COLLAPSING

One cold winter's morning a telephone call awoke me, dragging me from bed to silence its insistent clamouring. I groggily answered to hear my mother asking if I could drive her to the hospital, as she'd had her finger trapped by a door being slammed shut in the high winds. The wound needed stitches, and my father wasn't there to be able to drive her. I told her I was on my way, and hurriedly pulled on some clothes.

I picked her up from her house. She seemed OK, if a little pale, and when we arrived at the hospital I left her at the entrance to the Accident & Emergency department whilst I went off to find a parking slot. This took me quite a while, and after I'd parked and walked back through the bitter cold, careful to watch my footing on the icy paths, she was nowhere to be seen. Asking the receptionist where to find her, I was told that she'd already been taken to the Minor Injuries area. The receptionist gave me directions.

When I found the Minor Injuries area, my mother was still conspicuous by her absence, and - enquiring as to her whereabouts - I was told she was already being attended to and directed toward the curtained cubicle in which she was being treated.

I'll just interrupt the sequence of events here to mention one or two points. Firstly, I was under the impression that I wasn't at all squeamish, having dealt with many bumps, cuts and grazes quite stoically in the past and, indeed, having taken my brother to hospital when he'd severed the top of his finger with a Stanley Knife the previous year.

Secondly, it was a freezing cold morning, I was still half asleep, and I was functioning on an empty stomach, not having had any breakfast before I left the house. The interior of the hospital was incredibly hot, and coming in from the cold to that excessive heat would have been enough to make anybody feel unwell.

However. I entered the cubicle and saw a doctor holding my mother's hand on a metal trolley. There was plenty of blood around, and he was using a hypodermic syringe with an enormous, seemingly cartoon-proportioned needle to inject anaesthetic directly into the gaping wound. I could see the tip of the needle running around under the skin on the other side of her finger, like worms under the skin in the film 'Squirm' . . . at this point I began to feel dizzy. Having only fainted once or twice before, I wasn't aware that this feeling was a precursor to passing out but I did begin to feel that I wasn't very steady on my feet. I remember widening my stance and leaning backwards against the wall, thinking I could brace myself until the dizziness had passed.

My mother later told me that she'd thought I was fooling around as I slid sideways down the wall, and only realised that I wasn't fooling when my head hit the lower shelf of the metal trolley and sent it flying, surgical instruments scattering across the waiting area on the far side of the curtain. She was left waiting whilst the staff took care of me, carrying me to a vacant cubicle and holding my feet up above my head until the blood drained back into my brain and I came to, with a nurse telling me that I was just a caring son and that I shouldn't worry about it. I felt about three inches tall and incredibly stupid. The doctor later told me that he'd looked at me as I entered the cubicle and thought that I'd be fine, that I wouldn't be squeamish. I don't care much for his medical opinion.

I'd ripped out the earrings from my left ear and given myself a small lump behind my temple, but that was all. The staff insisted on checking me over, and gave me a card about 'Symptoms to watch out for after a Head Injury' despite my protestations of feeling fine.

In retrospect, I think it was quite fitting that I visited the Minor Injuries department and left with a Minor Injury.

Stan Batcow, Feb 2003 (relating an event that happened in the mid-1990's).