I knew that it was going to hurt. The nurse didn't seem to be that much bothered about what she was about to do though. Was that because she was psychologically pretending it wasn't going to be painful? Or was I expected to "man up"?
I'm sure she had seen and treated much worse injuries than mine but that didn't make me feel any better. It only made me feel worse that she might compare me unfavourably with those previous patients and as a nineteen-year-old male, pride was on the line here.
My leg was swaddled from the top to where my toes wriggled at the bottom. Looking at my appendage strangely projected in front of me on the bed, it could have belonged to someone else as it was so large and alien looking. The throbbing beneath, however, soon reminded me of what lay inside. The outer bandages had been in place for two weeks and had been replaced several times. But the bandage closest to the flesh, which was protecting the 10cm gash just below the knee, had not yet been changed. This ensured the mangled wound could knit together without the scab being prematurely pulled off. (As a result of the leg being squashed rather than slashed, only a few stiches had been possibl to hold the wound together).
As she bent to remove this final bandage, my mind returned to the events that had resulted in my ending up here in Gloucester hospital.
Two and a half weeks previously, I'd been leaning my 250cc BSA motorcycle into the left-hand bend that crosses the bridge over the Stroud Water Canal before disaster struck. Sure in my prowess as a future contestant in the Isle of Man Manx race, and with all the mistaken expertise of an adrenaline driven dare devil, I’d crashed spectacularly on the bend.
It had been a thrilling ride from my friend’s house in Brimscombe in the Cotswolds. The BSA side valve engine that powered my machine, had been rumbling like a locomotive under full power beneath my body as I leant forward to reduce wind resistance to a minimum. I’d imagined myself to be the epitome of a famous racing motorcyclist, lent forward over my roaring beast in an impressive racing position that my Monza dropped handlebars allowed. I had been lying full length across the green shining petrol tank that carried the elixir that fed my bike's appetite, until reality hit.
Perhaps it was this arrogance and my lack of attention to the condition of the road that was my undoing or the critical glance at a fair maiden that caught my eye as I pulled my machine through the bend, but the loose gravel on the surface was to be my undoing!
In slow motion, my previously trusted stead, seemed to gently slide from underneath me. The rear wheel caught up with the front, pining my leg underneath the green shining tank. The grinding metal that had only seconds before been my pride and joy had now become my enemy.
After releasing myself from beneath the considerable weight of the machine, I heaved the bike clumsily from the centre of the road to the side for safety. Embarrassed by the several onlookers who had witnessed my folly, I hastily inspected it for damage. My emotions flooded with relief as I saw little damage to the bike had occurred, only the crash bars were bent at a strange angle and there were a few dents here and there. However, casually inspecting myself and pulling up my trouser leg, I saw a mangled knee that revealed the bone beneath.
Suddenly, my reminiscing was brought to an instant halt, as the nurse ripped the sticky bandage from my leg, one half revolution at a time. Rip, rip and rip again, as the bandage began the removal of the long and dense hairs from my leg, she muttered something about careless young men wasting the hospitals resources. I felt this was unjust and rather focused suitable karma towards the sadistic paramedic who had wound this instrument of torture around my knee those two memorable weeks ago.
I uttered not a sound, pretending it was nothing, but the hairy thing that was finally lying on the floor, looking like a huge caterpillar, was witness to what had been done there.
Of course, time heals all, including the restoration of the hair on my leg, but not the memory of that experience. I think I became a more considerate ridder from then onward as a result and although this happened many years ago, in 1962, I am still wary of anyone wielding a sticky bandage!