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From an old Website 'Alien in Montreal'


So I'm washing up. This is something I must have done, oh at least 1,000 times or more. And I'm surprised I haven't cut myself before actually. Think about it – a sink full of sharp knives and glasses. Not a very safe thing to be plunging your hands into, really.

So Boreale is a type of beer over here in Montreal, and they give away free glasses every time you buy 12 bottles of their 'finest'. Needless to say, we have a cupboard full of them. But now I suspect that they aren't the finest of quality glasses I've ever owned, as they tend to spontaneously explode if you look at them at them from the wrong angle.

Splish, splash, wash-wash, I pick up a Boreale glass and it just falls apart in my hand, and slices, neatly, a large chunk out of my middle finger. 'Oh shit,' I say, as blood fills the sink. Hmm, that's curious I think, it's bleeding quite a lot. So I look and there's a big gaping chasm in my finger, pumping out blood. I can see organic white nodules and other such things that normally stay inside your body.

'Aagh.' I say, and run to the bathroom, spurting blood all over the cupboards, floor, carpet, and finally toilet and wall. I apply a wad of toilet paper and press, trying not to get blood on my new jeans.

Now is the time that I realise a couple of things:

1. I have no idea where to go in an emergency in Canada. 2. I should really have gotten around to getting my medical card.

After five minutes I figure the blood will have stopped, so take off my wad and am disturbed to find that it's still pumping out at full flow. I decide that it's fairly serious and that I'd better do something. I apply new tissue and bind myself up with sellotape (we don't seem to have any first aid in the house for some reason, apart from peroxide and woefully small plasters).

I decide to call my wife to ask advice about clinics and emergency rooms and so forth. But she has her phone turned off at work, so I decide to send a text message via email. It reads something like this.

Urgent. Call me as soon as you get this. Important.

I re-read it a few times and decide that it'll frighten her to death, sounding like a major trauma has occurred, so modify it like this:

Urgent. Call me as soon as you get this. Fairly important. xxx

And send it.

I'm now bleeding through my tissue, so change it and think that I can call my mother-in-law, who was a nurse, and might know some things. So I call her and she tells me to go to a clinic quite nearby that she knows, I take the address and struggle to put on my shoes and coat. I'm about to leave when I notice all the blood.

I have an image of my wife running home after getting the message and finding an empty house, covered in blood. She'd probably panic. I know I would. So I mop up all the blood and send another text message. I try and make this one calmer:

Have gone out to find a clinic - I cut myself quite deeply washing up! Wish me luck! xxx

And I leave. The place my mother-in-law told me to go turns out to be a pharmacy. I enter anyway, they're full of vaguely medical people I suppose. I go in and wave my bloody finger at a poor girl behind the counter. Her eyes widen and she sends me to the back of the shop. At the back of the shop everyone looks worried and tell me to go to a doctor.

'Yes, but where?' I ask.

'Why, the doctor next door.' They say.

Ah, so there is a clinic here, I just didn't see it. So the clinic is closed, but I go in anyway. The receptionist tries to stop me with a verbal assault as I walk in, saying such things as 'closed', 'go away', 'tomorrow' and such like. I wave my bloody finger at her and she stops talking. I'm in no mood for trying to speak in French, so tell her I only speak English. She seems upset at this.

'You only speak English?' She says, rolling her eyes, and then, 'You want to see the doctor?'

'Yes please,' I say.

I wait half an hour. The man sitting opposite me stares at my bloody finger the whole time.

Eventually the doctor arrives and looks at me. 'What's wrong?' He says.

I wave my bloody finger at him.

He peers at it, 'Hmm.' He says, 'Do you have your medical card?'

'No, I'm a new resident, they didn't give it to me yet.' This is true.

His attitude changes now. 'Oh, then I can't help you.' He then tells me that if I want to pay, then he may be able to do something.

I don't have any money. I tell him this. He shrugs and gives me a bit of paper, 'You should go here, he says, they will probably help you, even for no money.'

He now looks at my finger and says, 'You should take this ring off,' Pointing to the ring on my bloody finger, 'that should be your first priority, taking that off. If your finger swells up, you could lose it!'

'I can't get it off,' I tell him, 'whenever I take the bandage off it bleeds to much.'

'Well then, you should go to a jeweller and have it cut it off.'

I can't believe I'm having this conversation, so just turn and leave. I'm actually quite upset at this point. Emotional, I'd say. When you want help and people who could give it to you turn you away, it's upsetting.

I would like to share this feeling, caring doctor's identity with you – Dr. Robert Beaudoin, of the Clinic Medicale Aylwin, Hochelaga Road. May he be refused medical help when he needs it, because he doesn't have the correct card.

