District Nurse

It’s been a week since my surgery and I’m due to get my stitches out. The local health centre can’t send anyone, and I’m house-bound. I’m too woozy from my drugs for a solo outing on crutches, so I call the East Coast service and ask for a district nurse. They are mysterious, and won’t give me a name.

I can’t wait to see what horrors are hiding under those dressings! My knee has been so hot I could fry an egg on it. I’m also secretly excited to have something in my otherwise empty diary.

The nurse rings me as I’m having my daily flannel wash. I can barely hear her over the barks of a dog, which sets off another. She’ll swing by later, but when I gently press for a rough time, she says it’s a busy day and will get to me when she gets to me. I apologize in advance for being super slow in getting to the door.

At 4pm, I hear the doorbell. She’s standing at the wrong entrance, a door we never use. I signal to her to walk round to the other side, a feat which isn’t easy with crutches, but I can tell she’s not looking through the glass and is instead staring at her own reflection. I reach the door and once I find the key, let her in. She follows me into the lounge, and plonks herself at the end of my bed.

She slides a blue paper towel under my knee as I gingerly remove the brace and ice wrap. She strips off the dressings like wax strips, and I feel odd. I can see what is happening but it seems like someone else’s leg. She takes out sterilised tweezers and scissors, and prods at the wounds with gloved fingers. I explain this isn’t a routine surgery and I’m not allowed to bend or put pressure on the graft. Her daughter had the same surgery at the local James Paget Hospital. Unlikely, I think – there’s only a couple of specialists doing these meniscal transplants, and I had to go all the way to Rugby. I nod anyway.

I pass her my discharge notes, but she asks me to call the ward. As I call, I take her in – an ashen fringe hangs above her glasses which monstrously magnify her eyes. The district nurse leans on my knee to get a closer look, and the long cut under my knee begins to pucker. I suppress the urge to push her off, and grimace to show her my discomfort.

Her torch is on the blink, she smacks the batteries. She can’t find any stitches. I explain that they’re on the inside, but there might be loose ends to snip. She digs at the skin with the tweezers like a woman possessed, refusing to be defeated. It feels like she’s broken the skin and is poking around inside. I knock back another co-codamol pill.

She’s in a hurry. An incident, which she doesn’t elaborate on, means she is having to retake a health and safety course. I can tell she doesn’t want to go, but she’s annoyed at having to come out to see me first. She can’t find any stitches, and gets up to leave without dressing my knee. She leaves the bag of soiled dressings on the floor, and can’t help dispose of my bucket of syringes. I apologize, although I’m not quite sure why. I notice a pool of sweat below my knee.

To add further insult, she did a shit in my loo on the way out.


Picture credit: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Sybill_Trelawney


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