This last couple of weeks in London have been horrific. 5 people killed, and of course who knows how many injured. Year on year figures show that whilst deaths themselves have not gone over last year's levels yet, include serious injury, and figures are up 18%.
So Andrew Gilligan is quoted in Road.cc as saying that cycle safety gear (and I'm paraphrasing here, but...) makes almost no difference and people potentially shouldn't bother.
....and breathe out. Now. There are a whole bunch of different debates all conflated in to one in this line of thinking.
1) He's talking about personal experience, not hard data
2) Copenhagen and Amsterdam always end up getting dragged in to these debates, particularly when it comes to cycle helmets but listen, everyone you have to sweep those two places out of your minds when discussing because guess what - segregated bike lanes! You could wear clown suits and it would make no discernible difference to safety data in these exemplary, cycle friendly cities. Our debate revolves around a medieval city with tiny roads, a bloody great river which funnels all the traffic over it into only partially adapted major arterial roads thronging with lorries
3) Wearing a helmet is extremely important in reducing brain injuries in serious injury crashes (or below). The stats on this are very difficult to find but you can state some truisms fairly solidly: Firstly, when one is killed, one's helmet is going to be almost entirely ineffective given that deaths occur with body injuries - being dragged under vehicles, etc, so it is entirely right to suggest that helmets in no way prevent death or accidents themselves but it is also true to say that a helmet prevents concussion and in any injury where one's head is either itself in collision with eg: a truck mirror or similar, or indeed, the payment, having been pushed off your bike, then the helmet will do what it's designed to do. Reduce serious brain injury.
Those things in particular being true of helmets means to me that there is no debate. You are fundamentally an idiot if you don't wear a helmet. That does not mean you should be forced to wear one, however, but I suppose the argument against freedom of choice would be to flag car safety belts or something.
Anyway. To move on, one of the best things the LCC has done in recent times is hammer home the segregated cycling message. with segregated lanes, then suddenly injury rates plummet and as I say, you could cycle in the nuddy if you wanted to, in basic safety.
The important thing here is to try really hard to peel these conflated debates back to bare bones and find the truth in them, rather than the kneejerk reactions. My own kneejerk reaction to Andrew Gilligan is "Don't be such an arse, in what way is that statement helping, exactly?" given that nothing in what he said was actively useful.
Anyway, in case this gets Googled up, fundamentally the most important safety advice I would give to anyone is, take responsibility for everything you can, and that means buy whatever you want to, helmet, reflector, etc wise, obey the rules of the road and whatever do do, hang back behind lorries, even if it pisses off the boy racers behind you but also, practically, do this: get yourself a helmet cam. Please do this. Not only will it provide evidence if some bastard does drag you under (which I didn't have, hence the prosecution was dropped) but also, powerful anecdotal evidence suggests that, sod not wearing a helmet and people unconsciously potentially going round you a little bit wider - this is a flag that says 'Don't mess with me'. Drivers *consciously* recognising that you have what amounts to a defensive weapon means they actively seek to avoid you. If you will spend £70 on a hip, groovy cycling jacket then there is no excuse. No excuse at all.
(Hopefully this is a return to reasonably regular blog posts from me. trying to utilise Evernote, may the baby lord Jesus bless its servers, to kick off my thoughts when I have them instead of musing, then forgetting and not having the time).
I work at the moment for The Money Advice Service. It's a worthy enterprise, and we're trying to bring the whole thing in to the 21st century - it's fun, and it's hard, and if we get it right, the people who really need it will get a lot of help. Which has to be a Yay.
Alot of the folk who work there don't come from a digital background. Those who do are immeasurably grateful that the brilliant enterprise that is GDS exists at the same time, as an agent for change because we get to point a big finger at the government (the government! My God! How did that ever happen :) and say look! If we emulate these people then we're doing ok, and it's all official n'stuff, so it must be good.
So I thought I'd write them a little note about why the ongoing discussion with regard to the appalling tragedy of the death of Aaron Swartz is important. Why what he was part of is important, putting it in the context of the UK. I personalised it, so that it didn't feel remote, and so there are aspects of it that may look like I'm aggrandizing a little. Apologies if that's the case. I was so proud to be part of things when I was younger and part of me is terribly frustrated that I'm not really now, apart from paying my ORG subs and writing to my MP when necessary. I hope I can gradually change the emphasis back, but I admit, it is more difficult to be directly involved if you're not a coder. What I mostly do right now is offer my support, and love, where it's needed.
