THE LEG: Episode Three. A return visit to A&E which is suddenly full with trolleys everywhere


I have been inundated with requests to shut up about my leg.

So I will.

After this episode.

Unless it bursts open. Again.

The gash appears to be healing at last.

But getting it dressed requires visiting A&E a place with which I am all too familiar as you know.

Last weekend, much to my surprise, it was the least busy I’ve ever seen it.

That’s not to say it wasn’t busy. It was moderately busy.

But there was nobody in the waiting room on Monday morning. Not one person.

Hard to believe.

So I didn’t expect it to be any different today.

How wrong can you be?

It was bananas.

Waiting room packed. Two trolleys in every cubicle. Trolleys on corridors. Bedlam.

God help them.

And I mean just the staff.

So what has it so busy?

“Everything,” one nurse said. “You name it, we’ve got it here.”
I asked about the new Chinese virus, the coronavirus which has half that country in lockdown.

“DON’T MENTION IT,” was the response.

“There are people who read the scare stories in the papers and that’s all it takes. They think they have it. They may never have been east of Howth, the closest they’ve ever come to China is a spice bag, and they come in here swearing they’ve got the virus.”

  1. I’m paraphrasing.

But there are people out there who pick up diseases just by reading about them.

Did you ever read Three Men in a Boat?

They’re hypochondriacs, the three of them.

And this passage from the book helps to explain why A&E is always as busy as it is…




“It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.

“I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into – some fearful, devastating scourge, I know – and, before I had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

“I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus’s Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too, – began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically – read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.”



Of course, there are plenty of people in A&E who DO need attention.

Like me.

With my leg,

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