It's 6 am Wednesday. I saw my consultant surgeon Mr Al briefly yesterday when he checked out my wounds and sent me for an X ray. He told me that I should expect my leg to swell up. I'm glad that he did as when I look down at my toes it appears that I have had a transplant from an elephant donor. My right leg is enormous and with the cuffs inflating and deflating around it I feel as if I am being pumped up and am not far from the point at which explosion becomes inevitable. But, as I am forewarned, I am forearmed and don't panic.
Last night has not been so good. It's still less than forty eight hours since I arrived in hospital but the feel good drugs that gave me such a high on Monday have now run their course and I flaked out completely the second that Marion left the ward. At around 10pm the nurses on their rounds had startled me awake from a deep sleep and I went into a fit of uncontrollable shivering for a minute or so as I came to my senses. I was detached from the monitor and from then onwards the monitor would simply be wheeled in as necessary. I start another shivering fit as I survey my elephantine limb. But a few deep breaths bring me back under control and I reach for Confessions of a GP.
Dr Benjamin Daniels is a pseudonym to protect patient confidentiality. His book is written at a cracking pace and crammed full of short three or four page chapters. One of our best friends is from a medical family and her mother was, her sister is and her son will be a GP. I know from our conversations that Benjamin is telling it as it is it and I laugh out loud at some of the observations that he makes. Having said that, the book is not aimed at the funny bone alone and there are a number of more poignant anecdotes such as examining his reaction to a paedophile who is sleeping in his own excrement or visiting a patient so morbidly obese that maggots have taken up residence between his thighs. I fly through the pages.
The ward starts to hum into life at around seven. Today's crop of nervous patients are starting to arrive with their equally nervous partners. I can hear them in the main ward but in my inner sanctum I am alone with my book although I have a steady stream of visitors. I have done my utmost to learn the names of everybody who has been looking after me and to find out a bit about them. The array of different uniforms is fascinating. A lady in green starts to clean my room. She is lucky to have a daughter who recently qualified as a barrister who gives her a lift every morning. Her other daughter is a flight attendant with Easy Jet. There are lots of workers in pink tunics. Liz is a grandma and hopes to retire in five years. She is finding it a nightmare to get to work as the local roads are like an ice rink. Another has given up her season ticket at St Helens in favour of a visit to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Student nurse uniforms come in two colours - grey for squeamish "Susan" and her pal from Edge Hill University and White for Gemma from UCLAN who used to be at school with my Goddaughter Kate. I learn about so many sons and daughters. I hear about the benefits of an insulin pump from a nurse whose diabetic induced renal failure led to three years of painful dialysis (I saw the scars) before a kidney transplant.
They are all, without exception, a credit to the NHS. Their uncomplaining positive attitude lifts the spirits of the place and gives me a feel good feeling however bad I feel. Nobody does this better than Jenny who I assume to be what we used to call matron or sister, I don't ask her her title. She has a dark blue uniform and runs the place with military efficiency without dropping the humanity for a second. I am so impressed by her hands on attitude and willingness to muck in and share the workload with everyone.
After breakfast my ankle cuffs are removed. The cannula is next to go and then finally it's time for the catheter to be pulled gently from where it has nested for the last two days. I've never experienced a catheter in my bladder before but I have to say that I have become quite attached to it in more ways than the obvious. There's something strange about watching a steady trickle of urine leaving your body and filling a bag alongside you while you have no sensation of what is going on. I could see it becoming popular with lads out on the town who don't want to leave their seat in the bar or be caught by the police pissing in doorways after closing time. There would invariably be machismo discussions on whose bag was filling the quickest. I'd happily insert them myself into some of the incontinents on row 65 of the Kop who somehow manage to take three trips to the loo inside ninety minutes.
My physio Charlie (white tunic, royal blue trousers) joins me at ten and moves me onto crutches. He is joined by Occupational Therapist Claire (white tunic,green trousers) and together they walk me to the bathroom and instruct me how to wash and shave myself safely and then leave me to it. Independence at last. I feel good and refreshed. I discover that Claire was in my daughter Sarah's class at school.
Back to the ward and I'm starting to feel that I'm making good progress.