Broken Arm

I sat on the cold tiles trying to support the broken wrist, calling out to Vaughn, who was watching TV at the other end of the house. The tone of my voice clearly did not convey the degree of the problem, as it was a while before he wandered through to check on the damage.

He wanted to bundle me into the car and go to the hospital, but I feared the trip might not be as smooth as I would have liked, so we phoned for an ambulance. Meanwhile I could feel myself going into shock.

It wasn’t too long before two lovely paramedics arrived and strapped me up.

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Certainly, arriving at A & E by ambulance cuts through the waiting around. I went straight to X-ray, where the staff told me I’d done a really good job and shattered both the radius and ulna.

So I wasn’t going home that night. I was sent to a ward, where I was not allowed to eat, in case there was chance I might have surgery the next day. I waited and fasted, all day. Vaughn came through with some clothes and a book. I have several dressing downs, and he chose to bring the old pink one that was my mother’s. The one I use when I colour my hair. The one with brown stains. The one I sent straight back home again.

No surgery the next day either, just another day of waiting and fasting. By evening, it was clear that I wasn’t going into theatre that night, so a kind nurse brought me a sandwich.

By evening of the fourth day of fasting, I was about to take a walk to see if there was a cafeteria open somewhere, when a nurse came to tell me they were taking me to theatre now.

The anaesthetist gave me a spinal block injection somewhere in my neck, which rendered the broken arm useless. He told me that as soon as I started to feel some sensations in my fingers again, I should call a nurse at once, or I would have the worst pain ever.

A 15cm metal plate was inserted into my arm, and I woke up back in the ward. It was night time, and I could hear a commotion somewhere in the distance, but wasn’t too worried about it. As slight feelings returned to my fingers, I duly rung my bell, as instructed.

I waited for a while, but nobody came, so I rung it again. After about 40 minutes, the pain in my arm was excruciating, so I got out of bed and went to the nurses’ station. Nobody there. I walked up and down the corridor, but couldn’t find anyone.

Eventually a nurse appeared and told me I should have rung…

I went home with a bright pink cast, and a house full of belongings to be packed up.

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Packing Up Once More

The more I thought about our house in New Zealand, the more I longed to be there. Our New Zealand grandchildren were growing up so fast, I was afraid we would get there too late to develop a strong relationship with them, and too late to be of any assistance to their parents.

Vaughn thought he would be able to set up an office there and work from home when he wasn’t on site, so we began the packing up process once again.

From almost the moment that the decision was made, the intensity of the project Vaughn was working on increased to such an extent that he spent the next three months on site in some remote part of Australia, with short infrequent visits home.

The quotes from removalists varied considerably, but I made a decision and booked. Our lounge suite was the difference between booking a 20ft container or a 40ft one, so that had to be sold. The house was put up for auction and dates were fixed.

My main concern was Einstein. Moving the 5km from Eltham to Diamond Creek had been traumatic enough for him, so how would he handle a plane flight and yet another new environment?

But I had wonderful support from Jetpets, who arranged a door to door service, which included his vetinary check-ups. I even received a parcel one day, addressed to Einstein, with an assortment of toys for him to enjoy on his trip. I imagined from the price of it all that he would be sitting up in the pointy end of the plane enjoying tasty nibbles with the captain.

Two weeks before Einstein and I were due to fly out, Vaughn was home for a last check around and we were enjoying a lazy evening in front of the TV. I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and while I was waiting for the kettle, I thought I’d do some stretching exercises.

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My kitchen counter served as a barre on which to rest one foot. As I reached out to grasp the ankle and feel the pull on my hamstrings, the foot on the ground slipped (I was wearing socks on the tiles). To protect my hip I put my arm out to save myself, and heard a nasty snap.

Sitting on the floor, I looked at my hand. The wrist was in the wrong place. My hand was dangling from a place about 4 centimetres higher than the normal joint…

 

Blood and Bone

At the back of our townhouse was the tiniest of enclosed gardens. When we bought the house, there was a patch of ‘astro-turf’, a gravel path and a shed. For a while, I managed to hide the fake grass under a collection of large pots, but we still knew it was there.

