Matters Hippocratic

Last weekend I had the misfortune to drop a sheet of plywood on the back of my leg. The resulting gash began bleeding and, as the floor got a bit slippery, I had to stop. Now the only reason this occurred was because I was hurrying to finish so that I could see the last day of the Dakar so I blame the bloody French organisers for my injury. The Paris-Dakar is now in South America and does not start at Paris which is a bit of a conundrum but I think to keep the name they moved the town of Dakar from Senegal to Chile. But I digress. When I went upstairs to get a mirror and find where the blood was coming from, my wife took a look went white and said you will have to go to the Hospital and get that stitched - for some reason the local GP is not open at 6pm on a Sunday night but there is a hospital near by.

Now I have this theory about hospitals (and doctors), if you do not go there you will not get sick. When my wife suggests a trip to the doctor my general reply is that I will be fine. She then says my body is like a machine and needs to be kept in good order. My response is that, just like I do with my car, I will practise breakdown maintenance NOT preventative maintenance. Her response is along the lines of well I can hear a lot of whining coming out of your machine now.

So I report up to the hospital and as I thought it was full of sick people. Firstly you have to go to three different counters as they sort out your paperwork, I am merely relaying this to you so that you know what to do if you end up at the hospital. Have I been here before they ask - yes - when - some time ago - ah yes 15 years ago. I try not to be a regular is my reply which is greeted with a blank stare. Then they check the details and when I give my date of birth there is a sudden pause. That is not right they say. I hesitate since they are so positive, have I got my birth date wrong? This hesitation confirms their worst fears, I am not who I seem to be. Then I reply, your records must be wrong. They now look at me  very suspiciously, saying very positively - not likely - and go into a huddle. After some discussion they grudgingly say they will amend the record - from their reaction an apparently onerous task. I nearly said, tell someone who cares, but managed to hold my tongue.

The next step is Triage which is a word that means a cursory inspection by a twelve year old. This bright little thing breezes in and says - what have we been up to. I reply nothing yet but I can wait till your shift finishes. She looks at me speculatively, speculating I think whether to ask for a psychiatric assessment. She rips off the bandaids with which I have held my leg together. I scream. She purses her lips and says that will need stitches, we are very busy tonight so you may have a bit of a wait. Suddenly I understand why people in the waiting area have pillows and blankets. Luckily some vague premonition has led me to bring my book - perhaps I should have brought two?

Still it is not too bad in the waiting room for the first three or four hours. I read a chapter then stroll around listening and looking. I divide the room into three categories - 'drunk', 'deranged' and 'drunk and deranged'. There is an odd one out, a woman mid 30's, smartly dressed sits by herself in a corner. As I pass she looks at her watch and mutters something, when I return she is still looking at her watch and muttering. I say - waiting for the white rabbit? She looks right through me and continues to mutter. My jokes always seem funnier to me than to those who hear them. 'Deranged' I classify and move on. I notice that when kids are brought in they go straight in, no waiting. I should have brought one with me, I could have said something like the kid's got an ear ache and while your at it could you stitch up my leg.

Some six hours later an LD (learner doctor as opposed to MD) is having a look at my leg. Very deep he says, I will just check for nerve damage. Close your eyes and I will wriggle your toes, we are testing your proprioception. He looks at me closely to see if I am impressed by his command of the language. I close my eyes and he wriggles my toe, now where is it he asks. Still on my foot I reply, you will have to pull a lot harder than that to get it off. I laugh so hard I almost fall off the table - he gets his revenge a moment later when he says this will hurt a bit and starts scraping around inside my leg with a desert spoon. Eight stitches later he asks me if my tetanus is up to date, cunningly I reply yes three years ago reasoning that it might take another 6 hours to get the tetanus shot. Right he says, off you go and be sure to see your GP at the end of the week or earlier if it is giving any trouble. What does that mean? Is he not sure of his work or is that just routine? I ask my wife; she says when you do the head gaskets on your car you check the torque on the bolts again after five hundred kilometres do you not? This is the same, an after repair check up. (Maybe she did not quite use that analogy but it was along those lines). Anyway she says this will be a chance for Larry (her GP, note I say 'her' I am reluctant to use 'our') to give you a check up. Is there no end to this?

The next week passes pleasantly but all too soon it is Friday and my appointment with Larry is nigh. Be sure to get a check up says my wife, I do not answer since I have no intention of any such thing. Once again I get my book (a new one I have long finished the other one) and stroll in to see Larry. The receptionist looks at me and says ah yes Charles to see Dr Kahn, inspect wound and check up. Check up?? Damn, my wife has been on the phone. Now I see Larry rarely and under protest but at least he knows my name and remembers to talk about adventurous trips I have had or are planning, I think my wife must keep him up to date. He looks at my leg and complains about the sloppy job, I refrain from pointing out that I could not get hold of him on a Sunday night. He then looks at my record and says did they give you a tetanus shot - I try to slide around it by saying no I told them I had one before going to Cambodia. He looks at the record and says yes that is right, that was the last time you were in and 6 years ago. There is no escape. He checks my blood pressure and looks at it thoughtfully and somewhat disbelievingly. Yes good he says grudgingly - I do not tell him that we have a machine at home and that I have practised for years on getting the pressure down when I want to. He does not know he needs to add 20 to both readings to get a true result and I am not about to tell him! All the while he is complaining about the amount of work he does and the lack of holidays, I refrain from telling him that I have never seen a tomb with the inscription "I wish I had spent more time at the office". He then tells me I must go and get a blood test. Is there no end to this misery?

 So it is off to the pathology people a few days later. A kindly woman chats to me about her sons IQ (350 apparently) while sticking a drain cock in my arm. She fills one bottle, then another and another - I begin to feel faint from loss of blood and protest to her - I came in for a test not a transfusion. She ignores that comment (I told you people do not enjoy my jokes as much as I do) and continues to blather on about her son who is nearly eight and already has a degree in astrophysics. Now she says pulling out the drain cock - no heavy lifting for a few hours. I refrain from stating the obvious, that she has just about drained me and I am flat out getting out of the chair. Then comes the killer blow - see your GP in a few days!!

I am lost, stuck in the system and wondering if I will ever get out. I knew it was a mistake to go to that hospital.