Anyway. Got to get back to work, so I'm just putting it up here, in order to specifically award a hugely respectful round of applause to Mike Bracken. It's so important, at a time like this, that we stand up and be counted in whatever way we can. He has just done so in a way that I hope he will remember, and be as proud of personally as we are of him. (We were anyway, tbh)
It's not just about Mike though, it's about everyone, everywhere who is trying to change things. Do not ever do what Aaron did. People love you, and honour you, and will always be there for you. I will! Mail me! If I don't know you then I want to :)
...and remember that having a reason to change things, and make things better for everyone, gives you a superpower.
read when you’ve got a mo, over a cup of tea.
rather remarkable was published in the GDS blog last night. Several friends who
are part of the movement to free information, open up govt and use the internet
for the ‘power of good’ knew Aaron Swartz, whose name you may have read
in the news in the last week, very well. His death is not only a tragedy for
his family and friends, who loved him dearly, but is also a horribly visible
reminder that the kind of work that geeks have been doing, ripping away the
walls of misguided privacy around much tax paid information is very close to
the edge of legal. Indeed, many years ago, I was to be found typing up a
list of MP’s fax numbers against a tidied list of their names to in some small
way help www.faxyourmp.com in to the
world – I’m 100% sure that someone, somewhere would have legally objected to
that on privacy grounds! But without those baby steps, we wouldn’t be where we
are now. Without Faxyourmp, MySociety would not exist, and GDS would not
currently be revolutionising govt online services.
Faxyourmp was something called “Stand”, which found a bunch of fighty nerds and
geeks standing together to do everything possible to stop the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill
(we didn’t manage it but at least we had a go, and realised in the process that
we had given ourselves permission to ‘Do Something’ when we needed to). (Editor's note: this is not, by the way, suggesting that all of the same people were somehow involved all the way along the line. GDS is not, definitely not, filled with a bunch of 'fighty nerds'.)
In recent years, frankly I haven’t contributed much at all to
changing things – family and work has got in the way but those involved in
particular with MySociety and ORG are continuing to do hugely important work.
And any one of them could have been Aaron Swartz, facing years in the nick for
liberating information, which has really hit home to all of us. In trying
to modernise what is private, what is public and trying to empower everyone in
the process, but the legal system has yet to really grasp these concepts, and
has the possibility of lumping in people like Aaron with edjits who want to
hack systems for blackmail and personal gain.
There is also something important here about the risk that
fundamentally idealistic people have in being crunched up against the hard edge
of the law. Where pragmatic people compromise, people like Aaron Swartz found
the idea of plea bargaining an obscenity, and his personal integrity made it difficult for him to plead guilty to a ‘crime’ which was frankly, a nonsense.
Anyway. Mike Bracken and some other friends collaborated on a
piece commemorating the idealism and hard work of Aaron, and also remembering another
wonderful guy called Chris Lightfoot, who for reasons only known to him, killed
himself several years ago now but whose creative understanding of the power of
free data helped lead MySociety and therefore by extension, GDS, to where they are
Whilst all this may seem a bit ‘geek/nerd/so what’, the power
of what people are doing for the public good here is extraordinary – and that
same energy is being spread worldwide, helping in communities where access to
information and personal independence and empowerment is even more restricted.
Mike is so right to want to celebrate this, and mourn, publicly. So the message
here is be the best person you can be – and that includes being a high profile
representative of digital govt, publishing something like this:
Slightly long interruption there. Where were we...
I'm going to cover the bits that aren't my lower left leg, given that... well, it's the big finale but apart from that, if I talk about the 'blue' bits, it will help to explain the remedies that helped me to, vor example, not lose my left foot.
Top right thigh:
What this represents is three different plastic surgeon induced post-injury er... injuries? Not really injuries but not that my body would notice the difference. Collatoral damage. The two horizontal sections are skin graft sites. The one on the top of my thigh is still very sore all over (remember we're now nearly three months after the crash); the one on the side of my thigh over on my right hand side is still sore at the top.
