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Article: A Stitch too far?

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    A Stitch too far?

    6 Comments by Paul Johnson Published on 15th July 2020 09:29 PM
    Hi All,
    If any of you had read my previous article, 'Judging a book by its cover' you may recall that I alluded to an incident that happened on my next trip on the 'Arawa', whereby I spent a period of time in hospital. This story is about that incident.

    I was once again the Assistant Ship's Cook, but thankfully with a different Ship's Cook, a very pleasant chap who allowed me to experiment and improve my culinary skills. I am afraid I have forgotten his name; but he worked-by on the 'Hauraki', and we met up again when I rejoined her. I also believe he was the baker that was sent home DBS from the 'Turakina' due to illness; I was his replacement and joined her in Gdansk. Anyway, a totally different proposition from the last the last cook.

    On with the story I hear you say; so , we were on the 'Arawa' and were due to spend a few days in Bluff N.Z., four of my mates and myself had decided that we would hire a car so that we could run into Invercargill of an evening. As I did not drive I was more than happy; however, as the whole idea was to visit the fleshpots (sic) of Invercargill, the return journey to Bluff may have proved hairy to say the least. So we hired a car, a Ford Anglia, the colour yellow springs to mind; as we were all rather chunky one can imagine the problem, sardines ain't in it.

    Now this is where my memory fails me a little, I am unsure whether or not we were going for a drink in Bluff, then onto Invercargill or what. What I do know is that we ended up in the Bay View Hotel in Bluff, reported to be the southern most pub in the world; the bar on Stewart Island to the south only being seasonal. A large quantity of drink was taken and it seemed as if half the crew was in there with us, a lovely time was had by all.

    At closing time,(22.00 you will remember), it was decided that we would investigate the bluff that the port was named after; no, I do not know either! Here is a pedagogic definition of a bluff; a cliff tends to have a sharp drop, whereas a bluff has a more rounded and undulating descent, this will be important to note. So, we got into the Anglia,(I think), and went to the bluff, and we began to lark around on the edge, remember dear reader drink had been taken and we were foolish lads in our early twenties. The light was not great, but there must have been starlight or a partial moon because we could see our immediate surroundings.

    As mentioned, drink had been taken, and I stumbled, and I found myself trying to impede the velocity of my descent by bounding like a deranged mountain goat. My erstwhile mates shouted at me to break my fall by jumping in a bush nearby, I did so. It may help to say that, topographically, what may have appeared as a bush from an elevated position on sloping terrain was in fact a stunted tree! We may all have fallen into a bush at sometime or other, resulting in a few scratches perhaps, but jumping into a tree is a different kettle of fish; there are branches, thick unforgiving foliage, more resistance.

    The upshot was, I had been impaled, I fell out of the tree and on landing I grasped the area of hurt, where the crotch of my trousers should have been! I can tell you this dear reader, I was really hoping that the dampness I felt was of me having wetted myself; that was not the case, the 'moisture' was far too viscous. My companions came to my rescue, after they had stopped laughing, and hauled me to the top. Their initial idea of rescue technique was to grab me by my four limbs, but my right hand was clamped to my nether regions and I would not let go, I did not want to lose anything.

    There was then a discussion of what to do next, I was adamant that I should be taken to the hospital in Invercargill, their plan was that as we had a doctor on board we should go there. I remonstrated with them that I had picked up the doctor from the deck of the Bay View Hotel, and propped him against the bar, and possibly he was not the most sober practitioner. This fell on deaf ears, and so to the ship we went. I shall not describe the ignominy of being carried up the gangway and through the crew accommodation, peopled by drunks that wanted to know all the details, or of the number of times my posse stopped to explain; suffice to say we ended up in the sick bay.

