I wrote a few weeks ago about embarrassing moments but somehow forgot this one….
I mentioned in the previous article that I was such a country bumpkin that I drank water out of the finger bowl at a restaurant. This is kind of similar.
I grew up in a very strict Catholic family and went to a convent school. South Africa only got television in the mid 1970s and in those days it was not often you even saw married people in programmes in a double bed. I was not allowed to watch Dallas because there were love scenes. So my knowledge of ‘things’ was minimal.
I also come from a small town with no airport, ambulance, escalator or medical specialists. If you had a problem you went to your GP who would refer you to a specialist who would come to our town once a month.
My town used a gynecologist called Dr Kriel. He was a huge bluff Afrikaner who called a spade a bloody shovel and had the most enormous hands I have EVER seen. They were the size of Christmas hams. Not the first thing you want in a gynecologist….He had also been sued for leaving a patient in the stirrups and going off to do something in another room while there were window cleaners outside his window….
Anyhoo, because he travelled to our town once a month or so, he did not have stirrups, just an examining table. So when I had serious problems a few years later that involved a trip to his practice a few hours away, I did not know what stirrups were. So I lay down on my stomach with my legs up the back of the chair and my arms in the stirrups. Like I was doing a swan dive. I thought he would need the…er…. business end to be higher up and that the stirrups were to restrain me.
He came into his examining room, saw me, and thought I was making fun of him because of the woman who had sued him. He started blustering ‘I don’t have the bloody time for this’. But then when he realized I had never seen stirrups before and we both laughed about it. I still laugh about it sometimes because these days you tend to see stirrups on tv in all kinds of shows.
He also saved my life a few years later during a nightmare operation that involved me having an allergic reaction to the anesthetic and almost suffocating, him discovering a tumour and losing an awful amount of blood. As I came round from the anesthetic I had a tube down my throat and I was in the most awful agony but then I heard him booming ‘You scared me woman! That’s tiger territory down there!’ and I saw those giant hams…sorry hands….coming into focus as they gently held my hand.
I had one curved incision from hip to hip and another round my belly button and then from my belly button straight down to just below the hip. Dr Kriel joked that he could have put two little incisions at each end of the hip to hip incision and my scar would be the shape of an anchor. He sounds crass but boy at the time I needed that kind of bluster. He made me feel safe and he didn’t mince words or tiptoe around problems.
I had been particularly scared because my paternal grandmother went in for a tonsillectomy and woke up having been given a mastectomy. On her medical records was written afterwards ‘Wrong Mrs Carr’. Eeek! That is why I have the yellow hospital wristband in this photograph. He wrote what I was having done in BIG letters to make me feel safe.
Thank you Dr Kriel. You saved me and I still smile about the stirrups!