Both of these were covered after the 'big' operation with large sized 'Mefix' which is kind of like the material you get around the edge of sensitive skin plasters (except it reacted with my skin, which was nice). After ten days (eleven, in my case) the mefix could be lifted off, given that the new skin should have grown underneath. Which is did. Mostly. Ask me if it hurts seeing chunks of your very tentative skin growth being ripped off on a massive plaster. Go on.
One of the oddest things about these assaults on my body was how much they "gunged out", as I put it at the time. The lack of skin produced an onslaught of lymph and goo (not blood), pouring from the open wounds in hospital, leading to my poor, numb and bruised thigh being wrapped in dressings designed to soak up 'exudate' (ie: gunge), yet still waking every morning to find the right side of the bed soaked through. To sum up the short-term situation: yeeeeuch. So these, each are about 2.5 inches across, and five or 6 inches long.
What do you mean, what's that long blue line? Ah well, you see. This is the bit that has continued to be numb for three months (and counting). This is the bit where they took out a 'working blood vessel'. This is the bit where they took a patch of skin and sewed in to my other leg... not to mention a large chunk of flesh. The line of rounded off by a perfectly round punctuation mark. A full stop, just above the knee, where a tube sucked gunge from underneath the scar, where it couldn't, presumably, 'exude'.
Bottom right calf:
Lower down, below the knee on the right leg there were a bunch of bruises which, in retrospect help to put bruises in to perspective. Extremely colourful and vivid, nevertheless these dispersed within a couple of days, it seems to me now. It just goes to show you. It's the deep, nasty invisible bruises you've got to worry about. Not these surface rainbow coloured affairs.
Bottom left calf:
Ok! What we have here is in three distinct sections:
1) Straight graft
2) The beach
3) The flap
4) The long side
There are some sub areas, such as 'the pit', but we may come to those. I'm going to talk you down the leg from the knee. You will remember that I have a hematoma on the inside right of my left thigh. Well it's not just that - the knee is entirely numb on the right hand side too, and has hidden, odd swelling that makes everything feel tight and stiff. In essence, the lorry when it clipped me off the bike, took my left leg and as it hit the breaks, dragged it along the road, before coming to a stop on top of it. The bruising and damage extended up to almost the very top of the left thigh on the inside but up at that level there were merely huge yellow and dark red bruises. As discussed above, these disappeared fairly quickly, leaving swelling, the skin laceration above the knee, the hematoma, the swollen knee and as we go below the knee, we reach I presume the skin and flesh the lorry lay on top of.
Part 1 - The straight graft starts as the knee stops, punctuated with a small red comma of lost skin just above it, as if an orbiting moon of the 50p sized scar above the knee. As you can see from the image, the missing skin (and onward) is pretty much the covering to the Gastrocnemius muscle. the very top of the calf, where the skin covers the bone, escaped the de-frocking of the surgeon's knife. So, first: a section about 2.5 cm's wide and maybe 3, and 3-and-a-bit, leading to 4 inches in height has a skin graft on. Only the skin was lost here - no flesh. The recovery of this area is amazing -you would not know it was a graft. The only difference is that it looks like an area that has been very bruised.
Part 2. The beach. There is a thick curve around the edge of the first graft area, after which a section of comparable size looks like nothing less than a light purple lunar landscape. Graft, placed in top of bare muscle. I lost all my flesh on the side of the leg from this point on. I have a fairly big problem with this area. Well. I have a practical problem with this, which is that when I moisturise the skin (which I do, daily), some of the lotion gathers in the deep crevasses, and it is impossible to get it out, or moisurise it in. My second poblem is... fuck, it looks ugly. I mean really damn strange. It's not like this stuff is unobtrusive, either.
Why is it called 'the Beach', you ask? The skin growth granulated strongly, in to many nobule things called 'Fibroplasts'. these are basically overgrowth of collagen, amongst other lesser bits of your (basically) 'underskin'. The bit that needs to be there so that your thin and wispy but super important epidermis can grow on top. Consequently, there are many, many nobbly bits.
Part 3. The flap. Now, do you remember the long blue line? What you have to remember is, the skin and flesh is missing along the inner side of my left leg from about two thirds of the way up. Graft covers the muscle initially but as the leg moves dow toward the ankle, things get a little more hairy. It's not just the flesh that's gone. The vein that goes from the foot back up the leg is damaged and failing. If that fails, the foot fails. not only that but as my poor husband will attest, the bones in my ankle are exposed to the air. Bones don't tend to like that sort of thing.