So I walk for ten minutes, feeling sorry for myself, in what I thought was the correct direction, then I'm all lost, and it takes me forever to find out where I'm supposed to go. And it's cold and my finger hurts and I can't find a taxi, and don't have change for the bus. So I walk and walk and walk for maybe 45 minutes until I get to Rosemont Hospital, and eventually find the Emergency Room, after wandering around the hospital for fifteen minutes, lost (after entering the wrong way).

Everyone is nice in the hospital, you just have to wait a long time. I explain the situation with my card to the girl at the desk, and it's not a problem. I hand them my residence card and they take that instead. In a few minutes I'm waiting with the rest of the ill world in a peeling 1970s time warped room.

I hate emergency rooms. They're full of sick people. Although, the majority of people there looked fine. I began to wonder what on earth they were there for. Sick notes?

And then there are the coughers. There is actually a part of the waiting room set aside, with barriers around it for all respiratory illness-suffering-people, along with cold and cough-ees. But does anyone use it? No, of course, they'd rather sit amongst the rest of us and cough, and hack, and sneeze and sniffle and spread their nasty illness to everyone else.

So I sit for an hour or two, breathing in various pathogens and trying to read and listen to the PA at the same time until my name is called for a particular door.

Inside is a doctor, who smiles. I give him my id and he looks at me. I tell him that I don't speak very good French, and he asks me what language I speak. I figure my accent must be getting better if people are stopping to guess that it's English.

'So, what's the problem?' he says, finally.

I laugh, thinking he's joking, but he isn't. I wonder if he can't see my blood soaked tissues on my right hand. Just in case, I hold it up and say, 'This.'

I take off the wrapping and blood starts to gush again. He takes my hand and presses, very harshly indeed, on my finger.

'Does this hurt?' he says.

Of course it bloody hurts, I want to shout, but instead say, 'Yes, quite a lot.'

'Hmm. Does it feel like there's any glass in there when I do this?' He begins to press and rotate his thumb, as if playing Gran Turismo.

'Agh, I'm not sure.' I gurgle.

'Okay, I'm going to wrap it up tightly to stop the blood and then we'll send you to triage for some stitches...' He pauses, and then says, 'This might hurt...'

Back in the waiting room, little has changed. The doctor warned me that there was a two hour waiting time for triage at the moment. I read my book and waited. After an hour or so, my wife appeared, frantic, imagining lost limbs and the like. I had left another message explaining that I was just waiting for a couple of stitches, but this didn't reassure her as much as I thought it would have.

So we wait four hours more, surrounded by weirdos, idiots and sick people, before being called into triage.

We wait another fifteen minutes and then another doctor appears, looking like a gringo-mexican-cowboy, somehow. But he's nice and professional and soon we have a table full of knives and needles, a big lamp, and lots of green cloth everywhere.

'Okay,' He grins, 'we're going to clean it up a bit first.' He then splashes some kind of pain-inducing liquid all over my wound, causing me to pull faces seldom seen before.

'Now, I'm going to give you some lidocaine to numb the area. This is going to hurt. It's the worst part.'

'Oh right,' I say, and then add, foolishly, 'it's okay, I don't mind injections.'

Never again will I say such a thing. It did hurt, and seemed to go on for a terribly long time. But, I kept my lip stiff and didn't say anything.

I must say, lidocaine is great. My finger ceased to exist in just a few seconds and I watched in fascination as a large curved needle was pushed roughly through my skin, like sewing leather.

'Four stitches.' He said, as he finished and threw all his bloody rags into the bin, 'take out the stitches in seven to ten days.'

A nurse then came in and applied a rough-and-ready bandage to my finger and we were on our way home, at midnight.

Poor me.


Bandages Off

I was all for taking the bandage off the next day, but my wife insisted on calling some kind of Medical Helpline, which advised against it. Faced with such medical opposition I had no choice but to comply. The full advice is as follows:

1. Leave bandage on for two days. 2. Don't get it wet. 3. Don't stretch your hand.

So, last night I got to take the wrapping off, in a kind of perverse xmas mood, fully expecting my gift to be rotting flesh and a putrid odour. But no, all was fine and a blotchy kind of pink. Some swelling, but not too much. The new advice from the Medical Helpline:

1. Don't get it wet for a week. 2. Don't stretch your hand. 3. Don't go outside without sterile gauze on it for a week.

So, no washing up for a week, and showering with my arm above my head too.

When I told my father about my accident he paused, thinking for a moment and then said, 'Well, I suppose you'll have trouble wiping your arse then?'

For info, one day I got a massive medical bill from the hospital. As I didn't have my card, even though I was a resident, I had to pay.