As you may be aware I was in hospital last week. I wasn’t exactly sick. I wasn’t exactly in the full of my health either. I was undergoing an orthopaedic procedure called a Hip-Revision; not life-threatening by any means but painful and incapacitating – happens when a surgeon takes a scalpel, cleaver, billhook or whatever to your femur. And my commiserations to all of you who are genuinely ill, especially those of you languishing on trollies.
Surgery is always sore. Very sore. And invasive. No less invasive are the physiotherapists (referred to, jokingly, as the ‘physio-terrorists’) who arrive, all smiles, the morning after the Hip Op ‘to get you on your feet’! You’re wrecked, you’re sore, you look like death warmed-up yet these good people (and they genuinely are good people) are going to get you up, and out of that bed, before you seize up. The last thing in the world that you feel like doing is ‘getting up’ not least because your hip has just been sliced open plus and you have an assortment of tubes entering, and exiting, your body. You want to raise the white flag, white pillow-case, in this case but the ladies are having none of it and before you know it you’re shuffling clumsily across the floor on a Zimmer Frame. Miraculous? Torturous more likely. ‘Now, that wasn’t too difficult, was it?’ they smile and before you can form a vowel in your gob, they’re out the door and gone with: ‘See you later’ echoing in your ears. Oh God.
You want to curl up in the bed and cry. Or at least whimper. But you can’t because your entire left thigh is stitched up which makes curling up by day and sleeping by night problematic. You can’t lie on your left side or your right side, you must lie on your back, staring into the abyss pondering the meaning of Life and the availability of painkillers. Of which there’s no shortage. Thank God. Plus, they’re good. They’re good because one night I awoke around 4 a.m. I felt no pain whatsoever. I felt calm. I felt enlightened. So enlightened that I knew, there and then, in Room 333 of the Blackrock Clinic, what I should do for humanity, for civilisation. ‘Ger’, the voice in my head said: ‘You must do good wherever, and whenever, you can’. That voice was so strong that I considered shuffling to the nurses’ station on my Zimmer Frame and sharing my epiphany with all present (Morphine can do this to a man) And then I heard the voice of no-nonsense, Nurse X with whom I have a witty, gritty relationship: ‘Ger, that’s wonderful, let’s start by emptying some bedpans’. That brought me back down to earth. Ah, the dreaded bedpan. The great equaliser. Princes, paupers, rapscallions, popes, we’re all equal with a bedpan beneath our butts.
And then there’s food. Hospital food has come a long way over the past few decades but it still has to come a long way from the kitchen to your bedroom tray. So, here’s my tip – only order food that cannot change in any shape, make or form on its journey from the kitchen to your tray. I ordered a poached egg one evening and ended up eyeballing a blueish-green looking, ultra-hard-boiled, egg! Neither of us were too pleased to see each other. And so, it was salads all the way after that; by no means my favourite food a salad, however, is what it is, and will be what it was when it left the kitchen and is in situ on your plate! Are you with me? Finally, there’s tights. The white tights: the Compression Stockings: tight elastic stockings that help blood circulate in the lower legs to prevent clots in the veins and which must be worn for eight weeks after surgery. Tights that I am wearing as I write, tights that are tight, that are irritating and itchy, that do nothing to enhance my manly frame and are far more suited to the Rocky Horror Show. Then again, tights that are cosy, comfy and snug; tights that might insulate a fellow’s scrawny shins and thinning thighs against the Winter frost. Think I’ll order a few more. As stocking fillers! For the boys!