Friday, 26 July 2013

Magic and Beyond

The week of my 30th birthday at the end of May was certainly an interesting one. It started with a family party, there was a day in deepest Wales and the Friday brought our trip to Magic Weekend. For those unfamiliar, Magic Weekend happens once a season in the Rugby League calendar and all the games from one weekend are playing in the same stadium, one after the other. That's four games on Saturday and four on Sunday. For such huge Rugby League fans as Foz and I are we always try to go every year, especially when, as this year, it's in Manchester, barely half an hour's journey from home.

The Etihad Stadium
The Etihad, a football stadium that's home to Manchester City, is a beautiful and spacious venue and this was our second time attending there. Warrington Wolves were scheduled to be the last game on Saturday but we had weekend tickets anyway and were planning to watch all 8 games over the two days.

I was especially excited for our game as I'd won a competition run by Foxy Bingo (a sponsor of Super League) a few weeks earlier and my prize was to race in a zorb on the pitch at half time. Brilliant!
We spent the first three games watching with our friends, chanting, drinking and enjoying the beautiful weather. But as Warrington's game against St. Helens approached I started getting nervous. I knew it wouldn't be long before I would be facing off against a Saints fan in front of thousands of people!

Half time arrived all too soon and I found myself zipped inside the zorb, after being given some simple instructions on how the race would work. My Saints opponent and I were led on to the pitch once the players had left the field and I scanned the crowd looking for the mass of Warrington fans in the corner of the stadium. I knew Foz, my dad and brother would be there cheering me on. Sound was strangely muffled in the zorb, I could hear my own voice echoing around the space around me but sounds from the outside, even the loud music and tannoy announcements were hard to make out. 

We lined up on the try line and I strained my ears trying to hear the announcer (incidentally a famous ex-Rugby League player called Robbie Paul) doing our introductions and explaining the race to the crowd. Thankfully a staff member did a visual countdown in front of us and we could barely hear Robbie getting us ready to go. But soon enough it was time.  I adopted my starting position. I was determined to win. Determined. St. Helens are old rivals of Warrington and I spent many years of my childhood watching them beat us every single time we played each other. I was absolutely not going to lose to a Saints fan, no matter how nice he was.

The race was over very quickly, about 20 seconds from "go" to crossing the line. Running in a zorb is difficult, especially when you're trying to go at speed. You're essentially falling forward all the time so you can push it faster but the ball holds you up. Like a hamster ball. Unfortunately my efforts to win finally outweighed my zorb-running ability and I pitched forwards as I crossed the line, hitting the ground hard with my left shoulder. The split second of impact was blinding agony and I felt it again as the speed of my fall took me into a tumble which ended with me lay on my back, looking at the sky. The pain lessened and I lay there for a few seconds trying to catch my breath. I could see people outside my zorb gesturing me to get up so I did and climbed out through the opening that they unzipped for me. I had no idea what the outcome of the race had been, it was only when Robbie Paul was holding a microphone in my face asking me how I felt did I realise that I'd won! It was a slightly surreal moment, hearing my voice echoing around the stadium and seeing my face on the big screen.

After my very brief on-pitch interview we were led off the pitch to collect our shoes and make our way back to our families/friends. The pain in my shoulder, which had been dully throbbing since the fall, started to increase as I walked along the touchline until I felt I couldn't breathe. I went really hot and lightheaded. We returned and stood in the tunnel and I really tried to concentrate as the team told us how well we'd done and thanked us for taking part but it was all I could do to stay stood upright. The Foxy Bingo representative must have noticed as she asked if I was alright as I'd gone very pale. I said I was fine, I'd just banged my shoulder and would be o.k after some water and catching my breath. As I bent over to put my shoes back on I nearly blacked out and it took a completely irrational fear of causing a nuisance or embarrassing myself to keep upright. I stumbled a little and must have made a noise with the pain as the Foxy Bingo rep came over again and said she thought I needed to see the St. John's Ambulance crew. I agree and was led in a small medical room just off the tunnel.

Once in there I leaned over the sink and splashed some cool water on my face, I just couldn't seem to shake the hot, lightheaded feeling that had come over me and the pain in my shoulder was unbearable. The nurse encouraged me to lie on the bed and I was happy to comply. After a few minutes, when the room had stopped spinning and I felt able to stand without falling over I stood to allow the nurse to examine me. She asked the standard questions like my name and age and what I'd done to hurt myself. She also asked if I had had anything to drink. "Yes" I replied, "some water before the race". She laughed and told me she'd meant alcohol. D'oh. I don't drink alcohol so I was o.k on that score and she gave me a couple of Ibuprofen. Finally it was time for the physical examination. I'd been holding my arm up across my chest, supporting it at the wrist with my good arm. It was the only position that made the pain bearable. The nurse had me lower my arm to my side then, holding it our straight, raise it as far up as I could to the front and again to the side. Wow, the pain. I got it just lower than horizontal forwards and less than that to the side before the pain just overwhelmed me. I really tried to tough it out but doing those arm movements brought tears to my eyes. I just kept apologising to the nurse and the poor Foxy Bingo rep (who sat in the corner looking terrified) for being such a big girl about it. Not very reassuringly the nurse said I needed to be examined by the on-site doctor and she went away to call for him. It was at this point the Foxy Bingo rep asked who I was with and if she could ring them to come and be with me. I refused. I could hear from the crowd noise that the game had re-started and there was no way I was letting Foz, my dad and brother miss the rest of it.

