Saturday morning, bright and early, and achy – we arrived at the hospital. Paperwork was completed in record time and we made our way to the surgical ward. I was shown to a 4-bed ward which was to be my living quarters for the next couple of days, an apron-sized gown and a pair of the most appalling paper pants you have ever seen. I am utterly convinced that their sole purpose is to provide some comic relief to the otherwise bored surgical staff. Let’s face it; a chap is seldom at his matrimonial best with a mangled leg, in a nippy operating theatre, wearing turquoise see-thru pants. It was a case of, ‘Please leave your clothes, ego and dignity in the cabinet beside your bed. All medications and poor jokes will be at your expense.’
Again, credit where it is due. The nursing staff came in frequently to update me on what was happening, followed by a visit from the Anestho….Anaesth…. the bloke who puts you to sleep. Looking very efficient in the latest theatre fashions, accessorised with paper shower cap and paper booties. I neglected to ask him if was wearing his paper pants too, just in case he ran out of anaesthetic and had to administer Julius Malema’s speeches instead.
A few minutes later I was wheeled into a cold, bleak theatre where preparations were happening in green and chrome. The chatty anaesthetist also amused himself for a while with a game of hide and seek with my veins. The next moment, I was being prodded and called to wake up. It felt like a school morning and I REALLY didn’t want to get up. Through half-closed eyes, I determined I was back in the ward with the ever patient Mrs Chips.
I was feeling incredibly sleepy with a fair dollop of dizziness thrown in. But with the warmth of the ward, and the soft humming of voices of professional people doing their thing, I gave up the fight and sank into a painless oblivion. During the next several hours, I was vaguely and gratefully aware of quiet, efficient staff changing drips, checking dressings and Mrs Chips making sure I wasn’t going anywhere.
“Good morning!” said an overly cheery voice that slowly took the shape of a nurse who was wheeling a basin next to my bed. My brain grappled for some while to explain her use of the word ‘morning’ while, to all intents and purposes, it was still the previous night in all other spheres of existence, until previous experiences reminded me that the in the medical fraternity, a good patient is one who starts their day a few seconds after midnight.
Towards 9am (and the nursing staff presumably took their supper break) the pain began to become a lot more than uncomfortable. It reached a point when I felt the need to tell someone and on the next visit of a nurse I determined to ask for either a pill or a mallet on the skull.
Her reply was that the Physiotherapist would be with me shortly and I would probably want the pain killers after that. Unaccustomed to asserting my requirements for drugs, I said I’d grin and bear it. However, by the time the physio-bod pitched up, I was neither grinning nor bearing it very serenely.
Dr Sanjay, his name was. It will be forever seared into my brain – right next to the word ‘pain’. The two words will from now on be inexorably linked. However, let me take nothing away from his exemplary manner, his cheery disposition and the trouble he took to explain everything clearly and in gratifying detail. His trouble was that he made me feel I wanted to walk to show him I wasn’t a complete ninny. His praise for my paltry efforts at walking with the crutches spurred me on to greater effort. He is a brilliant man, and I’m grateful that it was my lot in life to meet up with him. However, after he left to cause upheaval in other wards, I drifted around in a sea of pain.
It must be very difficult for nursing staff to differentiate between the druggie who uses accidents like these to get on the highest plak possible, and the person whose level of discomfort has superseded his feelings of reticence or heroism and he asks for painkillers. But I got the feeling that after I asked, the nursing staff agreed amongst themselves to wait until I crawled to their admin area or took someone hostage. Maybe they were observing me through a hole in the ceiling like in Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler, My Part In His Downfall. I’m not sure.
The doctor also confirmed an interesting change in my diagnosis. I do not have a fractured Fibula. I also do not have a split kneecap. I have no explanation why these initial diagnoses were given me, but the surgeon confirmed that the kneecap tendon had been reattached to the kneecap and – by drilling holes in my Tibia and kneecap – my leg had been wired into a straight position.
It was after they had brought me one set of pills, another painkiller administered through my drip (placebos I tell you), that I managed to obtain a morphine based injection out of them. It was an interesting cocktail of opiate, paracetamol, codeine with a drop or two of Klipdrift no doubt – but it did the trick and after a five and a half hour battle with the pain, I was once again cocooned in a cloud of cotton wool, comfortably numb, as Messers Pink Floyd so aptly described their condition.
It was not a day I’d like to repeat if nobody minds. So, on Monday I determined to kill the pain outright, not simply give it a bit of a warning. I therefore asked in advance for them to be ready with strongest they had in stock, to be administered immediately upon departure of the physio. However, learning that I would in all probability be discharged soon after, I set to, displaying my new-found skills at hurtling along the passage, up and down stairs, crutches a-blur with athletic agility.
It turns out I didn’t really need much in the way of meds, and politely turned down their offer of the Pink Floyd cocktail in preference for the common or garden Stilpayne or something. While we waited for the good doctor to do his rounds, we watched football on the TV’s and made knowledgeable commentary on the play.
I was wheeled out of the Fourways Hospital just as the sun treated us to a magnificent Transvaal sunset, and as we drove home, I was glad to give thanks to the Almighty for bringing me through this little episode and to the humans who played their part.
Apart from Mrs Chips, who is not known as my better half for nothing, there are some other people who you need to know if you’re overwhelmed with the lust to damage your knees too:
- The entire trauma team at the Fourways hospital
- Dr Lipalo Mokete – Orthopaedic surgeon
- Dr Mason – Anaesthetist
- Dr Sanjay – Physiotherapist
- The nursing staff of the Surgical 2 ward.
- All my seriously high-quality friends.