“Where’s his heart gone?” were the words that finally convinced me to give up rugby.
I was pretty good at rugby, blessed with short legs that could somehow move incredibly fast; an unrivaled enthusiasm to tackle anything that moved no-matter how huge; a very high pain threshold and a complete lack of respect for my own safety.
Combine these attributes together and it is perhaps not surprising that I made at least one hospital visit a season for almost 20 years for numerous stitches, broken noses, fractured thumbs, hernias, dislocated elbows…you get the idea. So, as I hit my early 30s and thoughts turned to having children I began to consider if maybe it was time to swap my boots for something slightly less life-threatening – like badminton.
With rugby playing such a big part of my social life this was not a decision I was going to make lightly and therefore decided that I should have at least one last season.
The season in question started badly with a thumb going in my eye during the first game and nearly breaking my own thumb during the second game. So, it was with a higher than normal degree of trepidation that I ran onto the pitch during the third game of the season – a local derby both sides badly wanted to win. An hour earlier I had just paid my subs for the season and laughingly said “I bet I get hospitalised now”…it was a joke!!
Anyway, long-story-short. It is the last 10 minutes of the game and we are 4 points down but in true hero fashion I managed to cross the line in the corner for the winning try. However, that only puts us one point ahead so seeing an opportunity to put the ball under the posts and get extra points I shimmied my way across the dead-ball-area and slid jubilantly to the ground under the posts to the roar of the crowds (all 30 of them)…just as a 20 stone prop came flying in from the other direction and knee dropped onto my chest.
The adrenaline could only dampen the pain so much and so it was 3 hours later, whilst getting ready to go out my wife finally convinced me that I should ring the accident & emergency hot-line to discuss the pain and wheezing coming from my chest. It was quite a short conversation consisting of:
“Can you breathe properly”
“Go to hospital now”
Now, assuming I had just bruised my ribs I was still not overly keen to travel 15 miles to the nearest hospital with an A&E department but thought it best to get things checked out. An hour later I wandered back into the hospital waiting room to announce to my wife “Erm – apparently my left lung has completely collapsed.”
Now being quite used to hospitals and not really understanding the meaning or severity of a pneumothorax I was not overly concerned and must have sounded a bit stupid saying “Can you just pump it back up again please?”
Anyway, the first thing they needed to do was take a chest X-ray to assess the situation and so it was that I was lying in a bed watching with interest as they put my x-rays up on the screen on the other side of the ward. My lack of concern was only mildly increased as I heard the consultant say “This is a good one, go and get the trainees” and watched as a group of eager med students started crowding around my X-ray.
My lack of concern completely evaporated however when I heard one student ask the question no one really wants to hear… “So, where’s his heart gone?” First a collapsed lung and now my bloody heart has vanished – this is a slightly worrying turn of events!
“Anybody have an ideas where his heart has gone?” the doctor asked his group of students (at this point I am seriously hoping he knows the answer) to which there was a worrying long pause. I knew it was in there somewhere as I could feel it pounding away like a jack-hammer and this was confirmed when he eventually explained to them how it had been pushed to the other side of my chest by the pressure and that they’d better re-inflate me pretty sharpish.
But oh joy, there are trainee doctors everywhere now so how about we let them practice inflating a lung for their first ever time…on me.
There are 2 ways to re-inflate a lung (see, if nothing else you’re going to learn things by reading this book). The first is to stick a massive needle into your chest and carefully pull the syringe back so the tube fills with air. Then you turn a little valve so, as the plunger is pushed back in, the air escapes out a little side vent. Clever eh! Well, apparently too clever for my trainee doctor who seemed incapable of working out how far to pull back on the plunger without it popping out of the syringe.
To my credit I was very patient (patient – get it?…oh never mind) but after the 4th time even the doctor was starting to get a bit fed up and decided it wasn’t working anyway. Plan B was to cut a hole between my ribs, insert a chest drain and leave me in a ward with a man who shouted “CRICKET!” all night for the next 5 days.
Whilst all this was going on I was assuming my wife was dutifully waiting in reception for me…but no, she wanted a piece of the action for herself. I should perhaps explain that my wife is petrified of hospitals, blood, needles (even smelling TCP can make her feel faint) so it was probably not surprising that making her sit in A&E on a Saturday night was never going to turn out well for her.
She told me days later that she had fainted in reception and was in her own hospital bed recovering with tea and biscuits for most of the time i was being treated before getting up, saying goodbye to me and going home.
Summary – my lung eventually re-inflated, they found my heart and I never played rugby again.