Thanks to Sue Andrews, author of the heartwarming book If Clouds Were Sheep, for another of her 5 minute stories. This one gives us an insight into something that many of us may go through in our lifetime.
There comes a time when many of us would like some of our body parts replaced. Fortunately today’s medicine can do amazing recreations.
The phone call came towards the end of our April lambing. Was I happy to have my knee replacement at the local Nuffield Hospital instead of Gloucester General? Happy? I was delighted. My left knee was replaced privately, under our son’s company insurance, but this second operation was to be NHS, so a private room with en-suite was an unexpected luxury. My husband, Aubrey, was horrified, thinking they’d admit me immediately, but I assured him it would be after we’d finished lambing.
My knee saga began sixteen years ago, the result of an overzealous ewe. Guarding her lambs, she’d charged at the sheepdog who shot behind me for cover. The ewe’s lowered skull hit my left knee at considerable speed and the powerful impact pushed the joint sideways.
My GP, a top sports doctor, arranged physiotherapy which had me walking again within two weeks. Nine years passed before the pain became unbearable, hence the first operation. My right knee over-compensating for the left, probably caused the problems that now came to light. My present GP recommended continued use of painkillers, but one of the other doctors in the practice was horrified when my bending knee made the creaking noise of an ancient wooden boat in a storm.
Considering the backlog of the NHS, I was amazed how soon I was contacted. After several visits, form-filling, swabs and Covid tests, I was admitted to the Nuffield in Cheltenham. My first knee operation had coincided with Badminton horse trials. This time, should I wish to, I could watch both the Wimbledon and football finals.
The first thing I remember after my epidural injection were the final shots of the lady’s singles. A temporary distraction. Similar to childbirth, ‘why did I do that again?’ memories of my first painful knee op came flooding back. This time, due to lack of breath (reaction to the general anaesthetic) I was connected to oxygen for twenty-four hours, along with a hydrating drip.
After childbirth you think you’ve suffered every embarrassment going. Not so. I needed a wee, but had little skill of balancing on a bedpan with an immobile leg. The nurse pointed to my numerous attachments of pipes and machines which couldn’t possibly accompany me to the loo. Eventually I succeeded. The night nurse suggested a commode, and soon I was walking to the adjacent bathroom, once I’d been helped out of bed.
I rang Aub about 7pm. I didn’t have much to relay, but asked about his day. The hay was cut and the long range forecast good, but he did admit to having an accident with the gator (farm truck). In one of our steepest fields, he’d got out to check a lamb with a problem and suddenly realised the gator was moving past him, with both dogs still on board. He’d run to catch up, scrambled in and slammed on the brake, which spun it round to a very unstable position. Roaring the throttle, he managed to force it forward and back up the hill. I was horrified.
After another cocktail of pain relief I texted Aub, saying how I appreciated him saving Jess and Maisie, but he was even more important and please would he not kill himself while I was in hospital. Then to sleep before the painkillers wore off.
The lovely night nurse told me I must keep the operated leg straight. I usually turn over at least thirty times a night and sleep on my stomach. However, pain directed me to the correct position. Unfortunately my morphine dose was very low, though I slept till the next pill run.
Close to the Severn estuary, Cheltenham has no subtle dawn chorus. Most birds are drowned out by herring gulls. My five am start was antibiotics, morphine, tea. Morphine most appealing, my leg was painful again. A little later, more tea and cocktail of pills. The leg felt incredibly heavy and sore. I felt disconnected from real life. In waking moments I saw Djokovic had won, and England lost.
Monday morning: massive bandage removed, dressing changed, more tortuous physio. Tuesday morning: home!
Haymaking is no time to expect waitress service. I managed the stairs and tea and toast. My husband appeared after he’d checked the sheep in the morning, his next visit around eight pm. Thank goodness I’d remembered to order a batch of quality ready-meals.
Read more from Sue Andrews here
Sue Andrews’ writing has been described as ‘an amusing cocktail of sheep farming, horses and a hectic family life, enhanced by friends, wine and whisky.‘ Buy If Clouds Were Sheep at Amazon HERE and Jumping Over Clouds at Amazon HERE
Images of body parts courtesy of freepik