Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

In gratitude Print E-mail

ImageJulie, I am writing to you as a first point of contact, but I hope that somehow my message of gratitude might filter through to the whole amazing team who were so wonderful to me in relation to my recent hip-replacement.



I watched in wonder as the “tea lady” never complained when an unhappy patient’s coffee ended up with sugar although that was apparently not what it was supposed to be (or was it the other way around?). For my part I thought it was fantastic to have someone just to make the cup of coffee. In the scheme of things sugar seemed very insignificant. The patience and fortitude of these humble people in difficult circumstances was an inspiration. Then the woman who came around to clean the floor. The slight moment of terror at the prospect of a urine bottle being upended, but of course it never did get upended.

The bevy of nurses working through the night or day, always introducing themselves and reassuring you that they would be looking after you for the next seven hours. Some seemed to turn up again and some seemed to move off to other things. It was impossible to acknowledge or thank them all, but they certainly deserved that. They seemed to know everything which was going on and their acute observation was so reassuring. My total astonishment when I made my way on crutches down to Ward 72 to see my friend Bob, who died only a few weeks later. When I arrived at 72 the nurse looked up and greeted me by name. Freedom, and yet someone watching lest you should stumble.

The physios of course. The horror of one of them when she found me going up and down stairs on my own. Her prohibition faded however when she realized that this was what I needed to do, and we came to an arrangement that I could keep going provided she did not know about it. If only a few more people had that attitude. When I was discharged I was able to get all the way down the hill to Karaka Bay, on crutches, all the way up the granite steps which form an erratic path to my house, and then all the way up my ladder to bed. I lay down and concluded the physios knew rather more than was obvious.

The occupational therapists. They were so quick off the mark that they were away ahead of me. I had no idea as to what I would need but they had it all sorted out. Wow. My house was kitted out to make healing a joy. My mind was a blur, but they provided the clear thinking. When I had a problem they had a solution.

Moving up the food chain, if you will forgive my expression, of course were all the specialists. All the theatre people. Their cool, calm competence was so reassuring. Those doing x-rays. Obviously the surgeon ended up with exactly what he wanted. Somewhere someone sorted out all those pharmaceutical needs, so that the right pills turned up at the right time. Not something which just happens. Someone checking those blood samples. Today everyone’s expectations seem to be impossibly high. None of these people deserve to be taken for granted.

I really appreciated the openness of the anaesthetist. Just the right information to enable clear choices to be made. Sadly I did not get his contact details to thank him personally, so I hope he realizes how wonderful he was to me. Since then I have been able to help several people sort out the distinction between spinals and epidurals. Health is a whanau affair. The more we help each other the less the burden on the hospital system.

All that brings me full circle to the outpatient clinic at Green Lane. Once again such impressive teamwork. That brilliant seminar to explain everything. It made an enormous difference to know what was going on and what to expect. Your brilliant booklet. Knowing what exercises to do, and also what not to do. It took time, of course, to sort out the priorities which would reduce the risk factors. I am now very aware of the need to avoid infection, to the extent that I had never realized how important it was to even let your dentist know that you had had a hip replacement. Moving beyond infection into the phase where dislocation became an over-riding concern. It seemed a little high up the chain to have Hugh Blackley doing a demonstration of how to get a shoe on without dislocation risk, but finally you end up with some fairly narrowly focused concerns. It actually suited me to have an excuse for not wearing socks, but you never let on.

The public face of the clinic was exactly right for lifting up your spirit. Cheerful people on reception. Friendly people on the phone confirming appointments. Administration which would be the envy of many organisations I have to deal with. None of that offensive "denial" which leaves you wondering where priorities lie. Everything was so wonderfully up-front.

Who have I left out? Please thank them too. The people somewhere down in the basement of the hospital preparing meals. I know there are jokes, but having a meal delivered to your bed was not something I took for granted. The sheer luxury of it. That friendly coffee and biscuit in the Transition Lounge. All the pre-op folk at the clinic.

All these people were giving their lives to give my life back to me.

Six weeks later I am now walking around and getting back into a work routine. Cleaning up the house for a photographer for a book which will appear later in the year. Being imobilised was perfect for getting the interviews done. Back into teaching in a few weeks. Making progress on those “climate change” built environment issues which will culminate in UIA-2011-Tokyo. A couple more books on the way. Two of my former students deciding they would like to shout me a trip to Italy to say thank you to me for changing their lives, just as you have changed mine. Before long I will be back into building, and chasing kiwis through my 400 acres of kauri forest conservation. I am indeed a lucky man. The astonishing public health system has made all this possible.

As I stretch my wings and fly again I am very conscious that for everyone who has made this possible it is just another day. More coffee to be made, more floors to be cleaned, more ignorant patients wondering what a hip-replacement is all about, and an operating theatre to be kept up to the mark with cool, calm efficiency. Doubts and qualms to be put to rest. All of us with our quirky idiosyncracies.

It seems so inadequate to just say thank you.

My hope is that though giving life to me everyone will have themselves become more fully alive.

Keep up the wonderful work. We love you all.

If any of the team are ever passing Karaka Bay do call in for a coffee or a glass of good wine.

In gratitude

Tony Watkins



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