The last ever physio…

As I have mentioned before in this blog I am privileged to have private healthcare. A part of this has been the physio that I have been receiving since I had my operation. The insurance company have been brilliant, and every time my physio has requested more treatment time they have given it to her. The last ‘batch’ of 8 physio sessions came to an end last week. This means that after today’s  session I am not covered to receive any more physio. This will only change if I have further interventions of some sort.

My physio told me that there is one insurance company that expect her to treat all their patients in an average of five and a half sessions. She told me it is extremely hard to achieve this as all the cases she sees are either the severe fractures or complex cases. As my physio was being authorised in batches of 6 or 8, I could see what she meant. I feel really lucky that I have had as much physio  I have and can’t quite believe that this is the final one.

We start the consultation with a review of progress. For the last few months I haven’t been seeing her as frequently as at first so she likes to assess my progress.

‘Let’s have a look at how you are getting on then’, she said. I stand in front of her with my back to her and show her how high I can lift my arm in front, to the side and then up my back. She bends it at the elbow to see  what rotation I have. ‘Hmm, it is still very stiff, still not much rotation there’. Its a glum moment. We test the strength which is good – I put that down to the swimming.

‘OK. Let’s stretch it today and see where we get to’. So I lay down and she gets on with stretching my arm and we chat. It is quite a relationship we have got – we talk about kids, work, stresses – house training ( don’t ask) and I would like to think that we have a good camaraderie. After all, I have been seeing her for nearly a year and we have followed each others lives for that time. As I lie there, chatting away as usual, I think how I am sorry that our journeys together are coming to an end and that I won’t get to hear the next instalment of her life. Like a soap opera, there are unanswered questions!

When she finishes I sit at the desk and, instead of making the next appointment as usual,  I tell her that I am due to see the lovely Mr F in March.

‘OK,  I will make a note to talk to him before you see him, at that consultation you will have to discuss options’ she says.

My mind races; options – what does that mean?

I stand up to go. This is it then, a final goodbye.  ‘ I am not going to say goodbye as I have a feeling I might be seeing you again’, I say.


‘Yes. I have a feeling you might as well’.



The socialists private healthcare dilemma.

2015 was a year where I had the misfortune to try out healthcare in France and the UK. I also had the ‘opportunity’ to experience  NHS and private healthcare in the UK.

In France, the service and experience was exceptional; from the doctor that I saw in the clinic on the mountain, through to the ambulance service, the Accident and Emergency unit and the ward that I was on. I had first class service and care – at a cost.

When I was first x -rayed in the mountain clinic I collapsed and was put on a trolley; the doctor put his arm around George and ushered him into a side room.

‘You have had a very big shock sir, sit down’, he said. George was impressed with the consideration that he was being shown as it wasn’t him who was injured! Then the doctor slid his bill across the table – 350 euros – and it became apparent that the doctor, with his pigeon english, had chosen the wrong tense. What he meant to say was ‘you’re in for a big shock sir, sit down’.

The ambulance stopped at the cashpoint on the way to hospital so I could pay for it – yes really.

In Accident and Emergency I had every test – X rays, MRI’s all quickly and promptly – and all needing to be paid for.

Yes, the care in France was first class but pricey.

I had some dealings with my GP and one NHS outpatient appointment but the majority of my care in the UK has been private. A beautiful hospital where you are greeted on arrival, ample parking, private en suite room, lovely food, free coffee while you wait to see the consultant and so on. I have been privileged. My first job was working in the NHS and I have always been a staunch supporter, proud of our free healthcare system. A socialist at heart I used the private healthcare provided by the company I worked with for convenience.

In December Max was taken ill and had to have two hospital admissions, one for tonsillitis ( 3 nights) and one for an appendicectomy ( 1 night). Each time Max was admitted via the GP. On the first occasion, we saw the GP at 5pm and by 11:30pm Max was only just on the ward and still waiting for painkillers and antibiotics. He was left sitting in a waiting room in A & E for several hours.


On the second occasion it was decided to operate on Max to remove his appendix. It was the 23rd December and at 5pm he was told he would be taken to theatre in the next couple of hours. At 11.30pm he was told the operation would happen the following day as they were struggling with emergencies. Max finally had the operation 9am Christmas Eve.Naturally we were disappointed as we had been told that he would need to stay in a minimum of 24 hours post surgery and this meant that he would not be home Christmas Day.   However, we didn’t need to  worry as come Christmas Eve afternoon, as the bed situation came under strain, Max was discharged home.

What really struck me about the NHS experience was that the doctors and nurses (and we saw a lot of them) were all friendly, helpful and dedicated but they were all  struggling to keep up with the demand on the NHS. When we saw staff they were fantastic – but they often did not have the equipment or time needed to give the patients the care they needed.

The care in the UK was second class – but free.


It’s not only my shoulder which is broken.

29th November 2015 -tomorrow, also a Sunday, it will be 8 months since I was hit by a young reckless skier – an incident which has changed me and changed my life.

There have been good changes – for the last five months I have swam every day, and I am now up to 1km per day. My breaststroke is really, really strong and this week in the (communal) changing rooms a chap about half my age said ‘ you’re a really good swimmer’. I told him I wasn’t sure about that as I am a bit limited because of my shoulder – saw him wince at my scar – but he was insistent; ‘ No, you are really good, you keep going for a long time’.

I am actually trying to do some crawl. The main reason for trying to do crawl is at my first consultation in the UK the consultant said to me ‘You’ll never do crawl again’. I am of the personality type that if you tell me I can’t I’ll prove you wrong and the consequence is I am blinking determined to do the crawl again. So the last few swims I have been trying a bit of back crawl ( I can do a length) and front crawl ( pitiful).

So, because my shoulder was broken I am now swimming and gaining all the health benefits from doing so but as a swimmer I am broken.

I am  riding again but only in the school.My enforced break from riding seemed like a long six months and whilst it is great that I can ride at all I would love to go out for a hack especially on some of the lovely autumn days that we have been having . The trouble is, I can’t risk falling off so I have broken away from hacking.

Last christmas my bike was broken. My lovely husband bought me a new bike for christmas, a mountain bike, it is beautiful and I rode it all the time until I had my accident. I have not been on it since as again I am worried about falling off. Coincidentally, the injury that I have is mostly seen in people who have fallen off bikes and horses – so you can understand my concern!

But there is one part of me that is not broken – an this is an important part. My spirit is not broken, in fact I feel stronger than I did before the accident. I think that is because I have always lived a blessed life and never had too much to cope with. I also realise that I still live a blessed life and in the whole scheme of things a dodgy shoulder is not the most monumental of things that could happen to you.

So I count my blessings more than before, I am more aware of the fragility of our existence than before and I am stronger than before.

Because if it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger.


Time Moves On

It has been nearly a month since I last wrote this blog and I can’t believe how time moves on.  It has not only been time that has moved on since my last post. My shoulder has made some good progression. Even my physio has noticed this – when I last went to her she said ‘ I am pleased with that forward movement – you can get over 100 degrees now!’

I can reach to the second shelf in the kitchen and have enough strength to get a plate down. I can touch the top of my head ( just) and I can get my hair into a scruffy low ponytail.

At my six month check up I had the usual x rays; ‘Blimey, that’s a lot of metal work’, said the technician. The Lovely Mr F. checked the x rays and said that there were some lines on the bone still where it was healing but he was really pleased with the position and healing. ‘ It looks like a shoulder on the x ray now’. He then checked the movement, and said that the range of movement that I have got is disappointing. However, when he tested the strength he said it was not too bad – the swimming is paying off!

Mr F told me to go away for six months ( six whole months!!!) when he would review me. He also said that he would not operate again this year as he felt that I had been through enough for one year. I was really relieved. Finally he said ‘ Don’t be scared of it – use it. You strike me as a ‘go and get ’em’ type of girl. Go and use your arm as much as you can’.

The best thing about the whole consultation was being called a girl 🙂

The lovely outdoor pool that I was swimming in has closed now, so I have joined a pool which although it is smaller is lovely and I am still swimming most days. I have set myself a challenge to swim across the channel in the shortest time possible so I am mostly swimming 900m – 1k per day and I try to swim a mile one day at the weekend.

I don’t swim on Mondays and that’s because ( drum roll) I have been riding my horse again! Getting on the horse felt like a massive milestone. I only went in the school, and in fact that is all I have done so far. The first time I rode my shoulder ached like mad, my legs were weak and there was little strength in my arm but when I got off I had the biggest smile inside and on my face 🙂

So, Time Moves On. Because it has to.

And sooner or later – so do you.

The perils of travel.


Last week, for the first time since March I went to a meeting in Europe with work. I used to travel a fair amount before I had my accident and catching a plane was for me a bit like catching a bus. In general the flights were to Europe or the UK, and I know the routes and airports well. Every airport has a slightly different approach to security but I have learnt them over the years and can generally get through security at speed. In recent times, more and more airports have introduced body scanners, and  last week, the airport in Germany that I flew out of was doing body scans on every single passenger. Now, if you have ever been through a body scan you know that you have to raise both your hands above your head – quite high. I watched each passenger with increasing trepidation – how would security deal with me?

As I got to the front, jacket and shoes off, laptop out of my bag I stepped into the scanner. ‘ Hands up’ barked the German security lady. I put my hands up. ‘ No , not like that, both hands up, higher’, she said.

‘I am sorry but I can’t,’ I said and showed her my scar. Her jaw dropped and she went a bit pale, but not as pale as the man who did the scan and saw the metal work in my shoulder. I was taken out of the scan and put in a cubicle to one side. What happened next really surprised me. I was searched, but the person searching me pushed all around my scar with her fingers and thumb- presumably to see if it was real!

Once I was through I breathed a sigh of relief and sat in departures contemplating the trip. My shoulder really hurt and I think it was that age old problem – as my world gets bigger again I have to adapt and adjust, doing things differently than I would have done prior to the surgery. Although it was only an overnight trip I had to put my bag in the hold, I knew there was no way I would get it in the overhead lockers.  It is of course slightly frustrating as you have to go via baggage collection on arrival at your destination. When I was walking through the airport, I  wasn’t too keen on either pulling my wheelie overnight bag or carrying my briefcase ( which is quite heavy) in my right hand.

I like a window seat when I travel, and on this trip I was on the left hand side of the plane. It didn’t cross my mind what a strain it would be to reach over to the air hostess for a drink and a snack, but it was awkward and painful. There were other hazards on the trip; the lunch buffet had a very nice tomato and bread crostini but I couldn’t quite reach over to it with my right arm so I used my left – the consequence? Tomato and bread crostini all over the place. In the evening I sat on a low chair at a table but my arm ached as I ate my dinner – the low chair made the table too high for my arm. During the meeting I was asked to write on the flipchart – no hope. The glass and bottle of water were on my right hand side – I couldn’t reach so had to stand up to reach with my left hand. You get the picture.

Once again, I was overwhelmed by the warmth of my colleagues – this was a global meeting and so there were a lot of people that I hadn’t seen since March. So, again, I re -lived the accident, the hospital, the operation and the recovery.

Except I am not re – living it. I am living with it every day.

How are you?

Yesterday was five months since I had the operation. I have found this week quite tough emotionally, and on occasions been a bit tearful. Part of this is because there have been changes at work, and colleagues that I have worked with for 20 years have left the company, but mostly it is because five months on I still have pain every day, I still wake most nights with discomfort and I am constantly aware of what I cannot do.

If you were to see me you probably wouldn’t realise the challenges I have, I can walk, talk, write, drive, work, do the washing, cook – I can even chop up an onion now. What you wouldn’t see is the things that I struggle with, taking my jacket off, shopping in supermarkets – unable to hold the basket in my right hand but can’t reach the top shelves with that hand either – so I have to put the basket on the floor to shop. You wouldn’t see me pushing my elbow to get my hand close enough to my eye to put mascara on. When I go the boot of the car, I have to always close it with my left hand – my right won’t reach. Taking a tray through the canteen at work I have to walk through the narrow door sideways as I have to hold the tray at an angle. Emptying the dishwasher – still a one handed job as I can’t reach up to the glasses with my right arm. You wouldn’t see how tired I get as physically things are harder than they should be, nor would you notice that when I eat or drink it is mostly with my left hand. I am pretty certain that you wouldn’t see me at 6am, up and down the swimming pool in the hope that it is making my arm stronger. You might notice when I get animated that my right arm is stiffer than my left, you might notice my scar, but on the whole you would have no idea how much I have to adapt how I do things. Why would you?

This got me to thinking – if you wouldn’t notice these things about me – what do I miss in others? I am probably surrounded by people who are also having to change the way the approach life for one reason or another – maybe they too have an injury, perhaps they have fallen on hard times or they are broken hearted, grieving for a lost love or a bereavement. I expect many of us carry with us something that we cope with every day and that we keep this close to our hearts, not sharing with others what pain, emotional or physical we are in.

Of course, no one wants to dwell on these things so we stick on our best smile and go about our business with a sunny disposition, packing our troubles in our old kit bags, and making sure we smile, smile, smile. We pass the day with platitudes ” Are you OK”, ” Yes, you?” But maybe, just maybe, once in a while we should ask our neighbour ‘ How are you?’ and when they say ‘ Fine – you?’ instead of ‘ fine’ we should try replying;

“No, how are you, really?”

To ski, or not to ski, now there’s a question.


September – schools back, the nights are getting shorter, and while there is still some beautiful summer weather it is definitely cooler. It’s normally about now that I start looking for skiing holidays. We generally go at half term ( along with the rest of Surrey) and try a different resort every year. We book self catering, drive across and squeeze 7 days actually skiing in.

My parents, both keen skiers, have also come every year. It has been low key, they stay in the same resort, same week, but often different apartment blocks to give each family a bit of space from the other!

I love looking for skiing holidays, I research the resorts and compare one against the other for snow history, altitude, ambiance and number of runs. Then the fun of looking for an apartment, somewhere close to the lift and shops. Finally I book it and we all start getting excited. The thought of it gets us through the winter and for me the holiday starts when I start googling. In February, just when it feels like winter is never going to end, we escape to the Alps, to the bright blue skies and frosty air, and when we return the days are noticeably longer.

This year, however, we have a problem. I am still not recovered from the last skiing holiday. Amongst other things  I still can’t touch the top of my head, take off a jacket easily or reach the shelves in Sainsburys.

This poses somewhat of a dilemma. Max and Lucy are keen to go skiing, they seem unfazed by the accident I had. As Max has started lower sixth it may not be that many years that he still wants to ski with us.  My parents, whilst not old, are not getting any younger and every year my Dad says ‘ Well, we don’t know if we will be able to ski next year’.

So with these two ticking time bombs, one either end of the spectrum, I feel an enormous emotional pull to go on what I am sure will be another wonderful holiday. Yet, physically and psychologically I don’t know if I can do it. It is one of the FAQ’s ( Frequently Asked Questions) that I still get when people ask about my shoulder. ‘ Do you think you will ski again?’ To begin with, I was certain, yes, definitely, why wouldn’t I? After all, both my mother and my brother  continued to ski after serious injuries. But as time has marched on and my progress has been so slow, with the pain and the limited movement I still have  I have become less and less confident.

This weekend I broached the subject with George. ‘ Do you want to go skiing next year?’

Without hesitation he answered, ‘No, do you?’. I replied, ‘No’.

So that’s settled then.

Isn’t it?

Definite Progress

It is five months this week since I set off on that beautiful morning in the Alps to go skiing. Had I known how the day was going to end I would have stayed in the apartment that day. In my photos on my phone there are a couple of photos of Max, Lucy and me at the top of the run, just before I had my accident. I remember George taking them – it was one of those conversations where I wanted to ski on and he wanted to stop and take a photo.

‘We’ve got all week to take photos, let’s get going’ I said impatiently. ‘Yes, but the weather might not be so good later in the week’ said George. So we stopped at the top of the lift and he took a couple of photos of the three of us, arms around each other smiling in the sunshine, looking forward to the day skiing ahead of us.

There are three happy photos of us, and as I swipe through them the very next one is an x-ray of my fractured humerus, followed by the x ray of the pins and plate after the operation.  It’s a stark reminder of how fragile our existence is, of how one minute we can be happily enjoying ourselves and the next everything changes.

This weekend saw a horrific air crash at Shoreham. A stunt pilot had an accident and landed on the A27. No one is sure yet how many fatalities there are likely to be but it could be as high as 20. Two young men who died were in car on the way to play for their football team; there is no way that they could have expected to be hit by a freak accident such as a stunt plane landing on the road.

So, against the background of the daily tragedies and life changing events like the one at Shoreham, fracturing your shoulder whilst skiing is a minor injury. To me however, it has without doubt been a major event, not just this year but in my life so far. When I first saw the lovely Mr. F and he was laying out how long the recovery would take he said to me ‘It will be at least a year before you can forget about it. If you ever can.’

There is not a day, in fact, there is barely an hour where I don’t think about my shoulder; it is hurting me or there is something I cannot do because of it. Very occasionally I realise that I haven’t thought about it for an hour or so and I am pleasantly surprised! As I am so aware of my arm and my mobility all the time I do notice progress – or lack of it on a regular basis.

The last week or so I have seen definite progress. Firstly, my arm is getting stronger; I like to think that the swimming is paying off.  I can wring out my swimming costume. I can lift the tea pot and pour tea with my right arm. I can drain a pan of vegetables.

My arm is also getting more mobile.  Washing my hair is getting easier; I don’t have to bend my head quite so far forward. I can open the top cupboards in the kitchen and get a cup out.  At work, I have swiped myself into the car park – painful but possible. I can lean over the side of the bed and put my book on the floor.

So, five months on and yes, my life has changed. My career has been impacted because of the accident and I am still a long way from being recovered.  But I am recovering – and there is still progress to be had.

Ambidextrous and all sorts of Physio!

When I first had my accident I had to re-learn how to do a lot of things with my left arm. I learnt to write, put make up on, hang up washing all with my left arm. I was amazed how quickly I could retrain myself to use my left hand and I am now pretty ambidextrous. I use the mouse on the computer in my left hand without even thinking. This week we went to Chinatown and I realised that I was eating with chopsticks with my left hand without even thinking about it. My left hand has really become my dominant hand and I have to remind myself to use my right hand to do things. It is a reversal of how things were; now I am having to relearn how to do things with my right hand.

It is pretty apparent that my range of motion is not improving at all ‘not exactly dramatic’ is what the physio said at this weeks session. That doesn’t mean to say that I am not constantly trying to improve it by using my arm. If I am putting things away in a high kitchen cupboard I will use my left arm to push my right arm up, stretching it. I make myself wash with my right arm even though it is so weak its pathetic. I am still swimming every morning, come rain or shine and getting fitter as a consequence. I have to think about using my right hand in a way that was just natural before. Its tiring using brain cells to think about doing the things that I used to take for granted!

By thinking about using my right arm and making myself do things with it I am hopeful that it will improve in time. At work, I pull doors, try to drink and eat with my right arm. As I am mostly in meetings or at my desk for the majority of the time you wouldn’t spot that I even had an injury. This is great because it means that I am not thinking of my arm all the time but sometimes it has its disadvantages. Last week we had a new Director join the company I work for. He is a very tall guy, probably about 6ft 5″ and German. I went over to shake his hand and he had one of those hand shakes where he literally grabbed my hand and pumped my arm as hard as he could. Unfortunately for both of us he yanked my arm higher than it has been since March 29th and of course I yelped in pain. There was a stunned silence in the room as all those present looked shocked by what had happened, the new Director was mortified and I was embarrassed explaining why I had squealed like a pig.

The odd thing is, since then I have  been able to reach higher 🙂

The power of positive thinking..

It’s summer and, because of holidays, this week was the first week that I had physio for three weeks. Now, I have been swimming every day at 6am and am up to 800m each morning so I was really looking forward to her saying how much improvement she could see.

We did the usual range of movement measurements and to my dismay she said,       ‘There might be a fraction more movement but its plateaued – and in fact it has been at a plateau for a long time. ‘

Despite myself, some water leaked out of both my eyes.

I am an optimist, a positive person and this normally gives me loads of resilience. This accident has been a really interesting experiment in terms of sorting the optimists from the pessimists.

At work, I regularly come across people who want to hear about the accident and how I am – the most common reaction is ‘ Gosh, weren’t you lucky!” ‘Yes’, I reply, ‘I think I am really lucky, the skier that hit me could have broken my back or my neck or hit my daughter and he probably would have killed her’. We agree how fortunate I have been and I walk away feeling lucky. I am definitely surrounded by optimists in the office.

Others are a bit more considered. ‘That’s dreadful isn’t it, poor you, how unlucky. You must be devastated how bad your shoulder still is, it must be so frustrating for you, all the things that you can’t do’. These are the pessimists in life, you know them, those who suck the life energy out of you, dementors.

The fact is that I can now live life more or less as normal, I can drive, work, type swim. I can’t yet ride, brush my hair and so on – but I focus on what I can do.  I am a firm believer that everything will turn out good in the end and if things aren’t good then you’re not at the end yet.

‘You will get there’, my physio said, as she handed me a tissue. She told me that there are other options for me, but it is too early to consider them yet. ‘So’, she said, ‘ for now we will carry on, same time next week?’

So I carry on – because I am not at the end yet.