Last Thursday I had returned from a refreshing holiday in Waterville and was getting myself organised for a trip to France to visit my daughter (who lives near Lyon) and to attend the Leinster/Clermont European Cup semi-final. I was meeting up with some friends there so a few drinks and some fine dining would no doubt ensue. Returning from a walk I saw my next door neighbours getting out of their car. The husband is a tall elderly man who has been unwell and now needs a walker to get around. The wife is a small woman so I went over and gave her a hand to extract him and get him going on his walker. I left them heading up the path to their front door. A few minutes later my door bell rang and it was the wife asking me to help as her husband had fallen down and she needed help to lift him back up on to a chair. I followed her over and found him lying on his side on the ground. He’s a very big man, built like a retired rugby lock. I went behind him and grabbed him under the arms while the wife tugged from the front. It was a struggle. I gave an extra strong jerk and suddenly felt a searing pain across my lower back. It was so extreme I had to sit down on a nearby seat – letting my man lie back on the floor. After a breather I had another go and somehow we got him upright in a chair. I sat down again and started feeling really faint. Then apparently I blacked out. I came too to find my two neighbours regarding me with some concern. I had been out for a few minutes and the woman had been concerned that I was having a heart attack. I had suddenly become the victim of the piece. I felt extremely weak but managed to stagger home across the road and took to the bed. I dozed fitfully for a couple of hours but awoke in agony with the uneasy feeling that I had done some fundamental damage to my back.
My poor alarmed wife managed to guide me into the car and off we went to St. Michael’s A & E in Dun Laoghaire. We were initially told there would be a four-hour wait but when they hear that I had collapsed after injuring my back I was suddenly at the head of the queue. The waiting room was full so I was pleasantly surprised at this eventuality. I was brought into an area with a row of beds, notionally separated with flimsy curtains. A coolly professional nurse did the usual blood test, and blood pressure and followed with the less usual ECG. Then ominously she inserted a cannula – usually a precursor to an extended stay. Things rested so and I was kept entertained listening to a disruptive prick in the next bed trying to get hold of strong pain-killers. “Are you a doctor?” he asked his nurse. “I need a doctor. I’m in fooking pain”. He had apparently been itching himself all over to such an extent that his body was covered with bleeding scratches. It sounded like DTs to me but he was blaming his mother’s washing powder.
Eventually I was brought down for x-ray which was extremely painful as I could lie down fine but getting up involved sheer agony. Then back to the three-ring circus that is A&E. My scratcher was still there, complaining loudly. A concussion victim sat staring blankly from another bed – she’d been in a car accident last week and then got a bang in the head from a heavy door earlier in the day. There was also a very obese woman with a pleasant face who had been suffering from palpitations. Fun times. After about two hours my doctor appeared. A gentleman of the Sikh persuasion complete with turban and nice silver bracelet. He repeated all the tests the nurse had carried out including asking me what day of the week it was and who was the president. I passed with flying colours. After another hour my x-ray results came back and it was revealed that there were no broken or damaged bones – my problem was a severe muscle spasm. I was given some Paracetamol and Diazepam and sent about my business. As I was leaving I passed the scratcher talking to his long-suffering looking father “fooking Paracetamol that’s all I’m getting”.
So I’ll survive without any long-term damage. Just a few weeks of extreme discomfort while the muscles repair. I’ve never had a problem with my back before and so am developing empathy for those so stricken. It’s all consuming in its implications as simple tasks (such as putting on your socks) become heroic efforts.
John P. O'Sullivan