    Now something must be said for the professionalism of the doctor, he was not completely compos mentis, but I do remember him berating the male Sick Berth Attendant, (also drunk), that if he coughed once more over the wound, he would punch him; happy days. So, there I was, lower regions devoid of clothing, legs akimbo, awaiting for the ministrations of this Angel of mercy. Now, one of the Ford Anglia coterie was a steward called Eric, a rather large lad, he thought it may prove helpful if he threw his muscular arm across my chest, holding up his forearm, and advising me to grip his hand if the pain became too great. The fact that his arm was inhibiting my breathing did not appear to have entered his sozzled brain.

    After what seemed an interminable time, and with the doctor finally standing erect, I proffered the hope that 'It's all finished now?' My medical Angel laughed and said 'no', he had only just finished extracting the debris of leaves and rubbish out of the wound, 'ha ha'; one never wishes, in these circumstances, to hear your physician quite so often. He then spent twenty minutes, it seemed longer, putting in around 15-20 stitches; we will never know exactly how many as he lost count!

    I awoke in the passenger's hospital, there being no Bloods Tom and Dick at the time, and rather than the Sick Berth Attendant, who had coughed all over me, there was the passenger's Nursing Sister, oh joy. She gave me hot salt water baths every day, brought my food and replaced the wide strapping, attached to the tops of my thighs, that elevated my 'injury' and stopped me from further injuring it. She also had a wry sense of humour, because, with a glint in her eye, she would offer me a banana as a dessert; I took it in good fun, and was grateful for her care and professionalism. During the Captain's inspection, he strode to my bedside and inquired if I had had an erection,(that is not how he phrased it though), with me answering in the positive he bellowed that was all right then, and buggered off.

    There is now an episode in this story that is less agreeable; the 'Arawa' had a passenger doctor, who had ministered to me, and a crew doctor, and we had a new crew doctor assigned to the ship. I had been in the hospital a few days, and was not confined to my bed, but could sit in a chair, carefully. All of a sudden this young women entered the hospital, introducing herself as the new crew doctor, she drew up a chair and started chatting to me; I was of course in a state of deshabille, only having a towel drapped over me. She requested to see my injury, dropping to her knees to facilitate the inspection, I was somewhat askance at this, I drew myself back, I was still very sore. She got up and said, 'Maybe another time', and exited the hospital.

    I resumed work after about a week, with the stitches still in place; if you have ever worked in a galley you will appreciate that a lot of heat is directed below your waistline, therefore, not surprisingly, I contracted an infection, I had to have more time off, and with my injury being tender the stitches were left in. Once the infection subsided there came a time to have the stitches removed, I went to the crew doctor for this procedure, she would not touch the injured area but continuously instructed me to, 'Lift it up'. As one may appreciate the area of injury is if a softer and different tissue as opposed to the skin of ones arm for example. The actual 'knot' of the stitch was hidden, subsumed by the soft tissue, only the 'tail' of the gut being visible. This did not stop this virago, using tweezers to clamp on the tail, she then used sharp pointed scissors to find and cut the knot. After many many minutes of pain, and not a little blood, with the instructions to,'Lift them up', it was over.

    I did a fine impression of John Wayne for a few days, but without the horse!

    Well friends, that is the story of 'A stitch too far?', I hope you have enjoyed it.

    Cheers, Paul.

    P.S. For all of you out there wondering, I have a beautiful son and daughter, born some years after this episode.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: A Stitch too far?

    Ouch!. it made my eyes water just reading this.

    Frank.

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    Default Re: A Stitch too far?

    Hi Frank,
    It makes my eyes water even now, I wrote the rough copy last night, and even dreamed of it, or was it a nightmare ha ha.
    Cheers, Paul.

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    Default Re: A Stitch too far?

    well certainly made hard going of that one buddy. I will leave it up to you to mention the status of the coming.

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    Default Re: A Stitch too far?

    What a story, Paul.... thank God everything turned out fine

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    Thumbs up Re: A Stitch too far?

    As long as it performed when healed as it was designed to. all's well that ends well

  9. Thanks Doc Vernon thanked for this post
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    Default Re: A Stitch too far?

    Good Reading Article Paul
    Thank You for this one !
    Cheers
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

  11. Likes happy daze john in oz liked this post

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