Operations and More……

THE DAY MY WRISTS BROKE

I knew when I’d done it, I’d really done it.

I’d really really really done it.

Well, the fact that my right wrist was at a strange angle was a bit of a giveaway. I was stuck ignominiously, stupidly and downright dangerously in a driveway, unable to get up, right beside the speed hump I had just tripped over. Shaking hysterically I somehow managed to get hold of my mobile phone and call my son who came in the car, nearly running me down himself, and literally picking me up off the asphalt.

“What the hell were you doing Mum?!” he exclaimed, it being 11am Monday morning and he knows I don’t drink.

 

What followed was a 10 hour trip to Hospitaland, from Triage to Admin to Overworked Interns, and finally to the MINOR INJURIES waiting room.

Minor injuries! Where they kidding? So I am a professional piano player who had just broken not one but both of my wrists (as was later proven) and these are seen as minor injuries! Obviously the Litmus test for what can go medically wrong with me has a much broader scope in a public hospital than I could have conceived.

So I’m sitting crying and shaking as quietly as I can   in this small room with a dozen or so people within a two meter radius, and they are all pretending they can’t see me and can’t hear me which is slightly ridiculous since I’m virtually sitting on their laps, and whilst I am choking my husband stands on one side and my son on the other (no seats left) determinably looking at the wall opposite.

And so we wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Queues are so frustratingly fair!

The professional concert pianist waits in line behind a man with a possible boil on his left little toe, a woman who’s been poked in the eye not very badly, and an older bloke with an ankle that might have been sprained but turned out later it wasn’t. There were at least five of those people with virtually nothing wrong with them and I know this because we all ended up eventually being treated in the next door ward, given a bed or a chair, a file, and painkillers in that order.

And as I am sitting there, I am completely freaked out and overwhelmed by the possible scenario this presents, not only for my career, but for the rest of my life.

Completely freaked out, but not as freaked out as I become when, after a trip to the x-ray room and confirmation that indeed both wrists are broken, they perform a procedure whereby they put a tourniquet on my right arm, pump heavy duty anaesthetic in which will stop my heart in an instant if it gets past that tourniquet, cut off all bloodflow rendering the arm in essence dead (and it certainly looked it), and attempt to manipulate my right wrist back into place.

This entailed three people; one young strapping boy pinning me to the bed, a well built young woman at the other end pulling my arm with all her might, and another woman described as “the Doctor” twisting and pulling down, twisting and pulling down until she thought she had the wrist back in place. (Their average age looked to be about 14, although the Doctor maybe 22.)

I found out later this is the same procedure they have been using since 1860, so I guess it must work. It did work, and it was also the only pain I’ve ever experienced greater than childbirth.

But I was okay, I was big and brave!

This thing had happened.

I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid, but it had happened.

There was no going back, it had to be dealt with!

And I was truly alright (at least on the outside) until the dead arm stayed dead for longer than they’d planned (a hold-up with the trolley guy and the x-ray machine), and as I looked down in excruciating pain at the arm of a corpse, yellow and grey, I started having the worst panic attack I’ve ever experienced. It just looked like I would lose my arm. It looked like I HAD lost my arm, even though they had previously explained to me that a limb had to be in this frostbitten state for four hours before there could be any chance of permanent damage.

Hell, that was three hours away so just relax Jan!

What followed was scans and waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

By the time I was discharged at 10:30pm that night I’d had nothing to eat or drink since 9am (there being the possibility of an operation later that night so Nil By Mouth), and the cup of tea I ultimately drank at midnight at home was the best cup of tea in my entire life, and believe me, I’ve drunk a helluva lot of cups of tea.

The operation was booked in at the public hospital in Robina, part of the Gold Coast University Hospital, a spectacular new and learned facility, but for all of this I was given three days to think. And to listen to other people’s thoughts, such as, “What, you don’t have PRIVATE health insurance?!, What, you haven’t had your HANDS INSURED?!, What, you’re thinking of going to the PUBLIC hospital?!” followed by many suggestions that I spend every penny I had ever earned and more than I ever might (which at this point in time looked like precisely nothing) to employ the Great God of Squillion Dollar Orthopaedic Surgery on the Gold Coast to perform operations on both wrists to have metal plates inserted.

Some frantic googling and ringing followed, but ultimately lead nowhere as it became clear it was way too expensive, it would delay the operation which could create complications, and anyway who could guarantee that God himself doesn’t have an off day once in awhile?

I can’t believe the numbers of people that say the words PUBLIC hospital, like they are saying PUBLIC toilet (and we all know what they’re like).

