Believe me, there’s almost nothing more annoying than an unscratchable itch beneath a plaster cast. Finally, however, my cast was removed during an outpatient appointment yesterday at the ‘Alex’.
I had an appointment for 10:30 and, based on my previous two appointments, I expected to have to wait for at least an hour beyond my appointment time before I would be seen.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, after having just arrived to the clinic, and making myself comfortable, that I was called to the ‘plaster room’ to have my cast (the red one) removed.
That took about five minutes or so. Given that the cast was very hard (made, I was told, from bandages infused with a type of fiber glass that sets on exposure to the air), the nurse had to use a small circular saw to cut through it.
Then I was sent to the X-ray unit in the fracture clinic. I didn’t have to wait very long there either. But I did get into conversation with a couple a little older than myself. The wife had broken her arm, and was also waiting for an X-ray after me. They asked me what I had done to myself, and before long, after discovering I was retired, they asked me what I used to do before retirement. I mentioned that I’d worked at the International Rice Research Institute. ‘Golden rice?’ asked the husband, and they both went on to decry the irresponsible campaign (their words) against GMOs that denied life-saving technologies like Golden Rice to millions of people (many of them children) around the world. I have to say it was most heartening to hear these perspectives from complete strangers.
Anyway, after a couple of X-rays had been taken, I was wheeled back to the reception waiting area to see one of the surgeons. Again I didn’t have to wait more than about five minutes before joining one or two other patients waiting outside the actual consultation rooms. I was with the surgeon less than 10 minutes. He showed me the latest X-ray images, told me that everything was healing as it should be, and that I would be fitted with a ‘boot’, and have to attend physiotherapy sessions. I don’t have to return to see the surgeon for another six weeks, when he expects to give me the all-clear.
Wheeled around the corner again, one of the staff from the plaster room fitted a ‘boot’—what a marvellous invention—and then I had to wait for someone from the Physiotherapy Unit to come and see me. That was my longest wait, maybe 20 minutes. Anyway, the young woman brought me a pair of crutches, had me test them out and adjusted them to my height. Then she wheeled me over to the Physiotherapy Unit so I could quickly practice climbing and descending stairs. Tricky!
And before I knew it, I was ready to go home. I called the taxi company, a driver arrived after about 15 minutes, and I was home before 12:15. Feeling very positive and optimistic.
I’m now allowed, encouraged even, to walk about and begin (slowly) to put weight on my damaged leg. In fact the surgeon told me that adding weight to the leg would encourage healing, surprising as it may seem. Anyway, I still have my walking frame as well as crutches, but the surgeon has told me that after about three weeks, I’m to give up walking with any support at all. Let’s see.
I’m also now allowed to shower, and that’s a treat to be enjoyed later today once I’ve mastered climbing and descending the stairs using crutches.
It was bliss having the cast removed. A good scratch, but even more so the chance to bathe my foot and leg that has been encased for the past six weeks. A nice foot massage in warm water, followed by a generous application of cocoa butter cream, and my foot began to feel almost normal.
I’ve been very pleased with my treatment under the National Health Service (NHS), and it has not cost me a penny. I think of the hours of treatment from the moment the first ambulance arrived on the scene on 8 January, the four days spent in hospital, the outpatient appointments, the drugs administered, the equipment loaned to me (Zimmer frame, crutches, and a frame around the toilet for support), and last but not least, the boot that I’m now wearing. The boots, for example, don’t come cheap and I have no idea if they are recycled once I have finished with mine in six weeks’ time (hopefully).
Having lived in a country like the Philippines where there is limited socialized medicine, and where families can very quickly run up catastrophic medical bills, it makes me appreciate even more the value of the NHS in the UK. No wonder it is such a hot potato and contentious political challenge (which this current Conservative government does not appear to be facing professionally nor astutely).