January 20, 2009

I’m snowboarding again with the boys. Read about it here.

Waiting’s up

November 5, 2008

So that’s it. I’m now officially bionic. They have rebuilt me.

My experience of the surgery was overwhelmingly positive. As soon as I came round, things felt different and better. Although I was in not inconsiderable pain, my shoulder felt fundamentally right; a feeling which I hadn’t had in the preceding week and a half. Almost immediately, I could use my arm again. The down side is that even now—just under a week after the op—the range of motion of my shoulder joint is pretty shoddy, and will need a lot of painful physio to get right again. Although maybe I’ll wait until the bruising goes down first.

My main problem right now, and for the last two and a half weeks—apart from the range of motion—is one of sleep. Last night I managed a mostly-uninterrupted night, although I still needed to augment it with a bunch of micro-naps throughout the day. I’m still pretty tired most of the day, but in a normal work week, that’s not a million miles out of the ordinary anyway.

The negative which bugged me about my time in the care of the NHS was its customers. I love the NHS. I genuinely do. It’s an institution of which Britain should be proud. Sure, it’s not perfect, but the idea of universal healthcare is just right. The downside to a system which caters for everyone, irrespective of background, is that it caters for everyone, irrespective of background. What I’m trying to get at here is that I object to having to share a bay with two smackheads. I’ll write more on that aspect of my stay later.

Anyway, to the money shots. What follows is a timeline of my clavicular integrity over a 13-day period in the autumn of 2008…

About 2 hours after hearing a clicking noise from my collar bone, here’s what I looked like. The break is clean in two, but there’s a ton of overlap so no indication that things won’t heal without intervention.

straight afterward

A week later, this is no longer the case. the two halves of what was once my lovely intact collarbone now want nothing to do with each other. They’d rather spend their time hurting me and stopping me from sleeping. Surgical intervention is now a necessity.

a week later

Here’s the outcome of that intervention. For scale, the screw on the left is about 22 mm long. The things floating above my collar bone are the 21 staples holding me together on the outside.


And here’s what they look like on the outside, when I had my dressing changed.

the outside

In a nutshell, what I’m trying to get at here is that I’ve had better weeks.


October 30, 2008

So it wasn’t today.

The phone call from the hospital wasn’t the one for which I was waiting. The excess of orthopaedic trauma cases yesterday bumped my op back to tomorrow at the earliest. In an open message to the late-night travellers of the Southend area, can you please try to avoid any multiple pile-ups in the next few hours? Also, seeing as it’s kicking out time at the nightclubs before too long, can I ask that if you really want to fight each other, to try to restrict yourselves to soft tissue damage only?

My inner hypochondriac has started to work his own special magic since I got the news that the bone I thought was healing nicely was to be augmented by one of these. When I was under the impression that everything was ok, frankly I didn’t feel too bad. Sure it hurt, but most of the time I wrote it off as what happens when healing takes place. Since finding out that the ends of my collar bone are a lot further apart than they should be, the baseline level of hurt has been different. The best way that I can describe the feeling across my right shoulder is that it’s like the feeling when you first stretch your hamstring before a match on a cold day. Only for longer. It’s an odd sensation, and by no means one which I’ll miss.

As I write this, it’s early morning and I can’t really sleep. Might be the discomfort, might be the unknown about what tomorrow will bring – I’m not sure. Either way, from my bedroom, I can hear neither car crashes or drunken fights. Or drunken car crashes. And on a purely selfish note, that has to be a good thing.

ORIF R Clav.

October 29, 2008

my arm

Well, what started out as a reasonably run-of-the-mill day has taken something of a rum twist. To set the scene, let’s go back 10 days…

The date: saturday 18 october, 2008. The time: probably about 4ish. The team: Thurrock RFC. The match: away at Chelmsford. The opposition player: fairly sizable, and sprinting down the wing. The last line of defence: me.

The match was pretty tight at the time. From what I remember, we were ahead, but not by more than 7 points. As I was looking at it, their player was haring down the left wing with only me to beat. I’m happy to say that he didn’t. The resultant tackle was pretty hard. I got lowish on the chap, hitting him around the hip area with my right shoulder, tackling him into touch. Needless to say, this hurt a bit, but I’ve had worse. Previous shoulder tackles have done something to a nerve, paralysing my arm for a few minutes. This one was sore, but nothing like as bad.  I got up, shook myself down, and got ready for the lineout—our throw.  In my big diary of the day, it was at this point that things started to go wrong.

