In the last five years, Mountain Biking has taken me to many special places. Almost none of these include prolonged stays in hospital. Oh I’ve crashed a lot, escaped painful injury through a combination of lady luck and body armour while ferrying/carrying/laughing at those unfortunates who have collected scars, plaster casts and hospital food as badges of honour.
Of course it’ll never happen to me. I’m too busy/nesh/careful to have an accident requiring hospitalisation. Especially on a day I’d no intention to ride. Realistically hammering a nail through an unsuspecting finger or receiving a paint based toxicology injury were far more likely. Yep, that was me, rebel with a paintbrush.
What follows is chronologically romp through the low and lower points of the following four days. Please don’t misunderstand me here; I’ve not edited out the high points; there just weren’t any.
Received pleading text message from Andy desperate for a beer with a pre-ride chaser. The happy discovery that my slapdash “chuck it at the fence and see what sticks” painting technique had exhausted our paint supplies, created a window of opportunity through which I joyfully jumped and headed out to the trails.
Since riding was cutting deep into our drinking time, we raced sun baked dusty trails serially excusing piss poor performance through pointlessly high corner entry speeds, poor line choice and fitness grown fat on summer beer. Kicking dust motes skywards silhouetted against a falling sun, we revelled in the rock hard ground – riding fast and loose on trails cartographed into my mind and hard wired into my muscles.
Much much more fun than anything with a paintbrush.
Heading pubwards on a cheeky evening bridleway with only the sound of Andy’s chattering forks inches from my rear tyre for company, the off camber, steep sided flinty trail was treated with lofty disdain which familiarity breeds. I mean this is the benign Chilterns for God’s sake, there’s nothing dangerous here and there is no way I’m letting the old fat fella get past me. Bragging rights over a cold beer await.
Oh dear. I appear to have crashed rather badly.
Andy, fellow professional northerner and trained first aider, took a look at the damage while pointedly ignoring my whimpering. The knee looked dreadful but didn’t hurt much. Well not as much as a wrist to shoulder wound filled with trail dirt and seasoned heavily with AB rhesus positive. And my shoulders were spasming amusingly not due to the original crash rather Andy’s riderless bike smashing into them while I lie prone and winded. Talk about adding insult to injury – the insult was “fucking hell, aren’t I suffering enough?”
“Tha’ll be needing to get that to ‘ospital lad” Andy offered while pouring cold water into open wounds and fashioning bandages from handkerchiefs. “Can tha ride?” he asked followed by a scratch of the chin and a reflective “Tha’d better be able to cause its fooking miles back t’car”” Who could refuse such an offer as that?
It wasn”t that bad actually as long as I didn’t look at it. Other trail users looked aghast as flaps of skin spitting blood were accompanied by a cheery “nothing to worry about, a mere flesh wound“. Adrenalin is a fine pain killer, it just doesn’t last very long.
It lasted long enough for Andy to drive me to hospital and to be gently prodded by the triage nurse. “How did you do this then?” she innocently enquired to which I couldn’t help but reply “Badly executed throw at the All-Chiltern Herring Chucking Contest” which earned me a tighter bandage that I would otherwise expected. I’m assuming this was also the reason she spurned my offer to clean up my arm during the expected two hour wait to be treated. Instead I took her advice that “somebody who knows what they’re doing should sort that for you” and watch it form a painful crust infused with bits of tree and rock.
My knee hurts now. Andy’s taken the car and bikes and my wife and kids’ll be back soon. I feel like an idiot. I also feel like some strong painkillers would be in order. Still the thought of a couple of medicinal Scotches post stitching keeps my spirits up.
Amazing I mused. Apparently we’ve put twice as much money into the NHS over the last seven years than during the previous period. Is it just me wondering where all the bloody money went? The magazine collection kept me amused if not interested. Aside from the thousand facsimiles of Womans Weekly – content “10 ways to get thin this summer”, “Why Men are Bastards” and “Asparagus – the forgotten vegetable” – I was left with those bastions of the hospital circuit “Coarse Fishing” and “What Caravan“” (answer NONE).
Alternating a page of each which is quite amusing in a “Who the hell leaves this stuff here?” way. Why no playboy even with the pages stuck together? I’m building a theory that old magazines never die, they just shuffle off into a parallel waiting room existence. Go on, try and and find “Carp World incorporating who gives a fuck” in any proper retailer. Never going to happen.
Finally called with a few others to the “Minor Injuries Unit“. Minor Injury, excuse me I don’t want to go all Tony Hancock on you here but I’ve almost lost a leg. Wife and Kids turn up wanting to see the damage – find pissed off dad/husband wanting to get this over with and go home. Sweaty, tired and in a bit of pain but mostly playing it back through my mind – how did I fall off there right on my doorstep. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Still here. Still not been seen. Lots of ill looking people. Want to be out of here more than almost anything. One child accidentally knocks bloody knee. Consider adoption.