So what they did was this. First of all, a lozenge shaped piece of my right thigh skin is cut out. It's really huge! They also stretched it a bit on the leg before sewing it on but basically we're talking about a piece 2.5 inches wide and 6 inches on one side, 5 on the other, sew on... well, three sides sewn on... well, two and a half sides sewn on (you can only stretch skin so far) to my leg above my ankle. What does it look like? Somewhat like a home-mended soft toy. I am left with a permanent reminder of Woody and his home sewn arm in Toy Story 2. the half a side that wasn't sewn was left to its own devices, and the triangular portionn that was missing (basically) gradually skinned over. I called that 'The archipelago'. The archipelago really didn't want to heal, for ages.
Moving around from the archipelago was 'The Cliff'. this was the fourth side of the flap. The bit they didn't sew. The bit, in short, which consisted of a large, raw section of my thigh, with no skin on, a fair approxumation of which is drawn above. I could actually see the layer of subcutaneous fat underneath the skin (reassuringly thin ;) before the flesh started. It looked like a fresh chopped roast, wrapped in its own skin, ready for the oven. It was awful. Fascinating, but beyond imagining. I will not be able to describe the taboo nature of this well enough. You are looking at the inside of your leg. On the outside. Everything in your body screams that it is wrong. I have been thinking about that, in conjunction with thoughts about 'Crash' by JG Ballard and want to write a muse in a few days.
The last nicknamed piece is 'The pit'. This is at the bottom of the right hand side of the cliff (from my position). It is a tip-of-the-thumb sized dip, which whilst it was raw I wouldn't have dared touch, but now, I can stick my little finger in to moisturise it. Its where all the gunge and 'exudate' would collect. As well as blood. Even though I was standing up sometimes at least, nevertheless I would find it full. Also full of piles of cheesy dead skin cells. A delight!
Referring to the image above, what's the story with the chopped bit then? That's... er... kind of. Chopped? When it was all entirely raw, it looked as if someone had taken a machete to my leg. In reality, the difference was hugely exaggerated due to the flap at the bottom sticking out so far, but it still looks depressingly weird. How could it not.
Lastly, the bottom section in fact runs along the length of the injury from the flap upward. It received no grafts and the difference is clear. It is still dark red and blotchy; it has areas of thickened skin which feels tight. It's a little odd, but there's no indication it won't gradually get paler over time.
More granular detail to come, plus, nearly time for an actual photograph! I would have had it a week or so ago, but an annoying blistery bit came up on the beach which then burst. Lovely. Nothing nasty, just a red and open bit. As soon as it heals we can contemplate going swimming! just how much of an ordeal will that be? God knows.
Adam Yauch died at the end of last week and it felt very like a punch in the chest. When Yauch was diagnosed with cancer, the boys put up a video recorded in their studio, all together, explaining why the promotion for, and the release of their new album, 'Hot Sauce Committee Volume 1" was now not going ahead.
The video said everything you need to know about the Beasties to understand them. Great friends, relaxed with each other and jokey with the camera on, even then. They welcomed you in as fans. They always seemed to feel that they were on some great project *with you*, because you loved them. I once read a lovely post on their bulletin board on beastieboys.com. Just some guy, who had called up when he bought an item of clothing from Grand Royale, and he realised that it was Yauch who had answered the phone. Amazed and overjoyed at such normal, everyday stuff. It was their thing, so they helped run it. No pop-star fuss involved.
I have many, many memories associated with the Beasties. Buying "Licenced to Ill' and my older brother (a cool hero in my eyes) looking at me bemused - why was I listening to this crap? Heh. So they were *mine*, not his! Then, rushing after college to buy Paul's Boutique on the first day I could get it from the Slough branch of 'Our Price'. Gatefold sleeve, woohoo! Got it home and it nearly blew my head off. What the hell was THIS! And having been brought up on The Clash, I guess, that genre bending guitar band, who dabbled with reggae and funk, worked with rappers and enhanced their music's potential no end as a result... yeah. I really fucking loved it. And pogoing... just pogoing around like a nut at I don't know how many gigs. Not enough. Never enough... damnit.
