I was sat in Croma, a pizza restaurant that opened in the renovated center of Prestwich, with my family. I had only a day or two before undergone knee surgery to correct a cartilage problem and was just happy to be on the recovery side of the experience. I was sat in shorts with one heavily strapped, swollen, elephantine-like leg stretched out awkwardly at an angle to the table.
A natural disaster waiting to happen to any unsuspecting waiter clumsy enough not to notice it. It was at this point I noticed the chap hobbling in with the same strapping on his leg. He dropped into his chair with an audible sigh (I didn’t do that – stiff upper lip) and rooted round with his leg like he was trying to get a signal with a tv arial, in an attempt to find a comfortable position to point his appendage.
He couldn’t miss me as we were aiming legs at each other, like attracting ends of magnets pointing at each other. I could actually feel my chair sliding forward.
That was just the anaesthetic still wearing off.
I could see him straighten slightly as he became aware of the similar strapping, and then we shared a knowing glance, my leg doppleganger and I across the way. It was that bottom lip sticking out and silent nod, saying
“Yeah. I feel your pain mate.”
Kindred in spirit so to speak.
Also I was thinking,
“Please God let the waiter trample on, and fall over his leg, and for Christs sake not mine..”
I must admit I had been nervous initially going into the operation. Too much information brought to my attention in the run up to it. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to be made aware of all the facts entailed in the operation.
I would happily wander into the theatre and have the op blind, rather than be inundated with information about the whole procedure.
Really. I don’t need to know how I’m to be cut, even if it was key-hole surgery. The insertion of what-ever to cut away the damaged doo-dar and make good with a snip here and a shave there and a… well.
I don’t think so. Hack away good man, just don’t tell me what the hell your going to do as long as I wake up at the end of it.
My wife on the other hand, needs information before she can progress in similar circumstances. Go to the dentist and he would have to explain, step by step, exactly what he was about to do.
I mean. Come on.
She would, as my Gran used to say,
“Want to know about the inside of a cats arsehole.”
Just to settle her mind.
When the day dawned I was also preoccupied with other things.
I ran a team with my good friend Tramline Dave and, after a season of notable success, we had the Oldam Chronicle coming to a training session to take photos of the boys, and print an article. On the day of the interview, I was due in hospital for surgery on the cartilage problem in my knee. I was desperate to be at the team photo, just to stand at the back of the picture and be part of it after the success we had experienced.
As it was, it would be touch and go whether I would be out of hospital in time after surgery and more importantly, compos mentis and coherent after coming round. I was pig-headed in my attitude that I would make it. My wife Jane, on the other hand (a nurse) (what did she know?) was more skeptical.
“Mmmm. I think you should just take it easy Mike.”
I affected that tone you take when your talking to someone who, doesn’t understand the situation because she’s being a girl
“Jane. Dear. Its the paper. We’re going to be in the news. I have to be there.”
Adding a silent (Pffft.) and a (Derrrrrrr.) All in the privacy of my own head.
Jane did what she normally does and just left me to find out the hard way.
When we got to hospital at 7.30am sharp and checked in, we found out that they weren’t actually sure if I could be fitted in on the day. So it was a case of sit and wait. And wait. Annnnnd wait. All I could think about was the time. I was caught between thinking about the operation and what time the photographer was due for the team photo.
Until around 11am we asked if there was any news on my operation situation only to have the nurse do a double take as if realizing I was still there and a quick dart off to the reception counter. Followed quite sharpish by,
“Mr. Walsh? Yes this way please.”
Ah. Here we go then. And we were led off to another part of the hospital for the surgery.
We arrived at another department where the nurse halted us and said to my wife,
“Maybe you would like to say goodbye now Mrs walsh?”
A bit terminal if you ask me. Because all I could think was,
“Fuck me. I’m going to die.”
I mean, I was expecting another waiting room for, a short wait. Somewhere I would have time to steady my nerves and get ready to go in. But this was it. They were going for in. Right now.
I gave Jane a slightly clingy, clammy hug. I think she pried me off in the end, and I was led off beyond another door stopping just before I went through to throw back,
“I will be back.”
and then in a more urgent whisper,
“Don’t go far, I need to get out of here sharpish for the photo..”
