Some of you may be aware that, in one of my numerous professional incarnations, I worked as a medical transcriptionist.
This would likely explain my unblushing obsession with all aspects of the human anatomy, including joints, organs, gray matter, squishy parts and mucous membranes. Having transcribed every imaginable surgical procedure over the years, I am convinced that I may have missed my calling. I should have been a surgical nurse.
Thus, on the rare occasion when a medical emergency presents itself, I may not be officially qualified to treat your injury or illness, but that has never stopped me from trying. Yes, my friends. I am that annoying (yet sometimes useful) friend who leaps onto the scene of a disaster and will happily plug the hole in a stranger’s jugular with my finger while dialing 999 (911) for assistance.
Oh yes. I can do CPR and the Heimlich manouvre. When my infant daughter was choking on a meatball, I snatched her out of her high chair and Heimliched that puppy right onto the floor before the rest of the family even noticed she had turned blue. When my grandson slipped on wet concrete and cracked his head open, I am pretty sure I broke some hurdle records leaping over casual diners in the nearest restaurant, promplty threatening the bar staff with bodily injury if they did not assemble an icepack STAT.
Needless to say, I got my icepack, and our grandson survives with all mental facilities intact.
So when a Major Medical Emergency presented itself yesterday morning, I once again donned my invisible nurse’s attire and attended the scene:
HH lay on the sofa turning his left index finger this way and that, squeezing the tip and wincing. “Ugh. I’ve got a splinter,” he says.
I look up from my phone with sudden interest. “Oh?” I say, “How deep is it?”
“Hmm… dunno. But it’s really painful.”
I cross the room, tying on my invisible mask and donning my invisible latex gloves. “Here. Let me see.”
He gingerly presents his hand. “DON’T TOUCH IT,” he says, pulling it away before I can even properly examine it.
I respond with my usual eye rolling. “You are such a baby. Just let me see it.”
“You’re gonna hurt it.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
“You will. You ALWAYS do.”
More eye rolling. “Babe, it’s tiny. Let me get a needle and work it out.” I head to my sewing box to retrieve a sewing needle.
But HH is having none of it. “No, I’ll just let it work its way out.”
Ugh. What is it with that old wives’ tale that says one should leave a splinter to “work its way out”? Splinters don’t work their way out. They burrow deeper, get infected, and the resultant pus collection may – or may not – push said splinter to the surface.
With needle in hand, I return to HH’s side. His mouth is smiling, but his eyes are sheer panic. My darling husband. His fear of pain* is exceeded only by his fear of needles**. This is the same man who nearly passed out when they set an IV line on me, and who ACTUALLY DID pass out once during a blood draw. Bless him. I reach for his hand, but he has hugged it into his chest now. “No, NO!” he says. “You’ll make it bleed. You’ll dig at it – You ALWAYS do! Plus,” he adds darkly, ” you’re enjoying this too much!”
He may have a point. I am enjoying the prospect of excavating his epidermis. “No, I won’t,” I soothe, “I promise…” But honestly. I have no intention of going bone deep. We’re only going to pick through a couple layers of skin! Still, I am wearing my nurse’s hat, and nurses, as we know, are not always entirely honest about the degree of pain one is about to experience. Frankly, the more he protests, the more Nurse Ratched I become.
In the end and through a series of compromises involving the use of tweezers and magnifying glasses, a fleck of pain-inducement roughly the size of one day’s whisker growth is unearthed. HH wraps his left finger tip in a plaster and nurses his wound in the corner of the sofa. “I may have to call Workmen’s Comp,” he grouses. “I don’t think I’ll be able to work tomorrow…”
I pack up my tweezers and return the sewing needle to its red tomato, smiling the placid smile of my imaginary nurse. “Yeah – you’re barely clinging to life babe. But I reckon you’ll be just fine in the morning.”
He snorts. “I doubt it. This was my best clicking finger, too. NOW how am I going to work on my computer?”
I have to laugh at that. “Hon, you’re right handed.”
He is quiet for a moment. “Yeah. But it was my second best clicking finger…”
My inner nurse Ratched is amused.
- * fear of pain is officially known as algophobia.
- ** fear of needles is called belonephobia, and a specific fear of injections is known as trypanopobia.
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