The tale of a left ankle… (June-July 2009)

Let me start by saying that this guy is not a hypochondriac.  Many are, but not me.  I solider on with limbs hanging off  spraying arterial blood in all directions, that kind of guy!  However, we all have our permanent weaknesses and two of mine are left ankle and knee.This dates back donkey’s years through many sprainings, ligament tears and more besides – not least when my sister and her friends took me faster around the ice rink than my body wanted to go, and left me howling in agony on the ice.  But did I give up?  Did I hell!  Kept going until I got home, took off my shoes and socks and discovered an ankle twice its usual dimensions and a very fetching shade of deep purple!  Further diagnosis revealed a break somewhere in the bony archipelago of my lower leg.Since then the ankle has flared up periodically, as if that would stop me punishing myself!!  Not a bit of it.  I used to have a rigorous gym regime that included pounding on the treadmill for 30 minutes after a tortuous pedalling session and gruelling cross-trainer antics.  For a time this seemed to work fine.  No problem, I thought!  Alas, my body began to tell a different story and eventually the ankle and knee hurt like hell when I dared venture above 6km/hr.  So I learned my lesson and stuck to power walking, consigning my running days to history.  Even now, if I were about to miss the bus I would probably hobble like an arthritic giraffe than risk running full tilt.  Ah, the joys of aging…A few weeks ago I went to a business meeting in Brixton.  No, no, really – Brixton is a lovely area and I’ve come to enjoy going there, Streatham and lots of other places around Lambeth borough!  So it was that I stepped away from my meeting full of the joys of Spring and promptly fell over the kerb and almost under the wheels of a reversing van.  Call it a minimum suicide attempt if you like.  Anyway, I got up, dusted myself down, tried to regain some dignity, took a step forwards and felt the crippling pain of a lightly sprained ankle.  I could put some weight on it, so I knew it wasn’t too bad, but even so the warm Brixton air was momentarily much bluer.

I tried to walk it off for a few minutes, got a bus back to the office and did my last hour of the day.  Mistake number one: do that and the muscles seize up.  So I walked off to my bus even more giraffe-like than usual.  Got home and continued with life as usual, sure that it would soon mend itself and everything would be alright.

Actually, I went through the next week thinking like that!  The following Friday I had a day in London, met a friend, walked around, went for a drink, wandered some more, caught a tube and eventually got home feeling like a had a bloody stump where my foot had once been.  Mistake number two:  sprains need rest, so overdo it at your peril!!  Spent that night with the foot raised on two pillows and a bag of frozen peas applied to the swelling.

So to this week, 3 weeks on from the original injury.  It was still swollen and painful, but on I went regardless.  And then walked over an uneven paving slab and twisted it again!  This time if felt like a hot knife had sliced through my leg and was busily amputating what was left of my foot.  Excrutiating!  But still I carried on, took two paracetamol and ignored the injury til I got home.  The appearance was utterly horrific – a large bruise and swelling such that I could barely get the shoe off.  It was also noticeable that the ankle felt sore but at least usable when I was on the move, but sitting down was murder.  Didn’t matter what position I had the leg in, which way I crossed it, the ankle throbbed like someone was banging a large pair of kettledrums somewhere down my shins.

Mistake number three:  if your body tells you something is wrong, do something about it.  I didn’t even get to a GP let alone bother our hard-stretched A&E resources, in spite of friends begging and pleading with me to go.  So here we are: some weeks on and still with a swollen ankle.