Beyond the door I was given 2 gowns and the privacy of a changing room to get my theatre outfit on. Which I have to say is an improvement on the old days. Then, you were given a single gown and no idea which way round it was worn, only to put it on either opening at the front, so you could reach and lace it up, then spend the trip clutching it to your belly in an effort at modesty. Or put it on open at the back, unable to lace it up, with your arse-end on full display as you wandered around. And socks. You can never wear the right matching socks with these gowns..
With 2 gowns, you put one on one way and the other one over it the opposite way. Result. Complete coverage. You still look like a dick with whatever socks you wear mind.
I was led to a room and told to pop onto the bed and realax. (?) I lay there, stressing over the op and looking at the clock wondering if I would be done and dusted in time to get to the other side of Manchester for the team photo.
The attending nurses were professional and already prepping my hand for the anaesthetic.
“How are you Michael? Ready to go down to theatre? Just a small incision and in he goes , little bit of a clean up, nip here BlahBlahBlah….(FFS. Here we go again I thought.) ”
In answer to both questions,
Sweaty. I felt Damp even. And anxious. Definitely breathing a bit harder. Harder by the minute with your description thank-you-so-much.
And No. No I’m not ready. I would say I’m ready to just go-the-fuck-to-sleep-now-please. Now? Please God now??
(And only my mum, nurses, doctors a Priest and the Police call me Michael)
And on she went with my anxiety rising with what was about to happen, thinking along the lines of,
Would I wake up? Jesus! Is that the time? This is going to be a rush alright! My God! Did they mark the right knee? Oh Shit! I’m going to come round minus a fucking kidney-”
And other similar thoughts until finally the nurse said,
“Here we go Michael, we’ll just pop this needle in here, and there you go. You should feel something cold going up your arm now. Yes? You’ll feel slightly sleepy and in a minute you’ll drop off to sl-”
I’ll tell you what.
That anaesthetic was the business. Because the next thing I knew was,
“Michael? Michaelll? Hello? how are you feeling Michael?”
I sort of popped out of quite a heady deep sleep, to open my eyes, with a “Whaaaaa? Wha?” That lip smacking sort of wake up, not quite with it, to see a new face, a new room and my leg heavily strapped and propped before me. It had really seemed like moments before that the nurse had been telling me I would drop off to sleep shortly, I couldn’t even remember my eyes closing.
I was impressed to say the least.
I was wheeled from the single room into the recovery room, where other people lay on beds obviously recovering from they’re own visits to the theatre. Another nurse came over to ask me if I wanted anthing to eat or drink.
“No. No thanks I’m fine. Yep. Smashing. Can I go now?”
“…Actually you don’t look too good Michael. Maybe a cup of tea and a sandwich? Yes?”
Actually I felt terrible but the over-riding thought was
“Done! Woohoo! I can make the team photo. My god. I feel shite.”
I really should have had a cup of tea at the very least. Just something to settle me down. But it really wasn’t too long after I was insistent on giving my wife a call to come and collect me.
“Your sure?? How long have you been out?” asked jane.
“I’m finnnnnne janey. Just come get me. You can run me up to training later for the picture.”
“Your joking. Your not. You idiot. You really need to take it easy. Come home and put your feet up. Relax.”
“Jane, Jane Jane. Oh ye of little faith. Come get me. Please? I’m sat waiting. See you in 20.”
And with that jane was on her way. I called the nurse over and told her.
“my wifes on the way, I can get out soon yes?”
“Are you sure Michael? Really, you’re colour isn’t too good. You should take a bit of time. Really. A cup of tea? Just one?”
“I’m fine thanks. Really. Where should I go and wait?”
She just fixed me with a look that my wife often wore when, she knew better, knew that I knew she knew better but was resigned to the fact that I was doing it anyway and I could suffer the consequences.
And I must admit, under that stare I felt a moments unease. I really did feel dreadful but was slightly desperate at this point to get out, and was watching the seconds hand on the clock do laps.
“Ok. If you insist. Just head through the doors and sit in the waiting room. We need to discharge you.”
“Thanks nurse. I really appreciate it.”
And I slid my bandaged leg off the bed onto the floor and took a step forward.
I had to hop onto the other leg and as I did, Someone had taken away the bendy bit in my knee and replaced it with something that really hurt. I managed to slip into my shorts and trainers, no way I was going for the laces. All I felt was nausea, but I thought I’d grit my teeth and just take it a bit careful, and sit down as soon as possible. This was sore.
