Monday, 9 May 2011

Needling myself

Wednesday 27 October 2010 was the day I acquired a modest, but important, skill: that of plunging a short, sharp needle into my abdomen and then injecting the contents of the syringe attached.

A syringe of 1860.
Apart from the difficulties of keeping such an implement clean, just look how broad and blunt the needle is.
You might want to mention this when someone in your hearing next bangs on about "the good old days".
17th-century dentistry, anyone?

The deliberate infliction of pain and discomfort on myself is something I have consistently made strenuous efforts to avoid, my 25 years plugging away in the legal profession notwithstanding, and so you may guess the degree of keenness with which I approached my new assignment.

I had toyed with the idea that I could find someone to perform this simple but unpleasant task for me, a mixture of practicality and self-respect nudged me towards DIY. 

Better get on with it, then...

The hospital had given me a box of pre-filled syringes and some alcohol wipes with which to cleanse my skin of bugs (whether this was all nasties, or just the 99.9% so sought after by disinfectant producers, I was not sure). The syringes were to be kept in the fridge until needed, another reminder that the clear liquid they contained was a sort of living thing and not an ordinary drug. It all felt quite cutting-edge to one used over the years to your average chalky white tablets and greasy ointments.

I decided that the kitchen, the room in the house with the most natural light, would be the best place to carry out the procedure and so I positioned one of the chairs just so. Next I washed my hands thoroughly and took a single syringe from the box in the fridge and, after placing it on the kitchen table, sat down and rolled up my shirt. I took a wipe from its sachet, unfolded its modest white expanse and-never one to take chances, least of all now-wiped its moist coolness over a far wider expanse of my abdomen than was probably necessary.

Taking the short clear plastic syringe in my right hand, I removed the cap covering the short, stout needle. Having contemplated its modest length and undoubted sharpness for a brief moment I finally put aside all reserve, placed the needle perpendicular to my nervous flesh and drove it up to the hilt through my slightly resistant skin. 

I was pleasantly surprised that the resulting sensation was more modest than when another person was wielding the needle. So far so good.

Now for the object of the exercise. I pressed the plunger of the syringe home. The spring inside the implement ensured, by providing resistance, that this movement was carried out with consistent pressure and at a uniform speed throughout the two inches or so of the plunger's journey.

Relieved when this was done, I kept the plunger depressed as I withdrew the needle. When I released the spring-loaded plunger ingenious catches ensured that the needle receded within the body of the syringe and was fixed in place so that it could not be used a second time or cause accidental injury.

Reminiscent of the noble honeybee that stings once but then must die, the used syringe was consigned to the sharps box with a reassuring clatter. It would joined by four more over the following days.

The sort of syringe I was dealing with: beautifully engineered and, I am told, rather expensive.

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