Tuesday, May 19, 2009

As cool as a cucumber. Or how to ruin Monday night

What is Monday night without doing something silly? Like decapitating your thumb while slicing a non-descript cucumber.

What began as an idea of feeding V leftover pizza and eating cucumber and yogurt myself to avoid doing anything but slumming in front of the TV went horribly wrong at 8pm last Monday. I bought these amazing new knives recently and in forgetting every chef rule and years of practice of tucking my fingers under while I hold something to cut I chopped straight into the top of my left thumb. It was not a particularly deep or big cut but the flap of skin looked menacing enough with the blood flow refusing to stop. With no visible clotting happening and two cotton pads quickly soaking through it became apparent that a trip to the A&E was in order. So we got into a cab and toodled off to the nearest A&E. Thankfully there was nothing of great interest on any of cable TV’s 999 channels.

We’ve only had one previous experience with the A&E in our area – it was not great but hey that is what ‘free’ healthcare is like. This time we went in and got behind about 6 other people in line for the reception/ triage, amidst a room full of people waiting to be seen. 15 minutes later we were at the counter and beside being asked stupid statistical questions like how did you arrive here (by foot, bus, private transport, taxi, cycle etc; to which I am always tempted to say helicopter) we were given a yellow form and asked to wait. After a while we got called in and a doctor in a suit from one of two rooms off the main room asked the details of the injury, like a registrar. He gave my thumb a cursory look and was instantly quite dismissive saying there was nothing to worry about and that a few stitches and tetanus shot might be needed. Then he asked us to go back and wait.

15 minutes later we got called into the other room by a doctor in proper scrubs who after making me flex my thumb and declaring it not as deeply injured as it looked, cleaned it and applied some surgical glue and steri-strips to seal it shut. Then saying he was going to dress and needed to get the materials to do so, he disappeared. Half an hour later a nurse who finished plastering a broken wrist in the next cubicle while majorly flirting with the patient appeared and deftly dressed my thumb in multiple layers of gauze and tape in under 2 minutes. By this time (2 hours into our stay here) some serious traumas were beginning to arrive, foul mouthed and clearly drunk. It took 3 healthcare professionals 2 hours to sort out my tiny mishap - and people wonder why the system doesn’t work! Our work done we took a cab home where I proceeded to eat the uncut cucumber and yogurt before turning in for the night.

Three interesting incidents from the A&E:
1. Two young Bangladeshi boys are in line to get to the reception windows before us. With the buzz cuts, hooded jackets and track pants and giant shoes they are just pandering to the stereotype. The conversation between them in a mixed Bangladeshi and British accent is amusing to say the least. One of them is telling the other how he scammed £2,500 from somebody he was involved with in an accident by claiming he had got whiplash. His friend was eagerly quizzing on him on how to go about perpetrating said scam. WonderBoy was offering advice on how to fake whiplash and the number of his very good lawyer. When they reached the window it was for both of them to report injuries, as one was limping and the other was complaining about his hand. No way of telling if this was another scam.

2. While I was waiting for the disappearing doctor to come back with some plaster (a bank of which was on the wall facing me) a young boy limped in shouting and screaming and followed by his friends. A male nurse was trying to clean his leg wound and all the boy could do was yell and shout about wanting a scar, how nobody ever look at his legs, how the bad bad nurse was hurting him and how much he wanted a cigarette. His slightly schizophrenic girlfriend kept wandering in an out alternately saying things like ’sorry baby, do you want me to hold your hand’ (in her best crooney voice) and ‘stop behaving like a baby, they pushed you the front of the line man, ahead of all the other people, suck it up’ (in her best shouting voice). Imagine that conversation with a lot of bad language thrown in and you will get most of the picture.

3. And just as the nurse appeared to dress my finger a very drunk and emaciated man was brought in on a gurney by paramedics. While he was being transferred to one of the beds in a cubicle by the very kind paramedic, she told him his stuff was at the foot of the bed and asked him if he wanted anything else before she left him in the ER’s capable hands. He growled, ‘yes, can I have a beer please?’. To which she, without blinking an eyelid, replied, ‘No darling, someone will bring you a cuppa tea shortly. Now won’t that be nice?’

Such is a big real life ER – I have huge respect for paramedics, doctors and nurses who walk these halls each day and night, trying to help people who come to them for emergency care. Of course speeding up looking after smaller insignificant injuries i.e. being seen by and attended to by one instead of three people, in one shot instead of over 2 hours, would probably make everyone’s life a bit easier. But I am sure there is method in their madness.

Thumb is healing well and as off this Saturday I have a fully functioning left hand – which means I am back to the chopping board for some home- cooked grub. Much as I enjoyed eating takeaway all week I am glad for the simplicity of not fighting over the menu anymore.

And as far as the ER goes all I can add is that a George Clooney lookalike would have made the 2 hour stay way easier! Why are all the cute doctors/ nurses only ever on TV shows?


  1. ouch!
    glad you are better.

  2. Yikes... hope your thumb has stopped throbbing the way such cuts normally do. Been there, done that, y'see :)

    PS. Thanks SO much for taking the time out to provide me a link to the bhindi! :D That was really thoughtful!

  3. I was actually about to ask you if you met a McDreamy or a George Clooney type person when I got to your last line. Tchah!! What a pity. Hope you are better now.

  4. Anonymous6:19 PM


    ouch. ouch.
    are you getting phantom pains now ?? glad you are better though.

  5. Have you ever tried haldi? It worked really well when I had similar non-stop bleeding thumb due to rare attempt at cooking.

  6. shoot! that must have hurt. George Clooney in real life probably doesn't look that great (just trying to make u feel better.)

    I was admiring a set of chef's knives just y'day. i am going to look at them with a different set of eyes today. :)

  7. Anonymous8:21 PM

    Ouch! hope you are feeling better. I can imagine how entertaining and frustrating the A&E experience would have been having visited one for at least a couple of times each month in the last 4 months. AS far as McDreamy or George Clooney.. we can only dream :-P

  8. Glad your thumb is ok!

    The best job I've ever had was the 3 years I spent working in an ER. Even the dull moments were fun.

  9. Me/ Ron/ SilentOne: thanks am better better better - no phantom pains or anything.

    Shyam: you are welcome - hope you find the bhindi

    Bride: tried Haldi but apparently it hit a nerve (?) and therefore this home remedy did not work.

    Krithika: Couple times each month - wow - brave?! No George Clooney to ease away the pain!