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A Life Less Lost: Chapter 27

...'Are you all right, James?'

'It hurts and I'm not sure how to do it.' He looks down. They've made him feel useless.

'Well don't worry. I am less than impressed with the care you're receiving and we're leaving.' Anger has made my voice loud and it carries with a teacher's authority...

Kimm Walker gave vent to her feelings when she and her son James went to the physiotherapy department of a local hospital.

Kimm continues her deeply-moving account of her son's battle with cancer.

To purchase a copy A Life Less Lost click on http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=A+Life+Less+Lost

And do visit Kimm's Web site http://kbwalker-lifelesslost.blogspot.com/

James has to continue the physiotherapy he'd begun in Birmingham, to prepare for the artificial leg he is promised in 6 to 8 weeks. He will then need more physiotherapy to help him learn to walk and climb stairs with the prosthesis. There is a rehabilitation unit in the small hospital where we see the psychologist. I pop in to see if I can arrange an appointment for James. The woman I speak to is kind, softly spoken and about my age.

'Of course, we would be glad to help but I'm not sure if this is the best place for your son,' she explains. 'We specialise in stroke rehabilitation so our patients are mainly elderly. There is a bigger, better-equipped unit, catering for a wider range of patients, at the main hospital in town.'

The grounds of the smaller hospital run alongside the playground of the school where I teach. It would be convenient to be able to bring him here once I get back to work. But James' needs come first and I want him to have the best help he can get. We agree that I should take James along to both facilities and let him decide. She makes him an appointment at the other hospital.

The large gymnasium, when we find it through the maze of long, shiny corridors, surprises me. It smells of sweat, floor polish and rubber plimsolls. The ceiling is very high and the wooden floor glows. It reminds me of my high school gym, except it has more and different equipment filling two thirds of the space. Medieval torture chambers come to mind.

A physiotherapist saunters over to us and only partially listens to what I have to say about the phantom pain James is suffering. She sends me to a chair against the wall and bustles James over to a machine. In minutes, she leaves him to get on with it. This alarms me. He is so down at the moment he needs encouragement to keep breathing, never mind work hard on an unfamiliar machine.

I look around the large room. This seems to be the way they normally operate. There is another boy, James' age, with what looks like cerebral palsy, fighting against the straps binding him to a black machine that pumps his arms and legs. A middle-aged man is red faced and damp with the effort of hauling himself between parallel bars. There are elderly people struggling away at various tasks, all looking unsure and miserable. The four therapists, in the meantime, are reading, chatting to each other, arranging flowers and generally oblivious to the patients.

The physiotherapist in Birmingham had been fantastic, helping, encouraging and reassuring James every step of the way. I can't understand how these people can be so different. I'm appalled for all the patients in the room. Prickly outrage is bubbling up.

I look back at James and see that he's in agony and has started across the room towards me. I meet him halfway.

'Are you all right, James?'

'It hurts and I'm not sure how to do it.' He looks down. They've made him feel useless.

'Well don't worry. I am less than impressed with the care you're receiving and we're leaving.' Anger has made my voice loud and it carries with a teacher's authority.

The physiotherapists leap to their feet and rush towards us but we've had enough. I can't bring myself to speak to them. We turn and march from the room. I report my observations to several people in a position to take the matter further but we aren't prepared to go back there.

Happily, the team at the smaller unit are terrific. It's quiet by the time James arrives after school. He has a young physiotherapist all to himself and she's very supportive and positive. There's also another younger boy, eleven years old, who's having help after a below-the-knee amputation. His foot had been crushed in an accident with a bus. This child is very quickly back on his 'feet', not having to contend with chemotherapy or to learn the more complicated skills involved in managing without a knee.


Usually, I am a polite, mild-mannered person but injustice brings out the bolshiness in me. As a teenager, I had crushes like everyone else. One day in a geometry class, I was busy composing a love letter, which I wouldn't send, when the teacher called on me to answer a question.

'What is the length of the hypotenuse?'

Glancing up at the board, I gave the correct response and returned to my letter.

Apparently, he'd been hoping to catch me out. Busy as I was, I hadn't detected the scarlet silence that propelled him over to snatch up the letter from under my hand.

Panic stung my mind. Please don't let anyone read what I've written, I pleaded silently.

Just then the teacher was called out of the room, dropping my letter onto his desk, as he passed.

Trembling, but furious at the injustice of being punished when I felt I hadn't done anything wrong, I went up and took it back.

Spotting the letter's absence on his return, the teacher screamed at me. 'How dare you take anything off my desk without permission?'

With heart thundering, in a strangled passion, I answered, 'Well, you shouldn't take things off my desk, either.'

This left him with nothing to say in front of the class and fortunately the bell went.

I am very grateful that this teacher didn't seem to hold the incident against me.



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