Primarily Rats

So, Friday swims are different from weeknight swims. They’re the one night where the open session isn’t laned, making it impossible to really swim, so I keep it out of my usual training rotation, saving it instead for when I need to float for therapeutic purposes but not to really stretch out. As such, I barely ever swim on a Friday night.

After yesterday evening’s phone call to the doctor, I was emboldened to go for a swim.

Tiny steps. It took twenty minutes to walk the hundred metres to the pool, and another fifteen minutes to change into my fastskin. I got into the water to find about a dozen people in it with me – One large family including two children, three men swimming lengths despite the lack of lane ropes, and four women, one of them also on crutches.

So I started swimming, gentle lengths, occassionally getting out to practice a dive (Encouraged by one of the women in the big family, who was trying to dive as well) but mostly just gently toddling around in the water. When I got too pained, I just floated on my back in the middle of the water until I felt better. I surface-dived and walked around on the floor of the pool, enjoying being weightless. Of course, throughout the whole of this I was taking little sips of morphine, keeping my levels level without any sudden huge hit to the system.

Lifeguard L was minding my morphine for me, and was kind enough to point out that, even by my standards, I looked like death warmed up. I admitted that I was only there on doctors’ orders, and would rather have been at home. She was unsurprised.

It was whilst I was taking a dose, after having actually screamed in pain as something in my leg went “clunk”, that I got accosted by a fellow swimmer.

“Is it arthritis then?” she asked. I gave her the blank look that I reserve for these situations. She asked again; “Your problem, is it arthritis?”

I decided to try honesty. I have a “This is what my condition is” speech for small children. Adults don’t get it.

“It’s called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.”

“Ohhhhhh” she said, “That must be horrible.”

(“Yes,” I thought “Having to spell it to paramedics is always fun. ‘is it A-y-l-‘ no no no ‘E-i-l?’ augh just give me the pen…”)

I know it’s an attempt at a sympathetic noise, but it’s irritating. I could have said “It’s Shonan-Shinjuku Syndrome” and she’s still have said “Ohhh, that must be horrible” even though the Shonan-Shinjuku is a heavy rail service between Yokohama and Tokyo.

“Do you come swimming often then?”

“Four times a week, or so.”

“Ohhhh. And you do all right?”

“About three kilometres a time, on a good day.”

For most people at the pool, this is an unimaginable distance.

“Ohhhhh. You’re very brave coming here on your own.”

Her every word dripped with pity and morbid fascination, and she punctuated every statement with looking me up and down as if she could discern what was wrong with me by staring.

Once again, I come away from a conversation feeling annoyed and patronised, this time with the added bonus of feeling as if I shouldn’t go swimming unless at perfect fitness because people will jdge me for it, and she came away feeling as if she had really connected with that poor cripple.

I got back to my swim, and eventually my hip – The bad one, which had been causing all of the problems – Gave another almighty crack, and I ended up standing in the midle of the pool, on one leg like a malevolent flamingo. At first, I just nodded and smiled at Guard B, who was now on-duty alone. A few minutes later he asked me “Are you all right?”

I paused for a couple of seconds before replying.

“I think I’m stuck.”

He looked panicked.

“Not badly stuck. One minute…”

I hopped across the thankfully now-emptying pool, hooked onto the side with my elbows, and explained further;

“So, my leg has sort of jammed in this position. I have to get it back down, and the safest way to do that is going to be here in the water. If I collapse, pull me back up.”

And then he admitted it; “I’ve worked here for a year and a half, and I’ve still not been in the water. I’ve got a party tonight, and I really can’t get my hair wet.”

Thankfully, after I came up from my faint, we had a good laugh about this, and how his night out would have been suitably improved by having wet hair and a story of heroism to get him free drinks. I also think this was the thing that clanged my hip back into shape, and why it doesn’t hurt as much today. It probably also confirms that I do have to swim basically daily, or I end up in so much pain I can’t even lie still.

Then he said the thing that was terrifying;

“You know, my knees dislocate when I play rugby, like the kneecap comes off sideways, just at random. Always need the physio to come and look at it, needed hospital a couple of times when it didn’t just pop right back. And I always think of you – I’ve got no idea how you’re here every night, with joints coming out every few minutes. It must wreck. I’m a complete wuss for pain, I’m always thinking my back hurts and stuff.”

I asked the question;

“Hey, how far back can you bend your fingers?”

He demonstrated. I winced, then told him that there was a point to my asking stupid questions. He gamely went through the whole Beighton warp, and scored about as highly as I do.

Thankfully, he already has a physio, but he’s now also taken on-board that he should go and see his GP. He’s a nice lad, and obviously extremely fit, so he’s in a good position to stay fit, and other than the knees he’s not symptomatic, and I have to remember that most bendies either stay sub-clinical, or have their problems restricted to one or two joints. But I worry.

All in all, a strange evening.


2 thoughts on “Primarily Rats

  1. I’m not getting the lack of social skills of that impertinent woman.

    So I chat to strangers sometimes when out about something relating to what we are doing eg bird-watching or garden gazing.

    But to talk to someone about their medical problems when you don’t know them? Is it a dis-inhibition brought on by lack of clothing because swimming? Or just epic rudeness?

    • Now that you mention it – the most absolutely personal and pushy comments that I’ve ever got have always been at swimming. This could be because it’s the most time that I spend out of the house or it could be the artificial “intimacy” in that I’m (By neccessity) only partially clothed and thus all my scarring is on display, my crutches are right there on the poolside like a flag, my medication is in a place where everyone can read the label…

      I’m glad that you don’t get it either – I’ll admit to talking to strangers, but never about anything heavier than “Pool’s crowded isn’t it?” or “Oh, what a nice smartwatch, does it have a heart-rate monitor in it?” It would just never occur to me to ask anything as personal as “So, what’s wrong with you?” without the other person really strongly stating that they wanted me to ask.

      I’m starting to wonder if, what with my complete face-blindness, if she was the same woman as in the shower months ago who decided to opine at-length about disability.

      It’s either that, or there’s two epically rude people that I need to avoid.

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