Thursday, 18 March 2010

Hands, knees and boomps-a-daisy . . .

Barry is the Fire Master in our house. I can light a fire – I can even keep it going but his method is infinitely superior, naturally. He settles to the stove with a will – cleaning and polishing the glass (which isn't actually glass but ceramic) with newspaper, scouring pad and a solution of water and washing-up liquid. The fire is carefully laid – scrunched-up paper, kindling, coal and finally, when the monster is roaring, logs. I lay it exactly the same way but my efforts are not rewarded with the resplendent dancing flames which Barry achieves. My fires sulk! He cares for it as tenderly as for an infant, checking on its progress throughout its burning life. Woe betide me if he goes out leaving me in charge and the furnace expires.
Barry sits down for fire-lighting duty. He has a nifty little lightweight folding three-legged seat called a 'Walkstool' and I have one too. We bought them so that we could take them out to sit and watch and photograph the wildlife in the forest. They're made by a Swedish company and we have been very pleased with them.
Yesterday evening, while sitting on this handy stool feeding wood into the maws of a greedy fire, he suddenly found himself on the floor. The seat had collapsed! One of the legs had come adrift – the metal holding the legs together had sheared dumping him unceremoniously and extremely painfully on the deck. Barry has wonky legs – too many sports injuries through the years have left him frequently hobbling, often wallowing like a ship in a storm, and so he spends many hours exercising to build up muscles to support his less than brilliant joints. Unfortunately his legs were at an awkward angle as he fell and took the brunt of his fall. Gus thought he was playing and tried to join in, the rest of the dogs looked anxious lest they should be blamed for his misfortune and the cats, as is their wont, made themselves scarce. It is fortunate that he fell backwards and not forwards onto the cast iron stove.
After a few moments, during which mentally I ran through emergency drills, the pain became less severe and he struggled to his feet. Disbelievingly we examined the stool and he emailed the company to report the incident. They replied very promptly, offering profuse apologies and a replacement. The rest of the evening passed without incident, Barry relying on a walking stick to limp around the house. He has strong pain-killers in reserve for occasions when the pain in his legs becomes too great and so took one and we repaired to bed. He passed a very restless, agonizing night, unable to find a comfortable position and decided this morning that perhaps he should try to acquire some crutches to make walking easier.
He phoned the doctor's surgery to inquire about crutches and was told brusquely by the receptionist that they didn't have them there and he'd have to hire them. Politely, he asked if he should see a doctor in order to check the damage to his legs, and was passed on to a nurse who told him to go to the hospital A and E (Accident and Emergency) department. Now, no-one goes to A&E if they can avoid it because unless there's a limb hanging off or breathing has ceased a long wait of several hours ensues. It is increasingly the case that patients are referred to hospital where once upon a time matters would have been dealt with at the local surgery. Eventually, he was reluctantly offered an appointment for late morning. It is unfortunate, though not uncommon, that the first contact with one's General Practitioner is routed through reception staff who sometimes seem unwilling to expose their doctors to the public and can be quite intransigent. It transpired that Barry had damaged his cruciate ligament and might have cracked a bone. The doctor Barry saw was an Army medic so they exchanged a few khaki yarns and Barry discovered that he didn't need to go to a hospital for an x-ray – a local health clinic had the required facilities.
This afternoon he went to have his legs x-rayed. The information will be relayed to our local surgery electronically and the results phoned through to Barry once the doctor has seen them. The radiographer said, 'Your knees are ruined, aren't they? There's no cartilage left in the left knee – bone is grinding on bone.' Barry nodded – he only had one cartilage in that knee anyway, one having been removed in his twenties.
'You must be in a lot of pain,' said the radiographer chattily.
Barry agreed that sometimes the pain was worse than others.
'You must be very brave,' concluded the radiographer. This came as news to Barry. He doesn't think he's brave – he just gets on with life (Oh, my hero!)
The upshot of all this is that he didn't get any crutches but received heavy hints that maybe it was time he had some new knees. Much as he is anxious to avoid the surgeon's knife the prospect of pain-free legs is tempting. The longer he delays invasive treatment the greater the chance of improved surgical techniques. So, very soon he'll be visiting the consultant at Windsor Knee Clinic to discover what's new in knees this year! He last saw him two years ago when he was advised to stop running immediately – and seriously, he is brave because he loved cross-country running and still really misses it.
However, Barry is philosophical and an optimist. He is strong and healthy (apart from his wonky legs!) and has a large and loving family, many interests and an inquiring mind. Life is never dull with him!


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about this, and hope that Barry's knees will soon benefit from some medical attention. It is not easy to come to terms with not being able to do the things we used to enjoy so much, but sometimes it just encourages us to try something new. My very best wishes to you and your family, Sylvia xx

  2. Thank you Sylvia.
    Barry has lived with the problem for many years and his focus has moved from some forms of activity to others.
    It's Dorothy's 93rd birthday today and Barry travelled to Dorset to have lunch with her and Trevor and Margaret in Bournemouth. He insisted on driving home this evening (waiting for his arrival)though he could have stayed overnight with Gillian and Paul - he likes his own bed!
    Hope all is well with you and John and that Jack's skin has cleared up now - poor little dog!


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