It was a beautiful day and we went en famille down to the field to muck out the horses, feed the chickens and generally tidy up around the place. The field is an area of outstanding natural beauty and the view across the valley epitomises all that is quintessentially English. It was a perfect day.
‘I’ll tackle the Shepherds Hut,’ I said. There had been visitors staying in the Shepherds Hut to welcome in the new year. I stripped the bed and cleaned out the log burning stove, then I feather dusted the rounded interior and thought how much I enjoyed helping around the place. I collected the dirty linen and took it down to the car and remember thinking that I must be careful on the wooden steps leading down from the hut as they were slippy. I cleaned the little glass panes of glass in the double doors and rubbed at the stained glass windows inside. I shook out the rugs and took them outside to air in the sun. Back in the hut I swept the floor and thought that I must go and ask Becky if she had any polish so that I could polish the wooden floor. I stepped out of the hut and slipped on the top step. I went smack bang on my back down all four steps and landed at the bottom in excruciating pain. I knew that I had hurt myself badly and it was a few minutes before I could turn and onto all fours, I tried to stand up but the pain was severe. I cried out but nobody heard me.
I managed to get myself upright and walked down the path back to the stables and told Ross, my son in law, that I had fallen and hurt myself. He got me a chair and I sat for a while in the sun stunned by what had just happened. I made my way into the Tack Room and Ross made me a cup of tea, the warm liquid like a comfort blanket. But I was shivering and said that I would go and sit in the car. It hurt as I lowered myself into the seat and I sat in silence but the pain was too much. I opened the door and asked Ross to take me home.
Back at the house I had to get him to help me out of the car and then carefully holding both my hands he lowered me onto the settee.
‘Tea or coffee?’
‘No thank you.’
‘Something to eat?’
He poked his head around the door, ‘ a piece of toast?’
The pain stabbed me like a knife and I couldn’t get comfortable.
‘You sure that you are going to be alright I need to go back.’
‘Yes, I’m fine.’
But was I? I didn’t know what was bearable or what it could be, a really bad knock, that’s all.
My friend Lanky arrived at lunch time and said that I ought to go to the doctors but I couldn’t bear the thought of walking to the car, never mind getting in and out of it. In the end we settled on telephoning 111 a NHS helpline. They were patient and asked questions and during the conversation I moved and the pain made me cry, or was it the kindness of a stranger. She said that I should go to A and E. and so here I am in the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
Lanky helped me to the car, she helped me into a wheel chair and after a two hour wait in the waiting room she helped me onto a bed so that I could be examined. I was sent for an X ray and then seen by an orthopaedic doctor who told me that I had a broken lumber vertebrae. I could find some respite by lying on one side but was told that it would be painful for some time.
‘I’m supposed to be going to Spain tomorrow for six weeks,’ I told the doctor.
‘I’m afraid not,’ he said, ‘it could be be six weeks before you are walking without pain.’
All the time Lanky stayed by my side and whilst I urged her to go home saying that I would be alright she insisted and I was grateful to her for sticking by me. We used the time to cancel my accommodation in Spain, cancel the hire car and finally cancel the flight.
It is calm and pleasant. I was transferred from the temporary bed to the softest, most comfortable bed that I have ever slept on.
‘Thank you so much,’ I said as they lowered me and adjusted the back rest. It was heaven.
My daughter had arrived and she fussed over me and helped me to get into my nightie.
‘I love being in hospital, ‘ she said, ‘when I broke my leg I was in for five days and it was bliss, meals were served and drinks brought to you. Everywhere is nice and clean and they fuss over you. I didn’t want to go home. Let me stay for the full week, I pleaded. I love being in hospital.’
‘Some people look forward to a holiday abroad and you look forward to a stay in hospital, something is wrong.’
‘Enjoy it Mum, they look after you, you’ll love it.’
We are woken at 6 am when one spotlight comes on prior to the nurse gently asking to take your blood pressure. Last night I was moved to another ward, the orthopaedic, it is much quieter, there are only five us in this small side ward and we are away from the nursing station and so hear nothing. I kept dropping off last night from eight o clock, the others were chatting and laughing but I couldn’t stay awake. Lanky had been to visit me and she helped me get onto a commode and wheeled me to the toilet where I was able to pee for the first time in the loo. What bliss. In the morning I had been helped on to the commode by my bed but after I had finished I felt faint and sick and when the nurse came to help me I literally fell back onto the bed. Such a small thing but to be able to pee in the toilet is heaven. I was able to wash myself as well. I am conscious of my smelly body. She brought me a new nightie, more an overlarge pale pink tee shirt but it is clean and I felt better. She is such a kind person. She is hugging her cancer and yet she didn’t hesitate to help get me into hospital and stayed with me whilst I was being processed.
The nursing staff are very kind and as you sit helpless in bed watching what they do it is amazing. They never stop going from one to the other all the time checking and rechecking the patients. The only thing they don’t do, unless you ask. I assume, is wash you or make your bed. I am going to reach a stage when I will die for a wash or for my bottom sheet to be shaken out.
I tried walking yesterday. A bright young physio came bouncing in wearing a navy polo shirt and navy shorts. A young woman who oozed good health and well being. First she tried me on the Zimmer frame and very quickly she said I could use crutches. I carefully eased first one foot and then the other but once again I was overcome with a sick feeling and faintness. Why does it happen. I had to make my way back to the bed and then lie down again whilst it passed. I had probably walked only five yards and back.
‘Keep trying, we need to make your muscles work.’
I was up again today. I was wheeled to the toilet and that was fine but then the nurse suggested I walk again with the crutches which I managed quite but once I sat down in the chair I was overcome with sickness, so much so I was sick. My cornflakes returned.
I crawled back into my bed and recovered, visited by different people all asking how I was. It has been decided that it is the codeine that is making me feel sick and so I shall stick with the paracetamol from now on.
It has been decided that I can go home as I am showing good progress with the crutches. I rang Becky to let her know and at a second phone call to let her know what time she said,
‘Spencer is singing, look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave, the slave song from Les Miserable.’ As they moved the furniture around to accommodate me in their sitting room.
The other women in the ward are lovely, Mavis, an older woman, from the Isle Of Wight was visiting her son when she was taken ill and ended up in here. Anne broke her leg on New Years Eve, she lives in Faulkland, Jackie, from Westbury has Rayners disease, it eats away at your toes and she has lost three on one foot, she also has a problem with her oesophagus, Carolyn suffers with a pain that no one can diagnose and so she waits and has investigations and waits. It is a mystery. The physiotherapists are lovely and they told me that three people, separate incidents, came in as a result of being bitten by cats. Apparently it can be nasty as they are highly infectious.
It is because of two nasty road accidents that we were moved into this ward, they needed to free up the emergency ward.
I shall miss the ladies, they are good company and we have become comfortable with each other.
I am now at Becky’s. She has put a bed in her sitting room and here I lie day in day out. I can get up and with the aid of my crutches I ease my legs forward trying to remember to remain in an upright position. If I turn or bend the pain shoots through me reminding me to stay focused and keep upright. Sometimes I set off with the wrong leg, and the pain stabs me like a teacher poking a child with a ruler. I can get up and down the stairs and when I first arrived the stair well was clear and as were the stairs but gradually coats and clothes gather and I have to flick them off my crutches. They must be fed up with me, a constant reminder of helplessness and need.
I’ve had lots of messages and phone calls from friends back in Dorset and I am touched by their concern.