When I was working, one of the things that I enjoyed the most was our regular weekly work football sessions. Up to twelve of us from all parts of the business would take part in an hour or so of healthy competition and I liked the way that it gave everyone the opportunity to get to know others in various parts of the company - an assembly worker might be on the same side as me the MD with the Marketing director playing alongside the service engineer. I enjoyed it so much that I didn't give up when I started to suffer regular injuries about four years ago and it was only when I picked up what I thought was a groin strain in April 2009 that I reluctantly hung up my trainers. Months of visits to the GP and the groin strain didn't improve. I tried a chiropractor without success and then finally a new doctor suggested I see a physiotherapist. I'll never forget the physio's words as I limped into his waiting room for my appointment. He took one look at me and said "You're here about the groin strain". "Yes". "That's not a groin strain, that's your hip." And there in thirty seconds, after three months of misdiagnosis, I had my answer.
Within a couple of weeks I was seeing an orthopedic consultant who explained that my hip had been arthritic for years and would need replacing. He told me everything about the procedure and asked if I would like to be booked in. Running our own company it was not that simple to take out a couple of months for recovery so I said that I would work towards it. We had had a number of companies interested in buying our business so Marion and I decided to take the plunge and sell up before booking in for the operation.
Fortunately we achieved a sale quite quickly and in January 2010 the business was no longer ours. However we had promised our new owners that we would work for them until 30th November to ensure a smooth transfer and I did not want to renege on that deal. We returned to see the consultant and asked if I could be booked in for the first available date after 30th November. We retired last Tuesday and on Monday this week I found myself in Ormskirk General Hospital orthopedic wing at seven o'clock sharp.
And less than six hours later this is what my hip looked like. I certainly seemed to have hit the jackpot and I really should have bought a lottery ticket on that day as just about everything that could have gone right did so.
I don't support private medicine. I don't think it is fair that those who pay can jump the queue ahead of those that can't and I think that we should all be treated as equals. Having said that it would be a pretty valid argument to say that those who do pay are saving the rest of the taxpayers a substantial sum. Anyway I read in my admission booklet that a single bed ward was available at a small extra charge and to phone in advance to check availability. I phoned and it was available and there was no charge - stroke of luck number one. I found myself in a pleasant and quiet room. When other patients asked how I had wangled it I simply asked if they had read the booklet - they hadn't.
My next bit of good news was that I was first on the list which meant that I had less time to feel nervous and the staff would be at their least tired. The good news continued to roll as Mr Ali the foremost consultant orthopedic surgeon in the area popped in and confirmed that he would be doing the operation in person. I hope that this was a result of all the effort I made in losing almost three stone at his suggestion before the op. After Mr Ali's quick briefing, a few blood tests, blood pressure and other readings and some consent forms to sign, my bad leg was marked with a big arrow and I was wheeled down to surgery. A few apprehensive moments chatting to other patients in the pre-op holding area followed before I was wheeled into theatre. Yet another stroke of luck. I was greeted by the consultant anaesthetist - I could not be in better hands. He explained the anesthetic procedure would involve a needle in my back which would numb my lower body. I told him that I got squeamish watching Casualty and didn't want to hear my bones being sawn through. He reassured me that he would give me a happy drug that would mean that I would know nothing about it. A cold spray on my back and a cannula being inserted in my hand was the last I remember.
The next words I heard were Mr Ali saying that it was all done. I could sense someone pushing at my thigh and I was suddenly wide awake and incredulous that it was indeed all over and I had felt nothing. I have had more painful visits to the loo. By one o'clock I was back in my room sitting up, eating a slice of toast and drinking tea. I started to read a new book. At 3pm Marion came to visit for an hour and returned at 6 for two more. I managed to complete the quick crossword, do a few puzzles on the Nintendo DS and almost finish reading The Finkler Question before flaking out exhausted at 10. What an incredible event it had been. I was treated so well by everyone from the consultants to the porters and the support staff on the ward had been exceptionally caring. I'll continue writing about the rest of the experience and the three nights in hospital as I make my recovery.
Until then I'll leave you with my favourite act for tonight's X Factor final. I have put my entire Betfair account on Cher. I doubt that she will win, but if the audience vote on whether somebody has something special about them rather than being merely a good singer, there's only one real winner.