With the exception of a few toes, which, frankly, don’t count, a broken bone was new territory for me. I gazed at my wrist and sobbed into the puddle. Where there should have been a straight line, there was something resembling two sides of a triangle. I sobbed some more, partly from intense pain and partly from sheer self-pity, as I was just days into the long, luscious, summer break and I’d broken a part of myself. And also because my wrist looked grotesque, to be honest and I realised that I had never fully appreciated how straight my wrist was before I snapped it in two.
I needed help, but since the drop in temperature, it had become eerily quiet down on the Undercliff. I lay there, holding my wrist, feeling as if I had to hold it together, for a few minutes until I saw a woman pushing a pram. I was by the wall and she was by the cliff, so I had to call quite loudly to attract her attention. I was stifling sobs, still, but was clearly calling her to come over and help me. She stopped and stared for a few seconds . . . she was drinking a soft drink from a paper cup with a straw and looked quite young. I called her a few times before she decided to come over – she seemed unsure about the whole situation and I struggled to figure out what her concerns were. But she came over and helped and for that I was grateful. I explained my predicament and she called for an ambulance. She passed the phone to me when the telephonist requested it and while I spoke, another lady came to help who happened to be a trained nurse and was pushing a pram too. The telephonist was unsympathetic. I was treated to patronising comments like ‘I understand that you THINK you may have broken your wrist,’ and uncaring comments like ‘I think you can make your own way to A&E,’ so I abandoned the call. A cyclist came to offer what assistance she could and it was decided, since she had wheels, that she could go to the café and alert my daughter to the situation. I was a 10-15 minute walk away from the café, so I decided to get up and retrace my steps to the café at least, where Rhiannon was and take it from there.
A chap in a mobility scooter had joined us too, so the four of us – well, six including the babes – set off slowly to the café. Somebody must have taken control of the dog, but I forget who. The trained nurse was concerned I might pass out and insisted on supporting me. I didn’t feel like passing out, but her support was appreciated. I held onto my wrecked wrist because it seemed to ease the pain slightly, yet every step seemed to compound the agony. The young mum chatted and kept everyone jolly, as did the chap in the mobility scooter who offered me a ride. I felt like I was in one of those adventure movies; the sort that involve a journey and an unlikely mix of people end up journeying together.
This particular journey seemed to last an eternity, but at some point I spotted Rhiannon plus boyfriend walking briskly towards this curious crowd. We were close to the café so I said my thank-yous and farewells to my rescuers and headed up to the café. It happened that my beautiful Greek friend ran the café and he took charge. That is, after recovering from nearly passing out at the sight of my wrist with its bizarre, new shape. He called for an ambulance and had better luck than me, then brought me Fanta and chocolate. This is what friends are for.
A paramedic arrived with a welcome, shiny canister of Entonox. This was so different from the treatment I received from the cold-hearted telephonist. He smiled, said ‘hey – you must be Lisa,’ and then said, ‘I’ll take some details from you after you’ve had a few minutes alone with the gas and air’. This was a nice man. I said – no, I think I sobbed – ‘thank-you’, then got spaced out on oxygen and nitrous oxide.
He had a car, rather than an ambulance and I sat in the front seat with the canister on the floor. Rhiannon sat in the back (her boyfriend having offered, very kindly, to take Rusty home for me) and chatted to The Nice Man while I continued to inhale copious amounts of pain relief. I remember travelling down the hill from Rottingdean to the roundabout at Ovingdean . . . again . . . and again . . . and again . . . Evidently, I’d had way too much laughing gas but as the alternative was intense pain, I stuck with feeling high and experiencing repeated journeys, that weren’t happening, on a loop.
On arrival at the hospital, The Nice Man abandoned me, presumably, to rescue other people and took the canister. I must have looked particularly forlorn, because he stopped, unscrewed the breathing tube, handed it to me and told me to ask for another canister to go with the tube. During the looong wait in A&E I did this several times but all to no avail. No-one would give me another canister, even though I actually started flagging down people in the corridor that looked like they might be employed, in some capacity, by the hospital, to beg for one, proffering the tube, as if it were proof of my entitlement to a canister.
But eventually, two doctors manipulated my wrist, by pulling it in opposite directions. Because the big bone had completely snapped in two, the two halves were at an angle with each other and they needed to pull them apart and push them down so that they were at least in the right place and pretending not to have parted company. Then they plastered my wrist and sent me off to X-ray, where it transpired that the two halves were not in the right place. So the cast was removed and they did it all over again, keeping my spirits up by teasing me about my hot-pants. I explained that I hadn’t planned on going to hospital, that it was dog-walking attire, but they laughed and said that I was obviously on a man-hunt. If I hadn’t been so high on laughing gas, I would have argued, but I just laughed, because that’s what laughing gas does to you, unless you’re in the throes of childbirth, because contractions and laughter really don’t go together.
By this time, Rhiannon had contacted her brother and so I had the very welcome company of my two children and Rhiannon’s boyfriend as he had deposited a confused Rusty home and popped into the hospital to join in with The Broken Wrist Party. They were all rather entertaining, particularly whilst awaiting the second manipulation, when one of them realised that we were alone with the laughing gas and suddenly the plastering room became full of the laughter of four people. I have a vague recollection of one of them pretending that the plastering room was actually the set of Star Trek . . . potent stuff, that gas and air. If we hadn’t all been so happy and carefree, we would have been embarrassed when Rhiannon’s boyfriend was actually caught inhaling Entonox when one of the doctors burst into the room, unexpectedly.
But anyway, to my relief, the second manipulation was successful and I remarked that I was relieved I wouldn’t have to have surgery.
‘Oh no!’ the doctor laughed, in reply, ‘You still have to have surgery! We were just getting you ready for surgery! You’re going to have a plate put in, in five days.’