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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The End of an Old Life and the Start of a New One.


I write this in the new role of full time writer. Officially, my retirement starts on 5th April and my 65th birthday isn't until next month. But, for reasons I won’t bore you with, I finished employment on 21st March. Last week was supposed to be a holiday, to ease the passage from one stage to another. However, outside events intervened and I spent some of that in hospital and much of the time since in recovery. The knee’s progressing well and I’m now able to walk unaided for short distances.

It’s been a mixed month: emotionally demanding. In spite of the fact that I was eager to finish my time as an employee, the conditioning we receive from society confers the role of breadwinner on most men and entrenches that expectation, so I experienced some muddled emotions. The turmoil was short-lived. I shall continue to be the provider, but using pensions instead of wages. And, now I have the freedom, my writing will contribute to my earnings more than it has.

What was intended to be a short period of relaxation, to allow me to settle into retirement, turned out to be a physically demanding period in the hands of skilled and caring medics. I chose to have the operation under local anaesthetic, as previous experience with general anaesthetics has caused violent vomiting; something I prefer to avoid. Also, being able to witness the procedure allowed me to collect further experiences for my writing.

English: Right knee.
English: Right knee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I managed to give the anaesthetist a bit of a problem. My blood pressure was textbook but my pulse rate rather slow (much to my pleasure, he compared it to that of an athlete). The spinal anaesthetic has the effect of fooling the heart into believing that the lower half of the body has lost interest in receiving blood, so the pump slows down. In my case, rather too much, so that I began to faint. Oxygen and an injection of some stimulant soon had me performing normally again. For associated reasons, however, I began to shiver with cold as my core temperature dropped a couple of degrees in the air-conditioned theatre. That was readily cured by the use of an inflatable blanket attached to its own supply of hot air (something I can generally provide without difficulty). I was kept wonderfully warm throughout.

The most surreal aspect of the experience was seeing the surgeon lift a leg that was mine, but appeared to belong to someone else, so convinced was my body and brain that it remained flat on the table. Extraordinary!

The offending intruder in the joint (matchstick for scale)
Watching the images from the camera as it toured my knee joint was fascinating. The obstruction, a piece of bone about the size and shape of an unshelled almond, was located fairly early in the procedure. But the normal route of extraction turned out to be unsuitable, so a third incision was made to give better access and, after 40 minutes on the slab, the offending invader was removed. The surgeon showed me the hole, at the rear of the patella, where the piece of bone had once resided, evident even 19 years after the incident that caused the injury. He cleaned up the rough and damaged surfaces of the cartilage within the joint and on the back surface of the knee cap, flushed out the other small bits of detritus, and sewed up the wounds.

Once out of the recovery suite, I was wheeled back to my private room (this is the NHS so such luxury is a treat) and fitted with a surgical stocking to match the one on my ‘good’ leg. These help prevent the dreaded deep vein thrombosis that can afflict older patients, especially following surgery on the legs. As an added precaution, I was provided with five pre-packed injections of anti-coagulant and shown how to inject the first of these into my stomach so I could do the rest over the following days.

The medical aspects done, I had to drink (something I was very ready to do), eat, and pass urine before I could be released. By late afternoon I was free for my wife to take me home. The anaesthetic began to wear off during the journey and I understood I was in for a period of pain, of course.

Subsequent days have seen me hobbling and then walking with the aid of my father’s old walking stick. Yesterday, I managed about 1 mile, so I’m clearly well on the road to full recovery. Now looking forward to longer walks in the wonderful Yorkshire Dales and bike rides around the local countryside.

You’ll understand that the month hasn’t been what could be called a ‘regular’ period of time, especially as the Easter holiday intervened. I’ve also begun the touch-typing lessons I alluded to in a previous post. So far, I can manage asdfghjkl; and am now starting on t and y. I’ve discovered I have to do the exercises in short bursts as my fingers ache at present. This, of course, will reduce as I become used to the movement. One other thing I’ve noticed is how sensitive the keys are. Last time I tried touch-typing it was on a manual typewriter and required considerable force to move the keys. Different technique required. But it’ll be worth the effort and time to increase my 2 finger, 1 thumb speed above its current 45 wpm. And, of course, I’ll be able to copy type, without looking at the keyboard as I do now.

At last, then, to the chart. You’ll note that a significant part of the month has been spent reading, which is hardly surprising, given the above. I managed some writing: reviews, blog posts and a short story. Did some editing; the epic fantasy, short stories, blog posts etc. A great deal of internet research, largely in preparation for the future, and much work done under the catch-all label of ‘Admin’, which includes the typing lessons and the conversion of some textual quotes into tweets. The contests page has been updated a couple of times, and that’s always time consuming. Needs doing again, of course. But I failed utterly in the submissions department. Not a single story sent to either contest or magazine. I intend to correct those omissions in the coming weeks. And, of course, I’ll be doing more real writing from now. That, of course, is the exciting stuff.

A longer piece than envisaged when I began, but I thought my experience might help those who face similar interventions. I hope so, anyway.

How did you do during this third month of the year? Hit your targets, increased your output, experienced anything new? Let us know and share it with us here.

The pie chart, explained:
'Writing' - initial creation of stories, blog posts, reviews and longer works.
'Editing' - polishing of all written work to make it suitable for readers.
'Research' - discovery of info for story content, market research, contests and blog posts.
'Reading' - books and writing magazines.
'Networking' - emails, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google+ activity.
'Admin' - story submission, blog posting, marketing, organisation and general admin tasks.

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