Sunday, 21 July 2019


Friendly young Mr. Musculoskeletal Triage is talking me through me the X-Ray of my knee on his computer.

He highlights and enlarges different sections, telling me how those spurs are signs of wear, and that those tiny spheres, floating loose in the middle, have been there a long while, as they’re all rounded.

“I’ve seen a lot worse knees!” he declares, to which I respond: “Hurrah!”

He goes off and leaves me in his room.

I sit there and think how incredibly lucky I am to have access to this level of free care.

I’ve travelled a fair bit, and seen people in developing countries who will never have a doctor. Even in First World America, it wasn’t until I found full time employment that I had a doctor and a dentist.

That felt so weird to this European. I was working as a temp in San Francisco, paying my taxes and the rent, yet when I needed medical attention I had to go down to the City Clinic, which was at that time a crazy cocktail of a drunk tank, A&E and homeless shelter.

The staff were friendly and did a great job, but the care and time they could allocate was tiny compared to the way I’ve been treated in recent weeks.

With achingly long waiting lists, patients stuck on trolleys and cancer screening debacles, there’s much wrong with Ireland’s Health Service, but there’s a hell of a lot right about it too.

People just don’t work those hours for that pay unless they are dedicated and vocational.

As it happens, my knee is as good today as it has been for months. I figure you have to take responsibility for your own health, and even though I’ve been a walker my whole life, I’ve had to switch to cycling.

Exercising outside gives my spirit and mood a vital boost. I don’t make myself sweat every day, l find my arms resting on my belly when I sit in my armchair.

Over the winter I allowed myself alarming levels of comfort eating. I grew huge, and being an absolute prat who doesn’t practice what he preaches, I continued to ignore the crushing pain in my legs.

Sciatic symptoms down the left; inflammation of the knee in the right.

Having a high pain threshold is a pain in the backside (arf!) because if you’re an idiot like me, it becomes easy to accept a life of severe discomfort.

Ah, stuff that: agony.

Sat still or striding, my legs were hurting for months. Well-meaning friends suggested mantras to release pent up emotions, while others insisted that the doctor was the way to go.

I feel sorry for them (my legs, not my friends, although now I mention it, I wonder!) as they’ve the horrific and unenviable job of holding me up, in all my voluminous wonder.

Around April I started to take anti-inflammatories on a regular basis and then sat down and had a stern chat with myself.

Walking means impact, and the golf ball sized swelling that had taken up residence on my knee was my body’s visible protest against it.

Changing my ways felt hard. I’m not built for speed. While others ran, I walked. I walked and walked and loved it, and walked and walked some more.

No more.

Wheeling my old bike out the shed, I got busy with the WD-40, inflated the tyres and climbed on board.

Gradually I built up my morning ride until now, even though I’m home in 30 minutes, I’m sweating and gasping (oh you sexy beast!) but not hurting.

My new GP sent me off to Roscommon for an X-Ray of the knee. No appointment, just a letter from the doc and easy peasy Batman, I was in and out in 20 minutes.

Yesterday I had the appointment at Mayo General, and when Mr. Musculoskeletal said he was sending me for X-Ray, I told him I’d already had that done.

“Ah, but y’see, we can’t access the Roscommon X-rays here.”

At that point I could’ve gone off on one, asking what the hell had I driven all the way to Roscommon for, if they couldn’t send the bloomin’ things to his computer?

Instead I figured the way it probably worked was that the Roscommon X-rays went to my doctor, as she sent me there, and then she referred me to this hospital.

Even though it’s simply plain wrong that they can’t all see the same X-Rays, I shut up and went off for new X-Rays and 10 minutes later was looking at them on his computer.

I already knew that my knee wasn’t going to get better. Once you pass the age of 50, you no longer get an injury from which you’ll recover: you acquire a condition that you have to manage.

‘Keep on keepin’ on!’ seemed to be Mr. Musculoskeletal’s advice. Mix a bit of walking in with the cycling, and stay pain free.

I’d been seen by a GP, two X-Ray departments and an expert in bones. Everyone had been exceptionally kind, and I had paid nothing, save for my tax contribution.

Access to free healthcare is described as a basic human right, partly because when you experience it, you feel more human.

All those people, their expertise and equipment were available to me. I must be worth it.

Mind you, there’s two physical phenomena no medical expert will ever cure.

The sounds of this man standing up:

The intake of breath grunt “Grufff!”

The rising “Ohhhhh!”

The arm-stretching “Eeeeeearrrghhhh!”

The steady on the feet there, Adley “Phoo-woawoawoohhh!”

Then, after the day is done, and alarmingly similar to the noise my late father used to make, the sound of a middle-aged man sitting in his chair:


©Charlie Adley

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