An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
My latest novel

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stupidity has a new name...

...and it's the same as mine.

I use my Leatherman tool, Legion of Fans (LOF) every day. Whether it be fixing tonka, opening a beer or extracting a thorn from my sandal (or foot), the Leatherman is an essential item for life on the road in Africa.

You can even, if you are a dufus, use the extremely sharp serrated blade to cut into a slippery, wet frozen plastic soft drink bottle.

Carefully position the bottle on its side and gently saw around the circumfrence of the bottle. See how easily the blade's teeth glide through the plastic?

If, after separating the severed halves of the bottle the ice block inside (essential for your wife's vodka, lime and soda) is still stuck, pierce a hole in the base of the bottle.

WAIT........

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME. OR IN AFRICA. OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN FACT. ARE YOU MAD?

I upended the bottle, holding it in my left hand, placed the tip of the saw blade against the thickest, slipperiest part of the bottle and pushed down on it. Hard.

As I did so, I clearly remember thinking; "Mr Blog, are you mad? This is a very stupid thing to be doing and you should stop it right..."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH!"

My next conscious thought (I have tried very hard to recall them all) was; "F-ck, I hope there isn't an artery in the palm of my hand."

The blood, LOF, the blood. Poor Tonka, fresh from his own traumatic experiences at the hands of Dr C, the Land Rover mechanic, was spray painted with blood. It jetted out, covering the door and shot up as high as the windscreen panels.

I grabbed a tea towel and Mrs Blog came racing back from the loo and reached inside Tonka for the first aid kit.

Herr Doktor, are you out there? Remember, back at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, when you gave me a bundle of military wound dressings for my first aid kit in Africa and I said something along the lines of "what am I going to use these for?" I have an answer for you.

The bulky cotton pad of the dressing, designed for use on, say, bullet wounds, was soaked in about five minutes. By then I was wrapping one of the nice white towels Uncle and Auntry Blog donated to us last year (a kind, but inexpensive gesture, as they had stolen the towels from a hotel in Paris en route to Africa).

The towel, too, was saturated by the time a very nice couple from Johannesburg pulled up at our campsite in their Mercedes. They offered to rush us into the nearby town of Malelane and find a doctor.

It was Saturday afternoon, LOF, in the middle of South Africa's Reconciliation Day long weekend, but even so the doctor said he would be there in less than 15 minutes, when Mrs B called the after hours emergency number printed outside the surgery.

I was feeling very queasy by this stage, and recognising and trying to mentally document all the symptoms of what I knew was shock. People often get stabbed and shot in my books, so I thought that I would buoy my spirits by trying very hard to recall what was happening for me.

Number 1 memory was the complete absence of pain. I had just driven a pointed, serrated blade halfway through my palm and it didn't hurt. Not a twinge. That came later, but for now my hand was just a wet, slippery mass of bandage and soaking towel.

Shallow and rapid breathing - check. Next came the queasiness (I'm getting a little post traumatic queasiness now, just thinking about it).

And then the yawning.

I'd had a biggish night the night before, and had spent Saturday packing up our huge tent, so I had justification for yawning, but I couldn't stop. Then I remembered reading something somewhere years ago in a book about someone feeling very tired as they began to die of blood loss. "STOP YAWNING" I told myself.

At that moment a bakkie (ute/pickup) pulled into the driveway. Mrs B, our Samaritan friends and I all felt much better, until we saw that the occupants were two teenage boys who had probably stolen their parents' vehicle.

"Can you move the car, please," one of the lad said to us, "so we can park."

What were these two disaffected youths doing pulling into the secure parking area behind the doctor's surgery, we all wondered aloud.

The next minute the alarm inside the surgery beeped off and the door opened. There was one of the boys, dressed in T-shirt and board shorts, inviting us in.

"I'm Dr J," he said, adding a nod and a look that seemed to say, "no, I really am."

"And this is Dr G, who will be assisting me," he said, motioning to his 16-year-old friend. They looked as though they had just come from a braai (BBQ) which, this being South Africa on a Saturday, was highly possible. I wondered if Dr G had driven because Dr J was unable to. In fact, I wondered if Dr G had stolen his elder brother's licence, as well as his parent's truck.

"Yissus," Dr J said to his learned colleague as he pulled away the soaked crimson layers of towel and field dressing, "this thing is really bleeding, hey?"

For a moment I felt relieved that I wasn't the most foolish person in the room.

