Vicky Ewan: Thumbs up to hospital after trip to A&E

Torbay Weekly

Vicky Ewan, 40-something mother of five, wife of one, and parish secretary/cook:

I found myself sitting in our local hospital A&E department one recent morning, alongside an injured teen - one of my own... I was not playing the Good Samaritan.

He was nursing what we suspected to be an infected wound, inflicted upon his tender skin by the jaws of Miss Pup on Christmas Day.

This was our best guess; my son couldn't pinpoint the precise day, but Christmas seemed as good a pick as any.

Neither could he recall the pernicious act itself, but as she is predisposed to nip him in playful engagement on a regrettably regular basis, it seemed a reasonable assumption.

Thankfully, there is little malevolence in the snap of her teeth; in fact, there is very little snap - a grazing mouthing is her usual gnash of choice.

However, on this occasion, the skin had been punctured.

The wound had suppurated - what a devilishly evocative word - a little and looked slightly raised and red, but essentially covered a very small area; my son assured me it no longer caused him any discomfort.

We were complacent in the knowledge that he had received his tetanus booster just before Lockdown 1: The Original Lockdown hit; nonetheless, on reflection, it seemed prudent to rule out any dangerous infection, so, heigh ho, off the hospital we did go.

10.30am saw us side by side on plastic chairs, he focused intently on his phone screen, my attention pinned to a book - when I wasn't observing the cornucopia of life in my immediate vicinity.

I didn't resent my son's method of diversion, particularly when something amused him to the extent that he was willing to share it with me, but the pull of my novel was fierce - an indulgence rarely permitted at length in my time-sapped life.

Nevertheless, my attention was caught at intervals by a tantalising word or movement from the other occupants of the room.

I cast surreptitious - and not so surreptitious - glances hither and thither, shamelessly inquisitive about the events that had brought our compatriots into casualty.

Perhaps they were wondering the same about my son and me; there was, after all, nothing obviously wrong with the pair of us.

Indeed, I like to think we presented a picture of such rude good health that the waiting-room residents were sceptical about our right to dwell among them.

This impression was, perhaps, somewhat diluted by the occasions upon which I seized my son's thumb to peer closely at it in what I perceived to be a laudably discerning manner.

Inured to my maternal whims, he raised little objection, tolerating my attentions with good grace.

Sadly, it was clear that certain other patients were not similarly unscathed: a gentleman in close proximity, who had entered the premises in our wake, bore the evidence of a recent altercation with something - or someone? - unforgiving.

He was attired in the clothing of an outdoors worker: hi-vis jacket, mud-streaked trousers, and dirt-caked sturdy work boots that were depositing dusty flakes onto the floor  - for which misdemeanour he had the commendable manners to apologise when he was eventually invited into an inner sanctum.

Sartorial observations aside, his injury was gorily fascinating, featuring a mangled middle digit that had effected a gruesome congealment of blood and mud over his hand.

It seems only fair to mention that he was handling what must have been quite considerable pain in stoic silence.

And that, I think, is a remarkable feature of A&E waiting areas in general: the tacit tolerance of discomfort; the quiet sympathy for young parent with suffering child; the acts of wordless compassion that alleviate the distress of others, represented that day by the shuffling of individuals from one chair to another to accommodate the seating of a pair together.

There was morbid curiosity abounding, of course, but there was also a vast quantity of empathy on display, and as my son and I awaited our turn to be seen, I was touched by this humble humanity.

Eventually, after approximately two hours, we were dealt with by an indefatigably cheerful nurse who examined the thumb, showed us pictures of infections that would cause concern, asserted that my son was fine, and sent us on our way with charming aplomb.

As we departed, I reflected that, all in all, it had been a satisfying experience: I had succeeded in reading an impressive portion of my voluminous tome, had been reassured as to the well-being of my son, and had witnessed the milk of human kindness flow.

It's a thumbs up from me.