The doctor arrived after a few minutes. Thankfully he didn't make me repeat the arm exercises but he did have a really good feel of my shoulder, pressing all around it and asking me where the pain hurt the most. It felt like it was directly on the front of my shoulder, at the top. He reassured me it wasn't dislocated but I did need an x-ray and that I would be put in an ambulance and taken straight to Manchester Royal Hospital. I absolutely refused. There was a Warrington Wolves game going on out there and I'd already missed most of it. I wasn't missing any more of it or allowing my family and friends to. Before the doctor would allow me to return to my seat I had to assure him I would go straight to A&E after the game had finished and get the x-ray I needed, which I was happy to do. So, arm trussed up in a sling the Foxy Bingo rep escorted me pitchside, all along the edge to the opposite corner and my waiting family, who by this point were all extremely worried that I hadn't returned. On the way we passed the dugouts (where the substituted players & coaching staff sit) and I was thrilled to receive a wink from Adrian Morley, a hugely popular Warrington player. As I started to pass the beginnings of the mass of Warrington fans in the corner of the stadium I could hear some cheering building up and I looked to the pitch to see what was happening. Nothing worth cheering about that I could see so I looked back over to the crowd and realised that everyone clapping and cheering was looking at me! I returned to a hero's welcome, the few thousand Warrington fans all cheering and chanting for me and I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry! It was an incredible experience, even in as much pain as I was.

By the time I returned there was only 10 minutes left and I spent it standing very gingerly in my place with my family, terrified someone was going to knock me or bump me by accident. Luckily we were with a large group and they all looked after me. At the end, after Warrington won spectacularly (or so I'm told, in the end I missed all but the first 10 minutes!) we waited until the crowds had cleared to make our way to the exits. As I couldn't drive the plan was to leave my car in the stadium car park (which involved a little arranging with the head steward) and allow my dad to drive us to the local hospital in his car. We were very lucky he was there.

I was not looking forward to A&E. It late on a saturday night, quite possibly the worst time to be attending and I know that minor injuries like mine are pushed further and further down the queue as more serious cases come in. I expected a long night. In the end the whole visit took about an hour. And this was the result:

A very lovely break in my clavicle. I did a right good job too. No bruised bone or simple crack for me. A collar bone in two pieces, in a location so far to the edge that the doctor told me unless it healed right there was very little they could do corrective surgery-wise. The knobble on the end of the bone was too small to anchor a metal pin into. Yikes. I was given a fabric sling with some painkillers and told to report to my local A&E in Warrington on the monday to make an appointment at the fracture clinic.

Excuse the face. It had been a long, exhausting & painful day!
 So all that was left was to return to the hotel we were staying in and try and get some sleep. We still had tickets for the following day and I did not want to miss it. My dad drove us back to the hotel and, after picking up some spare pillows and sheets from reception we settled into our room. Poor Foz had to sleep on the sofa bed as the slightest movement was agony. I tried to sleeping sitting up, propped by lots of pillows but the pain and poor support of the cheap sling made it difficult and I slept very little. On top of that I struggled to do anything for myself, I couldn't even unbutton my own jeans. 

The following morning we slowly got ready to leave the hotel and head to the stadium. We had to book a taxi to drop us and all our bags at my car in the stadium car park then walk across to the stadium. At least the rugby was good! Home time involved my dad dropping his car at my house, Foz's dad driving him to Manchester then my dad driving Foz and I home in my car. Nightmare. thank goodness we've such amazing family around us!

The following few days were difficult and involved a lot of hastily-organised childcare by our parents. Foz had to return to work on the Monday and I couldn't even bring Bee downstairs in a morning, much less feed and dress her or change her nappy. We settled into a routine of my mum coming first thing monday and tuesday to get Bee ready and take her to nursery, then staying with me until Foz returned home from work. Wednesday was Foz's day as he's always off work. Thursday morning would bring my mum first thing again then Bee would be picked up by Foz's parents Thursday afternoon until Saturday or Sunday night depending on Foz's working hours. It must have been exhausting and hugely intrusive for our families and all I could do was watch on, feeling terribly guilty about all the trouble I'd caused. I felt the worst for Foz. Not only did he still have to work all the time but he also had to do everything at home and look after Bee entirely on his days off. He was a star though and never complained once. If I tried to lift a finger he insisted I sit down and keep my arm still. I couldn't risk it not healing correctly as the recovery would have been even worse. Thankfully a few days after the incident fracture clinic gave me a lovely padded sling to wear, which turned out to be my saviour and infinitely more supportive than the rubbish fabric one.

 It was a hard time and we fell behind with so many things, not least of which was my blog! Poor Bee didn't really understand what was happening and would often try to hug me or climb on my knee. It broke my heart a little every time I had to gently push her away. I missed holding her, cuddling her and feeling her little weight in my arms. I noticed the longer I stayed away from her the less often she would try and come over to me. It killed me.

 But, after 5 weeks I had my follow-up x-ray to confirm the break was healing correctly and success! Although still a small break in the bone where it hadn't quite healed, all was in place and I would need no further treatment and certainly not an operation. I was thrilled. The sling came off and the road to building my arm back up started.

I'm still going through that process. It was a couple of weeks after my x-ray that I felt able to alone with Bee, capable of changing her nappy, dressing her and lifting her in and out of the car. I've now spent my first full week alone with her and I'm still struggling with the lifting, she weighs over 2 stone and doesn't always like to co-operate but we manage o.k. It's something that will get easier with time. 

  Of course that was my first and only zorb experience. Clearly I overestimated my abilities at running in a giant plastic ball. Lesson learnt!

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