Current Location: Wet and windy in Drummoyne
Greetings all our families, friends, and voters. Recently (early September) we had a federal election here in Australia. An eventful day on several fronts. Here’s how it unfolded in Drummoyne:
I made one final check of the online Herald. My plan to take the earlier ferry over-ridden by my desire to believe that Labor would get back in, Rudd would lose his seat, and Abbott would be dumped as leader.
The day began bright and sunny as the mild, dry winter weather of August continued into September. I disembarked at Cabarita, and rode the short distance to Kris’ place.
Back in August, I undertook the basic training for Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service – WIRES. On Saturdays I assisted an experienced member with the weekly chores of cleaning out cages, replenishing foliage, changing water, and weighing the animals in care, followed by toiletting and feeding the orphaned joeys. In between feeds, the joeys lived in simulated pouches – a woollen dilly bag with cotton liner pocket – hung in a small pet carry case, a heat pack on the side, covered with a towel, in a quiet part of the house.
When injured birds were rescued, they were contained in a donut rolled towel, next to a covered warm water bottle, in a lidded document box. The goal was the same, whether for mammals or birds: keep the creature warm, dark, and quiet, to reduce the shock caused by the injury and subsequent rescue.
Warmed ‘marsupial formula’ in a 3ml sterilised medicine bottle with custom teat is introduced into the side of the ringtail possum joey’s mouth The joey is wrapped, indeed swaddled, in a flannel, with only its head exposed.
The WIRES activities completed, I cycled to the polling station at the local public school, where the P&C hosted a BBQ. In Australia, enterprising schools have fundraisers on election day – a cake stall, a BBQ, a mini fete. There is even a website to assist the voter make the all important decision: cupcake or BBQ sausage? Since voting is compulsory, and with polling stations often located in the school assembly hall, fundraising on election day is like shooting mullet in a bucket.
Screen grab from the Federal Election 2013 Sausage Sizzle map. Thanks Helen for sending the link
Vote and Play on Election Day
I followed the other voters, walked the gauntlet of canvassers, and took a How To Vote from any and all who offered one. I recalled previous elections when I was overseas and voted at the Embassy or Consulate.
Back in high school, we’d watched grainy footage of Emily Davison throwing herself in front of the King’s Horse in the name of Women’s Suffrage a century ago. It was shown to us more than once and I contemplated the take-home message: be brave, stand up for what you believe in / throw yourself under a horse to make a point. Anyways, voting was important.
I cast my ballots, then celebrated with the deluxe burger. Resuming my bike ride, I headed down to the Iron Cove Bay Run, where a short section is undergoing a revamp, the path being widened to accommodate the increased useage. It was a busy place this gorgeous Saturday afternoon with walkers, runners, bike riders, and diverted traffic.
The path narrowed – or did it disappear – then reappeared from the confusion of barricades at a driveway about 400m further along. As I approached the driveway, I momentarily wondered if I was coming in at too sharp an angle for that 4cm lip – Nah, I’ll just skip right over that, I’m going fast enough for my momentum to propel me forward and jump the bump. Oooh, BANG I did continue going forward, unfortunately my bike did not. It all happened so quickly – I was on the ground, a mess of body and bike, my right wrist had popped and I knew I was hurt. It already looked misshapen and had started to swell. I held it against my chest with my left hand. My mind spinning forward at what to do, how to get home, how to get to a hospital, what hospital was closest, what about our planned trip to Montague Island in a few weeks, the fundraising BBQ, the tunnel tour at Callan Park on Sunday, the new term of French, on and on.
A passing motorist stopped and asked ‘Are you OK?’ in a tone of voice that clearly suggested I wasn’t. 2 pedestrians, young women, who also witnessed my bike riding fail, offered their assistance.
I just wanted to get out of the public view, away from the noise and commotion, and preferably into the shade, so I could assess the situation. One of the young women wanted to take me to hospital.
I thought I could probably walk the 2km home, holding my injured wrist, but knew I couldn’t manage the bike as well. Yet I didn’t want to leave the bike there: although I had the lock in the pannier, I couldn’t manage bike, lock and key, and wasn’t sure if the bike would still be there when I eventually returned.
‘Bike in Basin St,’ I didn’t want to leave my bike attached to a pole for a few days. Photo courtesy of Norm
I asked the young woman if she could she take me and the bike home. She and her partner bundled me and the bike into the back of their small Ford. I gave them the one-way-wrong-way tour of the back streets of Drummoyne. They may have thought I was a little concussed. Perhaps I was in shock.
We arrived home, they handed me over to Moe. I thanked them – Elsie and Carlos – and they went on their way. The kindness of strangers.
We garaged the bike and went upstairs for panadeine, figured out the closest emergency department, applied ice and a temporary sling. A quick change into more appropriate attire: pants with a left pocket, and slip-on sandals. While Moe called a taxi I gathered up waiting room essentials: my book, phone, purse, pen, notebook, water bottle, and cough lollies. I anticipated an afternoon in Emergency for an Xray, plaster cast, and home before nightfall.
Waiting for taxi to Balmain Hospital, no need for flashing lights dressed like this
With my arm wrapped in a brightly coloured sarong, and wearing my fluoro-yellow bike shirt, I announced my arrival at Balmain Emergency Dept – no need for flashing lights and sirens. We went through triage and as soon as the nurse saw my wrist she ordered an Xray. She recorded my medications.
