Wednesday, 23 March 2016


When they cut off my big toe
I lost a bit of my balance but
I could still stand on my own
Two feet

When they cut off my hand
I had at least something to catch
The scraps that trickled down
Like tears

When they cut out my tongue
I used my working hand to type
Letters of protest against
Deaf ears

When they cut out my eyes
It benefitted my capacity
To taste what I could not afford
To eat

When they cut out my heart
Leaving nothing more to cut
They skipped onto the next
In a beat

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Junior Doctors

It was a Saturday night and a man with a head wound had been taken to hospital by two paramedics. Only one of the paramedics drove the ambulance, but both had attended to him when they found him unconscious. Together they had ensured that the man was in a stable condition, stopped the bleeding, sewn up the wound and put the man on a stretcher. One paramedic stayed with the man to monitor his condition and administer fluids while the ambulance made its way to St Paul’s Hospital.
Fast-forward a few minutes and the man was being escorted through an emergency department brimming with the self-made victims of excess alcohol consumption. The nature of the man’s injury meant he was to be attended to immediately, no waiting time, and no arbitrary target to consider. As he was pushed by a porter to his cubicle, the man passed receptionists, police officers, cleaners, staff nurses, consultants, student doctors, radiologists, health care assistants and various other specially-trained medical professionals, all of whom were working on a Saturday night.
However, the man had been unconscious through all of this, before he was put into a comfortable position in his newly-acquired bed. Two more staff, both junior doctors, came to examine the man. His breathing and heart rate were stable, but he had yet to regain consciousness, and the hole in his head was a cause for concern.
“You know who this is, don’t you?” said the female doctor, Teresa.
“Yes I do,” replied the male doctor, Mo.
“It was only a matter of time before that happened.”
“It doesn’t look like he’s been struck. Off the record, just between you and me, I despise this man, but I would never wish an injury like this on anybody. Not even my worst enemy. It appears as though he’s sustained a mild cranial trauma. The wound doesn’t look too deep, but his blood pressure is low. We need to send him for a scan.”
“How long has he been out?”
“The paramedics picked him up 10 minutes ago. The call came in about as long again before that, so at least 20 minutes.”
“He’s been unaware of what’s going on for a lot longer than that. But you’re right, he’s just another patient and we need to get him treated. No matter what we think of his behaviour, he’s still a human being and he deserves to be treated with dignity.”
“Where am I?” mumbled the man reaching for his temple. Before he could place a finger on his wound, Teresa took the man’s arm and laid it down on the bed. She held his hand for a moment. Teresa and Mo glanced at each other like two schoolchildren who had just been caught talking about a teacher behind their back.
“You’re in hospital,” said Teresa. “You’ve sustained quite a nasty head injury but we’re going to look after you and make sure it isn’t anything serious. You’ve lost a bit of blood and you’ve been unconscious for a wee while.”
“It hurts,” replied than man.
“We’ll get you some more painkillers,” said Mo shining a light into the man’s eyes. “Follow my finger.” The man’s eyes traced Mo’s finger up, then down, right, then left. “Can you tell me how you did this? Do you recall? What’s the last thing you remember doing?”
“Here we go,” said Teresa opening a packet of morphine. She inserted the syringe into the cannula that had been fixed to the man’s arm while he was in the ambulance. She held the man’s arm down while she slowly administered a small dose of soothing liquid.
“Am I in a public hospital?” asked the man.
“Yes, you’re at St. Paul’s. But we need you to tell us how you hurt yourself so we can determine how best to help you.”
“I don’t know. It’s all a blur.”
“Does that feel better?” asked Teresa squeezing his hand.
“Blood pressure’s stabilising. Vision seems OK. But I’d still like to get a scan as soon as possible,” said Mo leaving the cubicle.
“Come on now, pet. How did you bump your head?” The man looked at Teresa, struggling to focus on her face at first but eventually meeting her warm eyes. He peered down at his hand and became aware of the softness of the doctor’s mahogany skin.
“If I tell you something, will it be confidential?” asked the man.
“That very much depends on what you say. But I would like you to tell me about your head so we can treat you as best we can. Did you hit it on something, or did you fall? And have you had anything to drink tonight, or something stronger?”
“Are you sure that... whatever I say... will be kept private?”
“I can’t promise you that. But if there’s something you want to say that is going to help us make you better, you should tell us. For the good of your own health. I’m listening.”
The man closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. The doctor let go of his hand.