Now, I realise that the guys were only four years older than I was, and so their world vision and mine moved ever closer. While 'Check Your Head' kind of felt like an extension of Paul's Boutique to me, when Ill Communication came out, you have no idea of the sense of total vindication I smugly felt. The whole of hip London, that tried so achingly hard to be cool, suddenly cottoned on to one of my favourite bands. My then boyfriend had a poster for 'Sabotage' on his wall. And if you look at the imagery surrounding the record, it was reflecting cultural ironies of our generation - the stuff we secretly rather loved: the pisstake Starsky and Hutch video and the gorgeous, sweeping, joyous roar! Fucking A!
Oddly, it's not that album I turn to most. My favourite albums are the comparatively low key 'To the 5 Boroughs' and 'Hello Nasty', partially in the latter because the guys allowed themselves to be as all-out geeky as they liked and just funked the funk out (also including the overwhelmingly joyful Fatboy Slim remix of 'Body Movin' which as I recalled on the weekend, I would, for a whole summer, simply press 'Play' on to keep it on the headphones for hours at a time). The post 9/11 'To The 5 Boroughs' was thoughtful and gave you time to think about what they were saying - showing their hearts on their sleeves at last but still, containing one of my favourite stupido Beasties rhymes of all time, courtesy of Mike D in 'Ch-check it out', brought to life by a totally awesome and ridiculous video, directed by one Nathaniel Hornblower. That Gawker link does a really good job of summing up why just one side of Adam Yauch was so cool. And by extension, the ludicrous, perfect joy that he brought to the Beasties. You were in on a brilliant joke. The best music, made by the best guys, accompanied by the best fun you could possibly have whilst making a living.
Scratch that surface and you found a guy who loved films, had begun to really get in to producing excellent, intelligent movies, and whose personal energy was behind a huge increase in interest in the loss of rights by the Tibetan peoples after the Chinese occupation. There's a lot of good in Buddhism, though I have problems with it too but it definitely veers to the good side, and MCA's respect for it only really came through lyrically on 'To The 5 Boroughs'. He seemed to always be the moral heart of the band though. he was the one who admitted that they'd been teenage dickheads writing songs like 'She's On It', and I well remember standing applauding at Reading festival, listening to him mumbly-drawling out his explanation as to why calling a song 'Smack Your Bitch Up' just wasn't cool in the Beastie Boys universe, when The Prodigy had been on earlier in the day. Of course you couldn't call a song something so stupid, and expect not to be called out about it.
When he couldn't make it to the 'Hall of fame' ceremony, I was worried and assumed that he was too sick to go. And so the news came more as a horribly sad moment rather than a shock. I hope that the peace that Buddhism would have given Yauch in his life helped him through his exit, and I feel desperately sad for his family, and his two best friends.
I don't tend to say 'RIP' because it seems an odd phrase to an atheist, but I think if anyone should deserve it to be said, it's Adam Yauch. RIP.
Somehow it has taken me six weeks to get back to the writing of this post. I think perhaps that might be indicative of something psychological, don't you? What on earth could possibly be problematic about explaining the injuries that have left me permanently scarred, with a fucked up leg and at present, deep, nasty pains which won't go for months, if not years?
Here's the executive summary:
Deep laceration to left buttock
Bruising, hematoma and raw (no skin) patch above the left knee / around the knee
The biggie part 1) 'degloving' as it is politely termed, below the knee. Skin loss, flesh loss - the works
... leading to part 2, the rebuilt ankle
Right leg from the top! 2 graft sites on the thigh
...and a whopping great scar where I had a skin patch, 'flesh' and what is euphemistically known as a 'working blood vessel' removed in order to rebuild the ankle.
Below the knee, I'd forgotten now, a bunch of bruises on the outside.
Would you like detail? Why certainly.
1. Left buttock
How awkward, to have to wrote the word 'buttock'. While I was on the floor under the lorry, the lovely woman who looked after me said "I have to tell you, I can see some of your fat cells on your bum", at which I asked her not to tell me anything else. I cannot begin to imagine how this happened, but this injury was a deep cut, which was relatively small on the surface. How deep? An inch or two, maybe? I don't know but what I do know is that it caused a lot of hard scar tissue (known as hematoma) which is still there, three months later. It was the injury that everyone forgot about. After all, comparatively boring compared to the groovy plastics challenge of saving my foot. But I would not be lying if I said it's one of my most irritating injuries. It gave me dreadful stitch when I first started walking; if I sit too long in one position, deep bruised hurt flares up.
