Posts Tagged ‘medical law’

Warning: long-ass post

I think that before cauterizing a wound the Doctor should be legally obligated to say “Hi! I’m going to burn you until you’re better!” and then he shoves his cauterizing tool into your flesh and you wonder how you’re definition of better could possibly differ so wildly from another person’s definition of better.

Allow me to start at the beginning. I am not big on housework, I’m tidy enough that I don’t like trash to pile up around me so I throw it out but sometimes it takes a day or two… or several if I am doing a lot of writing at my desk but I make sure it’s in neat piles while it waits to get chucked out.

I sweep semi-often, put things where they belong pretty regularly, wash the floors when visibly necessary and dust when the dust bunnies begin to spawn kittens from all the cat hair, and only because I’m too lazy to look after more than one cat. My sweetie is fine with my level of cleanliness (mostly) so we get along.

Dishes are the problem. You see I’ve never liked them, ever. I think I got this from my mother who equally dislikes them and now I have taken on her bias whereas if she had just pretended to like housework then I would be able to have neat freaks in my house without having to apologize while they hyperventilate backed into a corner making little whimpering noises and rocking back and forth while they clutch their knees to their chest.

Anyhow, around March of 2005 on a lovely Saturday morning I got up around 9am and made plans to meet friends at the mall. Then I remembered that I had a small load of dishes to do. For the first time ever I decided that rather than leave them and let them pile up until I had a pile big enough to make it a really onerous chore I would just whip the little load into shape now. I felt awesome, like I was turning over a new leaf in my dish doing habits that would echo through the way I lived the rest of my life making me super efficient in all my endeavors and propelling me through the higher education I was finally contemplating until I was a learned scholar with a totally awesome job and lots of respect from peers rather than an unemployed 24-year-old living with her mother and spending Saturday hanging out at the mall despite having no money.

It all hinged on one load of dishes.

I was on fire! I tossed all the dishes into the sink and even made sure to look for glasses that had been left around the house. Feeling efficient I filled up my sink with soap and water and got to washing. The world was mine and I was going places bitches!

I scrubbed the cutlery clean in no time at all and like a dish-washing machine that is super fast and efficient I grabbed a glass to go at that next.

My mum had these cobalt blue octagonal glasses that I thought were really cool. They were also big so we used them a lot for drinking water. I picked up the first one and shoved my hand in with the dish cloth, it was a tight fit.

As I twisted my hand awkwardly in the glass all of a sudden a U-shaped piece of glass about two inches deep popped off the glass from the rim, I continued to twist my hand around as I took note because as I said I WAS ON FIRE AND NOTHING COULD STOP MY DISH DOING AWESOMENESS!

That’s when it started to… sting. I pulled my hand out and the entire back of my hand was covered in blood. I looked at it for a second before applying pressure with my other hand to the general area where it hurt.

I walked calmly into the bathroom and lifted my hand for a second. Blood continued to coat every surface and obscure whatever wounds I had sustained. At this point I very calmly and quietly uttered “fuck’n shit.”

I was quite composed really. Despite this my mother, who had been sleeping, vaulted from her bed in the next room and came rushing in asking frantic questions about how badly I was dying.

I assured her I was okay and asked her to turn on the cold water tap for me and asked her to find me some Band-Aids. As it turned out we didn’t have any which was fine because once I rinsed off all the blood it was apparent my left pointer-finger knuckle was missing. It looked like that mountain that Richard Dreyfuss builds out of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind if the mountain was bleeding from the top. So maybe like a volcano? During the brief second before more blood came oozing out I could flex my finger and clearly see the tendon move under a thin membrane which was probably composed of the layer or two that was left of my skin or possibly an under-skin like the long johns of anatomy.

So off to the walk-in-clinic we go.

Once there it was a pretty short wait for the Doctor. He came in and I lifted the giant wad of toilet paper I had used to cover the wound and soak up blood in the absence of band-aids, Kleenex or paper towels. He looked for a second or two before telling me I had done a really good job which as motivational talks go is pretty fucked up because who wants a talent for self-mutilation? Besides people who are into self-mutilation.

He poked and prodded a bit. I had three wounds, the missing knuckle bit which was about the size of a penny, a tiny cut a few millimeters away from it and a longer cut just beyond the small one. If you were to play connect-the-dots along the lines of wounds they might resemble a delicious cherry lollipop.  He let me know I would need stitches in the long cut. He had me lay on my back with my hand held against my stomach on top of some gauze to catch blood then went and got a needle and injected some freezing around the long cut.

