One arm handicap

This is what I wrote to The family the day after the op

The arm and shoulder are held high in air all the time.
Going The arm and shoulder are held high in air all the time.
Going to the loo is a challenge. I keep forgetting to get loo paper which is on the left before I sit down. Putting on pants is very difficult. Try it.

Just dozing off nicely when a nurse arrived to take me X-ray. Impressive. The prothese is like a corkscrew or bed spring.

Ten days later I can confirm that pulling my pants up is still a problem. I lurk in the corridor in search of someone -staff or fellow patient (female) to help.


Pain relief – or not

It’s quite scary waking up to find you are quite immobile. I live in a hefty corset with my left arm stretched out and up in front of me. Initially I could not budge from my lying position: flat on my back with the left side wedged up with a giant triangular cushion.

Luckily I was sufficiently drugged during the evening to be in not too much pain. But as the night advanced it became, as the French say, ‘insupportable’. I gritted my teeth, trying to display some strength of mind over matter. Eventually the grit turned into tears and I rang for help. The nurse was kind, reproved me for not ringing earlier, gave me some morphine and said it would have worked better had I not waited. She was right. It was not just my shoulder which hurt, but all my arthritic back, which did not like being trapped in one position. A night I try to forget.

The following night I was determined not to make the same mistake and rang as soon as the pain increased. An aide appeared and said the nurse would be there shortly. Eighty minutes later she arrived to find me in tears again. The aide had not passed on the message and she was only there because she wanted to check up on me. She muttered about poor standards of training these days and reassured me it would be better the third night when the drains taking blood out of the shoulder would be removed.

She was right. The pain was less and has remained at manageable levels, thanks to morphine. In fact my main problems now are not really the shoulder, but all the aches and pains pre-existing the op, exacerbated by this immobility.

What this experience shows is that the disadvantage of being on one’s own is that there is no passing nurse seeing you are having problems. It is up to the patient to be assertive.

Day of the op

Clearly this was written much later!

Oh dear. I was told that the morning is reserved for less important shoulder ops and mine would be in the afternoon, wch meant waiting.
All the usual rituals – another disinfectant shower, dressing up in the usual ridiculous paper gown and panties… And finally it was time to go down to the operating floor.
There I saw more clearly that this was a production line. My bed was parked beside three others and we lay semi awake for what turned out in my case to be an hour.
I awoke feeling I was choking, struggling for breath. Very panicky. Two hours in recovery room and then back to my room

Clinique St Jean

After a delightful lunch, Charles and Pierre drove me to the Clinique in Montpellier.
I have become used now to the incredible formality of French health administration and the fact that here you, the patient, are keeper of all records and responsible for decisions on medical treatment needed.
I opened my bag and presented my weighty pile of X-rays, blood report, heart report, endless forms I had filled, including consent form, and all the details of my mutuelle (the more or less compulsory complementary private insurance – in my case. Following the custom of my mother I had prepared a sheet with the answer to all the questions I thought they might ask: dob, marriage, children, height, weight, childhood illnesses, the ever growing list of medication….. The only thing I did not know was my blood group. Much to my relief nobody seemed to care.
Eventually I arrived in my chamber particuliere – the cost met by my mutuelle.
Then followed the usual pr-op routines: visits by the surgeon (whom I do not warm to) and the anesthetist (who is charming) and the first of the disinfectant showers.

Days before hospital

As if life was not hectic enough – buying seven weeks worth of dog food for Poppy, packing cases, checking the heating was off, redirecting post…… – I had to remove all the contents of my kitchen and store them in the study, in preparation for my new Ikea kitchen, to be installed in my absence. And there were several very pleasant exchanges with Jacjy, the guy who is designing and building by natural pool (water circulating through plants and waterfalls rather than using chemicals). He worked hard to prepare the foundations before my departure, so that I could understand what he would be doing. All quite mad on my part, financially, but very exciting.

At the same time I was rushing around Ganges and Le Vigan getting X-rays, blood tests and heart checkup. I discovered days before entry that I should have a carte groupe sanguin – an official card giving my blood group – and I have no idea what it is! The local laboratory said it would take ten days, the surgeons secretary muttered in helpfully that if all my papers were not in order I risked having the op postponed till end February. But then finally, thank goodness, the anesthetics department said it was not necessary. Phew!

Then it was time to take Poppy to her holiday home, chez Hans and Margaret. Without them I would be lost.

