Off Games: Highs and lows

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Susannah Taylor has had a knee op. From toothless nurses to paper pants, it’s been an interesting time

The only other operation I’ve had in my life was when I was six and broke my arm - I can’t remember any of it apart from waking up and shouting tearfully for my mum.

Three weeks ago a very clever surgeon removed a few of my hamstrings from my thigh and reconstructed a ligament in my knee I’d snapped when skiing in January. To be honest these last few weeks have been about as much fun as pulling my leg hair out with tweezers. While I know a knee operation is not a life-threatening condition, for the last three weeks I have spent most of the time lying on the sofa trying reduce my enormous, painful sausage of a leg. The remainder of the time I’ve spent hobbling about and swearing at my crutches.

For someone who got fit last year and was exercising about four times a week, has a manic life, two children and a business that involves commuting into London, it hasn’t been easy. However, if there’s some sort of silver lining, then it’s that I’ve been forced to rest from this mental life, and learn a few things in the process. Here are some of the highs and lows of my past few weeks:

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THE HIGHS

Sick-note.com

Sick-Note is like a great big bag of hugs that arrived in the post the day I got home from hospital. While flowers are lovely, they don’t last long and unfortunately can’t entertain you. Sick-Note.com is a wonderful idea for anyone who is ill, hungover, has had a baby or needs cheering up. The idea is that you can choose a bag full of stylish and soul-warming goodies such as a magazine like Vogue or Harper’s, a bar of Green and Blacks, some REN shower gel, some Pukka Love tea, a book (mine had The Great Gatsby), lip balm and any array of get-well tablets you can think of. Mine made my week.

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Isokinetic

I cannot speak highly enough of this incredible physio and rehabilitation clinic. Having spoken to many people who’ve had operations, the general consensus is that they leave hospital feeling bewildered as to what they should do or how to get better. As a result many people don’t do their physio or rehab properly and never get better from the injury.

This is where Isokinetic (tel: 0207 486 5733) come in. With a background in sports rehabilitation they have the best sports based doctors and physios in the country (my consultant is Dr Bryan English who was the Medical Director at Chelsea football club for years), and they are utterly committed to getting you back up on your feet post injury or operation as soon and as safely as possible.

It was they who put me in touch with my surgeon Dr Andy Williams (who happens to be one of the world’s top knee surgeons dontcha know!). Isokinetic don’t do half hour in/out physio sessions. Depending on your injury or problem, each session is as long as your body needs (this morning I did 2.5 hours). Plus it’s the norm for Marco Zanobbi, the amazing head of physio to attend your operation so he can see the injury first-hand and know what he’s dealing with thereafter.

The first text I had post op was from Isokinetic asking how I was and they have emailed and texted me with support ever since. Now THAT’S what I call a service. If you are injured, or have an existing physical injury you can’t shift I suggest you don’t even think about going anywhere else.

Chivalrous men

I have been slightly overwhelmed by people’s kindness in the last few weeks which is to be expected from my family and girlfriends, but surprisingly there has also been a dramatic change in the way men treat me now I’m on crutches. Everywhere I go, a man will hold the door for me, smile at me in sympathy or try to talk to me about why I’m injured. Some have even offered to help me up and down the stairs or carry my bag. Taxi drivers get out of the car to help me in, and in Currys the other day I even got 10% off a dishwasher because the nice salesman said he could “See my inner strength”!  Perhaps the crutches aren’t so bad after all....

THE LOWS

Paper pants  

As queen of self-tans I’m no stranger to a pair of paper pants; however hospital knickers take throwaway underwear to quite another level. I’m not a prude, but I’m also not the sort of person to expose myself, so why on earth are they see-through? I pay good money to Bupa every month - will this not stretch to a pair that will cover my dignity so I can lie on the operating table, safe in the knowledge that a group of people I’ve never met before can’t see EVERYTHING?

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Meeting a toothless, needle-wielding nurse

I can laugh about this now, but at the time it was like a scene out of a Stephen King movie. With a great surgeon lined up, I felt pretty calm about my operation, until the point that is where I was taken to that rather scary room where you lie down on a metal operating table waiting to be anaesthetised.

There I was trying to be as upbeat as one can when you’re lying in nothing but a hospital gown (and the above pair of paper pants) knowing you are about to be hacked into, when suddenly an enormous, 25 stone man with literally no teeth apart from a few rotten stumps, leaned over and grabbed my hand before pumping it for blood and sticking a needle in it. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a hallucination, but shouldn’t there be some degree of hand holding when you know you’re at the mercy of a group of knife-wielding strangers for the next few hours?

Crutches

One word: nightmare. OK, I know that I could not have lived without my crutches for the last few weeks, but they seriously need a reinvention as they can be as utterly infuriating as they are useful. Here are the changes I would make if I was in charge of their redesign:

1. The hand rests should be padded. Full stop. They hurt me, so God knows what they do to an 80-year-old lady with arthritis in her hands.

2. The arm holes should be different sizes. If it’s winter and you’re wearing a coat, or you’re a man in a suit, your sleeves get caught in these ALL THE TIME and could rip.

3. There needs to be a catch which binds the two crutches together – anyone who’s ever used them knows they fall over wherever you put them which makes you want to SCREAM. It would also be useful to have a hook at the back so you can attach them to table sides to stop them sliding all over the place.

4. They need to be retractable. Have you ever tried commuting to work on a packed train with a pair of crutches? Enough said.

Rant over.

And so I’m now on the mend – I’m getting my mojo right back and have discovered swimming with a float between my legs, just using the upper body. I’ve even booked in some sessions in a few weeks with my trainers Freedom2Train.com who are going to help me with my rehab. I hadn’t realised until now how much exercise boosts my mood and decreases my stress levels, but that’s another story.

To be continued...

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