So, once again, we embarked on a horticultural facelift. The fake grass was concealed permanently under a timber deck. We tried digging a flower bed, but found barely 100 millimetres of soil covered the building rubble beneath. However, with pickaxes and many bags of soil, we created a corner bed for shrubs and flowers, then later, a narrow bed for vegetables.

Progress was a little slow, so to give my plants a boost, I dug in a quantity of blood and bone mix. Feeling satisfied that progress would surely follow, I went happily off to the nursery to buy some more seedlings.

On my return, as I entered our garden via the garage, I was greeted by a scene of horror. Plants had been ripped up, holes had been dug, and a doggy with a very muddy nose bounded up to give me a lick.

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He had obviously smelt the bone and thought I’d hidden a little surprise for him somewhere. What a lovely game! I salvaged what plants I could, and went out again to buy wire netting for reinforcements.

Eventually the little beds were dog-proofed and the plants began to thrive, creating a peaceful and colourful little haven.

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From our deck we were able watch rosellas nesting in the eves of the building next door, cockatoos, sitting on the power cables, and, through the lounge window, we could see galahs destroying the genuine grass in front of the house.

One Very Special Thing

As the pace of my life slowed down, so the speed of Vaughn’s treadmill increased. His job became more demanding, stealing any personal time he might have been able to enjoy. He was away more than he was at home, and when he was at home, it was really only his body, as his mental focus was still onsite, working.

For him, it must have been exhausting, although he would not admit that, as he was enjoying being at the pinnacle of his career. For me, it was unsettling and frustrating. In his absence, I created a life for myself, which fell into second place when he came home. I felt as if I was always waiting for something. When he was away, I was waiting for him to come home, and when he was at home, I was either waiting for a moment when he wasn’t thinking about work or waiting for him to go away again so I could get back into my own rather shallow routine. I was in a state of limbo.

When we talked about our house in New Zealand, it was usually to resolve some issue with our tenants. I felt as if I was wasting precious time. Even the volunteer work I was doing at the nursing home failed to give me the satisfaction it once had. I felt that instead of filling my days with selfish interests I could still be working or I could be in New Zealand helping out with grandchildren. They were growing up and we were missing out.

Not that my life was boring. I was busy every day, but nothing I did seemed to have any value. Except one very special thing.

Not long after we moved to Melbourne, a young lady from the church we attended asked me if I would consider looking after her baby one day a week, so she could complete her studies. I was completely amazed that someone could have such trust. She knew nothing about me or how I lived.

But she accepted me as I was, and for ten years I was privileged to be a part of their lives and to hear the laughter of a child in my home. That little girl brought me great joy and helped to fill an emptiness that was inside me.

 

 

A Book

While working in the nursing home, I had become very concerned about the number of misconceptions held by the general public regarding dementia. I had been one of those people myself before my training. I felt I needed to do something more, something that would help people to understand.

So I wrote a book; I wanted to create something that would be easy to read, not preachy; would bring greater awareness of the disease; that would help people such as residents’ family members and carers to empathise with the sufferer, and to affirm with the carers that it was normal to be angry and impatient.

I spent a lot of time researching and studying, learning as much as I could about the diseases causing dementia. When I completed my manuscript I sent it off to a publishing company that seemed to publish books of a similar genre. After three months, I received a letter from them, saying they loved my story, but weren’t publishing that type of book currently. However, I should try ‘xyz’.

Feeling optimistic, I sent the manuscript off to ‘xyz’ and waited. Three months later I received an almost identical rejection, with the suggestion I might try publishers ‘ijk’.

Too much time was being wasted. I wanted to get the book out there. I knew it was never going to be the Great Australian Novel. It was written with no literary training, no thought of structure or narrative view, but it was written from the heart.

I investigated the self-publishing route, feeling this was an admission of failure. Was it just an ego trip to have a published book? I sent the manuscript off to the first indie publisher on my list. They replied with a quote for thousands of dollars. After wiping away my tears, I tried the second publisher. They would publish free of charge providing the book would fit into a specific size. It didn’t.

