It’s raining and I’m outside A&E at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Kitcat is in triage.
18 years ago she had a car crash and needed extensive skin grafting in her leg. Last night, in the bath, she got the tweezers into what she thought was a septic hair, and pulled out about an inch of plastic stitch that has evidently been in her leg for all that time. Problem is that was just the top of it. It’s a very long length and it goes deep into her body. She pulled out the head but the tail is profoundly buried and knotted. It was probably supposed to be one of the ones that dissolves, but somebody in a Houston surgery 18 years ago fucked up.
She stopped pulling it when she felt pain. The grafted skin started hemming as if she was pulling a string on a blind. She showed it to me this morning, this length of pale plastic sticking out of a hole in her leg like an impossibly durable stringworm, connected to a long scar now slightly rucked up.
It’s nothing to panic about yet, but it needs fixing, and I’d have a speedy heartbeat if it was my leg.
She lives with me. I have a car. There’s no work. What else am I gonna do with my day?
Today has been about trying to get somebody to look at this and acknowledge that this isn’t “help me mummy I got an owie leg.” Somebody who can help solve it before it complicates into something much worse than a hole and some plastic.
We tried 111. They took all the information you can possibly imagine and then some more before even asking what the problem was. It was a profoundly uninspiring experience which ended with them arranging for a doctor to ring her. The doctor duly rang and told her she had an appointment at the urgent care at St Mary’s Paddington. Result! Until St Mary’s Paddington rang to say that she couldn’t have an appointment until she’d been referred and that apparently “the best thing to do is to call 111”. Hmmm.
So I got her into the car. We drove to my GP which is nearby. They couldn’t do anything. We drove to her own GP a bit further away and she rolled in there with more nervous energy than I’ve ever seen and roundly insulted all the receptionists.
The eventual result was a call from her GP to tell her she had to go to A&E. So we went to A&E. She didn’t want to wait inside so she went outside to phone her mother. I waited in the corner knowing she’d miss her call when it came. She missed her call when it came.
I rang her mobile until she picked up and she got through the door before they took her off the list and we had to start again.
The thing is, it’s minor but it can’t be ignored. She’s got plastic sticking out of a hole in her leg, connected to a terrible old injury where there’s been a history of pain through reflex sympathetic dystrophy. But in these times of Covid with the shameful underfunding of an NHS being put out to pasture by the giant selfish children in parliament, it’s harder than ever to get the little things dealt with. “Are you in the most pain you can imagine anyone ever to have been in throughout the history of time? Is there blood gushing like fountains from your eyes and ears? Are you unable to think or speak except for to answer these endless questions to which the answer always has to be yes or we will ignore you forever?” She’s got plastic sticking out of a hole in her leg. It’s not infected yet but it will be. And now it’s come to the surface it isn’t magically going to go away.
So she’s in triage and chances are afterwards she’ll be sitting in A&E for a few hours which isn’t going to be fun for anybody, but hopefully will lead to an appointment with the plastics clinic who can just … well hopefully they’ll be able to do something about it. Or she’s got a little pull tag in her leg forever. She could put a little tattoo above it “Yank this and I’ll scream!”
If I were her I’d be tempted to just cut the head off it and then see what happens. But there’s a psychological cost once you know you’ve got a foreign body in your flesh, even if it’s been there for 18 years with no consequence. Besides, now it’s seen the world I’d be scared it could take an infection back deep into my leg after its little holiday. I’m not going to advise doing it. Not while we still have the struggling jittering passionate wonderful remains of what was once a rare unselfish health thing in this secretly nasty world.
So I’m writing this outside the front of the hospital, earning some good flatmate points as I wait to see what might be possible for her in what’s left of our poor old NHS.