Hospital Part 2: Getting There
The Week Of Pain
It’s a new week, it’s Monday and so we’re back on the physio matt with Simon. Physio sessions generally happen every other day, give or take, so Simon has become a bit of a regular feature in my life.
I like him. It’s not a chummy like but more of a pupil/teacher fawn. He’s got this knack of being the boss but also being relaxed and up for a laugh too. This might just be how he is with me, however, because each person requires a slightly different approach. You could call him a master of manipulation or you could just say he knows how to get the best from people. The old dears think he’s a charming young man and I’ve seen him tackle a reluctant Kev more than once. Whereas a female physio (Kev is a man’s man!) would come away from their supposed session twiddling her thumbs, Simon would, more often than not, find a way around Kev so that in the end, it would seem like it was Kev’s choice to get up and at ‘em. The first time I saw Kev stand, Simon was at his side holding his hand (in an uber-butch way you understand).
So he’s got that polite yet slightly cheeky young gentleman act down for the OAP’s as well as the action man for all seasons for the younger guys. You trust him; he knows what he’s doing.
And we can share a joke. A point in case is when Sally comes along to a physio session. Now bear in mind that Sally does work at this hospital occasionally (reading to the bedridden) and that I am still ‘suffering’ from brain damaged reduced inhibitions (that’s medical speak – bloody cheeky to you and me). So when Simon asks me who this nice young lady is, I say, with a shrug, “no idea but apparently she gets a kick out of watching cripples sweat”.
We all laugh and Sally blushes deeply. Very deeply, bless her.
So Simons a good man and what with his wise little sayings he does have the knack of phrasing something so it sticks in my head (quite an achievement given my goldfish memory). He really nails a specific delusion of brain injuries that has started occurring to me now I’m on the up. He points out that every week you think you have recovered. That you’re all mended.
I’m fine. I was dodgy last week, but this week! Sorted …
Then you go and do the same thing the week after … and the week after that. You’re in a constant state of blinkered denial about how fucked up you are.
And so it comes to pass that Simon calmly takes me to one side on and says, with a heavy grimace, “This next week’s gonna hurt”.
And Christ, it does. So that’s what pain is.
I generally do two types of physio with Simon. Work on strength and balance and work on suppleness. The strength work involves me standing for short periods of time and the suppleness sessions just involve Simon just gently stretching me. The week of pain falls into the latter category.
The key to this week seems to be pushing me riiiight up to the point where I am about to start weeping like a smacked 3 year old and then stopping.
I try to be brave but I do let out the occasional moan. Little quiet grumbles that
gradually gain in strength and volume and crescendo just at the point when it feels like Simon is going to break my back.
Simon is so good that I think he is using these little yelps of pain to gage just how far he can push me. It’s part of the job, a technique he’s using. But my word, it hurts.
Rather than dread these sessions I am, however, just buckling down and getting on with it. Because you know what? No matter how painful each little game of twister is, the next morning I can feel it, feel its benefits. I can almost reach up properly (think a Nazi salute from the boy who was always picked last for the football team), whereas before it wouldn’t have been easy at all. When I find I can do these new things I silently bless Simon in my head, God bless Simon and his magic hands.
This little week is probably the closest I get to really buckling down. Now that I’m really getting the hang of rehab people are constantly heaping praise on me and the way I work so hard and when you see me up against Kev (who has given up, basically) it is understandable.
But there has never been a point, however, when I’ve had to say in a low growl ‘now come on old man’ and really push myself, because no matter how painful physio sessions are something to do.
As I’ve said before: hospital is, for the most part, dull. Bear in mind that the majority of my time is spent sitting on my bed watching the channel Dave repeat itself on TV or watching the stroke victim Ashley repeat himself on morphine so the sessions have become a highlight of my day. I kind of enjoy them in a perverse way. They get results. Each week I can clearly see that I can do new stuff: stand a little bit longer, reach a little bit further.
Make another tiny, little step towards independence.
So I have a very clear reason to enter into this week of pain with a big fuck it grin on my face. Simon’s here to help me, so I should just let him get on with his job.
So, I don’t feel all brave and noble. I’m just keeping busy and helping someone to help me.
No, I don’t feel brave.
I do, however, for the rest of this week, feel a mind-numbing, bone crunching, outright bloody agony.
Trivial Pursuit In The Sun
So, some time has elapsed and I’m really settling in. I’m learning who I can share a heart to heart with and who I can take the piss out of. I’m getting more mobile. I no longer need a transfer board to get onto my chair and I can wheel myself about a bit. Not much mind. I haven’t got one of those arm driven chairs yet so getting about consists of me slowly pulling myself around with my right foot.
