Of Hospitals and Medicinal Spirits

“One afternoon, when I was four years old, my father came home, and he found me in the living room in front of a roaring fire, which made him very angry. Because we didn’t have a fireplace.”
―Victor Borge

A bit of a misadventure occurred last weekend when I managed (don’t ask) to burn my right hand over a good portion of the palm and fingertips on Saturday night. I’m no stranger to injury, my klutziness ensures that various bumps and bruises are never far off, but I’ve never been particularly badly burned before. Let’s just say I would not have been cut out for martyrdom, it hurt like a [censored].

After keeping it under cool water for twenty minutes while Jeff consulted the NHS and various hospital sites, we wrapped my fist in a wet towel and hopped on the Tube. Guy’s Hospital was only one stop away so we figured it would be a fairly painless enterprise (I say painless, but it should be noted that my nerves were well and truly freaking out at this point and long moments of tingly numbness would turn into even longer moments of eye-splitting throbs that made my whole arm shake, it was not fun). However when we arrived, the nurses informed us that we would have to go to the nearest Accident and Emergency center instead, which required another Tube ride to Westminster to walk across the bridge under the shadow of Big Ben to St. Thomas Hospital instead.

My language had deteriorated to dock worker level by this point, but after the wait to get checked in and sent to yet another area of the hospital, I didn’t feel particularly bad about the fact. The nurse who treated me first tried a silicone wrapping that made everything feel significantly worse before suggesting what she called, “Old fashioned treatments,” instead. Apparently the thing that causes the pain with burns is contact with air so the real trick is to cut off the connection. You learn something new every day! She covered my hand in an oily solution and taped a sterile, bright orange plastic bag around it and then asked a surprising question.

“Do you drink, my dear?”
“No,” I responded.
“I mean alcohol,” she said helpfully.

Note. Can we just take a moment to recognize that she seemed to interpret my “no” to mean anything BUT alcohol and felt the need to clarify?  In Britain, water is optional, booze is not.

“Yes, I know. I don’t drink.”
“Oh!” she said, looking genuinely baffled. “Well, I would have suggested a glass or two of wine, but just stick with the paracetamols then.”

Clearly we were going very old school in our methods. A life’s ambition realized, kittens, I have been prescribed medicinal spirits. Someone bring me my fainting couch!

At the time it felt like it took forever, but it turns out I went from injury to (free!) treatment and was back out the hospital door in less than two hours. I was off most typing for a day and a half, but things are looking pretty good. Compliments of Jeff and his assorted merit badges.

2014-08-16 21.14.22

8 thoughts on “Of Hospitals and Medicinal Spirits”

  1. Oh my gosh wow! I have to say that I really dislike the red tape involved in British hospital – oh go to the A&E instead of the hospital, oh you can’t come into the clinic today if you’re not properly dying…I just don’t get it! Hope your hand is doing better!!

    1. It was more than a little ridiculous, I’ll admit. But on the other hand, I had some negative experiences with (mostly lady) healthcare in the States so I appreciate that while bureaucratic and silly and not as fast as I’d like, I at least get basic care without having to pay an arm and a leg for it!

  2. I am in love with the nurse’s “I mean alcohol” comment and all it implies. In related remedies, the Russians at the orchestral festival where I worked a few summers ago helpfully gave a 15-year-old American violinist a bottle of vodka when he came down with a cold the day of our first concert. Because that’s legitimately the rx for a cold in Russia.

    Heal quickly, despite the lack of liquor! (See also: more reasons to consider being an Episcopalian…)

  3. Ouch!! Hope you are feeling better…I live in terror of not being able to use my hands. We can’t work without them. (And, yay for the Episcopal church which is cool with alcohol.)

    1. No kidding! I began panicking the second I shoved my hand under the water because I’d just submitted a major project pitch that day and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to use my hand for a while. I couldn’t breathe properly for a while, it was so scary to contemplate!

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