Last week on his way home Husband had an accident on his moped, caused by a cyclist running a red light. Superficially it didn’t seem a bad accident. No harm done to the moped anyway. However, in attempting to avoid the collision with the cyclist and then self-correct, Husband shot out a foot, which met the tarmac, sending severe forces up to his knee and fracturing his tibial plateau.
He was taken by ambulance to UCLH. Three days later – that is, last Friday afternoon – he had an operation to insert a metal plate to hold the knee together. I had taken the number of the nurses’ station to call; this seemed better than hanging around the ward on the day of the operation. At 5pm I phoned up. The woman who answered couldn’t help, but assured me that Ron, Husband’s nurse, would call me right back. By 6.30, no return call.
I’m not an especially panicky person, but I did think that Husband might be dead. They wouldn’t want to give you that information over the phone, would they? Husband has an odd but powerful allergy – to sticking plaster – and I’d had to remind him to tell the hospital staff about it. Reassuringly, this led to his wearing red wristbands. But what if he had a similarly random but powerful allergic reaction to anaesthesia? What the hell is anaesthesia? I decided to go in. I arrived at the ward and saw the empty space where Husband and his bed had been. The first person I asked wanted to be helpful but didn’t know anything about Mr G. The second person couldn’t help either but told me to talk to Ron. Ron was busy with a patient and so I waited, stricken.
Finally, Ron had done all he had to do there and peeled away. I tried to intercept but a woman sitting by a man in the next bed got in first and called out to him, ‘We asked for tea half an hour ago.’ Ron promised to see to this.
Oh God. She thinks she’s in a café. Ron’s going to disappear to make tea. Oh God. I stepped in front of him and forced some words out of my constricted throat.
‘Excuse me, I’m looking for my husband, Mr G.’
‘I can only bring up one patient at a time,’ said Ron narkily.
This told me two things: Husband is alive! He wouldn’t have said that if he was dead. And secondly that I would have to grind Ron’s head into the dust.
I left the ward. Time to give myself a serious talking-to. I eschewed the lifts and walked down many flights of stairs to the reception which, at UCLH, is quite airy and calm. I had to dig deep to find empathy with Ron. He might have felt put upon by the woman demanding tea. Understandable. He’s not a waiter. He’s probably a good nurse. He didn’t know me; he had no idea I’d worked myself up into a state. He might have assumed I had some idea what was going on. All that is possible.
Additionally, it was most important that I do not appear at the bedside of my husband – gloriously alive but newly emerged from anaesthesia – like a fizzing firework gone off course.
Three-quarters of an hour later I was myself again. I returned to the ward and there was Husband, looking fine. A little spaced out, a little pale, but fine. In my handbag I had some slices of his latest bread, which had been in the freezer. He ate it like a hungry lion. All will be well. Just eight weeks of first-stage recovery to get through.
‘You know,’ he said, ‘I wasn’t worried about the surgery, but I was worried about the anaesthesia.’
‘Oh yeah, were you?’
The bike (LX 125, known as Alex) was parked by the police at the Holborn Hotel after the accident. I collected it the next day. The concierge was most kind and sympathetic and wanted to know how the gentleman who’d had the accident was faring. Then I had to find someone to help me lift the bike off its stand because I couldn’t manage it; another kind person. I wheeled it off to this motorcycle parking place (in the picture) and got another kind passer-by to help me get it back on its stand so that I could chain it up. So much kindness around when you need it. But please let me never see this moped again.
Goodbye, London . . .
On Monday I brought Husband home from the hospital by taxi and he is now ensconced on the top floor, where he will mostly stay put for a few days. Living in the top two floors of a Victorian terraced house with many steps, each of which has a narrow tread and a high rise, is not fun for someone with one leg in a brace. He has read this blog piece and was shocked that I’d been unable to get information about him, but does want me to say that he found almost all the nurses very good or outstanding.
The moped is not being abandoned, in case you should think that. It is being sold. It is a very dependable vehicle.
And, no, we still haven’t exchanged contracts.