Needless to say, it didn't quite go according to plan...
Saturday - How to cut your hedge with assistance from the NHS: Standing on a secure platform, go along one side with the hedge trimmers. Repeat this process on the other side. When your hedge is about 5ft thick, you can't reach the middle of it from either side, so you take your extending ladder and lean it against the hedge. As you climb, the ladder subsides into the hedge, bringing you closer to the Mohican bit in the middle. This is not a stable platform, but you are surrounded on 3 sides by hedge, so what can go wrong ? Well, as it turns out, the ladder can lurch forwards unexpectedly while you have both feet on one rung, which causes you (or in this case, me) to start to fall backwards. So I went to put a foot on the rung below, but missed and got it stuck between two steps. When this happened, I distinctly remember thinking that I was all out of options and in trouble, and there was a blur of sky followed by stars as my head hit the road. By the time I worked out that I wasn't a concussion case, it was apparent that my right wrist was hurting a lot, so I went into shock instead. Painkillers were taken and an ambulance called, which took me to St.Cross hospital about 3 minutes away. But St.Cross won't take people who arrive by ambulance, you have to arrive by some other means (car/foot/bicycle) to use their A&E service. So back in the ambulance for the half-hour trip to Walsgrave in Coventry. Much mucking about then ensued, with x-rays and a highly unpleasant injection "right into the centre of the traumatised area" as the bloke with the needle explained - prompting some unhappy words from the traumatised person involved. Then he grabbed my hand and the student doctor took my elbow, and they pulled very hard before setting it in plaster. Up until this point I had been cheerfully walking between the various departments, but they decided they would wheel me around from here on in, due to me having gone (in medical language) 'a funny colour'. So I lay on the bed and was trollied to the X-ray department again before being sent home. It was now 8:30pm. Sunday - back to Walsgrave I have observed that the most useful information often comes in the form of oblique statements and questions. I had the first inkling that Saturday's medical aggro was to no avail when the consultant said, "I see they tried to set your wrist yesterday...". He followed up with the telling question, "How did you manage to break it so badly ?".
So basically it's an operation involving metal plates and some very small screws, or the risk that your wrist never works properly again. Well I could see my Olympic sailing campaign going out the window at this point, so what else could I say but 'yes'. But it's too late to do it today, so back home to await the summoning phonecall for a quick in-and-out job tomorrow.
Monday - back to Walsgrave again
They hadn't called to say what time they wanted me, but I eventually got past the hopeless switchboard system and found that the answer was 'asap', so I packed an overnight bag and was in pre-op ward 52 by 11:30am.
Part of the pre-op anaesthetic package involves being parked in the waiting room and forced to watch 'Dickinson's Real Deal' (a pointless antiques related 'competition' gameshow thing hosted by a luminous lounge-lizard) for 4 hours. Not only does this numb the brain very effectively, but also has the advantage of leaving you with the opinion that, regardless of the outcome of the operation, your day can only get better from this point.
Then a swift change into the floppy gown with ties up the back that defeat even people who have both hands, and into the holding queue for the operating theatre. Thirty minutes later I was debating the quality of Rugby's schools and the various merits of the Android GUI compared to the iPad with some medical chaps through an oxygen mask, not feeling remotely sleepy... and then I was waking up two and a half hours later with a numb arm and no apparent side effects whatsoever. Result!
Sadly, it was now 6:30pm, so I was stuck in ward 33 overnight (while my overnight bag snoozed peacefully on ward 52). Those of you who have spent time in hospitals will know that the night time differs from the day only in as much as the lights are turned off. Nurses still stride about in hobnail boots, shout at the mad patients, play that game where they take it in turns to throw their car-keys into a metal waste-paper basket, and then take everybody's blood pressure at 1am with a machine that goes BEEP a lot. Then, just when you've finally got to sleep, they wheel some poor old bloke in at 5:30am, park him next to you and explain to him in a loud voice that he must be quiet "AS THERE ARE PATIENTS IN HERE TRYING TO SLEEP". He then turns his light on and off repeatedly for the next 30 mins, at which point the machine that goes BEEP is brought round again to signal the start of the new day.
After being advised by a doctor that it might 'smart a bit for a while', the wrist, repatriated overnight bag and me were all discharged and returned home to start the 6-week recuperation phase.
In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, I have learned a valuable lesson from all of this, but I'm not quite sure what it is. It may be that you can go from mundane routine to disaster in an instant, and that we are only ever a few cm inside the safety zone. Or it may be that 9.8 metres per second per second is a hard habit to break.
Whatever, I know that I won't be doing much sailing for a while yet.