I was whimpering and writhing, and sat on the wrong chair.
It was only a few steps to the chair by the reception window, but after fidgeting for a few minutes to get close to comfy it felt like an eternity away.
Yes, I was here, but from this point it could potentially be another couple of hours before the shoulder was back in and they still wouldn’t give me any pain relief.
The nurse behind the window looked at me and half chuckled, I looked pitiful.
I was imploring with every part of me for them to prioritise me and send me straight through, put everyone else on hold and just put my arm back in, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen, so I tried to smile back.
“What have we done here, then?”
“I’ve dislocated my shoulder again. It sort of, really hurts.”
“Another shoulder, one second.”
She called someone and began chatting to the rest of the reception staff while someone put a hospital patient band around my wrist.
I sat there feeling slightly stupid while the nurse double checked the spelling of my name and date of birth with Lydia, wanting to scream at someone that I was still here and very much in need of some assistance.
A door clicked open to my right.
“Is it Rebecca? Hello sweetheart, do you want to follow me?”
A wave of relief washed over me and I dumbly stood up and followed the kindly face of the nurse, turning to Lydia before I left to assure her I’d be back soon, an entirely redundant sentiment, probably for my own benefit as much as hers.
We wandered through a maze of curtained cubicles and corridors.
A larger nurse with bright red hair laughed as we walked past: “Another shoulder? How many for you today now?”
I felt slightly put out. I knew of course this wouldn’t be the first dislocated shoulder they’d ever seen, to them it was common place, but to me it was huge.
“Here we go, do you want to just hop up on the bed. Actually, I’ll get you another, people tend to slip off this one.”
I stood trying not to look as awkward as I felt.
She came back and I flopped onto the bed almost before she’d finished adjusting it, happy to sink into the reassuring discomfort of a hospital mattress – at least some things are the same the world over.
“The Doctor will be here soon.”
Dan was my Doctor.
He was a Kiwi who’d dislocated his shoulder enough times he was forced to have the surgery – 3 operations later and he assured me, while swinging his arms around, that he could do everything he could before the surgery; and he was hypermobile.
He asked me how they’d put my arm back in before and I told him with sedation, morphine and liquid paracetamol, because it was stronger than morphine.
“What? It is stronger than morphine in it’s liquid form, that’s what they told me.”
“It is; it’s also very expensive, we won’t be giving you any of that, we can’t afford it.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“Well, it’s a technique that I’ve used hundreds of times before that has proven to be very successful, we’re going to do it without any pain relief, just a bit of laughing gas to help you forget about it, so you’ll be aware of everything the whole time.”
I could feel my eyebrows creeping further up my face and tried to will them to chill out, just as tears started rolling down my face.
“Is that ok?”
“I’m sorry, I know this is stupid, you know what you’re doing, just, I’ve never been awake before and…will it hurt?”
“No more than it does now.”
The nurse (who was wonderful and unfortunately who’s name has escaped me) went disappeared and a student doctor reappeared in her place – he was here to help, and he was English. Strangely, a familiar accent instantly put me at ease and I realised we were on the home straight.
Wonder Nurse came back with a large canister and a tube and told me to lie back and start sucking. I did as I was told, acutely aware of more people entering the cubicle, talking in hushed voices.
They went quiet.
“I can’t here you sucking. Suck harder. And again.”
“I can’t! I don’t breath that much.”
“It’s sort of essential that you do.”
“I don’t need to that often, that’s why I’m such a good SCUBA diver.”
“Well, she told you, Dan.”
A few more deep inhales and they asked me how I was feeling. My voice sounded thick and an octave lower, like someone was squashing my voice box and I had that same feeling in my head when you step outside from a night clubbing and it’s already light, hyper aware and completely dulled at the same time.
“To be honest, you’ve tricked me, all you’ve done is squash my voice and get me drunk – it would have been cheaper for you to get me a bottle of Passion Pop to down.”
“Ok, I think you’re ready.”
I sat and shook my head as vigorously as I could before Dan insisted, told me to stand up and get face down on the bed.
The rest is sort of a blur.
I remember being slightly demanding, insisting that the poor student doctor hold my arm for me while I tried to get into position on the bed.
I remember standing with one leg and one arm up on the bed, convinced I looked like a graceful ballerina in arabesque, a position entirely unhelpful to the procedure.
I remember them teasing me for dribbling slightly as I lay there, sucking on laughing gas.
I remember the incredulous response when I told them my arm had been out for about 2 hours now.
And I remember the feeling of the shoulder going back in, but best of all, I remember the noise.
This time they put it back with a scapula rotation, basically, Doctor Dan pulled my arm down to help it relax until Student Doctor could push the ball back into joint.
It didn’t take much, but the whole room let out the same noise of relief, disgust and satisfaction as I did when it went back in.
“Oh my gosh, is that it? Can I sit up again?”
“You are back in, so how did that feel?”
“So much easier, I loved the noise.”
I turned to the Student Doctor, thanked him for his help and then held up my right arm as far as it would go and shouted: “High five!”