‘May you live in interesting times’ states the well-known curse. Of those, we’ve had plenty during the last year. Not only has the world been in turmoil but personally, too, life spent the bulk of 2014 throwing the balls at us rather too quickly, and racing around trying to catch them all left us in a weary heap on the floor. Let me give you an example: In October I found out that we are expecting our third child- wonderful news- which explained why I had been feeling like my limbs were too heavy to move. In the preceding weeks, work had been intense and incessant, and we had been embroiled in an unnecessarily lengthy and complicated home move. The week following the clear blue line we left for a short break away, and no sooner had we dared to relax than Noah, our three year old son, sustained a not-so-short break of his own: a fracture of his femur. Five days in traction, flat on his back, and then a general anaesthetic for the application of a hip spica (a cast from waist down, covering at least part of both legs) were borne with little complaint: an amazing thing for an active little person. I gave thanks each day for my patient boy, and because the first trimester of pregnancy had been relatively kind to me. A balmy autumn turned chilly the week we returned home from hospital, and the central heating broke. A few more balls thrown and caught, and we were finally moving home, nine days after discharge from hospital. The grandparents came to the rescue: whizzing down the motorway to us each week, entertaining the immobile toddler as he lay propped up on his oversized beanbag, enabling me to return to work. Two weeks later I completed my annual appraisal, having submitted many hours of preparatory work beforehand. Interesting times.
Noah’s injury reminded me of the time that Bapuji fell off his stool, his usual perch in the toy shop, and fractured his hip. Surprisingly, we were given a choice: surgery or three months in traction. We consulted orthopaedic friends, but even ignoring the medical pros and cons, there was only one sensible option. Bapuji would never have been able to tolerate the time in traction: he is a man who rises before dawn each day; he is a man who goes to work six days out of seven. Late nineties or not, a hip replacement was absolutely necessary. The surgery was relatively uneventful, but soon afterwards Bapuji became increasingly confused and incoherent. He would attempt to leap out of his hospital bed, or to pull out his catheter. He needed to be watched 24 hours a day, and my brother, mum and Indira took turns camping out in his room. For a man of considerable age he proved to be surprisingly strong, and the restraint required to prevent him from unwittingly hurting himself was almost too much for the diminutive women in the family. “Get them to check for a urinary tract infection” we pleaded over the telephone. “Ask them to arrange some blood tests”. What was performed instead was a CT scan of his brain, which confirmed that Bapuji had not had a stroke. Several days and sleepless nights later his urine was finally tested, confirming an infection which responded rapidly to simple antibiotics. Perhaps this was an example of topsy turvy medicine in a country where money matters, and the more expensive investigations are prioritised over the sensible ones? Bapuji recuperated well and, despite the protestations of all, returned to his seat by the entrance of the toy shop not long after discharge.
I was thinking, too, of Anil, with his cerebral palsy, of the surgery he underwent on no fewer than nine occasions. Noah weathered his seven weeks of immobility with good humour and fortitude- helped significantly by the iPad- but this pales in comparison with the two years, on and off, that Anil spent with his legs in a cast. He was, by all accounts, accepting and patient, but the frustration must have bubbled to the surface periodically. And for Ba, the lifting and fetching, the stretches and massage, and always, always the worry. Noah’s situation was very different from Anil’s, of course: although the X-ray revealed a gruesome-looking displaced fracture he was expected to make a full recovery. Thank you, fabulous paramedics (especially Hannah, who came back the following day, just to visit Noah), nurses and doctors for your smiles, your efficient work and your care. We were so well taken care of: the NHS at it’s best.
This year will be different- the interesting times will be tempered with a little ‘pole-pole’ (slowly slowly: Swahili). Let us be clear: I am not hoping for a slow and steady life. I’m not ready for that yet, not until I am old and have done all the things I want to do, not until my bones creak, but we will take some time to breathe and enjoy the small things. This year will be full of good things. Exciting plans. Watch this space….