A Shorts Story
She examined the evidence. My right leg, of course, was the one that had the deep-vein thrombosis in 1984 and I've always limped a bit, especially when tired, ever since.
"So why do you limp, do you think?" asked the doctor.
"Well, my right leg just feels heavier than the left one, I think it's that," I said, "and it makes me walk slightly awkwardly, I'm always conscious of it."
"Have you ever had physiotherapy for it?" she asked.
"Er - - no," I said.
"Right, I'll refer you then," she said, "because I think it could help."
And it was then I remembered the Story of the Shorts.
I was last referred for physiotherapy in 1984. I wasn't in the best of states. I was twenty-eight: my first baby had died: I had been very ill: I had had a thrombosis in my right leg. I was very thin, though not in a good way. I had recently come out of hospital in a ward where my life had been saved, but the next person in age to me had been seventy-four. And indeed Kath and I had become good friends, since we were the two youngsters in the ward.
So I was thin, and sallow-skinned, and generally looked terrible. And, because of the DVT, my right leg was much fatter than my left one. It's still a bit fatter now, but not nearly as much.
So I turned up in the gym at St James's Hospital and it was full of fit, healthy young men with sports injuries. I felt about a hundred and thirty-three.
Out bounced the physiotherapist, who was a fit, healthy young man a bit older than I was.
"Right," he said, "you need to go and put your shorts on."
I was totally taken aback. "What shorts?"
"You need to wear shorts for this."
It had said on the information that I could wear shorts or track-suit trousers, and track-suit trousers were what I was wearing.
"I don't own any shorts. I don't wear shorts."
He just gazed at me. "Well you need shorts."
I gazed back. Finally I decided to spell it out. "I have just had a DVT and I have one leg fatter than the other. I've been really ill and I feel terrible and I don't want to wear shorts. I don't own any, and I haven't brought any. It said on the information that I could wear track-suit trousers, and I am."
"Oh no," he said, "you need to wear shorts for physiotherapy."
"So you are saying," I said carefully, "that without shorts I can't have physiotherapy?"
"Yes," he said.
"Is this for any health reason?"
"No, it's just policy."
"Right," I said, "I can't have physiotherapy then."
And I turned and left. He made no attempt to stop me.
Of course, I should have complained: firstly to the hospital and then to the press. Or I could have gone back and punched him, and then told the world why. But I was just feeling too fragile. I went home and I didn't have physiotherapy.
But hey, he was one of the many reasons why I've got into helping to teach Communication Skills to healthcare professionals. So not all bad, then.
I have never worn shorts since, and I never will. I will go for physiotherapy. And if any mention is made of shorts this time, there'll be Trouble with a capital T.