Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Most Embarrassing Thing To Happen To Anyone Ever And It Happened To Me

If there is one thing you learn by being a ‘regular’ patient in hospital, it is to leave your dignity at the door.
If you don’t, every time they have to do something unspeakable to you, you will suffer more than is necessary.
For years, I tried to keep my dignity. Difficult when you’re having a barium enema or a colonoscopy.
It was actually in hospital, that the most embarrassing event of my life - and I would suggest if it happened to anyone else it would qualify as their most embarrassing moment too - occurred when I was just twelve years of age.

I had been out in the magnificent Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry for the day, with the Blackrock College scout troop.
We had been building a rope bridge over the river.
And big eejit here, volunteered to climb a tree to secure a rope.
The rope was secure all right.
The branch on which I was standing was no such thing.
It snapped. And I fell maybe two metres landing with a thump on my coccyx - that little bit at the base of the spine which, I am told, used to be a tail.
I managed to hike back to the bus with the other boys.
But once I was home, the pain became progressively worse. And so my father drove me to Stephen’s Green, then the site of St Vincent’s Hospital.
We headed for Accident and Emergency - but our path was interrupted by a doctor, known to my father, who redirected us to a private x-ray facility.
My father was less than gruntled. Now he had to pay even though, in those days, there was no waiting in A&E.
I was told to wait in this little cubicle - and after a little while, a female voice called my name.
I emerged to find a pretty woman, aged about 20 or so and dressed in a kind of green overall.
“Patrick Murray? she asked.
I confirmed my identity.
“I will be doing your x-ray. So. We’ll get ready.”
Now, in those days, boys of twelve were actually boys of twelve, not twenty like today. So I had no interest in this woman - other than being slightly embarrassed by having to deal with her in the first place, by having nobody else present and having to make conversation with her.
“Right,” she said after filling in some form or other. “Into the cubicle, take your clothes off and put on this gown. She handed me a blue gown.
It might as well have been Joseph’s coat of many colours.
Because one phrase was rattling ‘round my head.
“Take your clothes off.”
I wanted to die. I wanted to faint. I wanted to go home.
I went into the cubicle, dazed.
I removed my clothes and put on the gown.
“Are you ready?” she called.
I nodded.
“Right. Up on the table and lie on your back first,” she said.
I lay up on the table and she moved the big x-ray above my head.
“Now,” she said. “Open the gown.”
She said “open the gown.”
I couldn’t believe it. Open the gown.
I closed my eyes and opened the gown.
I lay there. Naked as the day I was born.
Me. Twelve years of age. Naked in front of a woman. And a pretty one at that.
I wanted to cry. I wanted it all to go away.
Then I thought I heard a stifled giggle.
I opened my eyes and saw her with a look on her face that suggested she was a) amused b) surprised and c) terribly sorry for me.
“Ah,” she said with a voice that suggested I was a little bit pathetic.
“You could have kept your underpants on.”

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