He said it would take a few minutes for the numbness to kick in. Then he turned around and did something at the counter that I couldn’t see. When he turned back around he was holding what looked like a thin wooden dowel with a black tip and a cord coming out of the bottom end. I looked on with interest and unsuspecting innocence, waiting for him to tell me what it was, completely oblivious to what would happen next.

Holding the strange wand thing and standing over me he said, “The knuckle wound is missing too much skin to sew shut so it will have to be cauterised.” And then without pause he shoved the black tip into the bleeding wound. He continued to explain this process but I was too distracted by the whole burning flesh of my hand thing to pay much attention.

I do remember him saying something about how the freezing wouldn’t work for this procedure so I would be able to feel it but since he said this several minutes (possibly only several seconds) after he had actually begun the procedure of burning my wound shut I was tempted to yell something like “You don’t fucking say? I’m glad you told me in such a timely manner!” but ultimately I decided that yelling sarcastic comments at the guy with the burning stick in my flesh might be unwise. He might decide to do an extra super thorough job.

I felt so proud of my foresight and restraint that it distracted me from my burning flesh. Sort of.

During this procedure I remained outwardly silent and calm but my poor mother was in a corner climbing a wall and making little pain noises. As much as it hurt I think it hurt more in her head. Normally she’s calm and collected during medical emergencies so it was weird but in a way that was also blessedly distracting once being proud of my sass-control wore off.

Afterward the Dr stitched me up, which I had been excited about before the cauterization thing because these were my first stitches but it turned out to be kind of anticlimactic. I still watched avidly though.

Then he gave me a prescription for antibiotic cream, showed me how to bind my hand with gauze and told me to keep it absolutely dry for a couple of months.

I returned home to a sink half full of dishes, soapy water, a chunk of my knuckle and the knowledge that my hopes of ever being successful were going to be washed down the drain with about a liter of my blood. Fortunately I was also blessedly free of any dish related chores until my gaping wound healed over and stopped being a slimy mess. I have yet to be enthusiastic about dishes since.

But the story doesn’t end here. Oh no.

See when I got home I investigated the broken glass and found that the way it had broken was bizarre and improbable. I showed it to my mum.

As it turned out the glass had previously been cracked in a sort of J shape, hence the U-shaped break which had sliced so much of the back of my hand as it twisted around in the glass. Rather than throw it out she had opted to set it aside, beside the coffee pot away from the regular dishes (to her mind in a ‘safe spot’) because she wanted to use it in a mosaic project. My mother is constantly collecting odds and ends to use in art projects; the house was and is full of them.

So my wound was easily preventable with a little more forethought then “if I set this imperceptibly cracked glass two feet from the other glasses that will make it crystal to clear to everyone it is not to be lumped in with the regular dishes”. But that’s my mum, at 24 I should have known better.

Now I am 30 and I live with my sweetie and not my mother and I am a successful student who will eventually be a professional and totally an adult who doesn’t spend a week eating nothing but birthday cake, chicken wings and popcorn. So last week I was at my mums going through some boxes in her spare room looking for some stuff I had stored there. I lifted a lid from an unlabeled box and there it was, the glass that had severed my knuckle, waiting. In fact it was nestled amid a whole box full of broken dishes. I hollered in surprise and my mum came running.

Me: (indignant) What is this doing here?! (I gesticulate haphazardly in the direction of the box full of shards of potential doom)

Mum: (prosaically) Oh, that’s my stuff for making mosaics.

Me: But that’s the glass that horrifically mutilated my hand and prevented me from having a lucrative career as a hand model!

Mum: (blinks like I’m slow) Yes. I’m saving it.

Me: Saving it for what? To make a commemorative table top about the time I had to get stitches and a Doctor had to burn my hand until it was healthy?!

Mum: Yes.

Me: …

She may never get around to learning to mosaic since my mum is the queen of procrastination. I have a feeling that someday a long time from now I will be settling my mums affairs and I will once again come face to face with that stupid glass.

And then it will pay. Oh yes, it will pay.

If I ever find the charger to juice up my camera I will take some pictures both of my scars and of the drinking glass that caused them.


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