The path down to our house, from our garage located up by the road, could, in metaphorical terms, be likened to that through life – long, meandering, often slippery, at times shrouded in darkness and increasingly, wearying; mind you, it is far easier to descend than to ascend, as my aged, doddery legs tell me every time such a journey is necessary, which is most days.
Of course, there was a time – many years in fact – when neither Ann or I found the trek in any way a problem; we were, though, then a good deal more youthful and fit than we are today. Thus increasingly we plan ahead and only go up the incline when strictly necessary – preferably when we can perform at least a brace of tasks at the same time.
It has to be said, though, that from our point of view there is a plus side to this winding trail; for in a sense it acts as does a moat around a castle – it keeps out many of the unwelcome and unwanted. It’s a godsend when the curse that is Halloween comes around at the end of every October. For most ‘trick or treaters’ are clearly unwilling to use energy – indeed, risk life and limb – navigating the (on this night, purposefully) ill-lit trail leading down to our abode; thus our peace is preserved and I am left with the onerous task of devouring the bars of chocolate set aside to appease those intrepid enough to attempt the journey.
Then there are those good doughty folk who come to the door, Holy Bible in one hand and a copy of ‘The Watchtower’ in the other, with the laudable aim of trying to save my soul (Ann is exempt from this as her soul has never been in the slightest danger). These ladies and gents, whose mission on our doorstep is always doomed to fail, are of a hardy, persistent breed, but many of them, I have noticed, balk at the gradient and make the far easier trip to next door. I even feel that we could, if such a dire situation arose, have less fear than most of a visit from the bailiffs for it would be a dedicated, intrepid official indeed, who would volunteer to carry a heavy piece of gear up our path.
This somewhat obscure point of view, however, became virtually in an instance, painfully personal. Mid-evening of the Saturday of the first weekend in December, I fell heavily at the foot of our stairs. The pain from my lower back was immense and quickly Ann and I became aware that the next load to be hauled up that path would be myself lain upon a stretcher.
Upon finding me, Ann had immediately phoned that second tier emergency service NHS 111, then contacted son James who lives just a few minutes away; shortly after his prompt arrival, there was a chime from the doorbell; despite rumours that the services of para-medics need to be booked days ahead, two all action ladies from that vital group were already entering the house to examine their prostrate patient. Within a few minutes one hurtled up the path to fetch a stretcher whilst the other busied herself taking my blood pressure, oxygen levels, temperature, heart beat and more besides – and all the time I was repeating my name, date of birth and address.
Soon I was being made comfortable in an ambulance as it winged its way towards a hospital which must be one of the largest in Europe. As we had been forewarned, we had to join a queue in the car park before disembarkation was permitted. Eventually it was; I was stretchered to the vast x-ray unit; as anticipated, the news was not good – I had shattered several bones in my lower back. Clearly the road to recovery was going to be a long and painful one.
I was informed that there was a bed space for me, but before I could be deposited in it, I was left to wait in a corridor as a patient was causing mayhem in that she was demanding the return of her outdoor clothes as she was convinced the NHS was holding her hostage. How this was sorted I know not, but clearly it was as shortly afterwards I was wheeled into a large room the name of which did nothing to lift spirits – it was entitled the ‘frail ward’; with myself its complement was six.
All of us were of an advanced age and I determined there and then that as soon I was able I would rather take my chances with our garden path than pass endless days staring at the walls of this ward.
However, an early exit was an impossibility and so I settled into the daily routine. This was dominated by the endless wrestling with bed pans, commodes and urine bottles, whilst needles were being constantly thrust into shoulders with serum inserted and blood extracted.
In between bouts we were regularly cleansed by a heroic group of ladies and gents for whom I have the very highest regard. Yet with the truism to mind that ‘there is no place like home’, it did occur to me that perhaps ITV should run a new series entitled, “I’m a liability – get me out of here.” Although it must be said that hospital food deserves far more praise than it gets.