Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cactus boy

Marcus had his mate Caleb staying with us last weekend. On Saturday afternoon they were walking Winston, who as usual was off the lead. He’s allowed to chase the rabbits up in Wellesley Park as long as he doesn’t catch any. For some reason Marcus decided to chase Winston, tripped over a tree root and fell onto a large agave cactus. Sigh.

They are the strappy yellow and green type pictured above. I’d never really noticed before but each strap has a 1-inch long spike on the end of it. The spike entered his forearm and snapped off - it was very painful. Elf took him to an after-hours doctor across town. He asked for an ultrasound scan to help find it. The broken end, which should have been near the surface, couldn’t be felt at all.

Sunday passed and on Monday I took him to the local radiologists, but they couldn’t fit him in. On Tuesday I took him back, and they found he had 15mm of spike buried in the muscle, about halfway down from the skin to the bone. The local GP passed on it, and asked us to take it to the surgeon at the Royal, to be done under general anaesthetic. We got in for a consultation there on Thursday. Our appointment arranged by the local GP had somehow not been lodged in their system, so we waited a while and finally saw a junior doctor, the registrar, and two med students, who all thought the whole thing was very interesting. They named Marcus Cactus Boy.

All of that week Marcus was going to school, and I would pick him up for the various appointments. He wasn’t able to write, but he could take notes on his laptop and at least he was there (he has just started high school, and I feel like every day some new things fall into place).

The hospital asked us to be there at 7am Friday, so we attended and waited. We were sent home around 8.30am to come back at 11am, but the phone rang while we were driving, asking us to come back now. When we got back things started to happen. (I’m glad we didn’t have to wait longer as Marcus hadn’t eaten since the night before, and was not even allowed to drink water.)

They cap-and-gowned us both, as I was allowed to come into the little anaesth. annex with him. Elf is thoroughly needle-phobic, and in fact argues that it is the only logical way to be. She was at work, but on her behalf I asked if Marcus could have gas to dull his senses before the cannula went in for the serious anaesthetics. They said no - but they used a local anaesth. cream called Angel which they swore by. I distracted him with a blow-by-blow account of the previous evening’s cricket. Still, the cannula going in felt about the same as the original injury, Marcus said.

Then I was invited to go for a walk, and they said they’d call me when he was out. It took about an hour - they said later that is about as long as these procedures ever take – it was unusual that it was entirely within the ‘muscle capsule’.

I wandered about for a while but I find the environs of the hospital completely charmless and dispiriting. Someone is smoking in every nook and cranny, and across the road the police station and magistrates court host their own nervous and/or pissed-off knots of smokers. I once thought the large public hospital with its pregnant teens and freshly stitched pub-brawlers made an interesting nexus with the courts opposite, with their extended families of dumb, unlucky or plain bad Tasmanians. Now I just don’t want to be there.

Marcus was awake but very woozy when I went in. He felt terribly tired, and a few tears slid down his face, just from fatigue I think. He looked older somehow. He was asking “have they done it? Is it out?” and a male nurse gave us a little specimen bottle with the culprit in it - looking actually pretty harmless. After an hour or so in recovery they took him down to the street in a wheelchair while I fetched the car.

We were home by 2pm. I thought he would just zonk out, but he stayed awake until about 9.30pm. Unfortunately being Friday we had the usual visit from Imp, Ed, Karri and Miah - everyone else has dinner while Ed and I play indoor soccer, then we catch up after, and it sometimes is nearly ten before they are out the door and we can get the boys into bed.

We got a call during the week asking if Marcus would play for Olympia* in a national under-13 8-a-side carnival in Launceston. It’s on next weekend. Because of a school camp, today was the only chance he had to train with them before then, so I took him along with strict instructions to stand out if any activity was hurting his bandaged arm. He threw himself into it just as he usually would. Hopefully in a week’s time I will be able to watch him play without wincing like I was today.

*Now Marcus has finished primary school, the question of where to play soccer is a complicated one. He has been training with Olympia, over the river at Warrane, where some of his friends from Central Region are playing. Central Region, for whom he played rep soccer the last three years, has either been dissolved, or not been dissolved, depending on who you ask.

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