In general, I’m sure it could be argued that knees are a pretty good solution to the problem of bipedal mammals remaining upright and being manoeuvrable enough to efficiently perform their traditional role as hunter-gatherer, or the more modern equivalent of TV watcher-take away orderer. For any of you, like me, who have had any issues with knees in their lives, you will know that actually, knees don’t fail well. This is because they’re responsible for holding up all of your weight, and being shock-absorbers for all the stupid stuff you do all day, like running upstairs, trampolining, velociraptor impressions, and bear wrestling.
So, about a year ago, I was transporting a fine jug of beef gravy, of which I was particularly proud, when my ravening hound decided he wanted a piece of that hot bovine sauce action. He crossed my path with his own vector of interception. I zigged to his zag and planted my foot a little squiffy, issuing a noise akin to the sound of someone peeling a white cabbage. A hot explosion of pain issued forth from the inside of my knee joint and down I went, like a spruce tree at the end of November under the chainsaws of the Christmas tree farmers. You’ll be delighted to know that I managed to rest the gravy boat upon the dining table on my way to terra firma.
It really, really, really, really, really, really, hurt.
Anyway, skip forward a year of temporary respite, rudimentary recovery, exacerbation, investigation, physiotherapy, x-rays, MRI scans, and finally yesterday, surgery. The prognosis was that of a meniscus tear, the repair of which involves poking a couple of tiny holes in my knee, inserting tools and a camera and trimming out the knackered bit.
So, I consumed my last supper, and fasted from the evening before. Claire transported me for check-in at the hospital at the bleary-eyed heights of 7am. Despite my fun with anxiety over the last six months, I was as zen as a transcendent Tibetan monk in a 70s kung-fu movie. From there, I sat. And sat. And then I did some sitting. After that, I spent some time propped up in a chair. While I was sitting, I read a large chunk of Margrave of the Marshes, the autobiography of John Peel, whom I miss every time I turn on the radio. I was visited by the anaesthetist who oddly gave me a choice of anaesthetic, and the surgeon who drew a big arrow on my shin with a marker pen:
This may seem silly, but last time I went in for a knee operation, I awoke to the sight of my wrong leg having been shaved. The brief panic was very real, until I noticed the correct knee in a massive brace.
My original 10am slot came and went and I fell asleep. The porter woke me up at about 11.30, at which point I donned my fetching translucent paper underwear, my backless robe of surgical efficacy and mounted the gurney. At this point I wasn’t allowed my glasses, so they were confiscated and left on my table. I was whisked emphatically around the corridors of the hospital, which looked like this to me:
There was one hairy moment, when the porter parked me up so a nurse could check me out of the ward before I was taken to surgery. He evidently forgot the brake and while she was filling in some paperwork and he was chatting about Kanye West to his pal, I started to slide inexorably down the corridor. At first I thought I was losing my shit, as I couldn’t see anything more than two inches from my nose, but then he rescued me.
As the anaesthetist was preparing me for my cocktail of happy juice, I found out he lives in the next street over to me, which I guess could be useful if I ever need to render someone unconscious safely for a designated period of time.
I came round about an hour later, hungrier than a really hungry thing that hasn’t eaten for ages. Once they were happy I wasn’t going to die or whatever, I was wheeled back to my bed where a nice lady was on hand to offer me sustenance.
I felt a little bad as the elderly gent opposite me was almost drooling at the sight of my fare, but then he picked up a copy of the Mail and started spouting racist and sexist commentary, so screw him. I ate my luncheon like a goose, and threw tea down my throat by the litre. The I did some more sitting around. Four hours of it to be exact, while they monitored me after the anaesthetic. I even got some lasagne before I was sent home.
So I’m now lying on the sofa, feet up, watching cartoons and groaning occasionally. Unlike last time, however, I don’t need crutches and I should be relatively back to normal within weeks, unlike the six months it took last time.
What I’d like to make very clear is that everything about my hospital experience was excellent. The staff were professional, attentive and lovely; I felt safe, and cared for; everything was clean and smelled sterile. I love the NHS. Although it took a long time for them to get round to it, the standard of care I got was perfect.
So here’s to the NHS, and cartoons!