The weather is good and my parents have started taking me out into the patio/garden area. Actually, the weather is not just good, it’s great. Summer is in full flow and it’s a good one. Things are budding and blossoming and tweeting and chirping.
There’s one really big tree nearby that has various wildlife scampering and hopping around its branches. Rob is always keen to point out various birds and what not. Yes, I’ve got new mate because that’s another thing about being more mobile: you begin to get to know the people from the rest of the ward, from different bays.
Rob is from the next bay along. Basically, mine and Rob’s bay are the two most sociable groups of the inmates. Other bays consist of people on their own mostly: the screamer and a few other rarely seen enigmas. These are the really fucked up poor sods who are deemed too troublesome of just too vacant to share a bay with the rest of us. So I rarely see these absent souls when I’m out on the patio but I do get to meet the rest of Rob’s bay.
There’s Frank, who we’ve encountered before crooning to a nurse. At turns a lovely old rapscallion or a miserable old git. We get on but he has various feuds bubbling over with other inmates. I tend to just ignore him when he is being a grump because when he’s chirpy he’s a laugh.
He’s in a good mood today because he’s sitting out with his girlfriend (a considerable younger and sprightlier 40 years old).
He joins in occasionally with the game but he’s not really playing. The people who’ve got pies on the board are me, Rob, my Mum, my Dad and Lionel.
So a quick word about my opponents. Apart from Kev, Rob is the only inmate who is anyway near my age (a young fifty). We’re getting quite chummy because he’s good fun and he offers stark relief to all the stroke victims.
Rob is suffering from a really weird illness (one of those rare ones that is named after the poor foreign bastard who ‘discovered’ it) that really mucks about with your nerves. He can’t walk and his arms aren’t up to much.
What’s really odd about his illness is that sometimes I am presented with the weird spectacle of Rob screaming in agony as a physio gently moves his fingers about. And I mean screaming, sobbing sometimes.
Ok, fair enough, a butcher man may well have sucked it up but Rob’s a simple guy who’s not afraid to cry and curse his luck. I mean … you’ve got what disease?
He did wake up one morning completely banjaxed. It is treatable, however, which I do remind him when he’s having a bad day.
And mentally he’s fine. In stark contrast with the rest of the inmates his brain isn’t damaged in any way so he’s pretty switched on. So, he’s becoming a real mate.
Then there is Lionel who, to be honest, is a bit unsettling. He’s not really all there and he does spend a lot of time just darkly staring into space. This would be ok if he didn’t happen to look like a vulture scowling through a blind as he does so.
So he is on the board in name only really. When he does try to answer it will be something obscure or weird or he won’t answer at all so we just play on.
But just occasionally he aces it.
One of the questions is ‘what was Mozart’s last piece of music?’. Having seen Amadeus I have a vague stab but then Lionel suddenly leans forward, looks around and says, clear as a bell, “Requiem Mass in D Minor, written in 1791. He didn’t write all of it though. Great piece of music.”
With that he sits back and continues glowering. We coo and say ‘wow’ and all that but he is already zoning out before we get the chance to stop being impressed.
We look round at each other, eyebrows raised. These moments do take you by surprise but they also make you pause because it’s a reminder or an indicator of who these poor old sods used to be.
Lionel may be a creepy old bloke on the ward now but he was obviously once very passionate about music. Maybe he played an instrument, who knows?
But now he’s just a slightly dormant old chap who frowns. Frowns a lot.
He may get better, however, that’s the thing. That’s the thing with all of us. We may get better. Or we may not. It’s just such a guessing game when you get to the brain. I have been given no firm reassurances from the doctors. I’ll probably be fine but they can’t say for sure.
I hope I am going to get better and I hope Lionel will too but there is a chance (given his age) that he may be stuck like this, as a ghost of his former self.
I move my pie round the board and glance at him as he glumly glowers at a bush.
And I do pause because, although it’s a glorious summer day, a shiver runs down my spine.
(If you have enjoyed this please retweet, reblog and share it. And do let me know what you think. 🙂 Oh and please come and see my “clinical depression concept album show” Good Friday at any or ALL of these dates!)
6th of February : Lincoln Drill Hall. http://www.lincolndrillhall
7th of February : Arena (Wolverhampton). http://www.arena.wlv.ac.uk
9th of February : MAC Birmingham. http://www.macarts.co.uk/
19th of February: Curve (Leicester). http://www.curveonline.co.uk
28th of February: Battersea Arts Centre (BAC). http://www.bac.org.uk