Physiotherapy sits in a wasteland way up beyond most of the clinics I already know. It’s deeper into the hospital than X-Ray or Pharmacy, both places where I’ve spent more hours on hold than I have with BT. It’s beyond Short Stay Surgical where I’ve sat in fear and trepidation waiting for catheters to be inserted and cameras on long flexible sticks to be turned on. It’s out there, further than the cubby hole occupied by Radio Glamorgan, UHW’s own station. Here Vince Savile, hospital porter and brother to the late ungreat and now late himself other Savile once deejayed. Does anyone now listen to these enterprises? There are nineteen presenters all beaming in the staff photo and twenty-three thousand visitors recorded as having visited the station’s new web site. Local radio clearly rocks on. Then there it is. Physiotherapy announces the sign. I’ve arrived. The waiting room is dense with seats, buff, serried, uninviting. There’s a rack next to reception where you can leave your crutches. The art of the recycle. The places is like Lourdes.
I’m here to learn how manage. What can't be fixed can certainly be accommodated. So I'm told.
Rich, his name is on his badge, the man who will sort me out, is fitter looking that I was at his age. In fact he’s fitter looking than I’ve ever been at any age. With his huge healthy hands he takes notes, asks questions, learns about my case. He checks my records, my graphs, my MRI scans on the hospital system. He tells me that it’s the cyst that’s the issue and the way it bulges, flows, ebbs, and presses. I had an idea it was. We can’t solve it here, he says. But we can help manage. Yep. Manage. Word of the age.
I get a demonstration of lower-back specific exercises – stretches and flexes – things to help with the discomfort, when it flares. He hands me a sheet showing the routine being done by a stick man. Round head, smiling face, no hair, thin body. Me. To a tee.
Back home I do the stick man thing while staring out of the window. Point hands at feet and hold for thirty seconds. Sit up. Bend back. Breathe. Repeat.
Beyond are men here to build a new extension. They have their hoods up against the cold and wear knee-high leather boots like they might have done at the battle of Omdurman or when riding through the brush in the cowboy west. Now it has stopped endlessly raining they are digging up the patio. They uproot plants and crack slabs into slivers ready for the arrival of the mechanical digger. This wonder machine on tracks will excavate the footings.
By now, like me, this house had almost all of its innards explored and tested. It’s old, it’s been around, it needs some tlc. Rods have been inserted into cavities, coverings have been lifted to check the sub-structure. Cracks have been discovered, stitched and sealed. Roofs have been waterproofed. Steps mended. The framework has been stabilised. Damp ingress excised. Blood counted. Temperature taken. Wiring renewed. Body declared to be about as okay as it’ll ever be “for a build of this age”. It’ll all be okay for the medium term.
Quite how long that medium term will be is no one is actually prepared to say.
The sky is cold, winter blue. Uprooted plants and fragments of slab begin to appear stacked in the skip. The dross we no longer need. When they are done I’ll get the guy on the roof with the scraper and the claw hammer to have a go at Mr Synovial down there in my lower spine. Hit it a couple of times, squeeze it out and then stick the incision back together with two screws, some hi-flo instant set grout and a metal strip. Plaster over. Allow to dry then paint. You’d never know there’d been anything there. Okay for the medium term. That’s all I need.
I have a cup of tea and two naproxen. Next week I see the neurosurgeon. He does scraping out and re-grouting, so I’ve been told. Does it with micro precision and has an 80% success rate. He doesn’t wear a hood and comes to work by BMW and wearing patent leather shoes. He probably doesn’t listen to a radio which has a large battery stuck to its outside with masking tape. That’s my guess. But how do I know?