“Oh that’s pretty bad, we may need to keep you in” was the initial assessment of a rather jolly nurse called Peter. Nurse? Bloke? Is it just me? Anyway, the Doctor on call is a bit busy so they’ll send me to X-Ray just in case there’s bone floating about in there. Suddenly this has got a little serious. Keep me in? Jesus, that was like meeting the grim reaper down the pub. Talk about unexpected and scary.
Arrive at X-Ray. Radiologist is in theatre dealing with an emergency. That’s not me then. I spend some quality time counting bricks in a wall and reading how Kylie conquered breast cancer. Think she probably didn’t have to deal with the NHS, shame a bit of a sing song would cheer the “Non X-Ray’d 4″ up no end. My three companions are in various states of dress and physical fitness. Between us there’s probably one healthy body. Hope no one gets my liver.
Pontificating on whether I could pay BUPA to pick me up and pamper me senseless even if I have to mortgage the house. Knee swollen and painful, arm not really any use as the blood/scar tissue have set solid. Mind on a loop “stupid, stupid, stupid“
Hot Spare Radiologist arrives. Hurray! Two other cases more important than me and since once is strapped to a spinal board and the other is a young women in serious finger pain (having dislocated said digit prodding her boyfriend – man he’s trying hard not to piss himself laughing), I can hardly complain.
Third case more important. Irritatingly tap non injured leg and barely contain urge to scream at someone.
“Can you lay you knee flat?” “oooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww ohfuckohfuckno” “okay then, do the best you can“. She’s being nice but clearly thinks I’m being a total wimp.
Back in the Minor Injuries unit feeling majorly injured. Dislocated finger girl screaming as they try to point her digit the same way as the other three. Christ I hate hospitals, they are full of sick people.
Finally Doctor bloke walks in looking knackered and stressed. He’s way younger than me but even more world weary. Takes a look, makes a noise like the car mechanic when explaining that a million pounds might just cover it, and instructs various minions to clean out the wounds so he can stitch it.
Wow we’re really moving now. Male Nurse (ug, is it still me?) is a top bloke and decides there is no way they can clean it without either knocking me out or giving me a stick to chew on. We agree on a halfway house where he injects anaesthetic into the open wound. I’ll not forget that in a hurry. I ask for the stick anyway. Here’s a tip – when someone wearing any kind of medical attire apologises with “this may hurt a bit“they really are leveraging the power of understatement.
Bliss. Knee is on planet pissed and I can#t feel anything. Purple haired nurse turns up and cleans it out bringing forth an extraordinary cocktail of trail debris. Any minute now I’m expecting that scene out of alien and something badger sized to leap out of the gaping wound. My disappointment deepened when the non anesthetised arm is at the mercy of what I can only describe as a hygienic wire brush. Bring back the needles. And the stick.
Anaesthetic wearing off. This is not good as the Doc has to stitch this and the though of him wielding the needle on swollen, tender skin has me on the wrong side of extremely perturbed. Carol’s logistically perfect as ever and grimly endures my whinging monologue happy in the knowledge that Andy – parenting technique: “tha makes any noise and I’ll put pair of ya in t’cooking pot”. is now looking after the kids at home.
Doc returns breathless apologising for his tardiness. I’m a bit irritated and it shows but he spreads his hands wide and explains “I’ve been dealing with a brain tumour“. That’s me told then. I hope it’s not his own, scars I can live with, a non working knee ruthlessly removes bikes from my future. That’s almost as bad as losing a drinking arm.
Before he can stitch the knee, he must ensure the bone isn’t perforated. More syringes filled with saline are injected into the bone and any sprinkler like results mean major surgery.
Three times he tries and three times he hits bone. Oh fucking hell that really hurts. Really stupidly elbow bitingly hurts. Like a knife cutting into the bone and twisting and then twisting some more. He leaves looking concerned and I’m convinced he’s off to find a bigger needle and Steve Backley to javelin it in from the next ward.
Consultant arrives. Hes even younger. Jeez, I’m the one wearing short trousers here, surely it should be the other way round? They consult in whispers and then Doc is back to deliver the painful news: “were admitting you, it’s just not clean enough, they’ll have to angle grind it out under a general“. Or something like that.
Great. Bloody Great. Seven hours, not insignificant suffering and only now do you decide it’s too late to do get to theatre tonight. Apparently the op will be tomorrow but I’m wise to the schedule now. If I leave before they send me out in a nice pine coffin, I’ll be lucky.
Hello? Anyone there?
00:30 Wheeled up to the ward in the new part of the hospital. You can tell as the lifts work and it doesn’t smell of piss and pain. Ward seven is my new home and the bed is clean and comfortable. I wonder if it’s too late for food since the last meal was some twelve hours before. The nurse shakes her head pointing apologetically to the “Nil By Mouth” crayoned on my notes.
But would I like some painkillers. Is the bear a pope? I don’t know what they are but within minutes I’m back on the pain free planet idly wondering if the worst is over.
Follow this for the diary of Day 2