Lost limbs, broken hearts, a daring rescue and the resurrection of an old friend.
When I was trying to think of what to call the first post on this blog (which has taken far longer than I hope writing the rest of it will), I kept flicking through titles in my head like it was a life or death decision.
What would be an appropriate introduction to my very first post?
I decided to move away from that and try to figure out where to start. Would I go in heavy or would it be a lighthearted opening paragraph.
Eventually after way too long I thought I’ve gotta start somewhere or else I’ll never write anything.
Just like that the title problem was solved, as for how I’m going to open it, well, I wouldn’t call it lighthearted.
Legless in Glasgow
It was the 25th of November 2012, I was lying in bed in Glasgow’s Golden Jubilee hospital, just waking up after a routine operation to replace a damaged conduit near my heart. Nothing unusual about feeling groggy after something like that.
What was unusual was the fact that the operation had taken place on the 20th and I had been in a medically induced coma for five days, that is not a routine part of the surgery. I can’t remember most of what happened that day, I was constantly slipping in and out of consciousness and there were so many doctors, nurses and other hospital staff around me, as well as Mum and Dad. I do remember being given two pieces of information, both of which would completely change my life.
Firstly, that my sister, who had been heavily pregnant when I went down for surgery, had given birth to a little girl that very morning. I had a baby niece, Charlie-Isla.
The second, that there had been complications during my heart surgery, leading to the surgeon uttering, “I’m sorry Mr Saunders, we have had to amputate your right leg above the knee”.
Now I know what your thinking, “Come on man, your blog is called The HopScot, I thought this was going to be funny”. Well, it will be, and it won’t be, I’m blogging about experiences in my life and life is always a mix of tragedy and comedy.
So, I’m lying there in bed, having just been given this earth shattering news and everyone is waiting to see what my reaction would be.
The thing that nobody took into consideration was the fact that I was doped up to my eyeballs on painkillers so my only reaction was “oh, okay” and then falling back asleep. Thinking back, I’m glad I didn’t take it in properly that time, I was barely able to move for all the tubes and wires, I was in a very vulnerable position and if I had panicked god knows how that would have turned out.
As it goes, I lay there for a few days, just thinking it over. I wasn’t able to sit up enough to even see where my leg would have been and with the painkillers it was easy to forget about it being gone when I needed to relax.
It was during this time to mull it over that slowly, deep in my mind, the very first leg joke started to form.
Like a predator waiting for the perfect moment to pounce, I lay in that hospital bed, biding my time until the ideal prey walked in. And then, after a few nights (I couldn’t say exactly how many as all the days were a mush back then), she walked into my room. A nurse I had seen walking around the ICU, dropping in to make sure the drips were dripping and the machines were beeping. She was middle aged and I remember she had such a friendly happy face. She stepped up to the side of my bed and smiled, “How are you feeling dear?” And this was it, my moment, like a pouncing lion I struck.
“I think someone’s slipping vodka into my feeding tube, I’m feeling a bit legless here”.
I did not realise what a rabbit hole I was falling down by making that first joke. I have to say though, my closest friends tend to be the ones who pull out the harshest jokes, and I love it. There have been a few occasions where people have gotten offended on my behalf, I appreciate their protectiveness but have told them not to worry about it. Sometimes they even join in after a while.
Up to Speed
This may be a good point in the post to point out that this blog is not going to be completely linear. I will be talking about different parts of my experience with the amputation, recovery and beyond in each post. Still, I will try to give the whole story, just a bit mismatched, if you’ve ever watched “The Witcher” then kind of like that.
I will also be writing about what’s going on in the here and now as well and let’s be blunt, the situation out there isn’t great. As I’m writing this we are exactly three months into lockdown.
I hope that while people have nothing better to do they manage to get some amusement, information or answers to any questions they might have from what I’m writing here.
The Envelope Clinic
We all know by now the stress of having to stay in lockdown, even if we are with the people we love most in the world there is no denying that it can be difficult to cope.
At my house we actually started isolation a week before the rest of the country, I received a letter informing me that I am in the high risk category, meaning that if I catch the virus there is more chance of me getting seriously ill.
So we have been being very careful with everything we do, for example opening the post is now a two person job which requires surgical precision. With one holding the outside layer before washing their hands for the recommended twenty seconds, the other carefully removes the contents, while making sure to avoid touching the outside packaging. This makes it interesting when your parents anniversary is coming up and you want to keep their gift a surprise. A lot of “open it with your eyes closed!”