2. I need to break the above the knee injuries down a little bit.
The red portion shows the deep bruising that's all over the area - as the rest of my leg has become less swollen, it has left a large amount of 'numb' with sort of deep swelling that won't go away (I assume for an absolute age), which surrounds my knee. There's actually a swelling on the outside of the knee, just below, which when it really swells, looks somewhat egg-like.
The grey portion shows the hematoma. Which is horrible, to be frank. It swells out way further than the natural shape of my thigh, it's numb and feels like clay. Heavy. As if someone had inserted a sugar bag sized lump of clay on the inside. Toward the end of the day, gravity starts to pull it down. Hurty, obviously but more than that. Extremely uncomfortable. And it's not going away any time soon.
The 'raw' patch was a skin laceration which was rather odd, in that when I first saw it, it was very heavily bruised skin. Utterly nasty to look at - deep, rich, dark purple blood had inundated the skin. It didn't look much like skin, frankly but that's what I was told. Later, I was told that it was an open patch, which made more sense looking at the visual evidence. It was (and still is) completely numb so it hurt no more or less either way. It did heal, and grow more skin fantastically well over a couple of months and now has a thick scar which is a patch a little bigger than a 50p piece. Like all scars, it will take some years to resolve itself in to its long-term 'look and feel'. At present it looks shiny, lumpy and dark red. Just the way the boys like it.
...part 2 coming tomorrow: the feature presentation. Looking forward to that, I'm sure.
...and I used to think five hours was pretty long!
I felt sick the night before. I felt sick in the morning. I had felt sick in the patient transport driving between the two hospitals which makes some sense being weak but travel sickness? For 12 hours? In reality, I was petrified.
Eight long hours of poison being pumped in to my system. I knew all about long ops, and anaesthetics made me puke, endlessly, for 24 hrs afterwards as a child. That alongside a feeling of ugly brain fug which would only lose its grip the next day. Awful. The truth of the matter is, my having had many anaesthetics has made me hate them ever more vehemently, not inured me against them.
Just before going down in the morning, the plastics team came up to say hello. I have to say they were a formidable bunch. Looking at these sharp faces around the bed, I was struck with the realisation that they were probably together, the best in the country. I felt happy about the op in terms of outcomes. Just the physical action of the anaesthetic made me feel a bit panicky. Somehow, the two debridement ops earlier in the week did not bother me at all. I knew they were short (comparitively), so could not have the heavy, appalling poisoning effects that four or five (or eight) hours would.
The anaesthetist had already introduced himself upstairs. Now we went through the usual rituals of drug taking: confirming name and date of birth. He listened attentively when I explained my reactions and told me that he was going to administer anti-emetics and was also going to make liberal use of a form of nerve numbing using ultrasound. Given that my last heavy ops had completed twenty years before, this was all new to me. From what I can gather, the effect is somewhat epidural-esque. All very interesting but then the anaesthetist told me he was administering a pre-med through one of my cannulas (that's intravenous needle palced in a semi-permanent position in a vein so that drugs and fluids can be administered quickly). I was horrified, "But pre-meds make me si..." before I'd even got to the end of the sentence I knew I had seconds. Luckily they got a bag, and those tiny sips of illicit water came right back up and 'pleasantly' out of the way before being knocked out. He looked slightly bemused but also a little more "Ok, I believe you". Then... knocked out.
...awake. I will never get used to that instantaneous zonked/wake thing. For those who don't know, you don't feel yourself falling to sleep when they drug you, and you wake up apparently super quick thinking "When's the op going to start?"
There I was AWAKE. Feeling like Me, not some half zombie drug addict. My God. Hello? Clear as a bell. Here came a lovely specialist recovery nurse, Louise. How was I feeling? Well... er... fine, to tell you the truth? Obviously on Morphine but... but head completely clear. Amazing. Eight hours... how the hell did they do it? The anaesthetist came to see how I was after a while. I shook his hand and thanked him. He did an *amazing* job.