The third company offered a partnership publishing deal, whereby, if they thought the manuscript had some value, they would offer to print off 20 galley copies for a fee considerably lower than the first quotation. They would retain 10 copies, which would be sent to reputable reviewers, and the author should try to obtain reviews with the other ten copies.

I didn’t know any reviewers, celebrities or people whose comments would add value, so I gave the books away to friends and family members.

Eventually we ended up with 1,000 print copies of the book, 10 boxes of which were stacked in our garage. But the easy part was over. Now I had to become a marketer.

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Local libraries were very accommodating, and the wonderful Eltham bookshop assisted, but after that, it was up to me. I created many diversions that prevented me from picking up the phone. My house had never been so clean.

Then I had a stroke of luck. The General Manager of a local nursing home read the book and passed it on to her superior, who ordered multiple copies for distribution throughout all their nursing homes. This gave me the confidence to approach other care facilities.

Eventually I sold enough copies to cover my initial investment and to make a donation to Alzheimer’s Australia, so part of my goal had been achieved.

Writing that little story aroused in me the desire to write more. But what would I write about next?

 

 

A New Hip

Somewhere in the middle of all our travels, my left hip became increasingly painful, to the extent that I had to resign from my job. Determined to remain as fit as possible for as long as possible, I made a daily foray to the local gym, where I looked around at the equipment and wondered how little I could do to justify the cost of the gym membership.

In spite of my rather feeble efforts at building up some strength, a hip replacement was necessary. I became almost excited at the prospect of being able to reach my feet and cut my own toenails once again. I was told it would take six weeks for a full recovery so I quietly thought four weeks would do it. Medics always tell you six weeks.

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When I came home from hospital I was diligent with the exercises, but in my enthusiasm I managed to injure myself. The pain was so severe I thought I’d dislocated the prosthesis. However, X-rays proved that I was just a hypochondriac, and the pain was muscular. I was told to go home and rest for the next few days. No more exercise.

My friends were wonderful, visiting, bringing food and humour. After several very lazy days I noticed my leg was rather red and swollen. A thrombosis.

For the first few days I was privileged in being able to use the ‘Hospital at Home’ service, where lovely nurses came by to stick needles in me. After that I was able to hobble down the road to the closest bloodletting depot.

Four weeks went by and I was still using two crutches. On the morning of the sixth week anniversary, I woke up expecting to feel pain free and ready to dance, but all I felt was discomfort and disappointment.

The whole process took twelve weeks, and I’m ashamed to say, I felt pretty sorry for myself!

(Image courtesy of <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com<)

Nullarbor

Our last Australian adventure was a drive across the Nullarbor Plain. For me, it emphasised the vast openness of Australia, and the hardships facing people who lived in isolated places. I understood what people meant by ‘the Big Sky’. The land seemed so flat and the trees so sparse, there was nothing to raise the level of the horizon.

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The silence was almost deafening and the sun seemed brighter than anywhere else, but the most spectacular sight was the night sky. It looked as if millions of diamonds had been thrown onto a black velvet cloth, and the view took us all the way to infinity.

During the long straight drives, I became fascinated by the clouds. Perhaps because they were changing, on a stage where the backdrop remained almost the same throughout. And as the sun began to set, the colours changed from interesting to dramatic.

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Roadhouses were situated roughly 200km apart, so were able to use their toilets and stock up with fresh water. When we reached the old goldrush town of Kalgoorlie, I suspect Vaughn wished he had brought his golf clubs to play the Nullarbor Links. This 18 hole course is spread across two states and two time zones, with the first two holes in Kalgoorlie and the last one in Ceduna, a distance of 1365km.

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There were many places we could have visited and sights we could have seen if we’d had longer and if our timing had been different. When we arrived at the Great Australian Bight, I would love to have seen whales, but the season was wrong

However, no regrets. The experience alone was enough to put life in perspective and be grateful for the opportunity.