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The Iron in Blood

That board was unbelievably uncomforta ble. As the ambulance jolted and swerve d its
way through traffic, my discomfort grew, until I wasn’t sure which was worse – the pain
from every bony prominence in my body pressing onto that board, or the pain of my actual
injuries. It was a tight call.
After what seemed like hours we finally arrived at the hospital, where I was finally
rolled off that board, while someone prodded my spine for signs of injury. The neck collar
was also removed once I was able to convince the slightly sceptical A&E doctor that I had
absolutely no pain whatsoever in my neck. I rotated it madly and lifted my head right off the
mattress to show him how little it hurt. He grinned at my efforts, and gave the nurse the
collar. I wondered briefly if it would need to be incinerated. It deserved nothing less, in my
The doctor then asked me what had happened, so I told him I’d been hit by a car. He
nodded like this happened all the time. I looked around the c rowded A&E department. It
probably did happen all the time here.
Then he asked me where it hurt, and I pointed to my left knee, which had by now
swollen to the size of a small rugby ball. He pursed his lips, said, “Hmm,” and mumbled
something about x-rays. Then he listened to my chest and pressed on my abdomen, ordered
a few blood tests, and left. A nurse appeared within seconds and asked me if I would mind if
she took a few blood samples to send to the lab to check that I hadn’t lost too much blood,
and to cross match my blood type just in case I needed a transfusion. I thought that was
reaching a bit, but I consented anyway. She also wanted to know if I wanted her to contact
anyone to let them know where I was, and if I wanted anything for the pain.
I told her yes and no. Yes to the painkillers – now that I was off the board, the pain had
become concentrated in my knee, which had begun to throb excruciatingly, and painkillers
seemed like a wonderful concept right now. No to the contacting of relatives idea. My
mother was a drug rep, who spent most of her time on the road in between visits to doctors
and related medical professionals. She was also likely to panic if she heard that I was in
hospital, and she always drove erratically when she got excited and I was afraid she would
end up in here on a board too. My brothers were either at school or in college, and neither
drove yet, so calling them would be a bit pointless. I decided to call my mother once I’d
been x-rayed and sorted out and discharged. Then she would have no reason to pa nic.
Hopefully. The nurse looked a bit doubtful, but I was seventeen, and Gillick competent, so I
was able to make my own decisions with regards to medical treatment. My GP had
explained all about that when he was trying to persuade me to go on the pill a few months
back. I told hi m that I did not have a boyfriend, but he seemed reluctant to believe me. I bet
in his mind all seventeen year olds are rutting like rabbits.
Twenty mi nutes later, and the painkillers were mercifully starting to work. The nurse
had said that they were stronger than ordi nary paracetamol, and I believed her. My hea d
seemed to have detached itself from the rest of my body, and I felt very relaxed. The doctor
returned to tell me that I had fractured my patella, and mentioned something about a cast,
before running off to answer a call for a doc tor in resus, wherever that was. I remember
lying there wondering what exactly a patella was, and not really caring too muc h that I
didn’t even know if it was anywhere near the knee. I would google it when I got home.
Forty minutes later I phoned my mother from one of the pay phones in the waiting
room. I tried to explain what had happened while I balanced awkwardly on two crutches
and one good leg. The injured leg was encased in a hot, heavy cast, and felt like it didn’t
really belong to me. The phone was jammed between my left s houlder and my ear.