Sport 33: Spring 2005
It was a pelvic pain and it started slowly in November 2003, two weeks after a fall in Poland where I was researching a novel and promoting the Polish translation of my memoir/biography, Unquiet World: the Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk. I slipped on the marble bathroom floor of a Warsaw hotel and bounced off the sharp edge of the bath, breaking three ribs on the lower left side.
I thought myself fortunate at the time. I could have hit my head, fractured my back, or ruptured a kidney about which there was concern at the Szpital Kliniczny Dzieciatka Jezus (Clinical Hospital of the Baby Jesus), to which I was whisked by ambulance and briefly admitted. I delayed my trip by train to Krakow and settled awkwardly, but gratefully, to resting the ribs and staying warm in the calm but bitingly cold northern autumn.
The pain was intermittent at first. It was also familiar. I had experienced the deep, dragging discomfort sporadically for twenty years. It was typically absent overnight and on rising, and gathered pace during the day. In 1985 a specialist, detecting tenderness at the point at which the left ischial spine (a process of the lower and dorsal part of the hip bone) enters the base of the pelvis, had diagnosed an ischial tendonitis or bursitis, explained as a complaint common in the shoulder, similar to tennis elbow, soldier's heel, housemaid's knee. 'It's usually caused by a minor but repetitive irritation,' he said. 'Weavers get it, writers, maybe, and others who sit for long periods. There's no treatment necessary. Exercise and rest as pain dictates. It could take months to come right.'
I had checked the diagnosis in a medical textbook. It confirmed page 4a widespread condition which included a chronic form of bursitis in animals, especially horses, which lay on hard floors. I remembered that Charles Dickens was said to have suffered from ischiogluteal bursitis. I was not then a writer, but I had been sitting researching and scripting a film documentary. The symptoms made sense.