Emergency Ward 10

Added on 04 December 2008

A couple of weeks ago I hurt my hand. I knew instantly that A) it was bloody sore and B) there was probably a cracked bone in there. However, I'm A) a bloke, and therefore naturally reluctant to give myself up to the medical profession and B) living in Poland, and therefore even more reluctant to give myself up to the medical profession.

The Poles thrive on medical ailments. Everyone in Poland has at least six months sick leave every year. It's expected. There's just no equivalent expression in Polish for It'll be fine. Nor is there one for You'll be all right in the morning. However there are three hundred and fifty-seven different ways to say, Oh my God, you need to go to hospital straight away and a further two hundred and three terms for Well that's it, my friend, I'm afraid you are going to die. And soon.

It is impossible to see a Polish doctor and leave the surgery without a barrage of prescriptions, your leg in a cast or letter of introduction to a specialist in another hospital on the other side of the city. If you go with a headache you're liable to get a full rectal examination. Go in with a stomach upset and get a frontal lobotomy.

No Polish kid gets through any winter without at least six courses of antibiotics. They expect their children to be ill, so they overdress them and fill them up with medicine so that the bugs in their bodies develop immunity, and as a consequence the kid becomes ill more often. A wonderful self-fulfilling prophecy. But it's built into employment code that you're allowed to take about six months off every yearto look after your sick children. The whole economy is based around sick leave. Six months off for your own illness, the other six to look after your sick kids.

The doctors dish it out and the people expect to be given it. They're all barking mad.

So, I was reluctant to hand myself over to these people. Yesterday I did. Thought I'd better get it checked. I have a crack in the knuckle, just a small thing on the little finger in the right hand. So far it hasn't stopped me doing anything. I saw two doctors yesterday. They both looked at me darkly when they discovered that I'd waited two weeks to see anybody. They said things like, Well, it's too late to fix it easily and That's a big job, my friend and my favourite, You're better to have just four fingers than a little finger with restricted movement...

No it isn't!

The final treatment suggestion, which I was given in a hospital on the other side of the city last night at eleven o'clock, was that I needed to spend a night in hospital, they would give me a general anaesthetic, re-break the finger and insert metal pins into the knuckle... He may even have mentioned chemotherapy, lumbar puncture and a colostomy bag, but I didn't hear the end as I ran out of there as fast as I could.

Which obviously wasn't very fast, as I have an injured little finger...