In the line, I was tasked to lift one of our two main jumpers. I’ve lifted him hundreds of times before. He’s the lighter of the two, about 6’3″, and has good reliable hands. The dummy jump went in, and their front jumper fell for it. Yahtzee. I turned to lift our jumper, who now had a clear line of sight to the ball. I got a hold of his leg, and gave him an agricultural heave into the air.  Well, that was the plan. As soon as my right upper arm passed the horizontal, I hear what sounded like someone clicking their fingers next to my ear. My initial thought—verbatim—was “Fuck it—I’ve just broken my collar bone. Well, at least it doesn’t hurt much.” I’m not sure what happened from the lineout, but as I trod gingerly to the touchline, we scored in the far corner, making my last action on the pitch a 14-point turnaround.

By this time, my hubristic underestimation of the pain involved had come back to bite me. Any movement of the right side of my upper body resulted in an intense stabbing pain in my shoulder. A trip to A&E beckoned.

At A&E after one of the least comfortable car journeys of my life, I happily accepted the kind offer of pain relief.  I then glumly sat back down for the next half hour in the stark realisation that the effect diclofenac has on me is somewhere between nonexistent and negligible. I’m not all that bad with pain, but speaking as the world’s most squeamish man, the thing that truly freaked me out at that time was the feeling of bone grinding against bone. Those of you who have experienced it know what I mean. Those of you that haven’t probably don’t want to.

After exposure to some of Röntgen’s finest, the fracture was pretty clear to see. It was about half way along my collar bone, with the fracture at an angle of 45-60° to the bone. The two halves of my collarbone were at about 5-10° to each other, resulting in a nice big overlapping area to heal together without surgery. A trip to the fracture clinic upgraded me to an impressively-proportioned sling, and a checkup a week later.

The difficult thing in this time has been sleeping. I’m propped up in bed in kind of a sitting position, with a bunch of pillows supporting my right elbow. I’ve not managed more than 2-3 hours on the bounce, partly because this is an inherently uncomfortable position in which to sleep, and partly because moving out of it hurts enough to wake me up.

The previously-mentioned week later is now today.  My shoulder has felt mostly ok for the last few days. The sickening bone-on-bone grinding stopped toward the end of last week. I assumed that this meant that the two halves of my collarbone had succumbed to the osteoblast’s inexorable march, and started to mesh together. A second X-ray showed that not to be the case.  The reason that I was no longer feeling any hot bone-on-bone action is that in the intervening week, the two halves have moved apart by a good few cm. This was not the result I had been wanting.

The upshot is that I’m sat here now where I’ve spent a large portion of the last week and a half; sat upright in bed, with my right arm in one of these. The difference is that a registrar has tagged my right bicep in permanent marker with a big arrow, and the eponymous inscription “ORIF R Clav.”

ORIF is an acronym for Open Reduction Internal Fixation. It means opening me up, pulling the two halves of my collarbone together, and screwing them both to a plate. Frankly, it looks brutal. I now have to wait for the call from the hospital. It could be tomorrow, although it could be the day after. Either way, it’s time to start a nice preoperative fast.

All in all, I’m not terribly chuffed. For a person who likes to be in control of his situation, I’m now not eating in anticipation of a phone call—which may come tomorrow, although it may not—to go to a strange place, where i can dress in a paper gown so that one stranger can render me unconscious while his friend—another stranger—cuts a hole in me and has a poke around, before getting out his set of Ikea allen keys. This is far from ideal.

Fred Basset – erratum

July 14, 2008

Now I’m not going to use this forum to engage on a years-long rant against Fred Basset creator Alex Graham. That kind of thing has been done already, and done extraordinarily well.

You can see Fred’s latest hilarious antics here. As the proud co-owner of a Basset pup of my own, however, I have to say that Mr Graham’s comic strip would perhaps be a little more lifelike if it looked like this:

Preseason, part II

June 29, 2008

We’re a few weeks in, and life is no more fun. Not by any stretch. I’ve been in constant pain now for three weeks. I’ve not slept a full night in that time, simply because I can’t move around in bed without a previously-unknown muscle group reminding me of its presence.

