The Die is Cast and so is the Knee
Note: On Valentine's Day 2014 we were celebrating in Sitges, Spain when I broke my knee and ended up in a Spanish hospital. This is my slightly morphine induced Facebook account
BORED IN HOSPITAL PART ONE
Ahem. If I may have your attention for a minute, I have something to say. This doesn't happen very often so the least you can do is turn your attention away from all the life-affirming pictures of puppies cuddling up to wombats and instead focus on this rather dry and lengthy text for a bit.
As some of you already know, amidst the cacophony of Sitges Carnival I managed to take a surprisingly sober and simple slip on a bit of silly string. A silly slip on some silly string that changed all of our plans for the next couple of months in a leg in plaster kind of way.
I broke my kneecap in 3 or 4 places (weirdly, even after detailed x-Rays they still maintained it was 3 or 4. Like they don't see the point in counting beyond 3 when it comes to knee-cap breaks. Anything 3+ is just a medical mush).
For the first 35 hours after that I was lying on a hospital trolley, unable to move off it, in a corridor in a hospital in St Pere de Ribes - not a tourist town and thus with a marked reduction in English speaking.
The staff have all been lovely. The problem was my travel insurance company. They required a letter from the Spanish doctor outlining the problem and the proposed procedure. Fair enough. They got that letter within 3 hours of my admission. But the UK travel insurance company appeared to be rather startled to find the letter had been written in Spanish.
Travel, we tried to point out, often involves going to places called 'abroad'. And that as a travel insurance company surely this was not the first time they had discovered that a lot of people from 'abroad' speak foreign?
And it's Spain for fuck's sake. The UK's top travel destination since the 70s? It's not Hungarian or Finnish. 32 hours later they managed to get a one page letter translated and gave the go ahead for surgery. I'm now enjoying a wonderfully comfortable bed in a room shared with a determinably joyful old Spanish man. He speaks no English and my Spanish isn't good enough to hang onto his lengthy and (seemingly) exciting, certainly excitable, stories. He's either a former coke dealer who has killed many Columbians in pursuit of the 'kilo blanco' or he's a big Tarantino fan.
He has bowel cancer. Earlier I heard him through the flimsy curtain of modesty, bravely having 5 litres of fluid injected into his body via a catheter. Which he then spent 20 minutes painfully pissing out in our shared bathroom. And here's me with a wonky knee. Dammit whenever I get a chance to feel sorry for myself, some old dude comes along to put things into perspective.
So am I feeling sorry for myself?
No. Partly because I have very little pain. But mostly because it's given me the chance to see a whole other side to the love of my life, Jason.
Which is the real reason for the ramblings above (that and the morphine): throughout all of this experience, while I've been lying on my trolley, drifting in and out of sleep, he's been by my side. Sometimes in a cold metal chair, sometimes on the concrete floor.
Ripped from a drunken revelry to a very sobering reality to take charge (in full carnival make-up and outfit of course) and be by my side from ambulance to corridor to hospital bed. With only a few hours sleep, he's been organising document faxes, screaming at unbelievably obtuse travel insurance automatons and generally being there for me, never faltering in this dizzying, confusing, exhausting experience.
And, in that sense, it's been quite life-enhancing. In my opinion any experience -positive or negative - shared with the one you love can be profound, enriching and yes, almost enjoyable. We have railed against the world together, organised our plans together, taken on beaurocratic armies and won, cried a little but mostly laughed. And there will be so much more laughing later. Together.
It isn't the first time we've struggled through such lows together and it won't be the last. It's what makes us stronger each time and what makes me love him more each time. There will be other spills and upsets for us I'm sure. I know this because I also know we will have the rest of our lives together to get through them.
And for me? I'm looking forward to every single fucking day. As long as we're together.
OK, show's over, the gay penguins and trampolining goats are feeling unloved.
BORED IN HOSPITAL PART TWO
No obligation for anyone to read this time. I have nothing to say, just doing this out of boredom.
Day Three in my Catalan Hospital Adventure, still waiting for my operation.
Each time it begins with a Last Meal at 10pm then Nil by Mouth all through the next day until they finally admit defeat in finding me an operating theatre (about 8pm) and allow me another Last Meal.
It's all becoming quite High Ritual with me savouring every scrap of food that could have been cooked by the NHS in the Seventies. Actually this evening's little delight I suspect actually WAS cooked in the Seventies, then preserved in an overstock of formaldehyde for just this occasion.
Tonight Jason snuck me in a cheese sandwich and crisps but I chose to forgo these treats in favour of the formality and ritual of the meal. There's a Jesus on the cross looking over my bed, I'm likely to go under the knife tomorrow - why take any chances?
I begin by breaking the bread. I do this a/ because I've seen Jesus do it and b/ because I wouldn't want to risk my teeth on it. This gets dropped into the Soup of the Day. The Soup of the Day has one thing in common with the Soup of Every Other Day: It has absolutely no flavour. Each day the colours are slight variants: Each a hue that Alan Bennett's nervous mother might choose to paint her bathroom. In the Seventies. There's that period reference again.
Eventually the soup is given a flavour. By me. It becomes salt soup. Salt is the only condiment on offer but they're pretty generous with it so salt soup it is.
The main courses I have given Soho House style fancy names to in order to bestow them some form of dignity. They have been:
A Whisp of Off-White Fish in a Fried Envelope of Cardboard;
Boiled Chicken Legs AKA Old Man's Calves; A Migrainous Frenzy of Egg Garnished with a hint of Dishevelled Meat Based Product.
