Friday, April 23, 2010

Have a tomato

It’s taken me all this time to nearly catch up after the OM’s accident. This is partly as a result of spending three days travelling to and from hospitals, but also because in the week following our visit to my cousin’s, I had social events on a further three days. So the things that usually fall behind – i.e. washing, ironing and the pile of papers on my desk, fell behind.

Tuesday and Thursday were devoted to chat – Tuesday, a lunch outing with friend, V. to a cafĂ© that used to be called Sally’s, which may or may not have changed its name, having changed hands, by the Watts Gallery in Compton. We had a good chat and nice food, not surprising, seeing it’s run by the daughter of Leone, who runs The Beano Restaurant at the Guildford Institute. Then tea and no cake at V’s house in Guildford. I am trying to be restrained after my winter of indulgence in chocolate and cake. Alas, despite my iron will power and eating clementines and tomatoes instead of other treats this week and in addition going for a half hour walk each day, I have not lost an ounce.

Thursday, Irene came over here for lunch, and, prior to that on Wednesday, I went to London to meet my old school friend, Pam. Our destination was the Quilts exhibition at the V&A. I made the mistake of suggesting we went by bus from Charing Cross, which delayed us, so that it was nearly lunch time when we arrived. Then we made a second mistake in having lunch before joining the queue for tickets. The lunch was the most disorganised affair ever – an unruly queue, and queue jumpers trying to gain access through another door. When eventually we got in, I couldn’t even get a wholemeal sandwich. However, the exhibition was very interesting - beautifully crafted patchwork quilts both from the UK and other parts of the world – created from the 17th century onward. Some most interesting ones from the 20th century were produced by male prisoners from Wandsworth prison and female inmates of the war time Changi camp – in both cases trying to do something productive while in a prison situation, to calm and soothe themselves, and also in the case of Changi as a record of a terrible time. Similarly, there was a quilt made by women convicts being transported to Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) in 1841. There were some modern ones, which seemed lame after the careful craftsmanship of the older ones. But two well known modern artists had also added their contribution – Tracey Emin had provided another bed, complete with quilt – and also Grayson Perry, Turner Prizewinner 2003, had created a traditionally beautiful quilt, but unconventionally designed with foetuses to highlight USA legislation on abortion, see below – shown with Grayson Perry’s unusual mode of dress, or : and for more about the quilts, and scroll down.

The fine weather has helped with the washing, and the pile of papers - since they were in danger of towering above window level - have been reduced (some bits by filing in the paper recycling bin.) Now that I’m catching up a bit, I have sent off an autobiographical article to Mslexia – describing how the OM (when he was a Young M) and I lived in our home for six months without gas or electricity (as described in The Fruit of the Tree). I’m also preparing a short story for the post.

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a good review of Tainted Tree on the Amazon site, together with a four star grade, as follows:

This is a very enjoyable book, with a good mixture of light and shade.

It is essentially the story of American Addie's search for her English roots.
Along the way it explores changing attitudes to pre-marital sex and illegitimacy, without ever becoming a polemic. Some of the things Addie discovers about her family are quite horrific and made me burn with anger at the injustice suffered by women in the past. This is revealed by Addie gradually uncovering the story from documents, letters and witnesses, so you share her modern reaction to it in a completely empathic way.
Jacquelynn Luben has obviously done her research into genealogical records and where information can be found. Addie is lucky to find quite so many people who knew her mother and grandmother, but this is still believable and helps bring a human touch to what could have been rather dry research.
It includes a nice bit of romance, but is much more than a standard boy meets girl. It is overall a very good read.

Very nice to receive that unsolicited testimonial from someone I don’t know, although in fact I’ve edited out a line which gave too much information. Amazon now have it in stock and of course, if you happen to live in Surrey, it’s available from the library.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The invalid gets bogged down

Immediately after the OM’s accident, my focus was on keeping him entertained so that he didn’t get into more trouble. The day after I brought him home from hospital, we were invited to Jennifer’s office party, held as a result of a change in the partnership. We were there for two or three hours and that was sufficient for one day – a whole lot of new people to describe the accident to. For of course, as with operations and other dramas, once the emergency situation has passed it then becomes an anecdote to be revelled in and much talked about.

Then we had a gap of a day, met people on Saturday, relaxed on Easter Sunday and had an outing on Easter Monday. That regime seemed to be about right – for all his extroversion, the OM needed time in between social occasions. Each day his arm needed to be protected while he showered (in a kitchen bin liner stuck on with tape and cut off later) and then put in a sling for part of the time.

Our Easter Monday outing was with Irene to Clandon House, the first opportunity we’ve had to make use of my birthday gift from the Son&H of a year’s membership of the National Trust. Inside the rather dull exterior of the Palladian house, the rooms were well designed and well proportioned. Courtesy of Irene – a rather lovely photo of the ceiling. We also saw interesting ceramic collections of birds, and monkeys playing musical instruments. There was a guide in every room and M regaled each one of them with the story of his injury and his war wounds.

