Thursday, October 01, 2015
Watching my knee being cracked open...
So there it was on the screen.
Maybe something like the knuckle end of a joint of pork? Do such things exist?
The skin looked a bit like pig skin, maybe
(I don’t often eat meat, so I couldn’t be sure)
But it definitely looked like something that had been beautifully prepared for a butcher’s shop.
No blood though. Because of the tourniquet.
There was a layer of fat that had been meticulously peeled back to expose the bone.
No sign of the other half of the leg, though, it was as if it had been cut off, and I was wondering vaguely what had happened to it when some hands came into the picture and set to work with a hammer and chisel.
And I felt it. Absolutely no pain, but each time the hammer struck a kind of weird vibration of the bones.
Because this was my leg on the screen.
This was happening to me.
The earlier stages had all been a bit of an abstraction. A conscious effort to say: This happening to me. And then not quite believe it, because I could feel nothing.
It was as if my leg had become detached from the rest of me; as if that strangely disembodied object floating in the hyperspace of the computer screen had nothing to do with me at all.
Until I felt the hammer blows maybe in my stomach somewhere, not an unpleasant sensation,and that helped me understand this was also happening to me.
But it wasn’t horrible and it wasn’t frightening, it was more utterly absorbing and fascinating.
And very moving, too,somehow.
To be in the presence of a group of people co-operating so meticulously, so carefully, to make me better.
There had been a moment leading up to my heart surgery when the surgeon, who had been explaining the procedure, said “And at this moment I will give you an injection to stop your heart."
And once I had got through the first moment of terror, and reflected on the kind of moral courage involved, I found myself reflecting also on the fact that for thousands and thousands of years our aggressive needs had led us to devise more and more deadly means to stop each others’ hearts beating; and that at the same time our instinct for self-preservation had led us to devise more and more ingenious methods of defence.
But that now, for the first time, we were able to stop a person’s heart beating in order to heal them.
And there I was, yesterday, watching this extraordinary event in which a team were working together with some very dangerous tools that in the past might well have been used to inflict grievous bodily harm… but again, doing it to heal.
Somehow it seemed to contradict the right wing notion that we are nothing but aggressive selfish animals working individually to exploit and cheat and do each other down and it filled me with hope.
And I was amazed, too, at the audacity as I watched them position the new knee joint with infinite care.
My new knee joint.
And there was the other half of my leg all of a sudden, and they proceeded to replace the flesh over the bone with infinite care.
The flesh looking white and strangely bloodless, because of the tourniquet.
So it really did look like a joint of roast pork.
And then they replaced the skin, which I’m sure would make very good crackling.
And then it was done: my skin, my flesh and bone, all taken apart and miraculously put together without any pain at all, and I was wheeled out to recover.
And so incredibly thankful and glad to have been able to witness this.
And even more glad that at last it’s been done:
So my poor old knee has a chance to get better again.
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