Once again the NHS comes to my aid as I do something part-stupid, part-unlucky. Having not crashed my bike for 25 years, I've done it twice in a month. This time, I didn't have a sense that I was definitely going to crash until it had already happened and I had landed heavily* on my right shoulder. Various people stopped to check I was okay, which was nice. My dad - entirely by chance - was running the other way and arrived on the scene perhaps 30 seconds after I had bitten the tarmac. The main response I had at the time was being frankly pissed off that I had gone to the effort of doing some exercise on a miserable Saturday morning and my reward for it was the indignity of falling off and an achy shoulder. Half-an-hour later after an ill-advised ride home, the total lack of any pain-free movement was enough to get me to admit that I probably needed the aid of the medical professionals.
The Northern General is a bleak place in the middle of a balmy summer's afternoon. In the gloomy November drizzle, well, it's certainly not better. I seem to see it as separate from the terrifying place next door - the Longley Centre, is it? - but even so A&E has a sort of desperation about it, especially at the moment as everyone there is nearly as concerned about getting coronavirus as they are about the injury they want fixed. It's also the case that no one is allowed in with you, so it's a distinctly lonely experience as well. The exception being the one bloke who was accompanied by two surprisingly good-humoured coppers, thus giving not one but two overstretched public services something to do. He even puked vigorously just outside the entrance to A&E, making sure it wasn't just the medical and crime-prevention professionals involved, but the sanitary ones as well.
There's a rather deflating moment when the A&E folk behind the desk tell you that they're passing you on to minor injuries, giving you a very clear signal that whilst you may not technically be a malingerer, perhaps 'emergency' is a bit of a stretch. It definitely was at least partly 'accident' this time, though, rather than 'entirely-my-own-stupid-fault' as it has been in the past. The diagnostic process was rapid - I might, ungenerously, have said 'cursory' - and I was off to x-ray for a few minutes with a wonderful comedy duo of radiographers whose machine had developed an idiosyncratic way of repositioning itself that meant that I had to stand out of the way at the side of the room while it did its thing. The x-rays showed a big gap where there should only be a small one between two bones up there in my shoulder, and I was off with a sling round my neck back into the murky drizzle and the words 'torn ligament' to share around on social media.
But the learning process began at home when I realised that without a functioning right hand, there are a number of jobs that I can't do. Lifting the toddler (he's nearly three, and surly and uncooperative at the best of times) is a huge challenge requiring all manner of oaty-bar-based bribery. Opening a bottle of Pepsi Max is next to impossible. Shaving my face...? No chance. Yesterday, with the thing still swollen up and tender, I opted for the weapons-grade painkillers and spent the night dreaming the bizarre dreams that seem to be contained in codeine tablets for some reason. Today, with the swelling down, it's all less intense. I can pick the odd thing up, hold a fork - although not raise it to my mouth; I look like a bad Donald Trump tribute act - and hold my hand out in front of me, although not up to shoulder height. But trying to put a shirt on is agony. Apparently I always put my left arm into my shirt first, because I've made that same mistake a few times now. Right arm first or through the roof when it pulls behind my back. Anyway, all of this is just a little bit of a Sunday evening moan that despite all my best intentions of going out exercising, what I've actually ended up doing is damaging myself. Perhaps there is a lesson in all this: exercise is, despite all the publicity to the contrary, a dangerous business, truly bad for your health.
*Folk who know me will perhaps recognise that no landing I am part of will ever be anything other than heavy; this one was heavier...
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought