An anniversary of sorts

IMG_1720I arrive at the hospital for my 12 month check up – a few weeks early as the physio has suggested. I sat in the waiting room to be greeted by this advert on the table.

The irony is not lost on me, I have spent the last few weeks watching so many people go off skiing, all coming back with stories of how it is the best snow they have seen for years. I still find it really hard to believe that we set off as a family on that beautiful March morning for a days skiing and I ended up in Moutiers hospital by the evening. Max and Lucy have really missed the skiing, they keep showing me photos their friends post on snapchat of how lovely it is. I miss it too.

Adam comes to get me and takes me for an x-ray ‘ That’s a nice lot of metal you’ve got there!’ he comments, as he takes the shot.

‘That’s what everyone says’, I reply.

It’s the first time I have seen Mr F for 6 months so we have a lot of catching up to do. When he asks me if I have been skiing, I look away, when I reply no, a bit embarrassed that I have not been ‘gung ho’ enough to go.

‘I don’t blame you’, he said. ‘ I have just got back from skiing and the week before I went I saw five fractured shoulders – all from skiing holidays. It put me off going completely and I was just glad to get back in one piece’.

Five!! I can’t believe it! Five in a week! How many fractured shoulders must there be in a year from skiing?

The lovely Mr F reviews my x-rays – ‘You have got a significant amount of metal in your arm which makes it very difficult to see the bone, it does look like you have a shadow there so I am going to send you for an MRI to check the bone is fully healed. Your arm is still so very stiff, so we will discuss surgery with the results next week’.

He looks at the original x -rays, following the accident to see how the bone has progressed.

‘I remember when I first saw these, my heart sank’ he said, ‘not because it was bad for you, which I am sure it was, but I had no idea how I was going to put you back together again.’

I have the MRI and the following week we review the results. The good news is that the angle of the head of humerus is good now, it is in a good position.

‘The radiographer has commented that it is difficult to see because of all the metal but the bone appears to have healed well – so we will take the metal out. Hopefully you will have better mobility and less pain’.

It is a bit weird getting ready for the surgery. Last year I had no idea when I set off that I would not be able to use my arm for three months. This time I am fully prepared so have filled the freezer with food, changed all the beds and generally got organised for not being able to drive for a couple of weeks.

The surgery is later today – the 30th March. One year and one day since the original accident. Perhaps next year I too will be able to get back to what I love.

The trouble with insurance.

Last March, when we went on holiday, George started looking at holiday insurance. Now, George and I have very different approaches to this sort of thing. I would just buy bog standard cover, cheap and cheerful, hopefully you will never have to use it. George, meanwhile, likes to research and get a good value but solid travel insurance because who knows. Consequently, George spent a little bit more and got a ‘Gold’ standard travel insurance.

Before we go on holiday George always insists on printing off itineraries, tickets, policies, etc and putting in folders. I confess, I have been merciless in teasing him over  this level of fastiduosness.

When the accident happened we made it back to the apartment. I remember vividly trying to take off my jacket only to discover that my arm was so swollen that it was virtually impossible. I was desperate to get to a doctor to put me out of the pain of what I thought was a dislocated shoulder. George insisted that I wait while he located the insurance documents to take with us. I was so  irritated.

When we got to the doctor and had the x – rays, transfer to hospital,  and so on, George was insistent that we call the insurance company every step of the way.

The trouble started when I was in hospital in Moutiers. The insurance company refused to let me go home without medical supervision which they said would take five days. I actually took to tweeting them in the hope of getting some action ‘ @XXX healthcare – why are you keeping me from the treatment that I need? not goldstar service’.

Eventually I discharged myself and flew home on Easy jet. George, albeit under extreme duress, got agreement that the insurance company would pay for this flight although not be liable for my safety.

After the operation, when I was housebound I started filling in the insurance form. I claimed for accommodation, ski hire, lift pass unused because of the accident, all the medical care that I had received and travel home. I won’t go into the detail here but it took 7 months to settle the claim during which time I was repeatedly asked for information that I had already sent. To give you a flavour of the whole saga here is an extract from an e mail to them.

Please do feel free to ask for any information again – I am getting quite used to repeatedly sending the same information to you on numerous occasions. I was also asked three times for the name and address of the party that hit me – which again I supplied three times. This is the second time that I have sent the information that you have asked for above but hey ho – it’s only been six months since I started the claim with you 🙂

Finally, just before Christmas I had a letter of apology, the settlement and £50 to compensate me for my poor service. I was very pleased that George had been so fussy, without it I would not have had a leg to stand on.

Just when you think it is all over, this week I have had two separate letters from them. The first is to inform me, via a solicitor, that they intend to reclaim all their costs through my personal injury claim.

The second, somewhat staggeringly was to ask for my NI number. I supplied it to them. For the third time.

 

Some unexpected physio….

It is coming up to a year since I had the accident and there are still some things which I find really difficult. Getting the ticket out of the multi- storey carpark is one , getting my hand high and at that angle is a challenge. That’s OK though because I don’t go to carparks that often. Reaching cups, plates and so on is still a bit hard but I mostly do that with my left arm now. The one daily task that is quite difficult still is getting dressed. Anything which has to go over my head, dresses, jumpers, vest tops, T-Shirts are all really, really tricky. Getting in and out of jackets and coats is also quite an effort and I have some jackets which I still can’t wear. Then there are shirts and dresses with little buttons at the back of my neck – virtually impossible but I swear and struggle and generally I get there.

It’s been really cold lately and as I have been up to the stables and out with the dog a lot I have been reliant on layers. A couple of thin tops and then a sweatshirt normally keeps me  roasty toasty. But my word, it is a pain in the arse putting them on. Not only that, but because I don’t want to stay in horse stuff all day I change when I get home. Then I go swimming as well which is another change in and out of a swimming costume – with clothes on and off when I get there. Sometimes I can change in and out of clothes 6 or 7 times a day. When you think each time is an effort ( and it really is an effort) it can be quite dispiriting, frustrating  and painful. Getting dressed should be easy! Toddlers can do it!

Then there is the getting stuck. This is quite claustrophobic and painful. Before I broke my shoulder I think the last time I got stuck in my clothes I was about six, now it happens relatively frequently. When I get stuck I find the best thing to do is go backwards, put the offending item back on and then try another system to take it off. That usually works.

This weekend, I went up to the yard completely layered up. When I came back and walked in the house I very quickly got too hot and wanted to take a relatively tight sweatshirt off. Unfortunately I got stuck but as I was in the kitchen decided that the quickest and least frustrating route would be to ask George to help me out.

‘Do you think you can help me out of this?’ I said. George came over to me, and laughed as I was headless.

‘No problem’, he said and started pulling, tugging and manoeuvring. Poor George, there was a time when getting me undressed was far more exciting. After a few minutes he realised that he wasn’t getting anywhere and called Max over to help.

Max was all gung ho about it and determined to show his Dad how easy it was to get a jumper off. So, he grabbed the bottom of the jumper and just yanked it over my head, pulling my arms up as he went as you would any kid who was tying to get a top off. Max is over 6 foot and I am 5 foot 5 inches so very easy for him to pull the top up quick and hard. Unfortunately, what he forgot is that my arm still doesn’t go above about 100 degrees – but it does go a lot further when it is yanked by an enthusiastic strong 16 year old determined to show his dad how easy the task is.

‘AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!’ I yelled, as the top flew over my head. ‘Flipping heck ( or words to that effect) that hurt!’ I cried!!

‘Max, you need to be careful – that’s why I was going slowly,’ said George.

‘I’m so sorry,’ said Max, ashen.

But guess what – I can move my arm a little bit more.

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.

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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.