First of all, thanks to the hundreds of you who emailed me after last week’s accident. wishing me the best for my hip replacement operation. I’m sorry I couldn’t answer them all from the hospital, but I read them all.
I am not going to go into exhaustive detail about what has happened to me in the last week, although at some point I will have to write it all down for the record. If you want to hear all the gory details, check out this week’s edition of FOR THE MANY PODCAST, where I talk about it for the first 25 minutes.
The human spirit often amazes. Our fellow human beings amaze us with acts of bravery, kindness, and compassion. But sometimes they let us down. Just to recap, ten days ago, I spent a lovely 24 hours in Fowey in Cornwall, speaking at the literary festival. He was returning home via London’s Charing Cross tube station when the disaster struck. I was about to go through the doors at the top of the escalator when I fell. Strongly. From my part.
I stood there for about a minute, slightly dazed, pulling myself together. During that time and the few minutes that followed, not a single member of the public came to my aid, 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 sad that seeing a fellow traveler in distress didn’t cause any 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 ambulance staff when they realized I couldn’t stand. They arrived, and as they gave me laughing gas to numb the pain, a crowd formed and gaped. It was ‘rubberneck’ at its lewdest. As the all-female ambulance staff and excellent London Underground staff proceeded to carry me up the stairs to the station exit, people kept trying to get through, despite being told to use another exit. If you’re trying to get home, you’re in a hurry. I understand. But it was difficult enough for rescuers to carry a 17-stone man in a makeshift sedan chair up 30 steps to the street at ground level.
What have we become when our own lives and priorities subsume the needs of others? Have we really become a ‘walking’ society, or was I just unlucky?
I was much luckier with the NHS care I received at St Thomas’s Hospital, the one opposite Parliament where Boris Johnson almost met his creator. I had only spent one night in hospital before so I wasn’t sure what to expect given the hair-raising stories I hear every week on my radio show from people claiming the NHS is on its knees and its staff totally demoralized. . Not if St Thomas’s is anything to go by.
If there is a model hospital in the UK, this is it, if the care and treatment I received was valid. Within 20 minutes of entering a more or less empty ER, I was having X-rays showing a severely fractured right hip. Twenty minutes later they were injecting me with a nerve to relieve the pain. They explained to me with clarity and empathy what the operating procedure would be and they would operate on me first thing Monday morning.
What impressed me the most was the nursing staff on my ward, where I was in a six-bed unit. Almost all were from abroad and all the nurses seemed to enjoy their work and go the extra mile. The pavilions did not seem understaffed and there was no constant rush. Mark, the head nurse, seemed to be conducting an orchestra and everyone else loved the particular instrument they were playing. I really couldn’t have asked for more. I don’t claim things are different elsewhere, but all I can do is thank all those who cared so wonderfully for me. Nothing was too much trouble. The food, however, ok…. I’ll leave it there.
Let me quote from an email I sent to the Deputy CEO of St Thomas Hospital.
I want to tell you how proud you must be of all your staff at the George Perkins Pavilion. I have nothing but praise for all of them. Their level of attention and empathy was outstanding at all times and they made a great team. This was true of all nursing staff, whatever their rank. I didn’t get all the names from her, but I want to highlight Simonette, who took such good care of me when I first arrived in the room and she was very reassuring. I was very impressed with Mark, who gave me complete confidence in the entire 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. It’s a bit demeaning in a way to single out individuals, as clearly everyone works together as a team. They all seemed to really enjoy their job and work and that carried over to me, the patient. I also want to highlight a nurse from Norfolk at A&E named Nick, and the two doctors, Liam and Emaneke (I think) who were also incredibly reassuring and put me at ease by explaining what would be going on.
But overall I was very impressed, and I’ll say that both on the radio and in the print media.
I was released Thursday night and John has been taking care of me ever since. He has been absolutely terrific and I can only hope to be as loving as him if things were reversed.
I won’t pretend my emotions have been running wild since last Saturday. I’ve been told this is perfectly natural after such a shock and such a major operation, but it doesn’t take much to make me cry a little. I was watching the Coventry v Luton play-off when the Luton captain fell for no apparent reason and was taken to hospital. I was crying my eyes out.
As for the future, well, I guess it’s too soon to tell, but I’m not rushing 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 straight. However, I will continue to record my podcasts from home and probably write a bit more than I normally do.
People have been very good at telling me to do my exercises, so that’s what I’m going to do (again!) now.