One of the deciding factors in buying our house in Okinawa was the deep spacious balcony with a view of the Pacific Ocean that runs around two sides of the building. These large balconies are common features in the concrete houses built all around the island as people began to rebuild their homes and lives following the devastation of the Battle of Okinawa.
Our balcony has become an important place for us to relax, to eat al fresco, and to sit with a glass of awamori while listening to music in the evenings. However, the way I shall think in future about my prized balcony has changed forever following the events of the afternoon of the 10th August.
I was visited that day by an old friend from Kobe who used to edit Kansai Time Out magazine many years ago when I first began writing about Okinawan music. I hadn’t seen him for at least 18 years and had never met his wife who was with him on a rare trip to Okinawa where they decided to look me up.
It had been raining heavily that morning but I was eager to proudly show off the balcony so it wasn’t long before we went up there. Foolishly, I chose to wear a pair of worn out old slippers. The accident waiting to happen soon did as I slipped, skidded across the wet balcony and crashed unceremoniously onto the concrete gashing my head and cutting my fingers and elbow, but this was almost nothing compared to the excruciating pain coming from my left leg. Soon an ambulance was called and I made the half hour journey to Tomishiro Chuo Hospital where after an examination and x-ray (and more excruciating pain) it was determined I had a bad fracture of my thigh bone close to the hip.
So I have gone from complete helplessness: having to suffer the indignity of painkillers being shot up my backside, and of being taken to the toilet by nurses and then washed all over by them, to a position where my progress is apparently better than expected. I have graduated from a wheelchair to a walking frame to crutches, and now I’m hobbling around at home with a rather elegant cane.
During my two week stay in Tomishiro Chuo Hospital I soon discovered that the amiable Head of the hospital Dr Arakaki is a keen student of English and he paid me regular visits most mornings for no other reason than to practice his English conversation at my bedside, much, I suspect, to the amusement of other doctors and nurses. This culminated in a more than one hour evening session when he asked me to go to his room and correct the English for his Power Point presentation lecture in Tokyo next month. I now know more about knee replacement surgery than I will surely ever need.
My hospital stay was originally predicted to be three weeks so I am lucky to be out early. The process of rehabilitation will continue for a long time with visits to another hospital and there is a lot to be done before I can hope to be back to anything like normal. At the moment just a good night’s sleep would be very welcome but I’m not allowed to sleep in certain positions for fear of dislocating the new bone. While I hated being hospitalized I have to admit that the doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital were without exception extremely kind, hard-working and attentive.
Despite the progress made it’s very unlikely that I will be fit enough to travel to Kansai for our 30th wedding anniversary trip next month. (And I’d already bought the tickets for the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concert in Osaka!). I suppose everyone in this situation thinks of what might have been. None of this would have happened if my friend had chosen a sunny day for his visit; or if I had ignored Midori’s advice to put those old slippers on the balcony and had just thrown them out instead. But in the end it’s my own fault for being too proud of my balcony and too eager to show it off. It has made me think about all kinds of things to do with my life and the future…but for now I just want to get better.