Good bye Stepney! Gina came to take me home in an Uber. We had to wait three hours for the discharge papers, the drugs and the wheelchair.
Our taxi driver was having a full-on row on speaker with a colleague. He raced over the bumps with little regard for the doped-up passenger in the back. The car stank of fags.
We opted for the outside staircase to get down in to the flat at the bottom of my house which I normally rent. My son-in-law walked in front of me and I put my hands on his shoulder. He is a big guy and if necessary, would provide a soft landing. The descent was terrifying. Cat has chronic arthritis and has similar difficulty in getting downstairs.
After one night we became alarmed at my temperature “spiking”. My old mercury thermometer measured 101 farenheit and Amy’s modern contraption which you shove in your ear came out at 38. I never checked if they were the same.
So we rang NHS 111. They have a script and ask things like, “are you diabetic?” The conclusion was that we needed to talk to a doctor who would call us back. Doctor called us back and said temperature was an indication of infection and therefore we need to go to A & E. He would arrange an ambulance. The ambulance never came so we went to UCL Hospital in an Uber.
Ubers seem to feature heavily in my life at the moment. Normally, I never go near a taxi.
I was wheeled right through the waiting area and within a very short time was seeing one of Mr James Youngman’s orthopaedic team. Don’t know why I was so lucky.
Samples were taken from every orifice and within two hours I was on the 10th floor, by the window in an orthopaedic ward. Amy and Gina went home.
I spent two years at UCL doing a masters in Spanish and Latin American Studies and now I’m looking right down on the domed building. I finally graduated when I was 64 years old. Better late than never! I was tormented by footnotes and referencing and they came down on me like a ton of bricks if a single coma was wrongly inserted.
I once wrote:
“José Martí galloped across the battle field on a white horse”
“How do you know the horse was white?” asked my teacher.
“Because I read it!” Said I,
“Reference it!” He instructed!
Two days later after searching just about every document ever written about José Martí I had to tone it down to “Martí galloped across the battle field…” I never did find out where I had read it.
Modern Literary Theory was another compulsory nightmare. I struggled with Foucault, Barthes and Spivak and wrote a mediocre essay which pulled me right out of the running to get a distinction. However, I romped through the films and literature and produced some pretty solid work – and I should say so myself as no one else is going to say it! I wrote some weird essays including one about sex and the body in medieval Spain and actually went to the Wellcome Institute to see some of the instruments that were used for various bizarre and unmentionable practices.
All this was churning through my mind as poor 90-year-old Mary opposite me was battling with pain and uncontrollable diarrhoea. She had a smashed hip and was shamed and tearful as she had to ring the bell yet again to be cleaned up. The nurses were mostly, heart-stoppingly kind, but on some occasions really mean and left her wallowing in her own filth and ticked her off for ringing the bell too often. My heart broke for her. One cleaner refused to pick up her hairbands which she had dropped. So, I hobbled over and gave them to her and reported the bitch.
One thing I’m beginning to learn about the disappearance of resilience is that you can cry as much because you have dropped your pen down the side of your bed as you do with the screaming pain of a hip or knee replacement. It’s all the same. Humiliation, shame, fear and helplessness.
Once a day, the God of all Gods, Mr James Youngman would come and peer at me. My blood count wasn’t returning to 0-5 (actually it was sitting at 150) No idea what that meant but not good. He thought my knee might have gone a bit wonky because it was so bent but I think the spiking temperature abated. No question of discharge on day one. The bottom line was that my surgeon was on a road trip in Ireland and anyway information is not shared between the private sector and the NHS. Mr J Y and his team of doctors all looked so rich, healthy and fresh. Then, like a sub-culture all the different levels of nurses and carers and cleaners, working their butts off and probably not far off getting paid the minimum wage. It was like a microcosm of the world we live in.
On Tuesday morning Tom stepped off a plane from Boston and there he was by my bedside laden with smoothies and smoked salmon sandwiches and other delicacies. I had absolutely forbidden him to come and thank God he came.
Tom is my first born. First and largest born. He weighed 4.870 kilos or in old speak 10 pounds and 11 ounces. He was an only child until he was four and spookily psychic. He knew all sorts of things he couldn’t possibly know. He had an imaginary friend called Little Darling who usually sat with us at meals. I can’t even imagine how such a cheesy name came about!
His father and I were literally in awe of this amazing bundle of fun that we had produced. 44 years on and he lives in Boston with his wife Ariane and my three bi-lingual grandchildren who can switch from English to American without even noticing. I hoped Trump might have them scuttling home but no such luck!
I’m discharged on day two from UCL Hospital. We go through the same procedure of waiting for three hours for meds and papers. Tom looks at this chaos with astonishment. A woman works away trying to locate the drugs which have got stuck somewhere between the pharmacy, the ward and the windowless room in which we all wait. She is unfailingly polite and sympathetic. Tom says kindly to her, “this has to be the worst job in the world you are doing…” She tells him she only has to do it twice a week otherwise she would go mad.