It’s been a few weeks now since I paid my first visit as an adult to my local hospital accident and emergency (A & E) department, and I thought I would share the occasion with you.
In a rare fit of enthusiasm for moderately hard physical work I decided to clear out the brick shed at the bottom of our garden. Having swept up the remnants of recycled paper, stray leaves and miscellaneous detritus, and deposited it in a dustpan, I stood up and involuntarily headbutted the wire tray hanging from the wall a few inches below the ceiling. Given the violence of the blow I immediately put my right hand to the offending spot, only to collect a massive smear of blood. Had it not been the wrong time of year I would have sworn that it gave a passable impression of a spillage of beaujolais nouveau.
In a state of mild panic I rushed past the pond, careful not to disturb our one remaining and increasingly obese goldfish, into the bathroom, issuing blood in all directions, coating the bath, sink, toilet seat and floor, grabbed the previously cream coloured hand towel and pressed it to my head. After a couple of minutes I had succeeded in staunching the blood. Heart rate slowly subsiding, I considered what I should do next, other than mopping up the blood spattered bathroom. Given the apparent depth of the wound (I wasn’t brave enough to look at it), I determined to get myself to A & E as quickly as possible as it might require stitches. Insufficiently injured to call for an ambulance, but groggy and anxious enough not to risk the fifteen minute walk, I rang for a taxi. But not before…………….
Although time was pressing I had not lost the sense of self-respect inculcated in me by my late mother which prompted me to change into clean clothes, shave and clean my teeth before greeting my public. My head might look a mess but I was going to look presentable in all other respects. I did not, however, go so far as to adjust my make-up as mum would have done. Beautification complete, I was able to call the taxi to whisk me to Medway Maritime Hospital.
On arrival I joined a queue (naturally), but was greeted almost simultaneously by a young nurse requesting basic details (name, date of birth and nature of injury) before presenting me with a pink slip to hand over to reception when called, which further transaction took place five minutes later. As I had not been to hospital since I trod on a football in the school gym in 1972, there was no record of me on the computer system, a fact that was soon rectified. As ever, I had the excrutiating dilemma of describing my employment status – courage failed me and I answered “retired”, though I did add under my breath that I was also “doing some writing”, which provoked the customary smile of pity.
I was then asked to sit down and wait to be called by a nurse in the “minor ailments” area. Despite a dull ache above the bridge of my nose I felt fine, in fact perfectly able to read my book without strain for the hour that it took before I was hailed. The nurse started by asking me the same questions that the receptionist had asked – had I lost consciousness? Was I suffering with a headache or nausea? What medication, if any, was I taking? In addition, if a little apologetically, she enquired whether I knew where I was, what her name was and what was her role – all of which I answered correctly! Had I been a few decades younger I’m sure that would have entitled me to some reward, but all I got was a “well done”.
The nurse also took my blood pressure, which proved significantly higher than it had been of late, attributable, as I suggested, to my current mild anxiety state. She advised me that the wound was only superficial and could be repaired by the application of medicinal glue rather than stitches.
This took a matter of seconds. Before I left, armed with advice cards on head injuries and wound care, it was my turn to ask a “silly” question as the nurse referred to it - would I be able to wash my hair, which I would normally do every day? The nurse’s frightening reply was that I could not touch the wound for five days, putting thoughts in my mind of rampant nit infestation by the Wednesday (this was Monday by the way). Vanity had supplanted anxiety as uppermost in my thoughts. But it could have been worse – she might have had to cut my hair!
Impressed by the efficiency and care with which I had been treated, I walked home for a much needed and overdue lunch, a tentative tidying of the shed and an afternoon on the sofa.