The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Assumptions can kill

Inca examining the snow

Inca examining the snow

Thank you so much for all your good wishes over the past few days. Your comments are a real tonic to be savoured. The trip to the doctor was worthwhile, the pain is now bearable, the lung infection is being tackled with the antibiotics and I’m happy to lie in bed and recover. Yes Codeine’s great buddy is Constipation. But a small overnight pill breaks up that friendship in a trice!

Within a few hours of getting ill the world contracts to just a few essentials. The warm bed a boat in a sheltered harbour. The world outside the window is separate yet familiar. A distant continent. This afternoon I saw a white feather float down outside the window and then another. It took a few seconds to realise that it was snow.

I just wanted to answer a couple of comments. My rib didn’t have to be set, Paula. They don’t tend to do that in the UK unless the rib is putting another organ at risk. I’m just hoping that it sets well and true. Like you, I hope that eventually I don’t turn into a little old lady who falls over! As The Chicken Lady says,
“Old people don’t fall over. They Have A Fall.”

The other comment that has been turning over in my mind was the one from Sue. It starts off like this.
“Having spent the last five months off work recovering from post op complications…”
“How could I complain about just a few days of pain?” I said to Danny, feeling a bit of a wooz.
“Everything is relative,” he soothed.
But Sue’s experience kept coming back to me. Then I remembered something that happened to a friend of mine, a specialist doctor in his late twenties. He survived but the patient didn’t.

I used to think that doctors were like gods. And then I went out with two – not simultaneously – and discovered that they make mistakes just like the rest of us. One was Dr Blood and the other was a talented young urologist. Let’s call him Saul. We were the same age and he was what my mother would describe as ‘a good bet’ on the relationship front.

His hospital was near where I worked. As he was on call a lot we’d endlessly pop in for him to check on the patients in his care. He was treated like a minor deity by the staff. Even then I could see that this was potentially quite dangerous. Yes he’d undergone a long training but the deferential attitude surely inflated arrogance?

Saul was testing out new state of the art treatments. He was excited about these and the future of medicine.

Of course Saul would occasionally discuss his patients with me. Not their names, just their conditions. I was fascinated. The impotent men who were left overnight with a pile of porn magazines and monitored. The patients that he liked, those that he loathed and of course The Prisoner.

This prisoner came up in conversation a lot. He was causing Saul a lot of problems. He’d had a life saving operation but he wasn’t getting better.
“He’s malingering. He’s making waves. Says he’s in pain but he can’t be. I don’t trust him. Perhaps he’s trying to get out of prison early?”

Of course, because I was with Saul, I took my friend’s side. Eventually the prisoner was released and continued to haunt Saul’s clinics, where he got short shrift from Saul. At the time I was so besotted with Saul that I didn’t think that there would be little point pretending being in pain. I imagined the man unshaven, smelly. Wearing a dirty raincoat.

The guy didn’t give up.
“Now he’s insisting that the pain is so great that he needs the NHS to fund a taxi to bring him here! He can walk or come on the bus like everyone else.”

Sadly Saul and I split up. Sometimes we’d meet for lunch in those dark 1980’s places that were all wood and burgers and sawdust on the floors. The last time that we met Saul looked pinched.
“Do you remember The Prisoner?”
I nodded.
“Well he was finally admitted and I had to open him up.”
Saul’s hands shook as he took a sip of wine.
“There were two shocks.”
He put the wine glass down carefully. Wiping away the wet rings on the table with his napkin.
“First of all his cancer had come back. It had spread so far that it was terminal. And then I found an instrument. Must have left it inside him by mistake all those months ago.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Apart from the cancer, the instrument would have been agony. How could I have got it so wrong?”




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  1. Amalee Issa

    Ouch. Take your time and recover fully.

  2. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Oddly, I read this just after posting about how my carelessness got a chicken killed. It made me very glad I’m not a doctor.

    I hadn’t visited in a bit and didn’t known you’d “had a fall.” I wish you a speedy recovery and a well-set rib!

  3. Just goes to show you how important a second opinion is when your doctor isn’t listening to you (not that the Prisoner had any choice, it sounds like). Wow.

  4. sue york

    Gosh that was a sobering story about Saul!!! But thank you for sharing it with us. Certainly food for thought.

    I’m glad your feeling a little better. Dont run before you can walk though…dont want to undo all the good you’ve done by resting.


  5. Fiona, you are not a wooz at all, Danny is 100% right, pain is relative and it is also very personal and should never be dismissed by those in a position to help. My pain has been taken seriously by almost everyone I have encountered on my road to recovery and from this experience I feel confident that the prisoner would not have been ignored by todays NHS (for all its other failings!). Each time I have been in hospital I have been seen by pain management specialists who concentrate solely on keeping their patients pain free – and no guilt or stigma is associated with needing strong or frequent pain relief. I am pleased to say that I am so well recovered that I start back at work next Monday – albeit on a phased return – but back to work nevertheless. I hope you continue to do well too. Thank you for your blog, it has been a wonderful companion to me now for quite a few years xx

  6. Joanna

    Definitely hard when they are treated like gods at times, some of them just act like god too though. I love the attitude of my hubby’s niece who is a geriatric consultant, she loves the funny ways of the older folk and has a real heart for them. We need more doctors like that.

    I don’t think you are much of a wooz though, after all you have spent rather a long time recovering from illness anyway. Not easy to take a knock backwards really.

  7. Veronica

    A sad and sobering story. I hope Saul had the grace to feel terrible remorse and mend his ways.

  8. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    My God…that type of thing could have been figured out with a simple x-ray. What an arrogant and incompetent doctor – he obviously judged the patient not by his symptoms but by his social status . Shame on him and I’m glad you didn’t end up married to a jerk like that…he should be thrown in prison himself!

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