i’m a fucking idiot

We came back from holiday and within about two hours of stepping through the front door I lost a fight with an entire pot of scalding hot coffee.

Hot stuff. Is hot right.

I mean that shit really hurts.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever dropped trou so quickly in my entire life. And then, howling, into the bathroom to spray cool water onto my own legs. After about three hours of me sitting in the bottom of the bath going “no, no, it’s fine, it’s probably fine, ow ow ow” H phoned NHS Direct and they told us to get to A&E like NOW.

To be honest, I think the sole purpose of NHS Direct is to tell you to go to A&E. They might as well call it Your Mother Insists.

So, I have second degree burns (those are the medium bad burns) all the way up one thigh and a little bit on the other. I should probably be pretty miserable about this, and it’s not what you’d call fun, but to be honest I’m just giddy with relief it wasn’t … y’know … any higher.

After a crappy night in the waiting room at A&E they, err, popped the mass of blisters that had formed (this was gross-tastic, I have never felt less attractive, H said – GEEK ALERT – that I looked like a follower of Nurgle) and half-heartedly stuck a dressing over the resulting raw meat that was once my leg. This dressing fell off within about thirty seconds of leaving the hospital. And then they told me I had to go to the burn unit in a hospital in ANOTHER COUNTY.

We live in a teeny-tiny pretend city so we don’t actually own car. And they probably don’t lightly hire vehicles to people with their legs hanging off and suppurating, so we were pretty stuck. Of course, we have friends with cars but none of them are based nearby and it seemed a bit shitty to be ringing people up at four in the morning to demand chauffeur services to obscure towns in south east England.

So this damn place was about 30 miles away (about an hour’s drive) but it should give you some notion of just how crappy the public transport links were that the internet’s best recommendation was to travel into London and out again. In the end, we found a bus. One bus. And, of course, it was bank holiday which meant it was running a couple of times in the morning and a couple of times in the afternoon. In the end, it all came together fine.

Of course, it turned out that A&E had given me every possible piece of information incorrectly – from the ward number to the time I was supposed to be there. But the burn unit were wildly lovely to me, despite the fact spilling hot coffee down yourself is surely an unbelievably stupid way to do huge amounts of damage to yourself. And they were also gratifyingly competent.

I have a follow-up appointment tomorrow (which I am being driven to – thank God, honestly it wasn’t that the bus service was so dire but when you’ve just spent the last hour having someone basically cutting your skin off being jostled up and down country roads in an airless metal box is liable to make one a little nauseous).

For somebody with a grotesquely leaking limb I am feeling peculiarly optimistic. It usually takes about 72 hours for a burn to show its full awfulness so hopefully it won’t be too bad. They have a weirdly liberating attitude to not being remotely brave or macho in the burn unit. They were quite happy for me to yell my head off while they, err, got on with tearing my skin. I wasn’t entirely happy with it but every time I tried to have a stiff upper lip they’d be all “this is the burn unit, you just do what you need to do, sweetie.” I didn’t make much of a fuss but when they cut the first blister I did an unleash an almighty “OH HOLY CUNTING FUCK” followed by “I do beg your pardon madam” because I’m so terribly terribly English.

I suppose it’s natural to be discomforted by pain and distress – I mean, altruistically, because it’s hard to witness the misery of others but also selfishly because it’s hard not think “oh no, what if that was me?” But there’s also the social pressure not to experience, or demonstrate, pain, as if there is some inherent shame in either.

I’m feeling quite zen about pain at the moment. We tried to grab a few hours sleep between A&E and the burn unit and the pain killers they’d given me at hospital had worn off so I just had to lie there in the dark, being in pain. And it got strangely interesting after a while. Pain is so very relative. I mean some pains, like stubbing your toe, are simply unbearable. Or they’re accompanied by other emotional agonies, like the black roar of rage and helplessness and humiliation that comes when somebody beats the crap out of you.

But there comes a point with a not-too-serious burn that the pain becomes strangely containable. It’s very localised. I’m not, by nature, a masochist. I would never choose or seek pain. I can enjoy suffering for someone’s pleasure but that’s not really about the pain. But I’m interested, I suppose, in the depths and complexities of physical sensation. The body can be surprisingly adaptable. I used to have very ticklish feet, for example, but I taught myself how to process the sensations differently, how to enjoy the prickling torment.

And it was strange and … yes … interesting … is the only word I have for it, lying there in the silent dark, carefully exploring a piece of bright pain. Unlocking it like a puzzle box.

angst

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