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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Just 6 Weeks Less-Abled : S + 11 | Technical skills are not everything

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

I took this photo last evening. Underneath those bandages something weird is going on. For 4 days now I have had worsening pain in my lower leg and foot. Odd pain. Multi-faceted pain. Light and cool. Intense and tingling. Sharp and stabbing. On the inside of my knee it is like a soft breeze touching the surface of my skin and round my ankle it feels like the kiss of a fine silk scarf. Sometimes it delicately dances up my tibialis anterior muscle like an army of ants. On toes 3, 4 and 5 it fizzes and on the sole of my foot there is an oval patch that tingles and burns, a cold freezer-type of burn.

It's odd and utterly puzzling. It is at its worst when I am doing what I should be doing which is keep my legs elevated - so when I am sitting and lying down. For 4 nights sleep has been sporadic to say the least and I have been getting ever more grumpy. And concerned.

No swelling and no heat and no deep ache so I was pretty sure it is not from a deep vein thrombosis and if I'd had the remotest thought this was the issue I would have dialled 999 on Friday evening. I hadn't mentioned to anyone it as I rather hoped it would abate.

However it hasn't so I contacted the scalpel man's secretary yesterday and even though he had a fully booked clinic he asked me to go and see him today. Luckily a kind friend could take me so there we were in my wee car, my foot propped up on 3 cushions squashed into the footwell, heading just over an hour south to the hospital. I'd be lying if I said it was a comfortable journey. Not due to my friend's driving, far from it but rather due to the foot and leg announcing their presence just a tad to forcefully for my liking.

It was so awkward getting out the car, up into the reception and into the waiting room. The distance we had to walk to the treatment room seemed like a marathon. I was offered a wheelchair which, naturally, I refused. But more of this tomorrow.

I should mention here that I selected this particular scalpel man because he is at the top of his game when it comes to wielding the needle and the knife judging by the research I did before I saw him the first time. His bio also said he was a cyclist. Another reason why I chose him. More than this I discovered during my first appointment that he competes in triathlons. That's a swim and a run too far for me but each to his own. He should understand my need to return to my sport as soon as reasonably possible, I thought to myself. Can only be good. Turns out he is also a rugby fan so in amongst the medical talk this afternoon we did fit in a bit of chat about this past weekend. I like that.

Good doctoring I have learnt over the years is not just about doing the slice and dice effectively. Empathy and engagement are crucial in my experience to an optimal patient / doctor relationship. Empathy and engagement that go in both directions. I know some consultants can come across as arrogant however I think it is worth remembering there's a fine line between arrogance and the self-confidence that's needed to slice and dice another human being. Sometimes they can be brusque and short in manner, this is also true. I know they are time-pressed but I truly believe there is always time to stop, just for a moment and connect.

I like that even though his clinic was full the scalpel man made a little bit of time for me as a human and not just as a patient today. It makes such a huge difference.

I also like he was delighted with the condition of my foot. As much as this inactivity is verily doing my head in it is paying dividends. I'd've loved to have used the photo I took of my foot with the plaster cast off. I'm so very happy with how the wound is healing and the fact there is no swelling. It makes all this mental and physical frustration worth it. I haven't used it because I know not everyone likes to see such things. I'll show you in a month's time when the final cast comes off.

We are on watch and wait with the nerve pain. The good thing is we are both reassured there is not a DVT. I have arthritis in my lower back and given the geographic pattern of the pain, scalpel man thinks it is coming from my back. I do not have pain there at all but it does make sense. It so helps me to have knowledge about what is going on. Engagement, I use that word again, with this whole thing is vital for me.

I am not very comfortable at making a fuss or at reaching out for help. I don't like to 'put people out' to use that very English phrase. As I am sitting here now writing this I am learning, yet again, the importance of reaching out when you need to. I needed to have my mind put at rest and I feel so much better for that. To be sure the nerve pain is no different however, as I have said before my relationship with it has. And for me that is everything. And although I effect this change myself it would not have been possible without the scalpel man and my friend making time for me.

You know who you both are. Thank you.

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