Jon Sopel health: Journalist ‘clung for dear life’ due to pain

NHS system is 'totally broken' says BBC Radio Cornwall caller

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Former BBC journalists Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis have launched News Agents, a new podcast offering a unique spin on the news agenda. The BBC journalists’ unexpected departure from the corporation generated much fanfare. In 2010, Sopel attracted attention for another reason.

Writing in the MailOnline, the former BBC journalist recalled the dramatic events that saw him rushed to casualty.

On the day disaster struck, Sopel was set to present the BBC’s coverage of the Chancellor’s spending review all day from College Green at Westminster.

His schedule was derailed shortly after setting off for work. “I hadn’t got far on my Vespa when I went up the outside lane of some stationary traffic and as the lights changed I moved into a gap that had opened. My front wheel wobbled and started to slide.

“I tried to regain balance and thought I had – then the back of the bike swung round violently and threw me off.”

His initial thought was “humiliation” but this was superseded by pain in his thigh and an inability to apply weight on his right leg.

Sopel soon found himself stuck in the middle of the road, traffic moving in both directions, with a leg that wasn’t “obeying instructions”, leaning against a scooter, looking a little “forlorn”, and the live show at Westminster drawing closer.

“Somehow I wedged my right leg on to the running board and wobbled off. Then I realised that I wasn’t being fuelled by brain power but adrenaline. And it was wearing off. The pain was growing exponentially and I was starting to sweat profusely,” Sopel wrote.

It was at that point he turned round and headed to the A&E department of the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead, North London, the nearest hospital to his home.

When Sopel got there he lifted the visor on his helmet and shouted at an ambulance driver, asking for help. He and a couple of other people managed to lift him off the scooter and put him into a wheelchair to take him to casualty.

“The chair, bizarrely, was designed to be pulled rather than pushed. But the casualty nurse pushed it, banged my bad leg into a wall and it fell off the splint on to which it had been delicately put,” he wrote.

“My response? I screamed and let out a string of ­epithets that would not have been career-enhancing had I done so in a TV studio.”

The journalist added: “Having clung for dear life to my scooter on the way to hospital, I was now clinging to the hope that this might be a dislocation or serious bruising. The nurse was now treating me more tenderly.”

The nurse initially suspected a broken hip. The X-ray afterwards confirmed her “rough and ready” diagnosis.

Sopel was was taken to another part of A&E and, while waiting to see the orthopaedic registrar, a specialist nurse gave him a shot of morphine.

Then the registrar arrived, and explained that there were two options.

The first was to perform a hip replacement operation, but he said for someone as young as Sopel (he was 51 at the time), that would be the least-favoured option.

However, because the break was at the neck of the femur where it meets the ball, speed would be of the essence for an operation to fix the break.

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