Friday, 17 June 2011

17: Boils and Blood

Boils had begun to break out on my neck and round my chin, so I decided to go to the sick bay which was run by an American surgeon who had survived the sinking of the U.S.S Houston, also a sailor who if I can recall correctly, was named Schofield from the same ship - the surgeon’s name evades me. I showed them my boils and explained the problems I had experience with my hands and legs. They had nothing with which to treat me, other than a mild disinfectant with which the sailor bathed my boils. I was told to let them heal themselves, but must try to keep them clean. Apparently they had done some amputations of toes and fingers that had become affected with the iron ore dust. I still had my bandages, so wrapped these round my neck to keep it clean at work.

The journey home from work in the dark with some of the men at the front walking at a much faster pace, had a purpose I discovered. On the way to work they would take not of any fish hanging to dry outside the houses, or anything else about that was edible, then steal some on the way back. Their mates following behind, would wait at a slower pace giving them time to do the stealing before anyone else caught up with them, they would then have a share of the spoils when back at camp. The searches were not regular, if the guard Sergeant was not about, there wouldn’t be one. I assumed they thought we were unlikely to steal iron ore.

The boils on the front of my neck and chin had healed, but I was now having trouble with the back of my neck. This gradually worsened, so after two weeks I went back to the sick bay, I was told the whole of the back of my neck had lifted and there were six holes where pus was oozing out. They opened up the holes pressing down to get all the pus out, then fed strips of bandage into each hole leaving the ends hanging out so they resembled wicks. I was to return each day to have them changed and my neck cleaned.

This went on for two weeks, after which, on the next visit, the surgeon told me he had nothing to give me to cure my problem, explaining my condition was caused by diet we were existing on, mainly the lack of green vegetables and fruit so therefore could see no cure. He went on to say he had attended a survival course in the U.S. Navy and remembered being told of a drastic way, where no drugs were available, that might effect a cure. It would involve taking half a pint of blood from the artery in my right arm as quickly as was possible and putting it into the cheek of my bottom which had small blood vessels and could be absorbed more easily. This must be done before the blood had time to cool. If this did happen, the blood would congeal and possibly kill me.

If successful, the result of this swift operation would be a sore and aching seat for about three days. I agreed to take the risk. We then had a little chat, he explaining I would have to stand up ready with my trousers down whilst he drew blood from my arm as no time could be lost. “Was I frightened of needles?” he asked. He also pointed out that drawing my blood out in such a large quantity, would have a mental effect on me but on no account must I feel faint or want to sit down.

The syringe was warmed and put into the artery of my right arm, it was a very thick needle. I began to feel my strength ebbing but remembered what I had been told. As soon as the syringe was filled the surgeon and his assistant got behind me. I felt a jab as the surgeon began emptying the syringe, whilst the sailor massaged my bottom to distribute the blood. At last it was over, I was warned to keep walking about and to eat standing up, the walk to the mine should help.

In the ensuing days, I continued to have my neck treated, this slowly improved and eventually healed. I had no further trouble regarding blood disorder and the soreness in my bottom went after five days.

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