My left Foot # 2
Down the hallway of the orthopaedics ward some woman is calling out, “Mary” every minute, maybe two minutes. “MARY”. It's not that loud but it's insistent with a cow-like drone. “Mary!” Maybe someone who should be on the psych ward is up here for some orthopaedic treatment. The nurses don't seem to care but I truly wish Mary would arrive and put a stop to it.
I'm back in again with my broken foot. Smashed the top of my foot against a door frame in a drunken stupor on August 4th. I have what's called a Lys Franc injury, named after a French surgeon in the eighteenth century who kept having to deal with injuries where canon balls were dropped on soldiers and sailors' feet. It's also known as 'the jockey's injury', I assume because jockies get their feet stamped on by horses and they don't have work boots.
Anyway, after waiting two weeks for the swelling to go down, they operated on me and put plates and wires in my foot, then made me wait another few weeks before I could leave, as the wound took some time to heal. I stayed with my sister Kate and brother-in-law Peter, two of the loveliest people you'll meet. A few weeks ago I came back to the surgeon Mr Lim's rooms for assessment of the wound. He took one look at it and said, “You need to be back in again with a penicillin drip.” So back I went for five days while the wound healed a bit more.
Then just a few days ago I came back again, after ten days out of hospital, and Mr Lim looked at the wound and said, “It's declared itself” like it was a living, thinking part of me that can make declarations. What they mean by this is that the wound simply won't close without further surgery. Part of the reason for this is that my blood is always thin, due to a bionic heart valve that was put in me in 1997 (if my blood was normal thickness my body would form a clot on the valve which would move up into my brain – not a great outcome). So they put me in again last Friday ready to operate on Sunday.
On Saturday morning I was visited by a surgical registrar with a strange middle eastern accent, a large guy in his thirties whose name I can't remember. This guy explained how the surgeons and anaesthetists do a kind of balancing act with my blood levels just before surgery. Basically they allow my blood thinness to lessen and lessen until it's just a bit thinner than normal blood, then they operate. But the way this big lump of a registrar put it was, “Otherwise you could bleed to death on the table.” This was about the third or forth time a surgeon has said something entirely inappropriate to me, so I just had to tell him, “Please don't say things like that. I'm nervous enough as it is!” And he responded very well, saying it was the wrong way to put it and, “Yes, you are right, I must watch this talk”.
Since spending time in hospital and talking to medical friends, plus my sister who's a psychologist, I've since learnt that surgeons are famous for shocking bedside manners. I met a Silver Chain nurse, a guy called Sam, whose 8 year old son had a heart valve problem that needed a surgical adjustment. Apparently the surgeon kept wandering in and saying, “You could die from this”. Sam became upset and told the surgeon his son was aware of the gravity of it all. I know Doctors have to be honest, and it's probably a legal responsibility to ensure people know of all known possibilities. (And, to be fair, I'm the last person to condone euphemism), but really, someone's got to teach these guys to stop scaring people. I can't help wondering if these guys (and yes, they are almost entirely male) become surgeons because a) they're extraordinarily bright and b) they have this particular ability to focus, and keep focus, in situations of great stress without distraction. Without succumbing to stress or emotion. And what kind of people can do this? Psychopaths, that's who. But don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all surgeons are nut cases; it's just that they're not known for their people skills. It'd probably make a good thesis.
So, on the Sunday morning they operated again. I had to wait in a the brightest, cleanest room with a hair net on as two anaesthetists wandered in, also in hair nets, and carefully told me what they'd do before placing that rubber mask on my face. Ahh, the feeling of going under. Some hate it but I love it, even if I might wake up with half a brain from a blood clot! And for the rest of that Sunday I slept and woke and slept and woke, rang my sister and my parents, and rang them again only to have them laugh and say, “You've already rung us”.
The next day Mr Lim and the surgical team came round and checked it all out, then told me they'd cleaned up the wound and taken out the wires. This was good news to me as I figured that once the wires were out I should be able to bear weight on the foot and soon get back my work as an actor, comedian, clown, story-teller and musician. So I said, “Great, so you won't be taking the plates out then?” To which Mr Lim said, “No, they'll come out in five to six months.” Of course, my immediate response was, “But I can put weight on the foot before then?” And once again Mr Lim, the small, gritty Chinese Australian in his early forties, looked at me and said, “No, I told you this the night you came in...(the night I was smashed to the eyeballs with whisky and really didn't remember a lot at all)...it's six months of non weight bearing, five to six months after the surgery.”
“So I'm gunna be on crutches 'til February?” I asked, exasperated. “Yeah”, said Dr Lim, getting impatient, “I told you before, this is a life changing injury. You're going to be out for a while. Anyway, we have to be on our way. All the best.” Then he shook my hand and they all shuffled off to the next patient.
February! Wow! I'm really going to be in this friggin moon boot and crutches until then! Hmnnn, I suppose footballers with cruciate ligament injuries have to do the same, and they're not all A graders earning mega bucks.
The woman yelling “Mary” has stopped. Maybe Mary arrived or maybe not. It's a wet and windy day, which I like because I don't miss being amongst it all. I have novels and this laptop and lots of friends dropping in. The nurses are all gorgeous, and I mean that in a platonic way; they really are angels, and this being Joondalup, most are from the UK and Ireland. I particularly like one called Sharron, a big brunette who says, “Yes my darling” in her lilting Irish accent whenever I ask her something.
Anyway, back to my book.