Dancing with Doctor D - act three
30 July 2021 | Third Movement – Presto, ma no Troppo
Despite the rapid recovery, I was still surprised to be discharged that morning.
Well, I say morning.
First, they had to get me ambulatory and clean and odourless enough to be allowed to mix with the general public. A trip to the ablutions was indicated. The first attempt was not an unqualified success. Despite being ably supported by two slips of girls, I hardly made it out the door before swirling vertigo and tunnel vision made me swoon like an Edwardian actress in full emote and sit gently on the floor, gazing vacantly up at my helpers. I swallowed my male pride and allowed the two slips of girls to lift me bodily into a wheelchair in one easy swoop. OK everybody, cabaret's over. Nothing more to see here. Move along please.
The second attempted fared better on several fronts. Firstly I made it as far as the bathroom with only the odd lurch and stagger. Secondly, one of the slips-of-girls came in with me, locked the door, turned to me and said "OK, I'll give you a hand. Get your gown and pants off."
It's been a long time since I've had an offer like that from a 25 year old woman. Or man, for that matter.
"Morning, Mr Newbury."
"Not now you fool! Can't you see I'm busy?
"Good way to go, though. Envy of all your friends and all that. Go down in folk history etc."
"Bugger off! And watch what you're doing with that bloody scythe."
Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) her interest was purely professional, and patently undriven by father issues. Or, possibly more appropriately, grandfather issues. As a result, I was spared the ignominy of being placed on the sex offenders' register, and the humiliation of being living proof that Parkinson's and the drugs used to treat it, tend to have a reinforcing effect on performance anxiety.
Once that little misunderstanding had been cleared up to everyone's satisfaction, and after a good scrub down, I was made presentable for public viewing and booted out into the corridor. I hadn't managed to grab a shave, though, so I still looked like a bewildered tramp who'd wandered into the hospital thinking it was an offie.
All I had to do now was get home. My original plan had been to take the fifteen-minute walk to the bus station, buy a ticket and take the next coach to Lagos before phoning Liz to get a lift back home. I called, and put this plan to Liz, who promptly (& quite reasonably) vetoed it. I had to concur. I was still quite woozy, and neither of us fancied the idea of my passing out and falling under the wheels of the 14:50 to Seville.
"Sounds good to me."
"I thought I told you to bugger off."
"Sorry. Too good a chance to miss."
While I was exploring my options, slip-of-a-girl took pity on the bumbling crumbly and came to the rescue. "Senhor Robert," she called down the corridor, "I have arranged transport for you. It will be here in 30 minutes." And so it was. She had arranged me a 90-day pass which entitled me to free transportation from my front door to any medical facility in the country that would have me. How they manage to fund such a scheme is beyond me.
I was introduced to my driver, Gio, who led me down to a spanking new Ford Focus, resplendent in red and white livery and emblazoned with the legend Transporte de Doentes Não Urgentes. Não Urgente? It was pretty bloody urgente to me. I wanted to get home, ASA-sodding-P. I hadn't had a drink for two days. Do you realise, there was no bar in that ITU. Bloody disgraceful.
Be careful what you wish for.
Gio sat me in the back, alongside the only other passenger, a tiny, bird-like old lady called Maria. Actually, I just guessed that, but it's a good bet. Virtually all Portuguese women are called Maria. Causes all manner of confusion. This Maria had recently lost an eye to cancer and was on her way back home to Silves. We were to drop her off on our way to Lagos.
Gio set off. He was obviously proud of his new car, and proceeded to put it through its paces for our admiration, approval and delectation. He jinked, swerved and zig-zagged his way through the busy Lisbon traffic, screeching his tyres and leaving a trail of destruction and gridlock in his wake. He kept this up until he got to the motorway, where he really let rip.
The absolute speed limit on Portuguese motorways is 120 kph. (75 mph, as near as dammit). We were doing a minimum of 165 kph, and according to the GPS, of which I had a disturbingly clear view, frequently hit a whisker under 200 kph (120 mph). I have never traveled that fast on land in my life and I was absolutely terrified. As if that wasn't bad enough, he proceeded to crank up the terror quotient by adjusting his mask and sunglasses with both hands, while steering with his knees. I couldn't help but do back of the envelope calculations on the amount of force involved should we crash at that speed. The likelihood of any of us surviving was infinitesimal. Oh the irony of it all. To have a melanoma taken out of the game, survive a post-anaesthetic crisis and avoid swooning under the wheels of a number 62 bus, only to get turned into burger mince half an hour from home.
"Hello - this sounds promising."
"Oh no - not again! Don't you know it's bad form to kick a man when he's down? And mind that bloody scythe - you'll have someone's eye out with that. Oh, sorry Maria."
As if on cue we passed the clearing up phase of an horrendous accident. Two shells were intertwined in a tableau of destruction. Both cars had rolled and were flattened like pancakes. One car had ended up with its bonnet in the passenger seat. There wasn't a window left intact and the whole scene was surrounded by glistening fragments. The bombeiros were hosing the scene down and the run-off was suspiciously pink. Survival probability < 0.001.
"Hoi, Death! Why don't you stop bugging us and go and sort out that lot?"
"Already have. Finished the paperwork half an hour ago."
"What sort of state were they in?"
"You really don't want to know. Your mental arithmetic stinks. You were out by an order of magnitude."
The graphic warning at the side of the road had no effect on Gio, who cheerfully continued to wreak havoc on Portuguese traffic patterns and my blood pressure. I was utterly convinced that I would never get out of the car alive. It normally takes 4 - 5 hours to drive from Lisbon to Lagos. He did it in a whisker over two. And that included detouring to Silves and prising Maria out of her foetal position in the footwell before carrying her sobbing into the arms of her family. I didn't believe I'd got out of it alive, let alone intact, until Gio pulled the handbrake on outside the house. Liz opened the door and I stumbled gratefully through it.
"Good evening, Mr. Newbury. Am I too late?"
"Damned right you are!"
"Never mind - I can wait."
"So can I, Matey. So can I."