Monday, 11 March 2013

Back to Normal

On the 24th January I had my final appointment at the hospital. This, if everything went well, would be the end of the process and see me signed off from the hospital's care. I was confident all was well but still a little nervous.

The cycle to the hospital was uneventful and in spite of it being January the sun was out during the early morning ride. I arrived, as always, very early, but I didn't mind. I strolled into the hospital and walked past the door which had led, eleven months earlier, to my operation. It seemed like a lifetime ago and yesterday at the same time. I didn't need to but I also walked past the physio department. ACL club was a distant but somehow happy memory.

As I waited for Mr Green I saw a young man in his mid 20s hobble in on crutches with girlfriend and mum shuffling behind him. His right leg was in plaster and although his manner was cheery he had obviously done something serious. He was seen first and I discovered that he had come back from ski-ing having gone into a tree. He'd broken his leg and torn a lot of things around his knee. I winced at his pain and envisioned his next few months. From my end of the recovery tunnel it didn't seem too bad but from his it must have appeared endless.

Before I could get too depressed on his behalf I heard my name. A final new face, Mr Green, chief of physio beckoned me into his room.

"How you doing?"

"We'll, I think. You tell me."

Trousers were removed, mine not his, and I lay on the examination table. There followed a variety of bends and pulls and twists, none of which I could have done the first time I had been in this room a year earlier. Then, standing, I did some one leg crunches, bending down, trunk straight, keeping my balance.

"You can put your pants back on."

We talked about my recovery, what I was doing now, which is basically playing football as before, not very well, but with full vigour. By coincidence it had only just happened that I had gone a full match without once thinking about the knee.

Mr Green was looking at my notes and making more. Finally he sat up straight, I knew this was it.

"Well, it seems to me that your done. I have to say that apart from professional sportsmen who have 24 hour physio I have not seen a better outcome from this operation."

We both smiled. He continued.

"The thing is, although I'm signing you off from our care, you need to carry on doing the exercises. It's ongoing and the more you work at it the less likely you are to have it happen again. You've done brilliantly, as I said, but it doesn't end here. It's up to you. The operation, whilst it is an amazing thing, is only 10% of the recovery, most is up to you and so far you've done really well. Keep it up."

A few minutes later I was out the door and a free man, so to speak. A little bit of me felt sad that I would not being seeing the staff at the hospital again, but the reason I wouldn't see them again was because they had done such a good job.

Thank you to everyone involved in my recovery at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital. The NHS is much maligned and whilst my diagnosis took too long, but once the wheels were moving it was brilliant.

On Saturday the 9th Feb 2013, exactly a year after the operation I played the full 90 mins in a 4-3 victory for Mayfield over Enfield Old Grammarians. Thirty minutes into the first half I went for a challenge with their hefty, youthful, athletic midfielder. We reached the ball at the same time and each put 100% into a crunching tackle. The ball spurted away from us both but as he got up I realised that my left leg had bent double under the weight of the challenge, the studs of my boot resting under my upper thigh. I stood up, shook myself off and carried on. The knee was fine, I was fine and life goes on.

The End.

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