Wuss - it's a wonderful term. It describes someone who in Americanese might be described a pussy. A coward. It describes me when it comes to pain - it's something I just don't do. My pain threshold is zero. Come near me with a needle and you have just turned into Leatherface and your needle is the mental equivalent of a chainsaw.
So What do you do when you find your hand inside a great dane's mouth, whilst he's having a bloody good try at swallowing your fingers in a first rate attempt as a canine meat grinder? Well I screamed and eventually tore my hand out from between his teeth, inflicting some nasty damage to my hand and digits. This is the start of a long story - well actually it's part of the way through a story. But this is Close Encounters of the Wuss Kind... so let's skip to the bleeding, which was plentiful, and the ambulance. I've never been in an ambulance - well not that I can remember. My encounter with... let's call him Snoopy... led to an ambulance being called. As I flexed my torn hand feebly at the medics, trying to stem the claret with some wellplaced paper towels, I realised that not only was this going to require a trip in an ambulance, but HOSPITAL, and even worse - STITCHES.
I do NOT like needles. But the offer of morphine was too good to refuse. They tried to put a canular into my hand which didn't work, I have very fine veins apparently which must be a by-product of my royal genes - and so had my first shot in the arm. Then all was bliss...
Hospital is an interesting place. I was wearing skimpy shorts and a top, and only had thongs on (which in Ozzie means flip flops) and the aircon was turned up to Arctic. I spent a lot of the first two hours in a wheelchair, my bleeding hand propped on a towel, being wheeled from one area to another then left by myself in empty corridors and rooms until someone else, a nurse or a doctor, would come in, look at my hand, mutter something under their breath and leave. I had eaten nothing since 7pm the night before, had been up since 2.30am as I'd been on an early shift, and was starting to go a bit fuzzy from a combination of drugs and sleep-deprivation. My thoughts were that I'd be sewn up and sent home, however there were mutterings of 'admittance' and 'surgery'. -This can't be - I thought - it's only a dog bite - but apparently dog bites can get infected really easily so they often clean them up in surgery. Finally they got fed up of wheeling me round and parking me, so they hooked me up to a canular (long thin needles, dear god) and put me on an antibiotic drip for a few hours.
Luckily when the plastic surgeon saw my hand he decided to patch me up and send me home. I had more needles - he had to inject THE WOUNDS with local anaesthetic. I bravely turned my head away so I couldn't see - and then horrors - he SEWED IT UP. I should probably tell you at this stage that I had a large gash between my third finger and pinkie - the knuckle was exposed - and another gash between my index finger and thumb, whilst my index finger itself had several cuts. Actually it wasn't so bad in the end. The wuss part of me actually handled the whole thing very calmly and I promised myself I would be back at work the following week. The surgeon said there wasn't any nerve or tendon damage so getting back to work shouldn't be a problem.
Wrooooong!!!! Remember I said how easily dog bites get infected? By the Sunday my hand had swelled to the size of a small grapefruit and was looking... let's say 'oozy'. I went back in to have my dressings changed and before you could say Bob or Uncle they'd admitted me, hooked me up to a canular (needles AGAIN) and there were rumblings once more of 'surgery'.
And that's how it went down. My dog bite turned into 3 nights in hospital hooked up to a drip, surgery, and ongoing occupational therapy. I'm still regaining use of my hand, and I've lost some feeling in my index finger. It amazed me how one sad and painful incident could lead to a series of connections with some extraordinary people. The ambulance crew, the staff at the Mater Hospital, in particular the nurses who were all fabulous - who just gave their all and did it with a smile on their faces. The old women in my ward, two of whom were at death's door, one of whom was in her 80's and sat and told me how she'd been captured by Nazis in Poland in the war and been forced to live in camps and work in the ammunition factories. The two lovely occupational therapists who I still get to see once a week. And thank god for the public health system of Australia who only charged me $20 for medication!!
And the dog... well the Mr & Mrs S who owned Snoopy decided that it would be too much hassle to put in a dangerous dog fence, and had him put down. This was not my decision, but I did report the incident to council and that side of it is ongoing and I won't go too much into it here. It was a very sad end to a what has been a strange experience. A month on I don’t have feeling in one side of my index finger and the scarring is still pink and tender. Watch this space for possible further outcome…
To paths less trodden...
As I embark on my journey I'd like to thank everyone for their continued support, your excitement for me as I start a new era in my life, and the gift of your friendship. I'm as excited as a kid at Xmas who has just spotted the big bike-shaped present under the tree! Given the past year, I'm sure I may encounter the odd natural disaster. There'll be drinking, dancing, extreme sports, and possibly even a little romance in amongst treading paths both touristic and off-the-beaten track. I plan on patting every mangy critter I encounter between here and Timbuktu, probably at the expense of my travel partner's sanity and my poor mother's health (Caro, you've had your rabies shots!) I want to climb, swim, fly, trek, ride, meander, ski, dive and raft. I'll probably laugh, cry, get sick, get better, wonder, cringe, be baffled, be awed, be repulsed and be bitten by something (no doubt). Temples, mountains, rivers, deserts, beaches, palaces, canyons, meadows, plains and city streets shall all be trampled by my teeny-tiny hiking-boot encased foot.
I hope you enjoy following me around the world. You know it's not going to be boring.