I’ve always been mystified by super fit people; all of those crazy sporty types who run marathons, have 50 burpees done before breakfast and whose Instagram feeds are a collection of sweaty selfies and announcements of PBs. I didn’t get it. Why in the name of God would someone waste their Sunday running a 10k when they could be having a lie in, or catching up with the familia, or heading out for bottomless brunch with the girls?
It turns out they may not actually be suffering from some kind of mental illness as I’ve long suspected. Since I’ve started physiotherapy, I’ve discovered a side of me I didn’t know was there. Every day is an opportunity to twiddle a toe for a little longer than the day before, to push back against resistance a little harder. The day that I managed to pull myself up on a standing hoist once, my only aim was to do it twice the next day. Then four times. Then six.
I’m all about beating my personal best.
There’s a moment in each day that I look forward to more than any other. It’s the moment when Liz, my physio-terrorist comes bouncing in to the ward with a big smile to let me know that it’s time to get moving. Her smile is part ‘Let’s do this’ and part ‘Don’t fuck with me’. I know she’ll push me to do the best that I can and I love her for it.
After 11 days lying in bed, staring at a hospital ceiling and barely sleeping, I was on the verge of completely losing my mind. And then in breezes Liz, palms at the ready. Our relationship has seen equal amounts of high-fives and tears. The tears, of course, on my side. Anything else would be a little weird.
Physio-terrorist or not, seeing her is the best part of my day. We’ve seen big improvements and small. They all count. Even if we’re not having a session and she’s just popping in to say hello, she’s my constant reminder that things will get better. Someday soon, these damn legs will do something. I won’t be stuck lying here forever. This too shall pass.
This particular high five was a celebration that, at last, I was getting out of bed. They had my wheelchair and all the bits and bobs I was going to need to start becoming a little more mobile and a lot more independent. I could have an hour a day in the chair. And London was on the brink of a heatwave. After almost two weeks, I was finally getting to go outside.
My heart soared.
With extravagant contraptions, a fair amount of sweat and a lot of help and encouragement from Liz, I made my way into my wheelchair; my new best friend (aside, obviously, from Liz). You’d think we’d just reached the summit of Everest with the celebrations. More high-fiving and congratulating from Liz, and me giggling like a schoolgirl – over a wheelchair! I was cheered on all the way by my Musketeers. I overheard a new lady on the ward asking a neighbour if we were having a party. Well, it felt like one.
I sat in the sun, where the lovely catering lady brought me my lunch to dine al fresco. (She’s also become a new best friend, though she really needs to cut down on the extra treats she keeps sneaking me. Crackers and cheese have no place in the diet of someone who isn’t mobile). If I hadn’t already had a huge smile on my face, it would have quickly appeared when an old, dear friend surprised me with a visit. We sat in the sun in the Costa Del Tooting, and for a little while, I forgot why I was here. And life was good.
My priority, now that I was somewhat mobile, was to get under a hot shower. So, the next morning, deciding to use my hour of wheelchair time wisely, I hit the showers with gallons of shampoo at the ready. Medical problems aside, it was the 12 days of bed baths and dry shampoo that were, literally, messing with my head. With half a canister of Batiste in my hair, I wasn’t far off flammable. In fact, I’m surprised that sitting out in the sun the day before hadn’t resulted in spontaneous combustion.
The hot water of the shower was like manna sent down from the Gods. Utter luxury. I scrubbed away the dry shampoo and the discomfort and the self-pity of the last few weeks. I felt my eyes well up. I was alone, at last, for the first time in what seemed like forever. There were no voices, no bleeping or call bells to be heard. Just me and my thoughts and a tear or two that were free to do whatever they liked without anyone to watch or to pity or judge.
I let myself go mad with the Herbal Essences. Half a bottle of it, worked into a foamy, exotic smelling lather. I felt like the woman from the ads. I scrubbed myself clean and let the water flow over me, more soothing than I’ve ever known water to be. Best of all, I was doing it for myself. The first meaningful thing I’d managed to do for myself in weeks. It felt heavenly. I was clean. I was happy. I was emotional. I was empowered. I was… oh fuck… I was passing out…
The scramble to get me back to bed was a blur. A pulled cord. A nurse throwing a gown over me and evacuating me from the shower room as quick as lightening. She called to the nurses at the nearby station and it was all hands on deck. My hearing went. My vision blurred. One nurse held my hand and breathed deeply, somehow letting me know that I should copy him. I breathed in and out, in and out. He held my hands on the hoist to let me know that I should hold on. I held on. I felt my consciousness slipping away. I felt my hands losing their grip. I felt myself slumping over the hoist, eyes closing.
Then I was in bed. I was ok. My eyes closed fully and for the first time in 12 days, I fell into a deep, long awaited sleep. When they opened hours later, I was rested and cheerful.
Most importantly, I was clean.
Everyone else decided that physio could wait a day or two and for the first time in my life, I missed doing exercises, getting to the gym and beating all of those little PBs.
Oh God, maybe I have lost my mind after all.