Timmy and the Excessive Solution



This week, what started with a cut on Timmy’s lip ended with his having a midnight surgery in Acutes theatre, staffed by seven sets of blue scrubs. For no serious medical reason. It was just the result of a social tendency I’ve noticed; a near-consistent psychological algorithm: If a person’s time and efforts are acknowledged, they’ll go a lot further for you, and be a lot happier about it.

Essentially, they’ll be willing to light a candle using a blowtorch.

It’s not a manipulative tactic I do to get stuff. (Though I do love it when it happens.) It  just gives me a buzz to see that something I’ve done or said has made someone happier about being at work. It makes a nice atmosphere.

Timmy had cut his lip open on the edge of a table earlier that day. He had a traumatic stitching at the GP’s suite, where he’d almost bucked himself off the table despite two people restraining him (the sedative and pain relief was woefully inadequate, but it was the strongest they carry, as they don’t have recovery facilities for anything stronger), and the stitch had fallen out within an hour, anyway. Rather than try it again, the GP referred him to the hospital, to have it done in the Emergency Department.

Naturally, suturing of a cut that’s not even a centimetre long comes in pretty low on the triage list. We ended up in the waiting area for about seven hours, watching all manner of miserable cases come in the doors to overtake us.

We were eventually seen by a doctor looking harried and grumpy. He didn’t introduce himself, or even make much eye contact—he preferred to look at forms or computer screens—and his manner was brusque, bordering on snippy.

He looked tired.

He looked like I felt. I was tired, hungry, and I had a sore arse from sitting on the ED seats for so long. I’m glad Timmy was manageable. We’d both been without food or drink for nine hours.

Re-stitching Timmy’s lip was not so simple after all. For various reasons—his age, the position of the cut, the busyness of the ER, the triage priority—it looked like nothing could be done for him that night. We’d have to come back tomorrow, Doctor Grumpy said, to catch a maxillofacial specialist who may do it before their clinic hours. Nobody suitable was currently available, as the Emergency Department was fully occupied.

My fatigue was bringing on a headache. I didn’t know what I wanted more, bed or dinner. And this long wait was all for nothing.

I looked at Doctor Grumpy, who was thin-lipped waiting for acknowledgement of the evening’s dismissal.

“Okay,” I said, gathering my things. Then added, “Thank you for your time. I understand everyone here is very busy.”

The tension fell right off his face. His brow relaxed. His grim lips relaxed and twitched into the ghost of a smile.

Then he kindly speculated that, although ED was very busy tonight…the surgical theatres surprisingly weren’t.

Then all manner of graciousness unfolded. He kindly called an Acutes anaesthetic registrar to ask if he would manage sedation for a 4-year-old’s lip stitching.

The registrar kindly arranged for sedation in theatre.

Acutes theatre kindly accommodated.

And within twenty minutes, Timmy was drunk on his pre-surgery medication, admiring the “orange carpet” of theatre reception (it was blue lino)…woozily chatting with friendly surgery staff about the cool ‘spaceship room’ he was going to…then was sleeping under a theatre mask smelling of strawberries, blissfully unaware of getting three tiny perfect stitches.

Although this was the first time I’d been donated an Operating Room for no necessary reason, it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this social tendency at play. Help just tends to happen faster, and be friendlier, when one allows consideration and appreciation for the helper.



(2) Comments

  • Deborah Makarios
    17 Sep 2016

    I am impressed at your cool-keeping. Kiwis like to complain even when we don’t have much to complain about – refraining even when there is something is impressive. And apparently pays off!

    • Eve
      17 Sep 2016

      If it was earlier in the day, perhaps I would have been more assertive. I probably would have at least have asked him to explain why the GP who’d sutured him first had said if it wasn’t redone that night, it couldn’t be done at all, “because by the next day it would be too dry.”
      But by then I was so desperately sore and tired, I just thought something along the lines of, “Whatever, at least I can get out of here. Sure, it’ll scar…but chicks dig scars.”

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