Saturday, 12 July 2008

From the Archives

A Tale From 11 Years Ago

(shamelessly snaffled from a letter - sorry about the formatting - life is too short to rectify WordStar conversions)

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1997

I just had to go to the hospital. I just jumped up
to grab a book which was by the sofa, and I put my hand down
on the arm of the sofa with all my weight behind it, not
noticing the needle that was stuck in the sofa arm. That was
clever of me. So now I have the broken off blunt end of a
needle firmly stuck in either the tendon or the bone of my
hand: I won't know until the X-ray department opens to-
morrow. Great. So, what I have to do tomorrow is this: i) Go
to casualty again. ii) Wait. iii) Get my details. iv) Take
them to the x-ray dept. v) Wait. vi) Get x-rayed. vii) Wait.
viii) Get the x-ray, and take it back to casualty. ix) Wait.
x) Get a doctor to slice my hand open and take the needle
out. xi) Wait. xii) Get told I can go home. xiii) Finish
making my viola.

They stuck a huge bloody bandage on it, though there's
only a tiny hole. The needle broke off inside the hand,
about 5mm of it, (the eye bit and a bit more), so there
isn't any sticking out. It doesn't hurt, unless I move the
tendon or the bone in certain ways: typing seems to make it
hurt a bit, so I'm trying to avoid using that finger, but
habit is habit, and I use my third finger a lot.

Amazing really, yesterday I stuck my sharpest, most
wickedly honed gouge into my other hand! But that was just a
deep big cut, the sort where you can see the insides, but
nothing serious. And the day or so before that, I was just
saying how pleased I was at the lack of damage I'd done to
myself on this course!

Shit, my hand hurts now: there must be a nerve or
something nearby, it's sending shooting cramplike pains up
my arm and back! I think, if you'll forgive me, that I'll
call a halt for now, and continue (assuming they don't
amputate my arms tomorrow) tomorrow. Time for a camomile tea
and bed.

Wednesday.

Well, I was at the hospital at 8.50am on Monday, picked
up my papers, went to the x-ray, went back to casualty, and
was being seen by a doctor and looking at the X-ray's by
9.30. Amazing! I was extremely impressed at the swiftness
and efficiency of the NHS. No longer would I mock and
prophesize dreadful waits of indescribable tedium. The
health service was quick, helpful, and eager to please. The
next ten hours were to shatter my illusions.

The x-rays showed the eye of the needle firmly embedded
in the 3rd bone from the top of my right ring-finger. About
a centimetre of needle was in my hand, sticking from the
bone like a broken branch from a tree-trunk. They gave me a
tetanus, and the Korean doctor (who incidentally, looked
just like Oddjob, from the James Bond film 'Goldfinger')
hummed and hahhed, phoned some other doctors, scratched his
head, and said he was too chicken to try removing it. He
said I'd have to go to Grantham hospital, if I wanted it
out. 'Very well,' quoth I. So they said they'd phone for a
hospital taxi. Like a fool I said, 'I can get the train if
you like?' But they shook their heads kindly, in the manner
that people assume when dealing with the masochistic or
mentally deranged, and told me the taxi would be ready to
pick me up at half-past ten. Then the doctor told me that
they'd probably put me under general anaesthetic at
Grantham. This took me aback.

So I ran home, wrote a brief note to K, told a friend
down the road that I was going for an op, and may be some
time, etc, ran back to the hospital, got picked up and taken
to Grantham. I was a little bit nervous, it not being every
day that one is put to sleep for a glorified splinter.
Little snatches of rhyme kept passing through my head in the
taxi:

If I should die,
Think only this of me:
The town in which my bones are laid,
Gave birth to Mrs T.

Got to Grantham, and gave the receptionist my x-rays and
the letter written by the Newark doctor. She sent me to WARD
FIVE. (Pause for creepy modern music: 'No! No! Not Ward 5!
Anything, please! I beg you! NOOOOOOO!') The ward was full
of old men with hip replacements. It gave me quite a turn.
It smelled bad. Sort of death-smell. Like hospital wards in
fact. After a moment, I realised it was the Orthopaedic ward
(where bones are buggered about with).

After getting confused with another receptionist, I was
shown to a bed amongst the Old Men. I sat on a chair next to
it, and continued reading my book (Le Morte d'Arthur). Never
have I been so bored. Hours of tedium were interspersed with
pretty nurses asking me questions. There are two types of
nurses. There are the wonderfully nice ones, who smile
coquettishly, tease you, enjoy being teased back, flirt
amiably, and are generally pleasant company; and and then
there are the appalling ones.

They are the ones who as soon as you do so much as
transgress the NURSE-PATIENT relationship by no matter how
little - such as asking them how they are, after they've
asked how you are - give you a stare of milk-curdling,
courage-withering, blood-sapping, heart-stilling, penis-
shrivelling detestation. The Ward-Sister was one of them.
They are the type who seem to think that people in hospital
are ill, and not there to say things like: 'Oh, I'm not so
bad myself. How are you this fine day?' She got her revenge
on me anyway.

This is how. I had been sat in my chair for four hours,
and with the knowledge that I might have an operation, had
not drunk anything since 8.30 that morning. I got fed up
waiting, and decided to go for a brief walk and a fag. I
knew the operation wouldn't be for two hours at the least.
Also, the Old Man in the next bed had just been having the
most excruciating-sounding physiotherapy on his knee-joint.
It went: 'Ckkkrkrkkchchhchchchkkkrekkakkekuuk.' Lots of
times. And he went: 'AAAAAAAAAAAHHH urg, urg, urg.' Lots of
times. I had had enough.

