If there is anything that I have learned about myself in the past fortnight, it’s that I am not a patient patient. Actually, that’s a lie – I’ve known for years that I am desperately impatient. But as I type (on Monday morning) it’s exactly two weeks since I ended up in a Greek hospital. I’m still swallowing painkillers as if they are sweeties and am spending most of my time lying on the sofa in a cloudy fug of box sets (so far Fleabag – again! – Years and Years and Gentleman Jack) and Glastonbury highlights. But between naps and bedtime I am restless, sore, resentful and selfish. I am shamefully poor at lying still and waiting for my body to get better.
Don’t feel sorry for me – it was my own fault. I’d booked an early morning water skiing lesson on holiday, and I got cocky. Having mastered crossing the boat’s wake on two skis I was trying to find my ‘dominant’ leg so I could mono ski the next time. The boat turned and I caught sight of a rainbow as the spray from my skis caught the sun. Was that what distracted me? Next thing I knew I’d face-planted at about 35 mph, my right leg was wrenched somewhere up my back, and I was lying in the sea in agony.
“You were water skiing? And you are how old?”
The next couple of hours are still a bit of a blur, but the expression on the admitting doctor’s face in A&E will stay with me for a while; “You were water skiing? And you are how old?” But there was approval that I was fit and strong… my cycling probably saved me from broken bones.
There were X-rays and IV painkillers, and kindness through a language barrier. My Greek is limited to ‘thank you, ‘good morning’ and ‘cheers’, little of which was useful when discussing sciatic nerve damage, a haematoma and torn muscles. But I was soon parcelled back to our hotel for a week’s recuperation. Would I be fit to fly? The consultant would decide later in the week.
A week of enforced relaxation
There are far worse places to endure enforced recuperation than beside a pool in 30C sunshine, with a steady stream of family and fellow holiday-makers making sure I had coffee, cocktails, plenty to read and arnica, for my increasingly obvious bruising. But being wholly dependent on others for everything from showering and dressing to getting about was a total eye-opener. I’ve been ill before and injured before, but never to this extent. It was frustrating, but humbling. And here are the main three lessons that I have learned.
First – when treated with kindness, I cry. From the hotel housekeeping staff who brought extra pillows to prop up my leg, to the receptionist who picked flowers from her garden and put them in our room, the slightest kindness caused my eyes to leak. The airport staff in Greece who hugged me in the ambulift and the cabin crew who gave us front row seats for our flight to Manchester both set me off blubbering.
The final leg home to Inverness was just as weepy… I was set off again by the Loganair cabin crew member who squeezed my hand, and by the assistance guy (Martin?) at Inverness Airport who helped me to my nephew’s car. The waterworks continued in front of lovely A&E staff at Raigmore, and with my fabulous sister who has fed and looked after me and made sure I didn’t miss Daughter #1’s graduation in Glasgow.
Second – I realise that for the past 50 odd years I have been taking my body for granted. It has taken me wherever I needed to go, occasionally with the odd niggle if I’ve bashed it around too much, but generally without complaint. Could it be time to start looking after it better? I think so…
And third – that I am lucky… so lucky. I’ll be stuck in the house for the next few weeks and it will be a couple of months at least before I’m running or cycling (or water skiing?) again, but I will get there. My injuries are relatively minor, and my body will heal. Yes, I’ve been grumpy and frustrated, but this is just a temporary blip. Next week I probably won’t even need my stick. Thousands of others are not so lucky. This experience has given me a tiny glimpse into their lives for which I’m grateful. It’s time to quit feeling sorry for myself and start focusing on the positives.