It is fair to say that the Withenays had a lovely Christmas holiday (I know: you’ve forgotten those glorious days already, and it was only a couple of weeks ago…) but for one event.
It involved my husband, a hill and some ice.
To celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday, a group of us climbed a local hill on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year. It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear blue, the sun was unhindered and the ground was covered in snow. And ice, on the paths, as so many people had come out to appreciate the fresh air. The dog loved it, bouncing like Tigger (from Winnie-the-Pooh) in and out of the mounds of snow. At the end she was exhausted!
Reaching the summit we realised that my husband, daughter and a friend weren’t with us, which did surprise us as we knew they were walking slowly, but not that slowly. I thought I could make out the girls walking towards us, but they didn’t seem to be with my husband. Their non-attendance didn’t stop the rest of us celebrating the Big Birthday with some mulled wine or hot chocolate, and the view was astonishing.
As the girls climbed the final summit I learnt the truth. My husband had slipped and sprained his ankle, so he was waiting just over there (yes, he’s a very small, distant blob on the photo) for us as we went back. My father-in-law and I set off immediately (and he fared a lot better going down the hill than me: my legs ached for days!)
We found my husband beginning to hobble back down the hill, clearly in a lot of pain but he’d got very cold while waiting, so was warming up with some movement. We took a shoulder each to support him but when our friends caught us up we hadn’t got very far. Everyone took it in turns to help him down the hill, although my father-in-law’s commandeering of a child’s sledge sped the procedure up. (Note for those concerned: It was already broken: he didn’t just snatch it from under some poor infant who was enjoying a slide down the hill!)
About an hour later we reached the car park. My husband, being a doctor by profession, insisted it was a sprain, but we’d collectively made confusing child- and dog-care arrangements so that I could take him home via A&E to get it checked out.
At this stage, I should point out, A&E didn’t seem too busy, although they didn’t have any wheelchairs and the only man I saw in a wheelchair said he’d been waiting three hours already. Nevertheless, my husband went through triage quickly, who sent him for an x-ray within half an hour, and then we waited. He sat there complaining, feeling perfectly fine, though sore. “I don’t want to waste their time. It’s just a sprain and they’ll put a compression bandage on it and send me home.”
Then he described how he fell. “I was just walking up the hill, and then I slipped. I put my leg out to stop myself from falling but that didn’t work and I heard a crack as I fell.”
Heard a crack. At this point – probably 3 hours after the accident – I knew he’d broken his ankle, even if he was still refusing to admit it. All his protestations about it being ‘just a sprain’ were laughable. A crack? That doesn’t come from a sprain!
Sure enough, when he was seen by a doctor two hours later, the x-ray showed a fractured tibia. Then (miraculously) they were able to find him a wheelchair. Then they put him in a back slab (half a plaster-cast) until his appointment at the fracture clinic at the end of the week.
And my husband’s prime concern? That the Friday appointment would mean that he couldn’t be back at work that day, and he had to be for the procedure his patients were undertaking. So during the week the appointment was brought forward and, having had a full cast put on and having been told he’d need an operation under general anaesthetic in the morning to pin the bone back in place, I drove him to the hospital where he works for the afternoon. That is the dedication of NHS doctors, my friends. And the foolishness of their wives…