Technical hitches

What a time to have technical problems which have resulted in my website, including this blog, falling over and email appearing erratically. It all started when my website, which uses something called wordpress got its knickers in a twist. My friend, Tim from whom I have subcontracted we space for a derisory sum, was not able to help. Further, his work has changed, so he clearly wanted shot of ‘tenants’ like me. I am most grateful for his generosity, but it is time to move on.

So I found an Internet Service Provider, Greengeeks, based in California, who offers unlimited space (necessary for my photos) for an affordable price. Scary to try to transfer all my stuff in the week before going into hospital. But I couldn’t do it before, as I had a worrying virus for nearly three weeks.

In fact the work was not completed in time; the transfer was not completed before my op. At the actual time of writing this- 28 November, the menus are still in a mess.

The entries for the next ten days or so are therefore written retrospectively.

A much travelled Mac

While I have found Apple’s telephone service top-class, its delivery service is diabolic.

I ordered my Macbook Air on 29th October (from Apple France, which I discovered was based in Cork…) and have been following its progress on the internet since then. On the 31st October it left Ireland for the Netherlands. A couple of days later I saw it was in China. Two days ago it arrived in Luxembourg. And there it seems to be sitting, no doubt having a well-earned rest after all its to-ing and fro-ing. I have to ask myself if this is linked in some way with tax evasion.

Update 6 November. I see my Mac is back in the Netherlands … …

Apple spending spree

During my days on the sofa, surrounded by pills and hankies, drifting in and out of unhappy sleep, I had time to reflect on my decision to buy another iMac – that is a desktop computer. I changed my mind and decided to get a laptop instead, and if necessary, some time in the future add a big external monitor. So I cancelled my order and decided to buy online.

What a nightmare. Nothing wrong with the Apple website, which I have always found quite easy to use. But I reached the final stage of the purchase process and my French bank card was rejected three times. So, with much foreboding, I telephoned Apple (France – but as I discovered later, actually in Cork, Ireland!). A couple of menu choices later and I got through immediately to a human. A nice, polite, helpful human. She was reassuring, and as if by magic, this time my card was accepted.

Several hours later, more dozes on the sofa, and I decided that it was silly to have gone for an 11″ screen, so rang Apple again to switch the order to a 13″ model. No problem, I was assured – except that the first order had to be cancelled and a new order processed. This time my card was again rejected. The Apple person was reassuring and said this did happen frequently and it was probably a case of ringing the bank and getting the expenditure ceiling raised – this might take a day, he warned.

When I rang the bank they agreed there was enough money for the purchase in my account but because I had already spent a sizeable sum on my Ikea kitchen I would need to apply to raise the expenditure ceiling for October – and this would take at least a week! Forget it, I said, kicking myself that I had not thought earlier to simply use a UK bank card.

Back to Apple for a third time, went through the order process – again – and this time no problems with the card. So a swanky MacBook Air should shortly depart from Ireland destination the Cévennes.  I can’t wait.  Much as I love my current big screen, I look forward to the more portable option.  I will, for example, be able to use it in my six weeks in the rehabilitation centre.

Postscript I collected my old iMac from Montpellier yesterday, hoping to do some organisational work on it before it finally expired.  Incredible, it seems to be working again!  I am under no illusions that it will at any moment suddenly pack up definitively.  In the meantime, I have the luxury of two computers – not to mention my iPad and iPhone!

Oh, and I should have mentioned that I have a new iPad – a decision I made before this saga with the sick iMac.  My ageing old one will pass on to the family in London.

The Cévennes motor rally

For one weekend every autumn this part of the Cévennes is consumed with a passion for watching noisy, souped up cars career round the local steep hairpin bends.

There are two local passions which, for the sake of harmonious living simply cannot be challenged:  hunting (wild boar) and motor rallies.  I don’t really mind the rally, but I have got quite worked up in the past by the mindless behaviour of the spectators.  One leg of the course of le Rallye ‘Critérium des Cévennes’ starts just after my land, on the road from Mars to Aumessas. The spectators start to arrive from as far as Montpellier and Marseilles a day before the rally – many camp overnight beside the road – and have in the past pinched firewood, left rubbish, helped themselves to deck chairs and parked on my land, regardless of lavender and rosemary bushes in front of the little house below.

For this reason, with some embarrassment at the proprietorial streak I have discovered in my character I now put up ribbon barricades and unfriendly no parking notices.



My other objection is that I think it encourages the local youth to screech round the local corners, clearly dreaming of future rally glory.  Fortunately the rally looks as if it is also hit by financial problems, with a huge drop in participants, and this may be its last year.