First of all, thank you to the hundreds of you who emailed me after last week’s accident. wishing me well for my hip replacement operation. I’m sorry I couldn’t reply to them all from hospital, but I did read every single one.
I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail about what has happened to me over the last week, although at some point I must write it all down just for the record. If you want to hear all the gory details please listen to this week’s edition of the FOR THE MANY PODCAST where I talk about it for the first 25 minutes.
The human spirit often amazes. Our fellow human beings surprise us by acts of bravery, kindness and compassion. But sometimes they disappoint us. Just to recap, ten days ago, I had spent lovely 24 hours in Fowey in Cornwall, speaking at the literary festival. I was returning home through London’s Charing Cross Underground station when disaster struck. I was about to go through the gates at the top of the escalators when I fell. Heavily. On my side.
I lay there for about a minute, slightly stunned, gathering myself. During that time and the few minutes afterwards not a single member of public came to my assistance, either to offer me comfort or to help me to my feet. Not one. Obviously they all had places to go, people to see, but it was profoundly saddening that seeing a fellow passenger in distress didn’t provoke a single one of them to offer the hand of human kindness. And then it got worse. The three London Underground staff who came to my aid called and ambulance crew, as it became clear I couldn’t stand. They arrived, and while they gave me laughing gas to numb the pain, a crowd formed and just gawped. It was ‘rubbernecking’ at its most prurient. As the all-female ambulance crew and the superb London Underground staff proceeded to carry me up the stairs to the station exit, people kept trying to push past, despite being asked to use another exit. If you’re trying to get home, you’re in a hurry. I get that. But it was difficult enough for the rescuers to carry a 17 stone man in a makeshift sedan chair up 30 steps into the street at ground level.
What have we become when our own lives and priorities subsume the needs of others. Have we really turned into a ‘walk on by’ society, or was I just unlucky?
I was much luckier with the care I received from the NHS at St Thomas’s Hospital, the one opposite Parliament in which Boris Johnson nearly met his maker. I had only ever spent one night in hospital before so wasn’t sure what to expect, given the lurid stories I hear every week on my radio show from people asserting the NHS is on its knees and its staff are totally demoralised. Not if St Thomas’s is anything to by.
If there is a model hospital in the UK this is it, if the care and treatment I received was anything to go by. Within 20 minutes admittance to a more or less empty A&E I was having X Rays which showed a badly broken right hip. Twenty minutes later I was having a nerve injection to alleviate the pain. It was explained clearly and empathetically what the operating procedure would be, and I would be operated on, first thing Monday morning.
What impressed me most was the nursing staff on my ward, where I was in a unit of six beds. They were almost all from overseas and every single nurse seemed to be enjoying their job, and going that extra mile. The wards didn’t seem understaffed and there was no constant rushing about. Mark, the lead nurse, appeared to be conducting an orchestra and all the others loved the particular instrument they were playing. I really couldn’t have asked for more. I don’t pretend that things may well be different elsewhere, but all I can do is thank all those who cared for me so wonderfully. Nothing was too much trouble. The food, however, well…. I’ll just leave it there.
Let me quote from an email I send to the Deputy Chief Executive of St Thomas’s Hospital.
I want to tell you how proud you should be of all your staff on the George Perkins ward. I have nothing but praise for them all. Their standard of care and empathy was outstanding at all times and they made for a great team. This was true of all the nursing staff, whatever their rank. I didn’t get all their names, but I want to highlight Simonette, who took great care of me when I first got to the ward and was hugely reassuring. I was very impressed by Mark who gave me total confidence in the whole process and was a great listener. He has great leadership qualities as does Clare, who seemed to take over his role when he wasn’t there. Bit in a way it’s invidious to point out individuals as they all clearly work together well as a team. They all seemed to really enjoy their jobs and their work and that transmitted itself to me, the patient. I also want to highlight a nurse from Norfolk in A&E called Nick, and the two doctors, Liam and Emaneke (I think) who were also incredibly reassuring and calmed me by explaining what would be happening.
But overall, I was very impressed, and I shall be saying so both on the radio and in the written media.
I was discharged on Thursday evening and John has been caring for me every since. He’s been absolutely superb and I just hope I would be as caring as him if things were the other way around.
I won’t pretend that my emotions have been all over the place since last Saturday. I’m told this is perfectly natural after such a shock and such a big operation, but it doesn’t take much to get me a bit tearful. I was watching the Coventry v Luton playoff when the Luton captain went down for no apparent reason and was taken to hospital. I was crying my eyes out.
As for the future, well, I suppose it’s a little too early to say, but I am not going to rush back to my main job at LBC anytime soon. Not because I don’t want to, but I just couldn’t sit for three hours at a time. However, I’ll continue to record my podcasts from home and probably do a bit more writing than I normally do.
People have been very good at telling me I must do my exercises, so that’s what I am about to go an do (again!) now.