Tuesday was a rainy overcast day. A bit like my mood. After 17 years I was going back to see Dr Ian Farey, a cervical spine surgeon. I caught the train to Chatswood after work and became lost wandering around the labyrinth jumble of Chatswood in search of his rooms. What an ugly, overcrowded concrete monstrosity Chatswood has become. Too many people struggling to find a square inch to stand on, where the noodle shop reigns ubiquitous. Tomorrow’s slum?
Try to find someone in Chatswood who speaks English and will give directions. Good luck. I eventually found the medical centre in the same arcade as it was all those years ago. I screwed up my courage. Got in the lift, same lift, as before. Reception same as I remember. Because of the hour, there was no one else in the cavernous waiting room. All was quiet. Farey emerged at 5.30pm pretty much as I remembered him all those years ago.
Last time I saw him he had smashed himself in a skiing accident and was fearful he would not be able to operate again. He said that though he was severely impaired and had developed osteoporosis and arthritis in his injured shoulder, he could still operate. He has cut back to 3 days a week in the interval since I’ve seen him last.
I went through all the symptoms as he looked over my old file. He thinks it’s the same injury as before only at c6/c7 not c7/T1. I might need more surgery as the pain in my arm is persisting. MRI/x ray/CAT scan, here I come.
I asked him why I was left a cripple after the last procedure and he said he didn’t know.
“You were very unlucky,” he said.
“Thanks, but that doesn’t help me much,” I replied.
“I’ve never had a patient, before or since, that responded to this procedure in the way you did,” he added. This only made me feel worse.
He was surprised that I didn’t have a tendon transplant to fix my hand.
I didn’t do this because the surgery last time left me so debilitated. I couldn’t endure the pain of more surgery. I was actually starting to seethe. This was irrational, particularly as I don’t know exactly what has happened to me. And there is no sense getting angry over something that happened 17 years ago. An urge to blame him for what happened assailed me. This is pointless. Nevertheless, if he had made a mistake, I wish he’d admit it. That would make it easier to bear. I asked him again what happened and he didn’t know.
I inquired how he filled in his time when he wasn’t working full time and couldn’t ski. He has developed a passion for photographing rock stars and music performers on stage. He dug out his iPad and showed me a few. He’s a very good photographer. I admired his resilience as life had curtailed his career but he picked himself up, found a new avenue for fulfilment and successfully pursued it. As a keen photographer I immediately recognised his talent, particularly with light. Resilience is an admirable quality in anyone.
“Based on how my body functions and feels, I’ve never healed completely from the last procedure, ” I thought uncharitably, as he showed me the photographs. He is a world renowned surgeon. It’s not his fault. It’s just the process. I’ll probably never know what happened.
Anyway it’s done. My heart is stained with anger but I cant do anything about it now. John Prine’s ringing words from Bruised Orange (Chain of sorrow) played in my head as I descended the lift.
But it don’t do no good to get angry,
So help me I know
For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
Wrapped up in a trap of your very own chain of sorrow
Ah, the chain of sorrow. Peak hour at 6pm in the rain at Chatswood station is still as shitty as it was in 1998. Chatswood as urban dystopia. Who ever invented the word was standing outside the station at peak hour.