Friday, 25 September 2015

The Ragnar Hairybreeks Question
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So, once again the routine fasting, pill, etc. etc., into the black and out again, surfacing to High Dependency and a degree of pain that overrode anything I’d experienced before.
They often ask you to rate your pain, 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst you’d ever known. My 10 had been tooth abscess or childbirth (in their different ways they make you want to bang your head against the wall). When the nurses turned me over after the hip operations, that rated 15, but at least it didn’t last long. This pain was monstrous, way beyond 20, and the nurses hadn’t even got near the turnover bit. When they came near, I gripped the rails and wouldn’t be turned. They retreated, muttering. The monster carried on biting.
Then Karen appeared and saw that this was beyond the usual amount of nastiness. Almost at once her professional eye saw what was wrong. “Your morphine line isn’t connected,” she said, swiftly scanned the room to see who was available, and, there being no-one, connected it up; as the blessed dope took hold, I drifted back down towards the old 10 mark. Phew.
There is absolutely nothing so good as having one of your own folk looking out for you when you’re helpless.
That hiccup aside, recovery was straightforward, but the outcome was a notch or two across the fuzzy line that divides disabled from normal: I still (about 5 years later) need crutches, and even with crutches the sense of balance is iffy, for the bad leg is now a bit shorter than it used to be; it’s surprising how small a difference is enough to throw a body off balance. Moving about now is like doing a slightly difficult climb, looking all the time for the next hold, so as not to tip over.
Would I have to go into rehab, conquer the stairs, make breakfast? No, because now I had a nurse at home (Karen), they were happy to let me go. Grateful as I was for being mended, and for the effort that had gone into the repairs, and for the nurses, doctors, auxiliaries, tea-ladies, vampires, cleaners, physios and OTs, many of whom had gone out of their way to be kind and helpful beyond the call of duty, I didn’t want to go back in there again.
While home was where I wanted to be, there were things that went on being difficult, and still are: putting socks on, for instance; showering – for as soon as the shampoo makes me shut my eyes, I start falling, so each shower provides excitement parallel to a day on the Buachaille long ago.
shadows on the road at sunset
Gradually crutching distance has increased, but now I’ve gone as far as I can -  on a good day about 500 yards, half way to the nearest bus stop; when I get back after this enormous distance I am far more exhausted than after the 8-hour day long ago when Allen and I sewed up the whole of Glencoe [post of August 2013], a total ascent of 8,600 feet. Age plays a part in the difference, of course, but a minor part.
It will be obvious to any reader of the early posts in this blog that I have vivid memories of weekends spent with climbing buddies. Almost all of them died on the hill, far too young. One winter night I lay sleepless in the C.I.C. hut beneath the cliffs of Ben Nevis, knowing that Ted, one of our group, was lying outside the hut in a plastic bag, having fallen on the way down from the summit. How cold and lonely he must be out there in the snow - even while I realised how absurd that thought was, for the thing in the body-bag would never be cold or lonely again.
Back then, each fatality was shocking. Now I envy them. No doubt the end was unpleasant, but it was quick, and each one of them died doing the thing he loved.
Whereas I have lived on to become ultimately a burden, costing the NHS an amount both in money and in effort that would doubtless stagger me if I knew what it was.
Of course I am grateful for the effort that has mended this aged body, and for the time that Mike and Margaret, Sheena, Trish and Peter, Ken and Pauline, Lesley, as well as my immediate family have spent visiting; and of course the present state of the aged body, while irritating, is perfectly liveable.
Only I wonder if it has been worth that much effort.
As Ragnar Hairybreeks (was it?) asked: "Is this how you wish to be remembered?"
Back in February ’07, as I lay on the kitchen floor wondering if Widget was going to eat me, might it not have been far more economical to shoot Old and Idle now that it was broken and useless?
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(The end (with luck))


  1. Much more economical never to live at all.
    Who gets the job of shooting the fallen old?
    What kind of van would they drive?

    1. you don't have choice about whether to live at all

      do it yourself (or the cyanide pill)

      who? the fallen old? the vet? any van would surely be fine?