"Where did you get this dressing, dude?" Dr G asked, seemingly more interested in the printed instructions ('this side towards wound') and provenance of the military bandage than the hole in my hand.

"Afghanistan."

"Cool."

"I think we're going to have to stitch this," Dr J said, bringing us back to the matter at hand. My hand.

"This is going to tingle a little bit," Dr J said, readying an anaesthetic syringe.

"HOLY f-ck!" I said, or words to that effect. I had plunged a saw into my palm and not felt a thing, but this tiny needle felt like someone had applied a flamethrower to my hand. (OK, some exaggeration there, but, comparitively, the needle really did hurt).

Blood was coninuing to flow from the wound, so Dr J picked up another needle and stuck it in me. "Check this," he said to Dr G.

"Awesome," Dr G said. "That adrenalin really works, hey?"

I asked what was going on and Dr J informed me that a shot of adrenalin in the area of a wound will slow the bleeding. Useful, I thought, for my research, though I felt I would be a bit more comfortable if I could convince myself that this wasn't the first time either Dr J or Dr G had seen this medical marvel in action.

Dr G probed around inside the wound now that the bleeding had stopped and informed me he couldn't see any tendons, which was a good thing. "They look like... like these little white strings, hey."

I was pleased he knew what he was looking for.

I leaned back, not wanting to watch as Dr J quickly and deftly inserted four perfect little stitches. Next time I checked he was applying a tiny dressing no bigger than a band aid over his handywork.

"Good as new," he said, and gave me some antibiotics and painkillers.

I was impressed. The whole operation had taken less than 15 minutes.

I stood and as I began to thank them I felt a dripping off the tip of my fingers. Blood was pouring on to the surgery floor.

"Uh-o," Dr G said.

"Maybe we need a bandage as well?" Dr J said.

"You think, dude?" I felt like saying.

He re-dressed the wound and I left with a much more substantial bandage, nicely padded out wiht copious amounts of gauze. I felt much better as I could hardly return to the camp ground with a band aid, after having left in such spectacular fashion.

On the way back to camp, with me nicely bandaged and no longer a risk of messing the upholstery, Mrs Blog and I settled into some nice small talk with the couple who had gone out of their way to take me to the doctor and then bring me back to camp. When we all found out what each other did, the lady, S, said; "You're not Tony Park, are you?"

"Um yes."

"I've read three of your books!"

This was great, on one hand, that she had read my books (and bought them as gifts, it turned out), but not so good that she would be able to tell all her friends that she had met me, and that I was clearly an idiot who could not be trusted with sharp objects.

It's five days later now and the wound looks good and the bandage has gone. I'm typing (albeit with a lot of tingling going on), so it looks like Dr J and Dr G did a very good job. I haven't done them justice in this post. Young, they may have been, but they were quick, courteous, efficient and clearly knew some sh-t.

Unlike me.

14 comments :

JR said...

TP,

Very, very, carefully remove the scissors out of your pencil case and, without running, take them over and give them to your Missus for safekeeping.

Richo said...

Ouch!

I saw that coming as i read on (lol)

PS - Love your lates book :)

ali g said...

Am reading this at 1AM. Your mother is in bed asleep. I will tell her there is a new blog for her to read tomorrow morning after I have taken her in a cup of tea......and a couple of prozacs.

The Barman said...

You sure your wallet didn't take a chunk out of your hand wioth its teeth when you were dipping into it to buy your shout?

Anonymous said...

Just as well Kev said 'bugger it we're in' or you mightn't have got that beaut Afghanistan bandage from the Doc and bled to death

dozycow said...

And they call me a dozycow......
For safety reasons all sharps should be kept under the strict supervision of Mrs Blog.

Java said...

Ouchy!! Next time raise your arm up above your head it will also slow the bleeding down, or let Mrs B help you to hold it high.
Hope its a quick recovery, where's the pics? LOL (ok just teasing).

Mother said...

Next time????? I don't think so, young man.

Anonymous said...

It was defintely a job for Dr Kev

rhodie-jeff said...

Don't worry about the hand - you have a spare one on the other side. Would loved to have heard Mrs Blog's comments. Without her, reckon you would be lost, mate.
Good luck with the next book.

Trev said...

The things some people will do just to get a ride in a Benz

rhodie-jeff said...

Have a great Xmas & New Year.
Easy on the 'tinnies' and lay off the Leatherman!
rhodie-jeff

Java said...

Merry Merry Christmas you two.

Java said...

31/12 Me again. Happy new year to you both