In my case they could not have been more wrong.

I went ahead on Friday morning, five small life changing days after the fall, with the orthopaedic registrar who was rostered on, whose name was Chris. I only met Chris a few minutes before the operation but he told me something terribly helpful, in flexing his young, strong, large and capable surgeons hands, looked me in the eye and said “Yes Jan, I understand. If I damaged my hands in any way my career would also be over.”

That and the fact that I knew this ordinary and extraordinary guy had performed 300 to 400 of these so-called routine operations beforehand, (was just finishing one as I was being wheeled in conveyor-belt style), reassured me.

He even calmly and coolly explained how he would slit my wrists, pull the tendons and nerves to one side, insert the plates and stitch me up.

Just like that!

How do they do it?!

I mean really, how do they do it?!

My feeble skills paled into insignificance when I considered that all I’d ever learned to do was plonk on a piano and write a few songs, and that had been hard enough.

So here I am five days after the operation looking out over the ultra tacky fake-brick PARADISE SUN Units on Surfers Paradise, thinking how lucky I am.

Lucky to have not been diagnosed with terminal cancer, lucky to still have hands attached, lucky to have not lost my eye or my hearing.

And in saying to a friend “Thank God for the public hospital system” he swiftly replied “Don’t thank God Jan, thank Gough!”

Looking back on the whole circus of the last week, the most bizarre experience of all was waiting in the pre-waiting of the waiting area for the operation.

10 ladies of various ages and ethnic backgrounds in identical blue operating gowns with matching elasticized plastic caps, five along each wall, seated facing each other on identical La-Z-Boy chairs, as if the manicurist was about to enter and join the script of a B-grade TV sitcom. I felt like Lucille Ball about to tell them a bad joke about the concert pianist who broke both her wrists, yet a Lucille-style slapstick gag involving my shining white plaster was something I would have to pass on for the moment.

And the most touching experience? On the trolley looking up before entering the operating theatre to see a small piece of green tape on the ceiling with my father’s initials followed by the word ABOVE.

Sheer coincidence or a meaningful sign, it matters not.

Chris appears to have performed a spectacularly brilliant operation, I have the feeling back in all of my fingers, am managing the pain, and trying to get a grip on my life. Not easily done when you can’t get a grip on a pencil, turn on a tap, wipe your own bum, or take off your cardi.

And as things progress I am eternally grateful for the technology, skill, professionalism, love and humanity that I experienced in, yes, the public hospital system.

Bless Australia, bless Gough, and bless the Gold Coast University Hospital!

And to think that at the moment I fell and my glasses flew off, I was worried that I’d broken them.

The glasses that is.

Jan’s Broken Wrists !

Hello Boogie Friends,
Well, accidents do happen!

I managed to trip over and broke both my wrists. I hear the gasps…..yes, boogie friends, not one wrist but both!
Needless to say, all my concerts for the rest of this year are cancelled.

I will be having operations on both wrists in a few days to have metal plates inserted, and will be six weeks in casts, followed by rehabilitation, so it will be some months before the Queen of Boogie is banging it out at a venue near you!

The clever people at the hospital have assured me this is a routine operation, have written CONCERT PIANIST in large writing on my files, and say there is no doubt I’ll be back playing as usual.
However, you can imagine that this is a very challenging situation for me!

In the meantime I will be singing and songwriting for my new CD over the next while, and will keep you updated.

Yours In battered boogie!
Jan

Warming Up Winter!

I am surfacing from what has been an amazing adventure indeed at the Street Theatre in Canberra.

Many thanks to those who came to my show, ‘Adventures in Pianoland’ to make this a sold out season. We were, quite literally, turning people away!

Huge thanks to my amazing sister Gaylene for her expert and inspirational writing and direction, Lisa Maule for her extraordinary lighting, Michelle French for creating a world for my photos, Dean Ellis, Su Hodge and everyone at the Street,and last, but certainly not least, the 9 foot grand piano for being a friend.

I am working towards presenting ‘Adventures’ next year in both Australia and NZ, so stay posted!

And to all the fans who have emailed with requests, YES, we are playing a series of concerts back at Rococo Restaurant in Noosa on the very weekend the festival has always been presented!

No full Jazz Festival this year, but you can hear my trio at the usual ‘al fresco’ spot on Hasting St, fabulous food, wine and coffee, plus the white grand piano. (Plus, as you know, hundreds on the street!)

Before then, I am special guest of ‘Tomcat Playground’ this Sunday afternoon in the NSW town of Berry, at the lovely Mountain Ridge Winery. 1pm sharp, one set only.