The super speedy results of the digital Xray revealed a complete fracture, dislocation, and split at the base of my right radius bone. A temporary back-slab cast was fitted to my forearm and my transfer to RPA hospital prepared.
Right wrist Xray, Balmain Hospital – notice anything unusual?
Well this is a pretty pickle
Another taxi to another hospital, an hour and a half after my fall I sat in the treatment area of the RPA Emergency Department. The electronic medical records just as slick as the digital Xray.
A long tall intern wearing green scrubs explained the proposed preliminary procedure: knock me out and give my wrist one big pull to temporarily re-align the bone – the medical equivalent of, ‘Pull my finger!’ Surgical repair would occur later in the weekend. My medications again recorded.
When I entered the treatment area I noticed two Ambos, two Cops, and around 1/2 dozen medical staff, along with another patient. I was surprised to see the Ambos and the Cops, but figured there were enough of them to take care of whatever it was that kept them there. The other patient was occasionally loud and raucous.
As I sat on the bed, the nurse helped remove my two shirts and glasses. The intern inserted the cannula in my left wrist. Someone else important said the gold necklaces had to come off. They were placed on the bed table. Then the sportsbra had to come off as well. I thought that was a bit of overkill, nevertheless, off it came. The gown lay in front of me and suddenly my noisy, agitated mate from the next bay came crashing through the dividing curtain.
I was nekkid from the waist up, had a broken right wrist, my left wrist attached to a drip, my personal belongings in various locations around me, and a bloke having some sort of psychotic episode about to join me in bed.
The staff subdued my companion. Presently I was put under and awoke with my forearm in another back slab cast.
As the staff wheeled me off to the ward, I asked them, ‘I know it’s none of my business, but what was going on with that other bloke?’ I was given no explanation other than ‘I understand you were frightened…’ Mostly I was surprised, a little vulnerable. It astonished me that even with the presence of the 2 ambos and 2 cops the fellow was able to make a run for it. Such is the street theatre in an inner city public hospital emergency department, where the patients get front row seats, and indeed are part of the performance.
Up in the ward, I was admitted after the dinner service. My medications were recorded. The nurse ferreted out some fruit, a drink, and a sandwich. When I had completed these, an entire meal arrived. I managed the chopped beans, and channelled my inner cavewoman for the meat – I stabbed a slab of pork with my fork and gnawed around the edges.
I was to have an early breakfast then nil by mouth. The pain in my wrist mostly covered by the pain drugs for my dodgy discs, alas not all were available.
Using the bathroom facilities with my non-dominant hand attached to a drip presented a new challenge.
I lay in bed looking at the drawn curtains surrounding my companions, secure in my bed with extra pillows arranged in a C shape. The light was low, the room warm, our ward quiet. Just like the WIRES training manual. 2 of my roomies watched the election results come in, the volume barely audible. I learned in snippets that I wasn’t the only one to have fallen on Saturday 7 September 2013. The Labor Government, like me, had had a very bad day. We would have a new government, a new prime minister.
Sunday morning my day nurse wrapped my arm so I could shower. Afterwards, she wrestled the Ted-hose onto my legs. For the moment I was allowed underwear, and I had saved last night’s gown, so now I had two – one worn tied at the back, the other loose at the front. With this ensemble, I wandered the hallways of the ward, accompanied by my drip. Walking filled in time and eased the tingling in my foot. I read when I could, but found it difficult to concentrate.
Sunday morning became Sunday afternoon, became Sunday evening, still no word on when I’d go for surgery and frankly I didn’t want to be the last case at the end of a long, tiring day. There were people far more injured than I who took priority, and that was fair enough.
All dressed up and nowhere to go: waiting for surgery
At around 10pm my scheduled surgery was called off for the day. I was able to eat until midnight – by now I was a famished cavewoman, and was half inclined to beat my chest and grunt, ‘Meat…good,’ as I devoured a huge slab of beef on the end of my fork, then nil by mouth again, and start another drip.
I received various food items in containers devilishly tricky to open one-handed – clam-shell sandwiches, fruit juice, yoghurt. I think one reason why people don’t eat hospital food is because they can’t open the containers without fear of the contents spurting all over them and their bed linens.
Monday morning surgery put back to Monday afternoon. I continued to roam the hallways. I met the anaesthetist’s registrar who asked me – again – what were my medications. I told him to look on my chart. In due course, my nurse found me and announced my surgery would happen presently, so it was time for a quick spit bath, new gown, no knickers, off you go.
Down in the ante-room to the theatre, I met more registrars, had another medication review (even with all the questions about what my medications were, I never received all of them on schedule), and was wheeled into theatre.
Some time later I emerged from the fog of the anaesthesia and tried to visually fixate on the wall opposite – it was to no avail, it spun vertically for some minutes. I was returned to the ward and had another drip started in my left arm.
Right wrist Xray post surgery – Humpty Dumpty put back together again with a plate and 6 screws
A day later, Tuesday, I was discharged. Time for some warm, dark, and quiet at home.
Thanks to Elsie and Carlos, all staff involved at Balmain Hospital, RPA Hospital and Fracture Clinic, and Concord Hospital Physiotherapy.
Margaret and Moe
Next time, something more cheerful