The Joy Of German Engineering

Wrist X-Ray
Seven weeks ago, when I slipped and put a colles fracture in my left wrist, the first thing that went through my mind was the expensive coat I was wearing. I picked myself up, dusted myself down and checked for scuffs. I was relieved that that my adored jacket was unmarked. Only then did I realise that my wrist was in an immense amount of pain. Holding my left arm close to my body with my other hand I paced around a bit trying to walk-off the agony. My boss, who witnessed my fall, tried speaking to me, but feeling nauseous I didn’t really want to know. I walked back inside the building and up to my office where I sat down and concentrated on not vomiting.

After a couple of minutes my boss joined me and sat on the sofa opposite. Looking concerned at my pale complexion, sweating forehead and unwillingness to let go of my arm, he encouraged me to take a look at my source of anguish. As I pulled my sleeve up, my wrist in profile resembled closely the death-defying twists and turns of Eau Rouge; a dramatic sequence of corners and undulations that challenge racing drivers on the Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. In other words, my wrist was fucked.

He drove me to A&E in his wallowing Volvo, a car that probably isn’t the best for transporting someone who is struggling to keep their breakfast down. But to hospital we went. I walked in and answered a ridiculous amount of questions, the whole time struggling to remain upright, while the receptionist tapped away on her keyboard. Infuriatingly slow at entering information, I eventually said that I simply had to sit down. Thinking about my coat again, I made the decision that they wouldn’t have to cut it off, so I carefully threaded my body out of it, by which time the triage nurse called me into her room.

So, I hear you’ve hurt your wrist. Lets take a look shall we.

I swear the next words to come from her lips were profane. She swallowed her shock, stood up and ordered me to follow her. We walked through a series of doors, small rooms and corridors. As we approached an opening with cubicles lining the right, the nurse bellowed out a series of commands.

I need a bed, Dr Lloyd from orthopaedics immediately, x milligrams of morphine and inform radiology I need to send someone their way as soon as possible. Stat!

I can’t remember the dosage of morphine they administered, but needless to say it wasn’t really enough. I believe it never is though, some comfort at least. I laid on the bed and allowed the A&E doctor to perform some checks. Given the nature of the bend in my wrist, they were concerned the blood flow to my hand may be inhibited, something like crush syndrome. Thankfully it wasn’t that bad and after a couple of minutes of trying to relax as best as possible, the doctors started to inform me of what was going to happen.

Once the morphine has had time to work a little more, you’ll be carted off to radiology for an x-ray. From there we’ll decide what to do but at the moment, it definitely looks like a break. Either way, were going to have to straighten this out. And that is going to hurt.

I joked a little with the doctor, I could see he was having a long day, or even week. It was Christmas Eve and he probably just wanted to go down the pub and wash the year away in beer and spirits. He hadn’t shaven in over a day, probably because he hadn’t left the ward in that time, his eyes looked heavy and his body just seemed exhausted. But he made an effort to be chirpy, polite and upbeat. So I reciprocated with some humour. I know what it’s like to have a rough day; all you want is someone to pat you on the shoulder and say good job.

After being zapped with radiation, Dr Lloyd the orthopaedic visited me and confirmed what we all suspected. I had put a nasty break in my left wrist. We toyed with the idea of surgery but the doctors were confident they could fix me without the need of metal. I was then wheeled through to the torture chamber.

It was a very open area, mightily cold and naturally very clinical. We managed to get my jumper off, having refused again to allow it to be cut off. I sat up and the A&E doctor dabbed my hand with some iodine. I was then asked for permission for the following procedures to be carried out. Given the urgency and nature of my injury the doctor said the forms weren’t necessary, but wanted a verbal go-ahead before he did what he was about to do.

I joked with him, but ultimately agreed.

I was injected with a drug that apparently makes you forget things. This could have been drug number two while in the torture chamber, but alas, I cannot remember. The other drug I received was anesthetic injected directly into my boney wrist. I was told to look away, mainly because of the size of the needle involved. I duly did as I was told.

As the anesthetic went in, it felt very cold. I could feel it travelling up my arm as my heart worked over time in the stressful environment. I saw him tap me and prod me a few times to ensure all was well, and then I felt a large, heavy arm come over my head from behind. It was an assistant, with the sole job of ensuring I didn’t move.

With one man behind me holding me in place, the doctor gripped my hand and lent backwards, putting all his weight through my arm, forcing it to lock out straight. He then started to massage my twisted wrist, feeling with his fingers as he started to put everything back in place. As soon as his work was done the plasterer wrapped me up, giving commentary and advice to the cute trainee standing to one side.

I was wheeled back into the cubicle to rest and let the anesthetic wear off for a while. Before leaving the hospital, just two hours after arriving, I was given advice and further appointments. The experience, on the whole, was actually not bad. The staff looked after me well and a small amount of my faith has been put back in the NHS. As I left, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some prescribed pain relief pills and went back to work. I was no longer in actual pain, just discomfort in the arm and a partially damaged pride.

Six weeks later and my second cast was removed. I was given physiotherapy exercises and further appointments to see the chief torture officer, and then I buggered off to Italy for a week. Alone with a book, my laptop and a few bottles of Chianti, I spent the days typing and reading, the evenings in front of the log fire with Sissy (a dog, pronounced si si) keeping my feet warm, the wine ensuring my joints were well lubricated.

Upon my return, I took the borrowed Citroen C4 Automatic back to my boss and collected my Audi. The Citroen, though a terrible car in comparison, really helped me for the few days between cast-off and holiday. But now, wanting to enjoy the pleasure of German engineering again, I sat in the car, put my sunglasses on and enjoyed the comforts it brings. I felt relief when I realised I could once again work a manual gearbox, I put it into first and squeezed the throttle. The acceleration and braking produced a smile that I still cannot rid my face of.

Its been seven weeks, but I think the Audi has forgiven me.