Ever seen the plate smashing that happens in Greek restaurants (on the telly at least)? Plates smash into a thousand pieces on the floor, small fragments strewn across the room and probably missing bits found for months after in small corners of the kitchen. Now imagine trying to pick up those pieces and stick them back together. Impossible don’t you agree?


Now imagine you have had an accident, are semi-conscious and taken via ambulance to A&E. You wake slightly at the bright lights and noise of the busy department, in the haze of pain, drugs and shock you are told that your elbow has been smashed “like a china plate” and will be incredibly difficult to put back together. You’re taken to theatre and are told they “did their best”.  Bit frightening hey?! Neurotag overload – firing of multiple brain parts to induce fear, anxiety and pain.

Two things are at play here I suppose. One, the language used creates a very vivid picture in your head about what has happened in this case. This isn’t a china plate though, this is your elbow, a part of your body that you reply on and hoped to have with you as a working part until you left the earth. To suddenly have the realisation this may not happen is like being hit with a hammer. The second thing relies on perspective, interpretation and outlook. Something that is embedded in all of us but depending on life interaction and experiences, can manifest in very different ways.

If you happen to be a ‘cup half full’ kinda guy you might brush the “smashed like a china plate” comment off and plough on with life without any problems. You might face things head on with the attitude that movement and function will return fine and if it does’t then you’ll manage to get by anyway.

The other type of ‘why does everything always happen to me?” or “that’s my life/job/happiness ruined” person is equally likely to be met with this situation. But how do we know from a drugged up semi-concious, new from an accident chap we have in A&E?

We don’t.

So maybe we need to think a little more about what we say and the words that are chosen when people are at their most vulnerable. Maybe we just need to think about what comes out of our mouth before we say it.

Luckily the chap I saw in clinic was a ‘cup-half full’ and made an excellent recovery but I may well have been writing a completely different story if he wasn’t.

Sally Allbrighton

BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy, MSc, Noi UK Lecturer

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