I couldn't go up to the ward because they needed a specialist nurse who wasn't on until 7.30. So I talked to Louise about the subjects that fascinate me (ie: mostly asking her questions as to why she was a nurse, why she specialised in recovery nursing and then moved on to Life, the Universe and Everything). I knew that wonderful McK was waiting, exhausted and anxious upstairs but still we couldn't go up. Eventually at half past eight, we left. To a bed with all manner of specialist equipment keeping my newly operated on leg warm and my right leg moving, to prevent blood clots. 'Woken' every half an hour for the ward nurse to perform a doppler test to see if my newly reconstructed ankle with its brand new vein, pretending to be an artery from now on (cut out of my right thigh, where presumably I wasn't using it - er, heh) was still doing the blood pumping throb. And It did. All night. And the next day. And the day after.
And so it would seem appropriate to tell you what they actually *did*.
Saturday morning. Straight in to theatre for a good dig around to try and work out what the hell to do, and what was wrong, and right. I am very vague about times except to say that I was back in the ward in the afternoon. Cutting through a ew days and non-essential events, I phoned my boss and friend, Mikey on Saturday afternoon and after I had told him I had gone under a lorry, then laughed down the phone, he said "Are you on morphine?" Mike was the only person who said to mr "Be careful, you'll come down with a crash". Yeah yeah yeah, says I. Aha. He spoke truths.
Another op on Tuesday, and in between, lovely friends to visit. How wonderful that I was able to email my friends and tell them what had happened. Next thing, there's a visiting schedule starting up and I'm just sitting in bed following everything on email and Twitter. For the social media specialists amongst you (and don't you tell me there aren't) it might interest you to know that it didn't even occur to me to jump on to Facebook and announce the crash to an un-edited audience -though I did eventually, once I'd got home.
The Tuesday op was a full on 'debridement'. Let's see what that word might mean, shall we? Extraordinarily gendered, isn't it. It means scraping away all the necrotising skin and flesh. Isn't that nice. And just in case you weren't sure about the word 'necrotising', in short it's the bits that are dead. Going off. Beginning to smell (alright, alright...).
So by now I had met my Plastics consultant, a very nice bloke from St Thomas' called Naveen, who was trying to get me in to have my long operation at St Thomas', where the Plastics ward and specialisation is. He couldn't do Thursday, but there was a possibility of Friday.
The wards at King's were an odd mix of completely new, where the Gynae unit was and I had an utterly splendid room to myself, with a window that opened (unheard of in any hospital) and an aspect that bathed the room in golden hour light in the mornings. From there, I was shuting in to general Obs , which had low ceilings and tiny unopenable windows. The difference in wellbeing was huge. People coming in an preaching with patients, comodes behind flimsy curtains.... agh. There is no room for humility or indeed, personal space, on the ward.
THe people at Kings were fabulous, but tere I was, leaving that tiny hut like ward on Thursday 23rd Jan, on my way to St Thomas' for the longest operation of my life. Operation 'Save the leg'.
I will bring you up to date with the whole story, I promise, but using the blog in a 'diary' function (how novel), I just want to jot down a few "How are you feeling?" notes. None of this will make much sense because I haven't explained the inuries yet, but I mostly started writing this up to give myself an outlet for *moaning like a grumbly old bastard* to be frank. Because there's only so much Twitter-moaning one feels one can subject one's friends to on a daily basis. Not to mention email lists and other friendly outlets.
So. How am I feeling?
Well for the last two days the rebuilt 'flap' ankle has ben hurting like a viper. Why? I have several theories, one of which may be true.
Healing means nerve endings that were numb a week ago are no longer numb
I have an infection
I'm overdoing it and it's complaining
I've had codeine at a 30mg level for nearly three weeks and I've got too used to it
What is it? God knows, but the official dose for Codeine is 30-60mg 'if needed'. Before now, 60 in one go made me go verrrry doolally. So, I thought well, how about taking 30 every couple of hours as opposed to taking a massive dose every 4? I've been suffering slightly from the peaks and troughs of pain relief cycles so, a more constant stream of the lower dose? Seems to make a difference. A bit.
Shattered though. An afternoon of pain. Still. The District Nurses came earlier on and I noticed when the main nurse was wiping down a particular bit of 'the injury', the feeling of numbness was very slightly reduced. I've been in the position of feeling nothing on the open surface, but I could feel pressure from about a centimetre and a half in. Really odd. That sensation was far closer to the surface. So. potentially good news. Who can tell. About the only thing I can tell is that this is going to take a long, long time.
