Getting the elbow

Here’s something I started writing last year, when I was ill, after contracting an infection in an elbow wound in France. I didn’t finish the article, as I was feeling groggy.  Besides I didn’t have a blog back then. In fact heaven knows why I was writing, when I should have been tucked up on the sofa with some grapes and a box set of Stargate Atlantis.

Anyway I found it today, while hunting out some photographs on my back up drive. So I thought I’d finish it.  Here it is. Just a word of warning, I was feeling dreadful when I wrote it.  I don’t know if you’ll detect the point where the old writing ends and the new writing starts, but it’s round about the time I start talking about new batteries for the remote.



On July 5th I slept in my home bed a happy man. It was a Sunday night and we were just back from four days in Paris. We’d walked and walked around the French capital. The weather had been lovely and I was feeling as fit as a fiddle and pleasantly tired out.

That first night back in London I woke up and my elbow was sore.

By the morning it was pink and swollen and it hurt to touch.

I’d had a scab on it for a week or so and it had been knocked off a couple of times, but apart from that there was nothing to indicate anything was wrong.

Monday and Tuesday the elbow was getting bigger. On Wednesday I was speaking at an event in Hemel Hempstead and the drive was a struggle. I was only due to speak for half an hour and by the end of it I was drenched in sweat.  The feedback for the talk was great, so I don’t think it affected my performance, but they must have thought I was a bit of a nervous character.  If you’ve ever seen Lee Evans the comedian onstage, you’ll have an idea of how much I was sweating. Lee always carries a towel with him.  I didn’t think a sopping towel would convey the message I was trying to put across about dealing effectively with the media.  Especially the section on how to cope with nerves during live TV appearances!

I struggled back to London feeling hot and groggy.

Still I didn’t go to the doctors.  I should have done, I know. My wife and my mum keep telling me I should have done and they are both usually right.  In my defence, I did run it past my Dad, who’s a retired pharmacist. Like me he thought it would sort itself out. No-one ever died of a hot elbow, did they?

On Thursday I walked into Richmond for a meeting with Kimberly, the American from the last series of The Apprentice, who was given a tough time by Sir Alan because he doesn’t like marketing people. Midway through my second cup of ‘Indian Breakfast’ at the Tea Box tea shop, I was burning up, with the elbow the epicentre of the volcano. I’m not sure if volcanoes have epicentres, but my elbow was boiling. Fortunately I’d some freeze gel in my bag which I’d been given at a sports event I’d compered.

The freeze gel did the business.  Kimberly pretended not to be alarmed by the eccentric Englishman and I staggered the thirty minutes home.

That evening we settled down for a Frasier marathon on TV. After two episodes I jumped up to go to the loo and had an episode of my own.  The symptoms were just what I expect a heart attack is like. There was chest pain, stabbing pain in the heart area, numbness on the left side of the face, and pins and needles all down the left arm.

I’m no medical man. I opted out of biology at school as soon as I could to avoid the obligatory frog autopsy. Most of my body knowledge comes from pub quizzes and hospital dramas, but I know pain on the left side is not a good sign.

Sure enough on arrival at casualty I was rushed to the front of the queue and was wired up to an electrocardiogram machine.

The casualty doctor was so young he could have been my son.  He drew a circle on my arm in biro. It was about the size of a grapefruit and showed the outer limit of the swollen pink blob where my elbow used to be.

No son of mine would be allowed to draw on people, unless they knew them really well, but at least he was taking an interest in the elbow. The ECG nurse and the first female doctor who examined me, thought the elbow inflammation was likely to be a coincidence. My symptoms had heart attack written all over them apparently.

The most senior doctor then arrived and they did more ECG tests and checked my blood pressure and decided I should stay the night.

After a chat, the three doctors decided there was a one third chance I’d had a heart attack and a two thirds chance of it being a blood clot on the lungs.  It was like being on Britain’s Got Talent. The three judges voted and the blood clot was the winner.  I accepted the prize on behalf of the clot. It was an injection into the stomach of something a bit like rat poison that would thin my blood and stop the clot doing anything reckless in the night.

I asked if all this could have been caused by my elbow inflammation, but it appears no-one took the elbow seriously. The elbow was the Stavros Flatley of the talent show. It was certainly eye-catching but it wasn’t a contender.

My wife popped home to fetch some overnight things for me and I was wheeled feet first into a lift. I was taken to a ward for people they need to keep a close eye on.  The lights were never switched off.  A drip was inserted into the back of my hand and people came to look at me at regular intervals. I assume they were medical staff but they could have been tourists for all I knew.  I wasn’t thinking very clearly by then.  I felt dreadful about all the worry I was putting my wife through.  At the back of my mind I was also a bit worried about dying. Why hadn’t I gone to the doctors earlier?  It takes ages to get an appointment unless you tell them it’s an emergency. I didn’t think it was an emergency until now.

A nurse asked me what I wanted for breakfast. I couldn’t really think about food but it was a good sign. At least they expected me to make it through the night.

Morning seemed a long way off. I lay awake just staring at a clock.  I’ve never known a night last so long. I couldn’t sleep a wink with the lights on.  I was probably a bit stressed and besides, one old gentleman in the corner snored very loudly.

I must have slept a bit because I suddenly noticed the snoring had stopped. I looked in the corner. The old gentleman was gone.  I hope he didn’t die, but at least it was quiet now.

After a whole load of tests they ruled out the blood clot and the heart attack theories. Eventually they decided it was probably something to do with that funny looking elbow. I would have pointed out that I’d been saying that for a while, but I was too weak to argue.

The good news was that I wasn’t dead and even better I was allowed to go home.

I didn’t speak for the next twelve weeks.

When I say I didn’t speak, I mean I didn’t do any paid talks. I obviously spoke to friends and family, mainly to ask for drinks of water and new batteries for the TV remote. I cancelled all BBC work.

Having only regained my job as the West Ham announcer earlier in the year, I was reluctant to start the new season on the bench, so I decided to struggle through. During the pre-season friendly I alerted a couple of key people that I was under the weather and to keep an eye on me. Twice during the game I thought I was going to faint, but I didn’t.  Fortunately I sit in the same row of the dugout as the two club doctors. I figured they’d reboot me if I crashed.

I gradually returned to the BBC and the speaking jobs, but it set me back a long way. Financially it knocked an enormous hole in my bank balance. You don’t get paid when you are a freelance and unable to work.

I couldn’t play golf or tennis for months and piled the weight on.

No-one to this day can tell me what the whole elbow thing was all about, but after five courses of three different sorts of antibiotics, it hasn’t come back. If it does, I’m straight down the doctors. I’m scared of dying, and I’m even more scared of my mum and my wife.

Jeremy Nicholas – started in a delirious state sometime in 2009 and finished on August 11th 2010