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Nasty accident

Yesterday I got the sort of telephone call you don’t want to receive. My friend, Margaret, rang to say she had fallen, had clearly broken something, and was lying on the sitting room floor, waiting for her husband and the ambulance to arrive.

When I got there, the house was already full of pompiers (firemen who double up as paramedics) and doctors (by chance visiting other people in the village). So I just called up some words of encouragement to Margaret and stayed outside. She called back that she was in agony. Oh dear.

It was raining, the ambulance stretcher was outside and very wet – the pompiers must have discovered that there was not room for it indoors. Hans and Margaret’s house is tiny: three-storey with a very narrow, steep, spiral staircase leading from the kitchen/dining at ground level up to the sitting room upstairs.

Hans came round today to bring me up to date. I already knew that Margaret had been using the vacuum cleaner when she slipped on a rug, and had indeed used the cleaner to manoeuvre her mobile phone from a table to the floor to call for help.

Hans said the doctors had given Margaret and very heavy dose of morphine so that she scarcely took in the nightmarish move. No stretcher or emergency chair could be used, and it took six people to gently edge her down the stairs.

Margaret is now at the Clinique Saint-Louis in Ganges. She has broken her femur and will be operated on tomorrow. In due course she will then transfer to Les Chataigniers, down the road, for at least a month’s convalescence. As Margaret said, in a text to me, we are both only too familiar with the routine.

It is so cruel. A slip can cause such devastating damage (and Margaret is five years older than me). I spent two months in the Chataigniers last year after my knee op with no visitors, because of Covid restrictions. Margaret faces the same fate, as not even Hans can visit.

The adventure of getting Margaret down the stairs reminds me of a scary trip I took about six years ago. During my lengthy hip replacement convalescence in 2014, I was being taken by ambulance from le Vigan to Montpellier for a checkup with the surgeon. I was to see her in her consulting rooms, which in those days were on the first floor of a block of flats. When we got there, we found the lift was out of action. Undeterred, the two ambulance men (father and son, one approaching or perhaps past retirement age), lifted me in the ambulance’s lightweight chair, up a stone spiral staircase, normally meant only for emergency exits. The journey down was even more scary, as – strapped into my chair all I could see was an empty abyss into which I could imagine hurtling down at any moment. Unlike Margaret I was not in pain. But also, unlike Margaret, I was not on morphine, and so this perilous descent remains etched in my memory.

For those who read this and know Margaret, please don’t contact Hans on the basis of this blog. They don’t like a fuss, as you know.

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