When you are devastated for some reason, laugh out loud like crazy, it’ll relieve the pain.
In several of these posts over the years, I’ve made passing reference to when I first injured my right knee. I usually then write, “that’s a story for another day”. Well, today is the day.
Let’s take you back to an early morning in the late summer of 1984. I’m nearing my then place of work after a familiar drive down part of the M1, the then M10 and after that, various urban roads. The final part of the journey is along a narrow winding road through some woods….
As I approach the beginning of those woods, I note a stationary Range Rover on my side of the road and a woman signalling for me to stop.
I drive around the Range Rover and pull in. As I get out of my car, I ask the woman, “What’s the problem? How can I help?”
She replies by asking whether I can help her move her car onto the grass verge beside the road, so the vehicle does not offer so much of an obstruction. The woman knows, as I do, that this road will soon become busy with a steady stream of commuters. Her concern isn’t so much about fixing her car’s problem but moving it.
I agree and go behind the Range Rover while the woman goes to the driver’s side so as we push, she can steer the car off the road.
To begin with, all goes well, and we move the car slowly off the carriageway. Then, however, things start to go awry when she calls for me to stop pushing and to just hold the car while she gets a better turn on the steering wheel.
Up until now, I’m bearing the car’s weight through my arms, back and legs. I now decide, for some reason, which to this day, I can’t fathom, to turn side on and lean my shoulder against the car.
Wow is that a mistake. Around five seconds later, my knee explodes with searing, numbing pain. I don’t scream. The pain is so intense it takes both my breath and voice away. And with the pain comes collapse. As I fall, I see my knee bent sideways.
However, and despite my agony, once on the ground, my gaze moves to the car. Which, despite the best efforts of the woman, is inexorably moving backwards with me in its path.
Fortunately, the woman manages to put enough turn on the steering wheel for the car’s back wheel to miss my head. I watch the large tyre roll some inches from my face before the vehicle comes to rest.
At this point, another car pulls up, and two young men get out, asking the woman, as I had done, “how they could help?”
The woman’s answer is, “this chap has hurt himself somehow. Would you be kind enough to push my car onto the verge”
I watch the three of them move towards the stranded vehicle without a glance in my direction despite my clear struggle to stand.
Dragging my right leg, Igor-like, towards my car, I decide, given the pain has subsided, to drive the mile to work where I know there is an Occupational Health Centre and medical aid on hand.
Driving an automatic with one foot is easy. Driving a car with a gear stick isn’t. Especially when you can only use your left foot. Still, I make it to work. It took a while as I don’t think I got the car over 10 mph the whole way.
I again appear as if a character from a Hammer Horror film as I ‘walk’ from the car park to the OHC.
One look from the nurse I meet on entering sends her hurriedly to get a chair while calling on her colleague to make me a cup of sweet tea.
At this point, I feel I might need something more potent than a cup of tea. It’s only 8:30 in the morning, but my knee pain is surging again. A stiff brandy seems more the order of the day.
“I don’t really want a cup of sweet tea”, I offered as I sank into the chair provided.
“Oh, you do”, comes the reply, “you’re in shock, haven’t you looked at your knee?”
I glance down to see that my knee has swollen considerably. If I hadn’t been in shock up to this point, I certainly am now.
After delivering my tea, the two nurses strap an ice pack around my knee.
Trying to be helpful, I ask, “will it be easier If I took my trousers off?”
“Certainly not”, comes the stern reply, “they are the only thing stopping your knee swelling even more!”
Ice now surrounds my knee, and one of the nurses tells me they need to get me to the hospital. They can call an ambulance, but it will undoubtedly take me to a large hospital nearby. My injury isn’t life-threatening, but it may mean an overnight stay. Therefore, it will be more convenient to get to a hospital near my home, some 20 miles distant. Indeed, there is a large hospital about a mile from that home. I know my friend Kelvin will be at his desk, so we call him, and he readily agrees to drive me to that hospital.
I am ensconced in a wheelchair, as Kelvin wheels me to his car. I recall he was an excellent driver but sadly not of wheelchairs. It’s if I am a character in a silent comedy film as Kelvin manages to bump into every door post on the way from the OHC. And always the post on my right-hand side.
Reaching his car, we realise that my ice-engulfed knee prevents me from sitting. Between the two nurses and Kelvin, they manage to bundle me onto the back seat of the car, where I lie prone for the 30-minute journey to my local hospital.
On arrival, Kelvin goes off in search of a wheelchair. But, alas, the ‘powers that be’ deny his request as it is more than anyone’s job is worth, to allow a non-porter to push a wheelchair. And a porter can only wheel a patient out of the hospital and not into one. Having already experienced Kelvin’s wheelchair skills, it might be no bad thing.
So, with one arm around Kelvin’s shoulder, I hobble into the hospital and to A&E reception. No mean feat given he stood 6 inches taller than me.
The receptionist watches the pair of us struggle to the desk. Greeting us with the sweetest of smiles, she asks, “and what might be the problem? “
Sorely tempted to reply that I have a dreadful headache, I think better of it and reply that I have severely damaged my knee.
The wait begins.
Two hours later, I hear my name called, and Kelvin and I again do our double-act as he helps me to a cubicle. Once there, the doctor instructs that Kelvin must leave while she examines me and then asks that I get up onto the bed and pull my trousers down to my ankles. Unfortunately, the bed comes midway up my chest, and I say I’m not sure I’m able to get onto it.
“Well, if you can’t get on it, I can’t examine you,” comes the helpful reply.
With the attitude and aptitude of a grumpy hippo, I huff and puff myself up. Then emitting similar sounds, I tug and pull my trousers to below my knees.
The doctor asks me to straighten my right leg. The bend at my knee is at a 90-degree angle. Fortunately, that bend is in the expected direction and not that I glimpsed earlier while crumpling to the tarmac.
“I’m afraid I can’t”, I reply.
The doctor places the palm of her hand on my kneecap and pushes down.
I’ve read that some people have out of body experiences. At that moment, I think I, too, have one. The pain I experience feels as if I’ve left my body behind. The agony causes me to climb the wall behind me, go along the ceiling and down the wall in front.
The doctor then checks out other movements of my knee, but by now, I am so far into a world of pain and discomfit; if she removes my whole leg, I will not feel it.
The examination over, the doctor tells me I have sustained some ligament damage. Unfortunately, there is far too significant a swelling to decide how much. They will now strap my knee to prevent movement and examine it again in three or four days once the swelling is reduced.
Being diagnosed entitles me to a wheelchair ride to the bandaging station. Once there, a nurse asks me to lean against a board set slightly angled to the wall and drop my trousers to my ankles.
She then wraps successive layers of cotton wool and crepe bandage, from halfway up my thigh to halfway down my calf. Such a bandage has a name but I’m afraid I no longer recall that name.
Once finished, she asks whether I would like her help to pull up my trousers. No easy task when you can’t bend one leg.
I accept her offer, but it isn’t long before we realise that pulling my up trousers isn’t going to be easy. The increased width of my right leg sees to that. So, after much pulling and tugging, the best we do is get my trouser waistband just over my knee.
Kelvin to the rescue! My friend is always a pragmatic fellow, and I know that he will have his raincoat in his car even in the summer. This time his extra height will save my blushes by wearing his, for me, long raincoat.
So here we are, exiting the hospital. Me partly shuffling and partly limping with my trouser belt just above my knees, wearing my friend’s raincoat and one arm over his shoulder. Never was the saying a friend in need is a friend indeed more apt.
Of course, the story of my knee doesn’t end there. But that one is for another day ….