I managed to get into the waiting room and find a seat. Feeling quite pasty I sat waiting for Jane to arrive. I realized that I must have looked a bit worse for wear when Jane came through the door and took a good look at me.
“Are you ok. You don’t look it. Your a terrible colour. Why are you going home now? Have you had a cup of tea?? You should be still in there.” She said indicating the recovery room.
(What is it with nurses and tea?)
“Ahh I’m ok janey, Just get the nurse so she can discharge me. I can probably make the training. I’ll take a deckchair…”
So with “The Look”, Jane went off to fetch the nurse. We were then led out of the waiting room into what I can only describe as a broom cupboard. With a table in it. It was the tiniest windowless room I’ve ever been in that’s officially a room.
When the door opened it left just enough room to squeeze behind it and around the end of the desk, to sit on a bench that ran along the 4 foot of wall, and left you sat opposite the female discharging nurse, who (was significantly built to hammer ship plates together with hot rivets and a 40lb hammer), had taken her turn to squeeze into the room after myself and Jane. The tiny room had suddenly become more air-less and all the time my knee (now throbbing) was taking up more of my attention.
The conversation went along the lines of,
“Michael, blahblahbalh?Balahbalhbal blah blah? hahahaha! Blah? Ha?”
In the meantime my vision was narrowing down tunnel-like, and it just seemed to be getting warmer by the minute. And air. I felt like running a finger round the invisible collar at my throat, there just wasn’t enough air. And I realized I was (for the first time in my life) going to pass out.
I had just enough time to prop myself, right into the corner of the room, I mean really wedge myself in, because I’m not kidding, it was that or flake out and come round face down on the table with a nose bleed.
All I remember is Jane saying,
“Mike are you ok?”
And me saying,
“Not really, I’ll be back in a minute.” And I let go.
Bang. Gone. Brilliant.
I came round with the nurse, I’m sure she wasn’t alone, but by Christ it felt like she was making a good job of dragging me from the room single handed. And I’m sort of coming round on rubber knees, trying to get my legs under me intermittently thinking, “Blimey I feel awful -Jesus my knee!”.
As she drew me from the room towards a waiting trolley (I actually felt disappointed there wasn’t a resounding pop of a cork leaving a bottle) other arms took up the slack and helped me up. At which point I managed a look down the corridor to see Jane peering round the corner looking quite tearful.
And then I went again.
I just felt myself slump into the arms around me and a knee that wouldn’t bend, did.
I came round again with – it felt like – only the gargantuan nurse present at one elbow, (I think it was just sheer gorilla presence) lifting me up with varicose veins bulging like tangerines and saying,
“Michael! Stand up! Michael! For fucks sake stand up!!”
I’m sure in a professional sense she shouldn’t have been saying that, but I have no doubt in my mind, I’d have been saying worse in her position. In fact I’d have let them hit the deck, rolled them into the recovery position, said “Fuckit” and let them fend for themselves.
Anyhow, they had me on my feet with a nurse either side and Godzilla cursing and cajoling me onto the trolley until red faced, her temper finally snapped.
“Get on the fucking trolley Michael! NOW!”
And I tried, I really did. And it was only as I strained to get on the trolley, leaning towards it, that I realized that I just couldn’t get my feet off the floor. It was only as I looked down in obvious confusion that I understood. The 18 stone nurse currently supporting my right side and and cursing me heaven and back was stood on my laces.
And there was just no way, with the best will in the world, was I going to lift my feet onto the trolley with a small moon anchoring me to the ground.
I managed to finally meet her eyes and say,
“Laces. Your stood. On my laces…”
“Oh my God! I’m sorry!”
And in a blink she was off them like an overweight gazelle and had me on the trolley in one smooth move.
I spent the rest of the day in recovery. Drinking tea.
I have to say I seem to have gotten worse with age. I’m not sure if it was the fact I tried to leave too early, (probably) or the fact I didn’t drink a gallon of tea before attempting to leave (possibly) or the shock of the swearing nurse (This seems far more entertaining)
I think It was the shock from the swearing nurse that put me in mind of the fainting goats. Youtube it.
And I never did make the photo.
Dave did though. The bastard.