Four weeks ago, about lunchtime on Saturday, I was driving across town to pick up my wife from her Aglow meeting and listening to a discussion on the radio about our healthcare insurance system. We have a new insurance system in NL that is supposed to be more effective as it is driven by market forces. A director of one of the insurance companies said that the next great step forward should be the creation of a market in the delivery of the healthcare itself. His discussion partner, a socialist politician, responded that this was nonsense, maybe for people with a long-term condition some choice of healthcare provider would be useful, but if you have an accident or a heart attack you have to get quickly to the nearest hospital and all hospitals must be good.
Within half an hour an ambulance arrived for my wife who had slipped and fallen in her meeting room and was stuck on the floor in pain. The first question the ambulance crew asked was, "Which hospital do you want to go to?" How do you make that choice, lying on the floor in pain with a suspected fracture of something? Anyway, E. came up with the answer "St Anna".
So shortly thereafter we were going through the accident and emergency entrance to St Anna down some deserted corridors. The ambulance crew were accosted by an apparently authoritative person - what's this, why are you here, we weren't expecting you? They protested that they had followed protocol and had phoned ahead and should be expected. So there was an administrative hiatus while communication protocols were sorted out. I began to wonder whether St Anna was a good choice in the weekend. It is a small town hospital. It would have minimal staff on Saturday. The alternative would have been Catharina, bigger, probably more staff on the A&E. Could we make the market work by having the ambulance load us up again and head for Catharina?
But before that could crystallise as a real idea we were on our way into the X-ray department and from then on everything went smoothly. Taking the X-rays was tricky as E. could not easily be moved, but soon the surgeon in his summer Saturday shorts and T-shirt was examining the pictures and explaining the options. It was a broken hip. The neck of the femur was broken and the socket on the pelvis was probably also damaged. The best way to fix it was a complete hip joint prosthesis. And by 15:30 an operating theatre crew had been dragged out of their sunny Saturday gardens to do the job.
So this is a before and after picture of a hip replacement. I think E. received a different model, but you get the idea. Amazing medical technology. It reminded me of the hip joints of the Cylons from BSG, but when you actually look close up their mechanics seem a bit different.
So now we are four weeks into the recovery period. She has been home from hospital for three weeks. She has limited mobility ... needs help getting in and out of bed, getting showered and getting dressed. She should be on a substantial programme of physiotherapy and be looking forward to getting back on her bike in three months time. But we have various side effects from the operation which are causing trouble and the healthcare system has a grip on us so that there seem to be endless investigations and tests to determine what is wrong and how it may be fixed, if it is fixable.
So life is suddenly focussed on the basic routines for survival. Getting up and showered and dressed. Grocery shopping, cooking, eating and clearing up. Tracking medical appointments. Looking for signs of improvement. Analysing symptoms. Getting washed and back to bed. Nights are difficult as E. has to sleep on her back and be sure the repaired leg does not turn inwards and cause the ball of the hip joint to pop out of its socket. Nights are short and interrupted.
All the intellectual challenges, the political processes, the reorganization strategies which were daily work have faded into the background. We are back to the basics of life. And I am confronted with my shortages of grace, patience, care, and love. When under stress you discover your real self and may be disappointed.
The most difficult times were, I suppose, the first week when we were, I guess, in shock and the normal pattern of life fell completely apart. The following week the big challenge was managing with E. at home with severely limited mobility, pain and between us trying to discover how to make a routine we could survive by. And I was still trying to deal with work at the office, out there in the 'real world' that went rolling on oblivious to our personal disaster.
Now I am on vacation, so work has just faded away for the time being. Things are calmer. But vacation days will run out all too soon. We have established a routine. The good days and moments are like flashes of a honeymoon. The hip itself is progressing well, but the side and after effects of the operation are causing concern and are still in testing and diagnosis. Almost our last ritual of the day is the FRAGMIN® injection. More times than not it is painful. We have not yet figured out what factor is making the difference.
Some ask, "Why are these things happening to you?" But I think, this is life. This is the broken human condition, the broken world we live in. God still loves us and we Him. He is close by. As ever He is present when we turn in faith to Him. We are well cared for.
And between times I have been reading a significant little book: Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright ... more of that later.
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