I’m sure many will think that this seems over cautious and borderline ridiculous, but I’m also sure there are plenty of others out there who, like us, know the fear that receiving one of those letters brings. It is worth being over the top because I have no intention of being a statistic that ends up being dropped from the table because the government decides that those with pre-existing conditions don’t count in the overall picture.
As I said above, lockdown is stressful and difficult at times, especially when you’ve got one leg and the only way people are allowed out is to go for a walk. Now I’m not saying I can’t go for a walk, of course I can, but if I do then it means there is a large chance that I won’t be able to wear my leg for the next few days. A rub or dry skin on the stump after pushing it too much with the walking can really mess up your week let me tell you.
You can understand then, that when they told us we could go out for a short drive, I was thrilled.
A couple of days ago I was feeling pretty down, the weight of everything was leaning heavily on me. To cheer ourselves up me and Bipa (my wife) decided to go out for a little drive. Just as we got to the other side of the village we saw a small bird sitting in the road. I was sure as we got closer it would get out of the way like they all do. It didn’t. We drove right over the top of it, we didn’t squish it, just went over it. It was obviously not able to move and was sitting right in the middle of the A82.
Bipa asked if we could turn around so she could move it somewhere safe, so we went back. Thankfully the road was empty so I was able to stop while she jumped out and picked up the little guy.
We decided to take him home with us, he wasn’t making any attempt to move anywhere despite the danger of the cars and that area is crawling with cats, so leaving him would have meant bye bye birdie. While we were driving home we decided he needed a name and for some reason Argo just popped into my head and that was it, we had adopted a little sparrow. My dad found an unused freezer box which we padded with clothes for him to sit in and took a fat ball from the feeders outside. The problem was he was so little that it didn’t seem like he was even able to feed himself yet.
Later that evening, while we were searching through the internet to find the best way to look after the little guy, we got onto the topic of Tamagotchis. I’m sure there are plenty of people around my age out there who feel a warm sense of nostalgia when they read that name, followed quickly by dread when they remember what it was like trying to keep them alive while also being in school.
Half way through the conversation my mum left the room and then reappeared holding my old blue and red Tamagotchi.
As a joke, I went to see if there were any batteries that would fit and what do you know, there was one hidden in the back of the draw. I slotted it in, certain that after all these years of rusting in the back of a cupboard it wouldn’t work, but it did.
The Tamagotchi lives once more.
First thing it did was ask me to name it, and after a long day my brain couldn’t be bothered thinking of a new name, so now we have Argo the Tamagotchi as well as Argo the Bird.
What’s This All About
I’ve started this blog to share what has happened to me in the past, what is happening to me right now and hopefully to interest people with my outlook on everything. There is no doubt that what has happened in terms of my health has been awful, but so many great things have happened as well. I have always tried to keep a positive attitude towards everything, laughter might not be the best medicine for an amputated leg but it does wonders for your mind. I will keep this blog up, adding as often as I can but I can’t promise that every post will look like this one. I’m just feeling my way with this at the minute.
Also, life changes so much around us that something I write about one day might be completely overshadowed by something new by the time I come to write the next post.
I just hope that if this has interested you I can keep you that way.
Any comments or ideas for anything you might like to hear more about are very welcome.
The Wisdom (aka, Time To Get Preachy)
- Always find the joke. Your situation may feel hopeless and you might think you never want to laugh again, but even in the tragic moments life is full of comedy and there is always a joke to be made. Someone is going to make it eventually so don’t let them beat you to the punch.
- If you can help, you should help. As soon as Bipana saw Argo sitting there in the middle of the road, any plans we might have had were pushed aside to make way for this creature that needed help. It’s an attitude that I’m proud of and aspire to myself, as should we all. No, you don’t have to bring a bird home and care for it until it can fly. If all you can do is move it somewhere safe, then do that. Nobody can expect you to do more than you can, but you should always do as much as you are able.
- You can mute a Tamagotchi. Press the A and C button together and the option comes up. Make sure to do this before you sleep.
Obligatory Blog Quote
“Comedy is tragedy plus time”.Mark Twain or Steve Allen, the internet is a bit fuzzy on that one.