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It is often hard to remember a word if you have no reason to use it; once the concept the word describes becomes relevant to your life, it gets stuck in your memory quite effortlessly. Take ‘clavicle’, for example…

When I found a new job in December, one of its perks was that it involved travelling all over Scotland: in less than two months I visited and revisited places I otherwise wouldn’t get to any time soon, if ever. Everything comes at a price, though…

I love this country. Sometimes, however, it seems as though it is testing how strong my love for it is. As if it maintained that all life is in balance and if I want to get more out it, I must likewise pay more…

Sometimes being underprivileged may be a blessing in disguise: it can help you to put up with troubles more easily, because in a sense you are used to having to put up with things. Used to gritting your teeth and counting your blessings…

There are several ways to write this blog. The cold facts remain the same: last Friday, dozing off in the company van carrying me back from a job we had in Aberdeen, I was suddenly awoken by the vehicle’s swerving to and fro before it ended up on its side next to the A90 somewhere near Forfar. My memories of these few seconds are not too clear; what I do know is that there was certainly no film of my life reeling before my eyes; I simply thought “only not death, please, I can cope with anything else”. Oddly, I don’t think I was much afraid of death; my mind probably didn’t have enough time to really accept the possibility.

Anyway, the next thing I remember clearly is sitting on a window inside the overturned van with my elbows on my knees and my head hanging down. Unless I tried to move my left arm I felt hardly any pain, but breathing was a bit hard and my blood pressure was low. In fact, it felt like many a morning in the past when going into withdrawal after a proper booze-up. Once more my brain seemed to focus on imagining how nice it would be if I could get something to drink, preferably a dram of Scotch and a glass of water to chase it down, and reassuring itself that after so many cold turkeys I would be able to get by again.

People kept asking me whether I was all right and telling me that the ambulance was on the way. I felt a bit ashamed by so much attention, supposing I just had to rest for a while until my blood pressure rose again. At the moment I had no idea that the few drops of blood I saw on my shoes didn’t come from some superficial scratch but from a bleeding wound on my scalp which would later demand five stitches. When some five or ten minutes later the ambulance arrived, I was even able to stand up and walk out of the van’s tailgate by myself, helped by the claustrophobic fear that the alternative was waiting until they somehow took the van to pieces.

They sat me to the ambulance, did some first aid examination and treatment, so that I learned that the pain seemingly in my left arm or shoulder was actually a broken or dislocated collarbone, and drove me to Dundee’s Ninewells hospital, there to be presently joined by a workmate who had been sitting in front of me in the van. Bit by bit I had my scalp stitched, my trunk X-rayed, which confirmed the broken collarbone (or as the slip said clavicle) and discovered a small pneumotorax, had my left hand treated with plasters and steristrips and most of the blood washed away. Later they moved me to an adjacent ward, gave me a better meal than I’m used to preparing for myself, two or three coffees and some more painkillers.

I slept fairly well, considering, and after another X-ray in the morning they decided I was dischargeable. The company sent another van to pick me up, which was mighty convenient: I was positive I was bodily able to make it by train, but my jacket was torn so badly that I didn’t fancy using public transport wearing it. (My workmate had to undergo plastic surgery and to spend there another night, though in the long term he was luckier as all his organs stayed fully functional.)

One thing which kept surprising me was how easy it was to endure the waiting without getting impatient – and I couldn’t even smoke. Maybe I was, without realizing it, a bit in a shock to begin with, and later on in the ward the habit of always carrying my Kindle with me proved more provident than could have been previsaged. On the other hand, finding out I had lost my mobile was a bit dispiriting. Used as I am to loneliness, at that particular time I would have liked very much to text or even call Rob or Tòmas. (I thought up some really funny opening lines but couldn’t use them.) So it would seem only natural that when I finally got home, almost the first thing to do was to email the latter and after he took a photo of me, sling, scabs and all, attach it to an email to the former.

And so here I am one week later, slowly getting better, stuffing myself with painkillers, rather inconvenienced by being virtually one-handed, somewhat uncertain about financial matters, but all in all counting my blessings: I’m alive, there was nothing more serious than a broken bone and a partly deflated lung – and I’ve learned a new word or two. Which latest, nevertheless, I hope I won’t need to use too often in the future.

 

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