09 October 2009

That injury

The last time I posted anything about my childhood, I spoke of an injury connected with my two rooms.

My bedroom was a smaller room - an original dressing room, I suppose - off a larger room, but the two rooms were separated by what is called a 'french door.' This is a door that is a wooden lattice with little windows in it.

Somehow - I really don't recall how, but I think Peter and I were wrestling over something - I kicked my bare right heel through the glass - and partially severed the Achilles tendon. I don't really remember what year this happened. Perhaps about 1956, in which case I was around 14.

Naturally, this is pretty serious! Nowadays there are not many general practitioners about, but then, at least, Dr Patrick was our family doctor, for just about everything, and he sewed up the tendon, under local anaesthetic, applied a plaster cast to it, and told me he would take it off in six weeks.

Note that I called in a 'plaster cast.' Today that immobilising device would be a prefabricated form made of aluminium or plastic; then it was layers of gauze bandage coated in Plaster-of-Paris. And we lived on a farm.

Walking through muddy ground pretty much did that cast in in considerably less than six weeks - about four weeks, as I recall. It began to dissolve. Back to Dr Patrick, who took it off, inspected the healing wound, and showed that, whilst medically he may have been a terrific doctor, as a judge of character - in particular, 14-year-old male character - he was a complete failure.

He told me he would leave the cast off and I should just be careful for a while.

In my humble opinion, telling any 14-year-old boy to 'be careful' is risible naivety; tell young Johnny Jensen the same is utter madness.

The very next day, wearing gumboots, I found myself chasing Wayne Farrens across a newly-ploughed field - for a while.

Then I was not chasing Wayne, but was on my hands and knees, and in considerable pain.

All that Wayne knew was that I was not chasing him any longer.

With a severed Achilles tendon, you don't walk. So I crawled back to the (pretty busy) highway, crawled across it, crawled up our fairly long driveway, past Peter (who looked at me with contempt; he later told me he thought I had probably done something like fallen down and skinned my knee and was now wanting sympathy), and into the house.

When my mother came, she knew immediately what had happened. Angrily she pulled the gumboot off. When I stopped yelling, I said that I had thought she would cut it off. "Those gumboots cost ...!!!" - well, I don't know what she said they cost, but it was clear that she wasn't going to destroy them, 'specially to spare the feelings of stupid child who couldn't keep out of even obvious trouble.

That time it was (I was later told) two and a half hours of general anaesthetic (real ether - you wouldn't like it). I begged to be taken home that night, and was allowed. Dr Patrick told me sternly that this time it would be in a cast for eight weeks, and that if I did it again, he would have to shave more off the ends of the severed tendon and I would be lame for life - and serve me right.

Non-dissolving stitches, too. They took six months of regular visits to the doctor to be removed, and to have me lie under a UV lamp for healing. I remember Dr Patrick pulling the end of one stitch out, and me yelping, to which he responded by asking, "Did that hurt?" "Yes!" "Well, good! Maybe it will teach you to be more careful next time."

I have a big mass of scar tissue there now that is easily injured and slow to heal, to teach me, indeed, to be careful.

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