Friday, April 19, 2013

Perspective & Proportion

Our weekend was spent recovering from illness. Kenz stayed in the bedroom as I was relegated to the couch. 

By Sunday, we were healthy enough to leave the house. Lucky for us, the weather had finally turned. It felt like the first day of spring. Kenz went on a photography walk with Alejandra (for school) and I met up with Owen, Celia, and most of Owen's family. We had a picnic at Southbank. 

Hanging with Owen's family is in my top-5 'things to do' in London. I feel like a surrogate son/brother when I'm with them. You know you're with good people when you lose all sense of time when hanging out. We sat their for either twenty minutes or two hours.

I think everyone pictured got sunburnt. Brits aren't used to that much Vitamin D. 

Monday rolled around. I don't particularly like Mondays, and I'm not sure I know anyone who does. In fact, I think I'd like to keep it that way. And this Monday was tax day, so all the more reason to want to stay in bed. Alas, I woke at 4:40, like usual, and headed out toward the gym.

Compulsory Shard photograph 
As I neared the end of my workout, I tripped and fell. I had been running, and the fall was a bit more intense than usual. A lot more intense, in fact. But, I was consumed with a mixture of adrenaline and embarrassment that had me persevere through the last few minutes, despite a sharp pain in my arm. I'd fallen on my left hand and just assumed that I 'jammed' it. But, after grocery shopping, showering, cooking breakfast, and icing it, the pain had not subsided. I decided to go with Kenz to the walk-in clinic. She had a regular doctor's appointment, and I wanted to make sure this pain in my arm was just a sprain or something equally unimportant.

I'd aimed to avoid the doctor's office altogether while we were over here. Not because of the NHS or the (untrue and unfounded) idea that socialized healthcare is somehow 'less' than what is available in the US. I don't know where the stories of hours-long lines to see a doctor come from, but they haven't been Kenz's experience thus far.

No - I aimed to avoid the doctor because I simply don't like going.

At our local doctor's office - The Hurley Group in Peckham
I had to wait for about 40 minutes before I was seen - not too far off what I could expect at a walk-in clinic in the US. The nurse practitioner said she couldn't rule out a bone injury and that I'd need to go get an X-ray.

This was turning out to be an exceptionally bad Monday. At least my medical bill so far was $0.00.

Then, while I was at the bus stop on my way to the hospital, a pregnant woman passed out right in front of me. Once she came to, she said she was anemic, and three of us sat with her while we waited on the ambulance to show up. I hadn't felt so helpless in a long time, waiting with her as she appeared to slip into a mild panic about her fall, her health, and her baby's health. After she was cared for, I climbed into the number 12 bus and was on my way to St. Thomas' hospital, blaming Monday.

I did not ask to hitch a ride.

Upon arriving at St. Thomas', I was registered by the nicest lady who insisted that I was "entitled" to treatment there. I had been a bit apologetic for showing up, claiming that surely this arm thing wasn't a thing and that I usually try to stay out of hospitals - especially since I wasn't a citizen. She refused to accept my premise, saying that healthcare was a right, not a privilege.

While waiting for my X-ray, I caught a game show on whatever channel the waiting room was tuned to. I thought it was an interesting bit of cultural anthropology:

Contestants must answer a series of about 15 true/false questions perfectly in order to win 1,000 pounds. The categories of questions range from Zoology to flags. I wouldn't have won. And, let's be honest - in America, if someone could do that, they'd win a sum with an extra three zeroes!

My X-rays showed a fracture on my radius bone, at the head, where it connects to the elbow joint. The nurse practitioner who read my X-rays fitted me with a sling, told me to keep my arm in it come Hell or high water, and scheduled an appointment for me in the hospital's 'Fracture Clinic' for Thursday. My medical bill upon leaving the hospital: $0.00.


One of the books I read suggests that insanity is "a loss of perspective and sense of proportion."

Upon returning to the house Monday afternoon, I was self-piteous, thinking, "I can't type, I can't do chores, I can't exercise, I can't, I can't, I can't..." I was one big ball of woe is me.

Then I got an email from my brother-in-law, Jerry. He told me to turn on the news - that some bad stuff had just gone down in Boston. Kenz and I watched, mouths agape, as the BBC reported on the tragedy that had just happened at the Boston Marathon. We watched what we could, contacted everyone we knew in Boston, found out they were safe, and then had to turn off the TV.

All that stuff about hating Mondays and being upset at my own situation quickly left. For the rest of the day, Kenz and I discussed the event, spent time in thought about terrorism - it's causes and effects - and how to respond to it, and simply tried to make sense of it all.

The best I could come up with was a watered-down version of what David Foster Wallace had to say back in 2007.


It seems callous to continue with the blog. I only do so to try and bring a smile to some American faces who have likely been without one this week:

Since I can't use my left arm, Kenz has been charged with doing lots more things, including cutting up my food.

It makes me feel like I'm five years old

It's strange to watch her cut up a steak - she hasn't eaten red meat in about 15 years.

She does a damn fine job of cutting cubes, though!
I went for a walk on Wednesday and found a new trail not far from our house. As you know, there's a big park right out our front door. I'd never been past the far end of the park before, but the good weather and lack of one-handed activities had me exploring further than normal. The 'new' trail follows an old canal that has since been filled in.

"In 1801 a 40 feet wide canal was dug from Surrey Quays in Rotherhithe, reaching Peckham in 1826. The Canal known then as the Grand Surrey Canal, became a hub of industry with horse-drawn barges bringing timber for the construction industry and limestone to be made into cement. The canal authorities generated income from tolls and fishing licences. In Victorian times a local pub hired rowing boats while swimming and illegal dog racing along the towpath drew small crowds and the attention of "the law". In the 20th Century the industries along its bank dwindled and in 1974 the Canal was finally drained to eliminate the danger of people falling in and drowning. From 1995 Southwark Council set about regenerating the canal area. In particular the canal head which became the site of Peckham Square."

I'm not transcribing this sign. Stuff about plants and stuff...

This was one of the two old bridges that used to cross the Canal
There were tons of people out walking, jogging, and riding bikes. The change in weather has brought everyone out.

The end of the Canal walk - Peckham Square. The brightly colored building is Peckham Library.
Considering the fact that all I can do for the next two weeks is walk, I'll be sure to snap a few more pictures of Burgess Park. We've got a 'lake' [read: pond] that has lots of ducks, some man-made hills, football pitches, a playground, tennis courts, ping-pong tables, an outdoor gym, and lots of walking paths. 

I went to the Fracture Clinic yesterday. Diagnosis: sling for 4 weeks. At least they got me a better sling this time. 

That's it from us this week. Our hearts are with y'all in the US, and we hope that next week is exceptionally better than the one we've just finished.