Each served with an historically impressive helping of generously over-boiled greens. And you know what? I've loved every bite. Because it's a bite back in time. This whole experience takes me back to the last time I was holed up in hospital: in the UK in the Seventies with the NHS. Where the food was lousy but everything else just about worked and the staff were kind and the nurses remembered my name.
And that's quite comforting really. Nurse? I've dropped my teddy.....
BORED IN HOSPITAL PART THREE
More morphine mumblings.......
I'm awoken by breakfast. Good news and bad news served up on one small tray. The bad is that there's no chance of my operation until at least later in the afternoon. The good is that I get to eat.
One crusty white roll - a consolation prize that I break open with a spoon like a boiled egg.
Beside it is a small tab of margarine. I am the son of a father who had but a few simple joys in life - cheese, butter and cream. They were denied him for the last 20 years of his life by a rather too health conscious wife. I mourn his loss now that we have found that fats are good for us and even saturated fats are fine.
I have yet to hear anyone say sorry for this.
Margarine, however, is evil. But don't expect that fact to filter through to our hospitals for another 20 years - they still believe in the health giving properties of a Rowntrees Rowlo yoghurt.
Oh, and there was a small tub of what they described as marmalade. I don't understand why the Spanish can't make marmalade. We get the word from them, we get the oranges from them. But clearly they need to get the instructions from us.
But at least there was coffee. A pretty good cup too. Many a sleepless night I wrestle with the dilemma: which would I take to a desert island with me - coffee or red wine? Without coffee I can't poop, without red wine I can't think: both such vital functions, playing such a big part in my life.
Next in the liturgy of strangeness comes the man to give me a bed bath. I was anticipating this with mixed feelings. I've been trapped in my pants for 4 days now. Anyone who knows me (very) well will know that I have parts that need to be freed of their bouncy Lycra prison to dangle casually in the breeze every so often.
This has not been the case for four days.
Senor Bedbath is professional, thorough, very friendly and increasingly attractive. Soon it is all too clear how just pleased I am to see him. This is a rarity. The last time I had a spontaneous erection it was at the news that Thatcher had died.
But it had been 4 days!
He smiled and said "oh Hola" to my happy friend and then carried on his business unconcerned. The combination of relief and rejection were powerfully deflating.
In between each visitation are the slumbers of the comfortably drugged. I nod off again, dreaming no doubt of tiny car washes redesigned specifically for the male genitalia.....
I'm woken this time by El Doctor and his trusty sidekick English Speaking Nurse. They tell me (for the fourth time) that they hope to operate today. But I detect more hope in their hearts so I listen to the details of the surgery, the way I listen to the airplane safety procedures when I know it's going to be a bumpy ride.
There is a lot of talk of pins and wires and meshes and a great deal of emphasis on the fact that they intend to construct a knee that will bend. A bit too much emphasis really. Bending I thought was kind of a given in knees but they are describing it like an extra in the Platinum Option.
In all, he seems confident and reassuring and I felt we formed a bond. No promises or guarantees are inferred or implied but we are men of the world: men with beards which we can stroke. Our own, not each other's, this is not some medical brokeback bromance.
But then I look him in the eye and imagine him with a scalpel in his hand hacking into my knee. And suddenly I do want to reach out and stroke his beard......
BORED IN HOSPITAL PART FOUR
Lunch today: Deep Fried Potato Testicles.
Dinner was something of an innovation, combining the fish of the main course with the soup of the first. Least I think it was an innovation, it might have been an accident on the dinner trolley.
Tomorrow is the moment of truth: The Big Cut. Knee-Day.
Will I emerge fully pliable like Action Man or as rigid as a single-limbed Ken Doll? God I hope it's the former, without being able to kneel and bend how will this Man ever see Action again? No wonder Ken stuck it out with Barbie (not that there was anything to stick out. Or in for that matter).
The clock ticks, my ailing neighbour snores and skinny Jesus looks down upon me from his skinny cross. A perfect Catholic placing to remind me of my mortality.
And the fact that I've not made a will.
So....just in case the Spanish blade gets a little too greedy tomorrow, here now is my living will:
All my worldly goods, my monies, my homes, my businesses, my heart and my soul I leave to Jason C Woodson. EXCEPT my leather shirt which I am sick and tired of finding him wearing the minute my back is turned. And the fact that it looks better on him gives jim NO CLAIM to it under the law. I'm wearing it to Hell Mr, just watch me!
All my shoes (Jason has huge clown feet) I leave to Nathan French who had none of his own when I met him, all shoeless and art studenty. Now he's a big success with shoes aplenty - many no doubt with feathers - but it gives me a perverse pride to know he will also be lumbered with my fashion-dubious footware.
To my brother, David, I leave my sense of humour (borrowed from him many years back, now gratefully returned a little soiled perhaps). And my proudly undiminished hairline.
To David Baker I leave Alan Bennett. I saw all his plays, bought all his books. I have, by default, acquired the rights to him. David, I leave you the Nation's Greatest Living Playwright.
And finally Little Mark, I leave you the right to no longer be known as Little Mark. Just Mark.
Upon my death I would like all the cleaners at Sweatbox to be released and freed so that they can at last emerge blinking into the sunlight and then skedaddle off back to their strange Eastern European homes to tell their off-spring of the strange land where there was no sun, only poop.
Upon my grave I would like but this:
"Here lies a liar who told the truth but once. Now"
Wish me luck for tomorrow. You can do this with the following words:
"Oh for fuck's sake it's only a knee op"