But as much as this awful pursuit is ruining my enjoyment of life, I’m yet to be convinced that I’d like things any other way. It’s taking time, effort, and no small amount of pain, but I’m getting better. I’ve never been the world’s best sprinter, but at training yesterday, I nearly overtook someone. This week promises a bunch of position-specific work. For my role—a scrummaging specialist—this means that I’ll be doing a whole bunch of anaerobics and deadlifting. I like neither. Yet, as ever, I don’t want it any other way. I love my club, I love my sport, and I know that everyone else on the playing staff is feeling the same as I do, and making the same sacrifices. In the coming season, I know they won’t let me down. I have to make sure that I won’t let them down. The only way to ensure this is more hard work, more time, and a whole lot more pain. But it’ll be worth it. This time next year, I’ll be hating life as much as I do now, but at least I’ll be doing it one league higher up.

The Evening Standard’s advertising poster for this evening—detailing the recent arrest of John from Blue Peter (ex Catherine Zeta)—read “John Leslie rape quiz”. I’m not going to that; I’m better at science and nature.


June 16, 2008

Last month, I watched the finest dvd ever created. Ever since, I’ve been counting the minutes until I can get back on the rugby pitch. Needless to say, now that I have, I really wish I hadn’t.

On saturday, we had a fitness test to set a baseline for the upcoming summer’s endeavours. Of the people who were there, I knew that I’d perhaps fare a little worse than the 9 stone 16 year-old. Seeing as the session was 2 days ago, and that even now, I’m in such splendidly searing agony that even writing this post is making my fingers hurt, I’m pretty sure that was indeed the case.

Knowing the fitness coach, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be spending the next 3 months mainlining ibuprofen. On a slightly more worrying note, the friday just gone was the last day in the next 9-10 months that I’ll spend not hurting. The rest of the preseason and season will be spent cramped, with aching muscles, bruised, and generally feeling sorry for myself.

But, as ever, would I have it any other way? Of course not. This season, my own personal Everest may come. I need to make sure that I’m ready.

A dogging holiday

May 5, 2008

For the first time in years, I’ve taken time off work, with the express intention of doing pretty much nothing. I have no holiday to go on, no major tasks, and absolutely no goals. Except, that is, to look after one of these…

the hound!

This is Wilbur, my new pedigree Basset hound puppy.

Yes, Wilbur is my only reason for taking any time off work, and I think he’s the best reason anyone could imagine for any annual leave. Wilbur is—quite simply—the most beautiful, loving, yet utterly terrifying animal I’ve ever seen. The Wilbur Switch has two settings; Hyperactive, and Asleep. Right now—of course—he’s asleep.

When Clair and I first set out buying a puppy, we soon decided that a Basset was the dog for us. They’re loving, trusting, pretty docile, and—let’s face it—pretty easy on the eye. To get in touch with him, we first contacted the Basset Hound Club, who put us in touch with a couple of proper breeders. This, by the way, is the route which I’d advise anyone wishing to get a dog—any pedigree dog—to take; speak to someone who knows an awful lot more about things than you do, and take their advice. We found a breeder who we liked—and who liked us—and got on the list of people earmarked for one of their beautiful litter. Eight fraught weeks and a couple of hundred miles on the clock later, what we have ended up with is a dog which has been brought up in a loving family environment, surrounded by its littermates, constantly handled by children, and pretty much house trained. Added to that, he’s spectacularly smart, and the only animal I’ve ever seen who can tread on its own ears.

To say that I’m captivated by him is an understatement. This captivation, however, is not without its price. I’m so eager to do everything right for the hound that it can get a bit overwhelming. I’ve never exactly been one of life’s worriers, but now that there’s this little, beautiful, precious life depending entirely on my actions, it does rather divest me of my laissez-faire predisposition. Yes, he’s had a few accidents indoors, but those can be attributed to my inexperience in reading his signs as much as they can to The Hound’s bladder. He’s scratching a bit, but with so much skin, and so little dog, that’s natural, isn’t it? How do I know he’s content, and not just crazy and anxious? Am I feeding him enough? Am I feeding him too much? Does he really like processed cheese, or is he just being polite?

I’m sure that the anxiety will wear off in time. After all, this is Wilbur’s first time, too.

If I’m painting a negative picture, it’s only of my own paranoia. Owning a puppy is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. If we treat him right—which we’re trying to do—what we get in return is utterly unconditional love, and to watch this unwieldy, clumsy, yet extremely smart little beast grow up into a full-size dog. On half-size legs…

Nerdy colleague: “There should be an internationally-recognised scale to measure the strength of cheese.”
Me: “Surely that’s not just the Young’s modulus?”

Needless to say, much nerdy hilarity ensued, followed by a conversation about whether Young’s modulus or the Mohs hardness scale would have been a better punchline. Splendid stuff.