I got up out of my chair, and pleasantly remarked to him
that I was going to 'Stretch my legs.' Of all the damn-fool
things to say, I ask you. I just wasn't thinking. He gave me
a non-look. So I went and explained to Herr Grippenfuhrer
Ward-Sister that I was going for a walk, and how soon should
I be back. She ignored me for a while, then after I'd asked
her a couple more times, told me that I could go for a walk,
but to be half-an-hour at the most. So off I went, had a
brisk stroll down to the river, smoked a couple of fags, and
went back in. I had been twenty minutes.

On getting back to my bed, (pausing only to remark to
the Crap-Knee-Old-Man that it was nice to get out for a
walk!) Sister came up with a bundle of white things. 'Get
those clothes off, and put the theatre clothes on! Here!
Robe. Pants. Hat.' I looked at the pants and at the hat. It
took a while to discover precisely what part of the body
each item was intended for. So I stripped off, put on the
robe (ties at the back, but all the ties were broken except
for one at the neck) and pants (like sweaty plastic tissue
paper). I refused to wear the hat until the last moment. And
ended up sitting there by the bed in this rigmarole for
three hours.

Eventually, a sexy nurse came along, and commiserated
with me. I decided to lounge in bed, as by then I was
frozen. I tried to sleep, as the hand had kept me awake all
night. By this point I had been awake for 27 hours. But I
couldn't sleep. First it was visitors, who shouted and were
jolly to the Old Men. Then it was food, the smell of which
turned my stomach inside out. Then, later, it was more
visitors, then more food, etc...

The hours dragged on. It got to about seven o'clock. By
now it was obvious that they couldn't fit the operation in
that evening, so I'd have to stay the night, and hope that
they'd be able to fit me in the next day. And then probably
stay another night for observation! What a great night out,
I thought, happily. I'm really enjoying myself, I added, a
smile of contentment breaking over my features.

Just then, as I was giving up hope, and feeling very
glum, an Arab doctor and an African nurse (male) came up.
'Let me see your hand!' I showed it, and quickly showed
where the needle probably was, and how I thought it could be
easily removed if they just made it press against the skin,
and cut just there, and pulled it out with some pliers.
(Indeed, when the last nurse had asked me if I wanted
anything, I asked for scalpel and pliers.) The arab doctor
pressed and prodded. I said I didn't mind if it hurt. He
nodded. 'Very well! We'll do it now! Nurse!' And they pushed
my bed to another room, despite my protests that I was
perfectly fit to walk (if not decent!).

Here cometh the good bit. The Operation. First the
doctor snappishly made the nurses run around for various
knives and cutting implements (billhook, chainsaw, etc...).
Then he said, 'I'm going to give an injection to you. It
will hurt very much. Ha ha! Is funny, needles to help remove
needles! Ha ha!' The injection didn't hurt really. Just a
little. He made me hold my arm up in the air for five
minutes, to let the blood drain out of it. 'So that there
isn't blood everywhere,' he said. And proceeded to put a
very tight pressurized tourniquet on my upper arm, which
completely constricted the blood flow. (Ouch). 'If you feel
pain, tell me,' he said, and proceeded to take a knife.

He cut down using a series of little flicking cuts, of
which I could only feel the gritty sensation of the edge
cutting the tissue fibres. Then he cut a little to the left,
and the right, searching for the broken end of the needle.
Then he got his pliers. The needle was very securely jammed
in the bone. The pliers kept slipping off, and he ended up
leaning his entire weight on my hand, working the needle
back and forth to loosen it, and tugging with all his might,
grunting and sweating and cursing in Arabic.

Anaethesia is a strange phenomenon. It doesn't remove
sensation. Rather, it translates the sensation of pain into
a slightly different, yet still as fierce and intense
sensation, which I can only describe as an immense pressure.
It is as if nerves are alarm bells, and although the
anaesthetic stops you hearing them, you can still feeling
them madly shaking themselves off their fixtures. In other
words, you know it hurts, but the feeling is slightly
different to normal pain, so it's easier to put up with. But
my hand still felt as if it was being pulled up into a long
cone of pseudo-pain, with that bone and the needle stretched
to the apex (like the dentist, but worse).

Then, with the most vicious, savage and triumphant grin
I've even seen on a fellow, he held the bloody eye of the
needle up to the light. Then he took the tourniquet off, and
the sensation of the blood rushing back down my arm was
lovely. It was exactly an orgasm of the arm. Then the wound
started pissing blood everywhere, so clenched a tissue for a
while. Or tried too: my fingers couldn't quite feel what
they were doing. I made a crap joke about pins and needles,
and thanked the doctor, who rushed off, as another car-crash
victim had just been brought in.

The nurses put a suture in. Most badly. They said to
leave it a week, and go to the hospital to have it removed,
but it was coming undone today, so I pulled it out, and it's
fine. Then, I refused to be pushed on the bed again, so I
walked back to the ward. (Pushed to the op, walked back from
it.) And into my clothes, and then, delight of delights,
K and P turned up to take me away, to food and drink
and fags! Hooray hoorah!

And so endeth the epic of the needle in the finger. The
moral of this tale is don't fall on needles.

1 comment:

DeeDee said...

OUCH. Remind me to be careful where I put my sewing stuff. I do tend to stick needles into the sofa as well.

Still, at least you didn't meet Baroness Thatcher...