Today I thought I would pack the paper and my play script to go learn my lines, maybe drive over to A&E in Chelmsford, and settle down for a few blissful hours on a Saturday afternoon.  It was thundering outside, but no way was I going to be put off caring for myself.  Opened the front door and….. some bugger had parked his/her car over the drive so I couldn’t reverse out! :S

That’s it – maybe I should call 999 and get them to come to me?  Or get the breadknife and amputate my own ankle?! (only joking!! :D)

Ankle revisited… (July 2009)

Right, so there I was on a Sunday afternoon in A&E.  About 4 hours in total, all a bit of a blur in hindsight.  Lots of waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Then everything took off without warning: inspection from the sister, X-ray, reinspection, diagnosis, cure – delivered in stentorian tones that have probably changed little since the days of Florence Nightingale and Victoria.   The message was stern:  chipped bone, leg in plaster 4-6 weeks, using crutches, no weight on the plaster.  Oh, and no driving, no baths or showers, no buses, no nothing.  Especially not that! :S

My mind ablaze with a myriad of logistical nightmares, I decided rapidly to go my own way and ignore the dire prognostications.  Yes, I drove home.  Well, I knew there was a good reason for buying an auto transmission Beamer!  Not to mention the fact that I’m a bit of a rebel on the quiet – what more satisfaction could be gained than to thumb your nose to the dire warnings and continue with life regardless?

Or try to.  How do you solve the bathing problem?  Manual washing?  Tie a bag around the plaster?  Shower with one leg hanging out?  Hmmmm….  Then the driving issue – how would I get groceries?  Order online!  Ah, but I couldn’t guarantee being around when they were delivered… and so it went on.

Getting around on crutches was the most difficult bit.  In the street they are less than easy to use and a physical menace, though I guess I have a ready weapon in the event of attack!.  After all, living on your own on the top floor of a town house in a place where you have few friends to help is not entirely practical, nor conducive to easy living in changed circumstances.  Hey ho, do you give up?  Not a bit of it – you get on with life, don’t allow such encumbrances to bother you, perish the thought!

So it was that on Monday morning, albeit three times slower than usual, I ventured forth on my journey to Lambeth for client work.  The incentive was simple enough: no work, no pay!  And truth to tell, it worked out quite well.  To begin with, people are unquestionably kind hearted, give up their seats and help you out – or most of them.  On the way home I was pinned between two people on a narrow seat and with no room to stretch an aching leg while the train dawdled due to signal failures.  Ouch!

Did have to change a few appointments to make people come to me rather than me going to them, but that apart work was fine.  Injury no handicap!

Then came Tuesday:  the Fracture Clinic.  For these purposes, my ex-wife Jean kindly volunteered to drive over to Chelmsford and take me back to Broomfield for my 11:05 appointment.  Not that I was seen at 11:05, given that they deliberately overbook, see children first and don’t make allowance for complex cases often requiring admission.

First audience was to inform me that since I am 50, as near as dammit, they would be screening me for osteo arthritis in September.  My bones, the specialist informed me, might well be thinning.  Coming from a family saturated in arthritic relatives, that would be not the slightest surprise.  More fun to look forward to!

Eventually, close to 1:30, I was finally ushered in for an audience with the orthopaedic surgeon, who pored over my x-rays with a deep frown etched on his youngish face.  He began with a monologue about the many and varied problems with my poorly, swollen ankle.  The bad news: torn ligaments, evidence of arthritis, fragments of bone floating around, all evidence of considerable past injury.  The good news: no fracture!!  Everything else but, seemingly – the previous diagnosis having been confused by the warzone of my left ankle.

Benefits:  the wretched plaster came off, and I could once again bathe, drive and do all the other things so cruelly denied me!  Ah, but the treatment didn’t stop there, no sirree!  I need physio to re-educate my brain that I have an ankle there with a ligament in place and working.  This struck me as a bit odd, but who am I to question an orthopod, a saint of a man healing assorted physical injuries with a wave of his scalpel, conveying replacement joints like confetti?!  Shame they don’t do replacement ankles, I thought to myself…

So there we have it. Still becrutched, but able to hobble about on the sore ankle.  Won’t be doing any running and may well have a season ticket at the hospital car park, by the sound of it, but at least I’m more mobile than I was.  Here endeth the lesson! 😀

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