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The Other Leg

Posted Sep 01 2011 10:38am
Late evening in the city, where another weekend heads to a close as the world prepares to face another Monday morning. There's a definite chill in the air, a disappointing summer fizzling out as the nights begin to draw in, yet all around people are spilling out of pubs and clubs wearing no more than the bare essentials. The street sweepers are out in force, one of them earning a torrent of verbal abuse for daring to complain to yet another youth for throwing an empty cup on the floor.

Rash and his friends walk away laughing, alcohol and bravado fueling yet more antics until, suddenly, he loses his footing on the edge of the kerb. His leg twists, snaps and gives way, and he crumples in a heap on the floor. The street sweeper sees it happen, yells something about karma and walks away to continue his never-ending litter hunt. 

We're dealing with a drunk no more than ten paces away, another victim of just having a good time and she doesn't usually get like this. Each of us, Dean and I, has one eye on our patient making sure we don't get covered in vomit, and another on the altercation, looking for signs of a fight breaking out. When Rash falls, we're close enough that we see his leg change direction and clearly hear the crack in the bone. 

"Stay there!" I shout. "We're coming." Dean calls for help, asking for a second ambulance.
Unable to move even if he wanted to, Rash lies on the ground screaming in pain. Two police officers patrolling the area hear the noise, which even in the bustling surroundings was out of the ordinary, and come to investigate. The bad timing on their part means they get to stay with the vomiting drunk and her overly exuberant friend.

Dean brings the trolley bed and a splint over, the need to see the injury first seeming superfluous having witnessed the noise it made. Nevertheless, a pair of shears always beats a pair of jeans in the trauma version of "rock, paper, scissors" (where the rock or paper are any item of clothing which may be hiding any part of the anatomy that needs to be viewed directly, in a hurry and with a minimum of movement), and seconds later Rash sees his leg for the first time since getting dressed earlier in the evening. He looks down at his ankle, and instantly looks away.

"Do you think it's broken?" It's more of a last gasp attempt at denying what he already knows than a real question.

"Well, I think the fact that your foot is facing the wrong way and there are two bones sticking out of your ankle would probably confirm that." Ten paces away, as if on cue, our drunken patient vomits for the umpteenth time. One of the police officers sends us a grateful stare, all the more grateful now that another ambulance has arrived to deal with her.

We load Rash into the ambulance, dose him up with some pain relief, and straighten his leg out as much as possible before heading to the nearest hospital. The screams of pain as we pull his leg straight subside once his foots faces front again, entonox and morphine leaving him a little dazed. When I ask his date of birth, he hesitates, looking at his friend for guidance. A shrug of the shoulders was the only reply.

"How old are you Rash?"

"Nineteen."

"And what's your date of birth?"

He tells me a day and a month without hesitation, but when it comes to the year, all he could say was "Ummm..."

"OK, so how old are you really?"

"Sixteen. And a half." And a half. Of course. That makes all the difference.

"And why didn't you want us to know that?"

"I didn't want those coppers to arrest me again. You know, for being drunk under age and all that."

"What do you mean arrest you again?"

"Well, I've already been arrested five times before. I was twelve the first time!" He high-fives his friend, seemingly proud of his criminal record.

"Twelve? What were you arrested for at twelve?"

"Fighting!" Another laugh, and another high-five.

"And you were twelve?"

"Yeah man. I've still got the scars now!"

"And you're proud of that?"

"Well, yeah, why not? But not as proud as I am of something else." He shoots his friend a knowing look, and they both smile.

"What's that, Rash?"

He pulls up his other trouser leg and proudly shows off his electronic tag. "Got this last month, didn't I! All my mates want one now, it's, like, so cool!"

"You know that you'll probably get nicked now anyway, out after what I presume is your curfew time?"

"Oh what? Even if I'm in hospital? Pull the other one, yeah?"

"I already did." 
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