writing to heal

Monday Morning Musings #9 – Putting My Oxygen Mask on First (not)

burnThings have been a bit fraught lately, as you know. I’m overwrought and that means I am easily distracted and don’t concentrate. I have flip-flopped back and forth to Stamford so many times that I can do the plane-to-train in 20 minutes flat. I’ve also learned the virtues of rolling clothes and travelling with hand-luggage. I’ve been too busy to notice how this is actually making me feel, physically. But I think I just received my wake-up call.

A week or so ago I was staying at my lovely friend Susan’s in Stamford. Susan, like my mother, keeps her teabags behind the kettle. Behind the kettle, I ask you? So, two days in a row I put the kettle on for my morning brew and got distracted. I reached for a mug. The kettle boiled. I leaned in for a teabag with my left hand. I never use my left hand. And, two days in a row,  I brushed the scalding surface of the kettle with my left forearm. I stood at the sink while the teabag luxuriated in a scummy (the water is hard round there) bath until it grew cold, running my arm under the cold tap. It happened at Susan’s and at my mother’s on my first day there. On the second I repeated the process, just for good measure., Only this time my arm skimmed the steaming spout.

“Frozen peas!” exclaimed Susan.

“What a twat!” I moaned, my head in my hands, my arm on the peas.

“Burn plaster!” exclaimed Susan, who leapt into action again. Who’s heard of burn plasters? The burn was slightly larger than the plaster but nevertheless it stopped the agony and I got on with my day.

Two days later I brushed the skin beside the plaster with a fingernail from the other hand (no idea why, but hey, it happens and it happened a few second after my mother fell off an into a high bar stool, by the way) and a piece of skin tore away. The agony resumed. I ignored it. That evening I sat down with Susan and a take away pizza to watch England lose the semi-final to Croatia. After the match I suddenly realized how much my arm hurt. Nurse Susan leapt into action once more and led me to the kitchen where I bravely peeled away the burn plaster. What met my eyes was a plum-sized patch that resembled uncooked fatty mince.

Nurse Susan raced off for special cream and special gauze and bandages while I leaned against the kitchen counter and felt a bit weird.

I don’t think I’ve ever fainted. Not passed out. Not had concussion. I’m not remotely squeamish and when Ian shuts his eyes and puts his hand over them for good measure during an episode of Holby City I laugh.

But when Nurse Susan took control of my left arm my mind decided to go awol. I felt dizzy. I could hardly hold my head up. My ears began to drum as if I were underwater. The world tuned out. Whatever Susan said from then on I did not hear.

A paper bag appeared at my mouth.

“Breathe in and out!” commanded Susan.

I obeyed.

I recall that it was then I began to moan. To wail with a guttural sound I did not recognize. I was terrified. “What’s happening?” I asked repeatedly.

Susan led me back to the sitting room and sat me on the sofa with a chocolate biscuit and a cup of tea (how on earth she do that without an accident?). When I looked down I noticed my arm was bandaged from wrist to elbow.

“You fainted,” she said. “You went grey and floppy with big black rings under your eyes. You were cold and clammy.”

“But I’m not squeamish!” I declared, realizing that maybe I was after all.

“And you are going to the surgery tomorrow to see the nurse.”

“But I’m not registered here!”

“Just go!”

So I went and got an emergency appointment. Nurse Susan had done a sterling job apparently.

The next day, bearing a massive pink surgical burn plaster that I was not allowed to remove for four days, I visited my friend Nadine, who recently returned to the area. We had a great catch-up but when I got home she had sent me a stream of text messages reminding me to look after myself, to ‘put my oxygen mask on first’ and to slow down.

This, it seems is the message that is coming at me repeatedly in all the messages and emails I am getting daily from friends all over the world who are concerned about me during this difficult time with Pa.

I keep a pack of Angel Cards in the loo (like you do!) and regularly pull a card with my ‘message’ for the day. Almost every day I get the same one. It reads:


Okay, okay, I get the message. But I think I’ll stick to cold drinks for a while.

1 thought on “Monday Morning Musings #9 – Putting My Oxygen Mask on First (not)”

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