Later in September brings a solo concert at Capers Guesthouse’s ‘Weekend of music’ where people can stay for the weekend. This is a divine Hunter Valley guesthouse and cottage retreat.

We then return to one of my favourite festivals, Folk By the Sea, and wind up September with a return to the lovely South Coast, including one show at the Moruya Golf Club.

Yours in boogie and blues,

Jan

Road Trip North !

Hello Boogie friends,

A huge thanks to the Broadbeach Blues Festival in Queensland and the NZ Jazz and Blues Festival in Christchurch for having ‘Jan Preston’s Boogie Circus’ in their programs. Both festivals had a generous musical spirit at their hearts, excellent sound, lighting, technical and production staff, and it makes performing music pure joy when we musicians have such positivity and help surrounding us.

And wow, the audiences were amazing!

Being back in the South Island of NZ (where I was born) was obviously very special for me, and traveling through that landscape, always with the river in view, gave me a very powerful feeling of belonging.

The Playhouse Theatre Café at Mapua near Nelson lived up to it’s fine reputation, our last show being in my birthplace of Greymouth, after which a woman came up and asked me if Tui Macdonald (maiden name) was my mother? When I replied yes, she told me Tui was her Sunday School Teacher! (My mother must have been very young at that time.)

Finally Mike and I thank the 2 acoustic bass players on this Trans Tasman tour, the fabulous Andrew Shaw from Brisbane and the ever brilliant Nigel Masters from Tauranga.

Boogie is a challenge for bass players since there’s so much going on in my left hand, and it’s rare to find guys like these who have just the right groove and feel.

So now we’re off on the archetypal long road trip to North Queensland!

Days of driving, heat, exotic places, and music lie ahead for us, first at the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in Winton, where, along with our Boogie show, we will perform the iconic Australian Silent movie, ‘The Kid Stakes’. Another long drive finds us in Rockhampton where we have been invited by the Livingstone Council to play 3 concerts (one being my show about Winifred Atwell) and a Boogie piano workshop.

What happened to my early retirement?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Shows for 2015

Hello Boogie Friends,

It’s been a whirlwind time, the highlight being my season of ‘Adventures in Pianoland’ at Circa Theatre in Wellington.

Many thanks to all the people who came to the show; it’s a great feeling to sell out a season (4 performances, the theatre holds 120) and to be so well received.

It was scary for me to talk about my life, and to perform completely solo, as I have got used to my trusty rhythm section! But I enjoyed the challenge and will hopefully have a return season at some point in other theatres in NZ and Australia.

 

A big “thank you” to my wonderful publicist, Colleen McColl, lighting designer Lisa Maule and my amazing sister Gaylene Preston for her direction and script; the piano, lights and slides created a world for me to step into, and step into it I did.

It was a blast and I loved it!

 

Since returning to Oz, Mike and I have played 2 concerts at Moruya NSW, in the Granite Town Music Festival where I sang, for the first time, my song about local identity ‘Mr Mogo Man’. I was touched and encouraged by the enthusiastic acknowledgement from the audience at the end of the song. Neil Finn says new songs are like new friends in your life, and I now feel I have the local blessing and can take ‘Mr Mogo Man’ on the road with me.

 

We have one last trip away for 2015, this time to South Australia, and these shows are our last for the year. (Details below)

In case I don’t get to send out a Christmas wish, have a good one everyone, and we’ll hope to catch up with you in the New Year at the Illawarra Folk Festival or perhaps in our hometown, Sydney, where we will be playing one show with a very special surprise guest.

 

Yours in boogie and blues!

Jan

 

From Berlin to Brisbane (and places in between!)

Hello Boogie Friends,
We are so happy to finally be back at home after so much touring this year.
Germany was, as ever, fabulous, the highlight being the concert with the extraordinary Axel Zwingenberger (considered the greatest boogie piano player in the world) at the Orpheum Theatre in Vienna.

It was sensational, and I have never been more nervous in my entire performing life!
We have now completed a trip to Northern NSW and Queensland, and had wonderful shows at both the Newcastle Jazz festival and the Noosa Jazz festival.

Thanks also to the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts for presenting the performance of my original score for the ‘Kid Stakes’ 1927 Silent Film at the Bondi Events Cinema. My grand piano is recovering home at last from it’s adventure, being forklifted back into my upstairs studio. It was great to have it for the performance, and with my dying breath I will thank all the amazing piano movers who have moved my instruments around over many years. I can play them, but I sure as hell can’t move or tune my pianos!

Yours in boogie,
Jan