At the end of last week’s column, we found our hero – me – in his South American hotel room, somewhat thankful that his experience of being mugged had not turned out worse.
Yes the theft of backpack, credit cards and cash was not postcard material, but he found some relief in not being stabbed, shot or otherwise murdered. He had got away with a grazed knee and a slightly painful piece of skin on his sunburnt left neck where the muggers had sought to wrench the backpack.
Horrified friends back home advised that I should not let the muggers also steal my holiday. I kept calm and carried on, like a T-shirt, or is it a mug? Warier than before, and with some antiseptic cream on my neck, but still exploring.
A week later, and with another South American country under my belt, I noticed the thing on my neck had turned into a tiny lump, making shoulder movement a little uncomfortable. A pharmacist offered a cream containing antibiotics. After five days, and nearing the end of the holiday, the cream appeared to be having little effect. The lump, while not yet being dowager-sized, was big, purple, and filling with hardened pus. Sorry, but it was.
I mentioned last week the look of horror PM guests sometimes have at my questions. I saw the same look when I went to a different pharmacy to show them my weird wound. They both gasped and contorted as if I’d asked them one of my questions. This was the first real sign that my little mugging might not be so easy to consign to unpleasant history. When a pharmacist gasps at what ails you, you begin to suspect a paracetamol is not going to do the trick.
It was two more days until I returned home and got an 8am appointment to see a GP. There was little sleep to be had. The thing on my neck was spreading and growing. It had its own postcode. Nausea swept over me in ways I usually only experience listening to Radio 4. The journey to the doc was only achieved with a certain amount of Grandpa Simpson-style shuffling. What the hell was wrong with me?
That look of horror? It appeared instantly on the doctor’s face as I pulled aside my T-shirt to reveal a mountain range Chris Bonington himself would baulk at. He sat down. “You have to go to the hospital right now.” He began typing a note of referral, which I treasure today: “He has an abscess on his left shoulder with possible sepsis as he is feeling unwell. This needs surgical drainage and he probably needs IV antibiotics as…” and this next bit was startling, “…he could be deteriorating rapidly.”
The hospital was three streets away but the doctor advised hailing a cab, advice I ignored. What is it about the human spirit (my stupidity) that soldiers on in the face of all the evidence? I shuffled painfully each baby step I could muster to the hospital door. I still imagined I could still make my optician’s appointment at 10am to replace the prescription sunglasses the muggers had also nicked.
At the hozzie, there were more unguarded horrified looks including, hours later, from a surgeon who said I would need a general anaesthetic and then go under his knife so he could remove the entire mountain range, down to the Earth’s core. I emailed the optician to say I wouldn’t make it. Or I may have done. I couldn’t see a bloody thing.
To be continued…
Eddie Mair presents PM and iPM on Radio 4