began. The poets read in alphabetical order, so Siobhan was up first, then Tom, then Gail. I am not actually on first name terms with the poets, but I think if I were to move to Belfast I might be soon.

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Stayin’ Alive

Five months today since I smashed my wrist. Maybe I should have bought flowers to commemorate the day, but actually I did something far more exciting.

Bike in the Park

Bike in the Park

In the weeks following the accident I seriously wondered if I would ever get back on my bike. It stayed locked up in the bike shelter, gradually getting dirtier and dustier while I looked at adult push scooters, and waited for my fracture to mend.

I thought about selling my bike; unravelling the floral garland; removing the star shaped reflectors from the spokes; handing it over to a stranger along with my cycle clips, gloves and hi-viz jacket. It felt like betrayal. But I was scared. What would happen if I broke my wrist a second time? The talk of possible nerve damage when I was in A&E kept playing in a loop around my head. I’d got away with it this time, but a future when I couldn’t use my right hand made me cold with fear.

The consultant was reassuring. With all the metal in my arm, even if I broke it again, it would be in a different place. Rather haughtily I was told they had done all the wondrous and wonderful work on my wrist exactly so I could ride my bike again.

So the problem was me, how I felt, not my healing wrist. I kept renewing my bus pass and stopped looking at my bike. Deep down, I believed my cycling days were done. Continue reading

X-Ra(y)ted

I was feeling pretty good while I waited at the Fracture Clinic this morning. Seeing people at the start of their fracture recovery reminded me just how well my wrist has mended. So I sat there, reading some notes, then playing Spider solitaire on my ‘phone, while Lorraine talked on the television screen. Occasionally I did one of my wrist exercises.

The clinic was running late. It always runs late so far as I can tell. A notice reminds you that you should allow two hours for your appointment. There is a constant stream of people who have broken bits of themselves and a finite number of staff to deal with them. Still, most seem fairly accepting, knowing that their turn will come. In the early stages there are new x-rays to be taken, the plaster room to provide fresh strapping, the clinic physio to see. Today I was just waiting to see the consultant for the last time.

My turn came about an hour after the appointed time. The consultant was smiley. He looked at my x-rays; said again what a bad fracture it had been – the word smashed was used, not for the first time; he looked at the x-rays of the metalwork. I asked if I could photograph the screen as I am still waiting for my CD.

So here they are. Or at least some of them.

First up, my perfect wrist, x-rayed some years ago before I had surgery for carpal tunnel.

Perfect Wrist

Perfect Wrist

A fine example of delicate bones fitting nicely together to make this wonderfully articulated joint.

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The Naked Arm

I could show you a picture of my newly naked arm. The consultant pronounced my healing stitches beautiful, which was enough to let me know I wouldn’t be asking him for art exhibition recommendations. I hope and expect it’ll look more pleasant in time. I scar fairly easily, so I anticipate a visible line down my arm for the rest of my days.
So instead, here’s a photo of tulips and ceanothus from the hospital grounds.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

London has moved on from cherry blossom to ceanothus and lilac. The shrubs and trees in their glorious blues, mauves and white obtrude prolifically across pavements and brighten the dullest corners.It is incredible how, in such a short space of time, leafless trees are thickly green and abundant; roses have burst into bloom; the cherries are already forming as the blossom petals still carpet the grass. Spring is my favourite season; the embodiment of hope and possibility. Funny to say so when the first anniversary of Mother’s death is only a week away, and I hope it presages a new acceptance, and a shift to good memories infusing the future. Continue reading

Milestones

A week ago today I broke my wrist and everyday activities are new territory. I am (proudly) notching up my achievements. They may not seem impressive, but remember this is my right wrist, I am right-handed and I have never claimed to be ambidextrous. So, here goes:

  • Washing my hair. Well, I thought that I’d start with the most impressive, so basically it’s downhill from here. Coordinating taps, shampoo, jug and above all rinsing, left me so tired I had to have an afternoon nap.
  • Having a bath. In the hospital I had a fabulous wetroom. I took pictures with my ‘phone which I must download.  At home I feel less confident about using the shower over the bath, not least because I fear getting my plastercast wet. But strip washes palled very quickly, and the joy of a shallow bath cannot be underestimated.
  • Frying an egg. Actually I cut and fried scallions and mushrooms too, but it was the one handed breaking of the egg, extracting it with the yolk unbroken and cooking it without large quantities of accompanying shell that made my head swell.
  • Poaching an egg. One up from frying. Obviously anything involving boiling water requires a lot of caution. My morning coffee is the top feat of each day.
  • Paying in  a cheque at the bank. With enormous concentration and my tongue stickung out through my teeth, I used my left hand to complete the details in a wobbly, though legible scrawl.
  • Getting in and out of bed. Cycling is out for the moment, as is hulahooping as I need two hands to get me started. However, my stomach muscles have been getting a work out to lever myself not just from bed but also from armchairs.
  • Doing the washing up. I lied about the hairwashing; this is my hardest task each day. Especially the porridge pan on the morning when I took my eye off it for a moment and it erupted like an edible Vesuvius all over the stove.
  • Getting dressed. Each sleeve has to be tested to discover if it is navigable. I’m pretty good with the socks and knicks, but the bra took a few days to work out.

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A Day and a Night in Hospital

If I was going to have an accident, breaking my wrist yards from the A&E entrance of Tommy’s was about the best location for it to happen.
Although it would have been nice to have my op straightaway, it was also nice to go home, and I was told that as it wasn’t a clean break, the team would want to discuss who was best to do it. Of course I wanted the best. Who wouldn’t? But by half past nine yesterday morning, with no word from the hospital and my blood sugars sinking rapidly, I was becoming wobbly and weepy. Just before ten, to distract myself, I went onto the landing with some recycling. Naturally I missed the call. While I listened to the message, my mobile rang, but by the time I reached it, it had stopped. The message left bothered me. It implied the caller thought I had been ‘phoned already and might be in the hospital, but if not, to call and speak to the on call surgeon. If anyone from Tommy’s reads this, please note that it would have been helpful to leave a direct number to call back, as my stress levels rose trying to reach the right person and being put on hold several times.

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