Best Medicine by Ailsa Abraham


It’s a cliché that laughter is, but I find that sayings only become clichés because they are universally true.

I’ve had cause to remember this one a great deal recently and be thankful for it. I’m one of those idiots who always see the funny side of everything. This makes me a bit of a dodgy invitee at funerals and the only person my cardiologist has ever had who sang on the operating table…well, I was bored. He might have had plenty to do but I was wide awake, feeling something get poked up my artery into my ventricle and to be honest, after the first ten minutes it wasn’t very interesting. So I belted out an appropriate Scottish song to amuse the rest of the team (My Heart’s in the Highlands if you really want to know) which, being French, they didn’t understand but it was one of the many times when I’ve had a whole operating theatre in fits of laughter.

You will have gathered that all my life I have been involved in hospitals one way and another.  Not as work, you understand. I only worked in the operating theatre of a veterinary surgery, but maybe that also gave me a rather kiss-my-ass attitude to it all as well. Although I do remember my mother telling me that as a kid she knew if I was badly hurt because I started to laugh. If I fell over and cried she’d pick me up and say “Pack it in!” which worked like a dream. If I were laughing she’d ring the ambulance.

In the last few years I have had a bucketful, starting with being helicoptered to hospital to stop me drowning in my own blood because I exploded my spleen coming off my motorbike in a triple somersault. Well, try anything once, I say, but that one is off my bucket-list. That would have been very exciting if I could remember anything about it from half an hour before my circus-dismount until three weeks later when I came out of my coma unable to speak English.

That wasn’t the start of my woes, I was disabled from work ten years ago due to Bipolar Condition and a crumbling spine which has given me arthritic hips. Not bad for 50 eh? I can cope with all that but in the past four years I seem to be playing medical poker with myself. Every time I think it can’t get much worse, I raise my own stakes. This could be why I find it all so amusing. When I say that I am now on first-name terms with at least four surgeons, two specialists and most of the nursing staff in two teaching hospitals, you get the idea? I don’t just have a season ticket, I have my own box!

My popularity with the nursing staff is partly due to my habit of reading their cards in exchange for coffee and doing my lie-down comedienne act for them whenever they are around me. Of course, my accent makes me funny to start with but when I start taking the mickey out of the British with an English accent it kills them.

I love joining in. Discussing this with a friend recently, he observed that I wasn’t very sporty. What???? Excuse me, despite all my injuries from early teens I have ridden horses, raced dinghies, taught assault courses, yomped twenty miles in a day, abseiled and generally tried to kill myself in as many ways as possible (the motorbikes are just for fun). What he meant was that I don’t watch sport on TV. No, never have. I prefer “having a go” at something to staring at others having fun. That was how I ended up abseiling. I was supposed to be the female officer present so that the girls could play, but hell with that – I was shown how and down I zapped, yahooing my head off all the way.

I suppose a lot of the stuff I did in the military, along with my deformed back, is what screwed up my feet, which is why they needed an operation. Having declared them a bunch of broken twigs, my orthopedic surgeon, Aurelian, had to go in, break a few of them, straighten some, remove one and then sew me up. Having had so many general anaesthetics I know that I take a month to get over one so I asked for an epidural (the injection into the spine that numbs everything from the waist down leaving the patient wide awake). That was a real gas! They had very kindly rigged up a TV screen so that I could watch. Being unable to feel anything at all, I was fascinated, shouting instructions, encouragement and exclamations of surprise as I saw my own foot being pulled apart. Having taken out the most embuggered joint, Aurelien waggled it at me over the top of the sheet so that I could wave it goodbye. I’m really looking forward to going back to have the other foot done but this time I won’t allow my GP to re-break the big toe while having a look at his pal’s handiwork – that was another four weeks in “the boot”.

Funerals? Ahem, well death in general, really. It was particularly unfortunate that my first meeting with my last mother-in-law (had three!) was in the hospital where she had just been informed that her husband had died. I walked in, completely unknown, on the arm of her son and, being used to bereavement, put my arm around her to rock her gently.

“This will be the third I’ve buried.” She sobbed into my shoulder. I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t deliberate, I couldn’t help it, just popped out of my mouth before I could stop it.

“Well you’ll be getting used to it by now, love.”

His brother still gives me funny looks when he sees me, which isn’t very often.






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