However, by Tuesday, he was getting restless. The first time I left him – in the evening for a Goldenford meeting - he made his escape, driving a couple of miles up the road and back, partly to prove to himself he could do it and partly, I suspect, as a gesture of defiance. Fortunately, the following day was our booking for dressings at St. George’s Hospital. I now know the route to Tooting – train, tube, bus and 5 minute walk – like the back of my hand, if that’s not an unfortunate phrase in the circumstances. (M may not find the back of his hand quite as he remembered, when the scars have healed.) At this first appointment, the nurse, who dealt specifically with dressings at the Hand Unit at St George’s, stripped off all the old bandages, soaking each one off so that, as far as possible it was pain free. The inner arm, where a piece of skin had been removed for a graft, also had to be protected. No creams were applied – just sterile water – and the nurse carefully selected different types of bandages and mouldable skin-like dressings to suit each wound. Her expertise was impressive. We were in her care for a long time and a number of people were waiting when she’d finished. Now we’ve been referred to our own local practice, where the nurse will do the dressings twice a week. We went for the first time on Monday and our nurse also did a good job.

Last Sunday, we went to visit my cousin near Uckfield, Sussex. M, having escaped once more in the previous week – it was established that there was no problem with his driving. So he drove most of the way, with me taking over on one of the quiet country roads, near the end of the journey. This was a reunion of several cousins – one branch of the family having four generations present; there were a total of 20 people present – quite a substantial number of people to cater for, but the atmosphere was relaxed and we had an informal meal. After lunch, the host cousin suggested a walk, and off went several of the relations, including one cousin, resplendent in a tweed suit. I stayed behind to chat. M borrowed a pair of waders and marched off leading the pack. Caution not being his middle name, when he returned, he was covered in mud from the waist downwards. His socks were so thick with mud, he threw them into the boot of our car. It appears he was not following the directions of the host cousin, and suddenly found himself in a bog. As he sunk down to the level of the waders, he couldn’t use his left hand to lever himself out. My other relations quite expected him to disappear, leaving a few bubbles behind. However, he managed to get out of the waders, which the host cousin with help from another, managed to pull out. The host cousin’s wife put the trousers in the washing machine and dryer, and presented them to him later, he having sat in some old gardening trousers in the interim. All this was reminiscent of the last time we were there, when M poured some tomato juice for another cousin – all over her trousers. The host cousin’s wife had to wash those trousers too. Interestingly, my cousin in the suit, returned from the walk, just as immaculate as when he had departed.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Walking Wounded

Today, I'm trying to have a peaceful day, catching up with post and unwinding. It's been a traumatic week.

On Monday, I was about to go out to buy some fruit for a fruit salad I would be preparing for a friend who had invited us to a Passover meal.

Suddenly M came into the kitchen, saying, 'Can you help me?' He often says that if he wants me to be plumber's mate in some circumstances, and for a moment it didn't register that his hand was cut open and he was dripping blood all over the floor. I later found out that an industrial extract fan had shifted from its restraint and fallen forward on to his hand, the propeller blade, still rotating.

When I realised he was hurt, I rushed to get some bandage, and I saw that it was too serious for me to attempt anything more than that. I drove fast to the Royal Surrey County Hospital. We spent about three hours there, and during the next three days, much time at St George's Hospital, Tooting. M is now in a sling, after an operation on Tuesday, which involved having a skin graft to the back of his hand, and a steel pin put in his broken thumb.

What was good? The care at Surrey A & E, where M was shunted forward when he was in pain, given pain killerswhen he needed them and bandaged up and made comfortable by nurses before the doctor made an assessment. The care and medical attention given by the day surgery unit and at the subsequent stay in a ward at St George's, where every attention was paid to his needs. He had been referred there to be seen by the specialist hand unit. He was also given care by the overworked emergency doctor eventually, on Monday night, who put his thumb in a splintand put a few stitches in the torn flesh as a temporary measure, before deciding he must return to see the consultant surgeon.

What was bad? A total wait in A&E, Surrey of about three hours, despite good facilities. Checking in at Tooting which took much time because of new computer system, and a further total wait in A&E, Tooting, of about four hours, in a horrible packed waiting room with very poor facilities. These things can't be helped, I suppose. Limited staff - many people with problems - one man, probably suffering from learning difficulties, screaming and sobbing periodically. A lack of communication between hospitals and between departments - the X-rays taken at Royal Surrey not sent on to Tooting. The photograph taken by the A&E doctor on Monday night, not sent to the day surgery unit on the following day and the notes not delivered until after we had arrived for surgery. The room in which the A&E doctor had to examine M, looking like an old stockroom, and graced by an old swivel chair with the odd paint stain on it and a ghetto blaster humming in the background. (I sat on it, while M was on a bed, being dealt with.) The number of times the A&E doctor was called away and on his return had to don new gloves and discard the old ones.

However, despite all the grumbles about lack of communication and lack of good admin., I am thankful that in an emergency situation, he was attended to so promptly and then seen by such a good team. The health service is putting into place some sort of computer system that will enable staff in one place to view details of patients from another area. I will not be complaining about Big Brother. Having to answer the same questions three or four times in different places is a waste of time, both the patient's and the staff. It will be good to get a decent system in place, so that staff can concentrate on the healing and the caring for the sick and injured, which in M's case, they have done so well.