The paramedics had been on the scene for... well, an amount of time which was not short. It's very difficult to have a full grip on reality when you're experiencing the 'now' through several filters. Extreme pain and morphine, not to mention varying degrees of raging hormones.
I'd fogotten, yesterday that there was a point, after the paramedics arrived when I talked about my kids - they were keeping me talking, for obvious reasons. And for the first time, I cried. I cried because of the effect this would have on them. That I wasn't going to be putting them to bed and snuggling up for a night time kiss, and what it would have meant to them if I was dead right now. And, my 'watching this all from above' objective self told me that the adrenalin might be wearing off a bit, leaving a giant emotional hole in its wake, waiting to be filled with tears.
...but no time for weeping and wailing. Off I went to hospital and was deposited straight in to their 'most urgent' setting, at Kings College Hospital in Camberwell. I had time to look at the Paramedic who had been looking after me and told her "You were awesome". Because I'm an internet citizen, of course, the A word must be used. And she was, she really was. I have a mind to drop off some Christmas chocolates to the Paramedics at Kings every year from now on.
The Docs took the neck brace off thank god and then a most peculiar and eyebrow raising event occurred. A lady leaned over me to talk:
"Hello, Cait? Channel 4 are filming the A&E at the moment and I just wanted to know if it's alright if they film you"
"Uh? What? Er... yeah, whatever". Remember, this is morphine talking.
So this is what was happening. Channel 4 at present produce a show called "24 Hrs in A&E" which is filmed at Kings. They are - or were, in February, filming the new series. After the Doc who had asked my permission left, I noticed that there were cameras embedded in the ceiling, on the sides, you name it. Shortly afterwards, a bloke appeared, looking like 'practical I work in media' (ie: cameraman type) and put a variant of a tie-mic on the cabinet next to my pillow! It was Insane. I was told I could withdraw my permission afterwards and the TV people shrank in to the background.
I've been on TV, just by way of context for this bizarre occurrence, *far too much* for someone who does not have a career in television (or want one). Quiz shows as a kid, Top of the Pops when my Dad worked there, Sky News Internet Expert (woohoo) back in the days when I had blonde hair and was a size 12. I even appeared on ITV News at 10 reading out the court judgement which had arrived by internet on whether Louise Woodward was inocent or guilty. Not by choice, I might add. So, I tend to walk in the other direction when I see cameras. They have a nasty habit of picking me out in crowds. And here we are, with the inside of my body being revealed to the Ch4 audience. Bizarre, but also in my case, one of those 'fate' like coincidences that happens a little bit too often.
And Mackay! Mackay came. He was there. My God I needed him. Well, actually, by then I was so doped out of my mind I was chatting away merrily to anyone who would listen. But him being there meant things felt more solid. I heard the Policeman on the phone saying precious words: "Non-life-threatening, Non-life-transforming" to the station, or local press, or... someone. Meanwhile, the A&E guys had a quick look at my leg to try and tart it up a bit. I had not looked and would not look. Poor Mackay had to look because it was... there, really. At a point, they lifted a paperish dressing thingy off my ankle and I saw Mackay go green and utter tranditional minor swear words at whatever lay undereneath. I was slightly more concerned by the point that it HURT LIKE A BUGGER to even lift a tiny piece of paper off my leg. I asked him to take a photograph, because I thought, in six months time I might be able to look at it, through my fingers.
At various points, McK and I were left alone for a few moments and we talked. I have a feeling that I sounded fairly normal, because the morphine was so hefty but of course, I have yet to see the Ch4 footage. I may be laughing my head off half the time. Who knows. I will give an update to this section when the programme is on. They told me they'd send me all the footage on DVD beforehand. I'll believe it when it happens.
They put a temporary plaster of paris cast on the leg with some sort of splint type bit at the bottom, holding my foot in place because as it turned out, there was a hole by my ankle that was deep, and apparently made my bones visible. Hence Mackay went green.
Operation in the morning so they could assess what the hell was salvageable, meanwhile I was packed off to a spare bed - Women's Gynae, would you believe. Mackay left (and it turned out, took several hours to get home because the doors to the hospital were locked) and I crashed in to sleep.