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Saturday, April 20, 2024 at 4:51 AM
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I still don’t like needles

A STORY WORTH TELLING
I still don’t like needles

“But the mere sight of a needle makes me pass out, I can’t even knit!” 

— Mrs. Betty Slocombe’s character in the 1977 film “Have You Been Served.”

“On a scale of one to 10 …,” the nurse began.

“Pain? About a one or two,” I responded. “On the stupid scale, about an 87.”

“Accidents happen,” she said politely.

I nodded. Maintaining a death grip on the kitchen towel hastily wrapped around my finger as I headed for the ER. After the unfortunate encounter with that power saw.

“Pressure on the wound.” Distant voices from Boy Scout first aid training. Sometime during Dwight Eisenhower’s second term.

The exam room was silent, save some medical sounds like those heard on TV doctor shows. A blood pressure cuff tightening and releasing. Beep, beep, beep beside the bed. Assuring that I still had a heartbeat.

The nurse methodically placing various medical apparatus on the tray beside me. Enough for a major organ transplant.

“I don’t think it’s that bad,” I offered. “I’m just here as a precaution, you know.”

“The doctor will see you in just a few minutes,” she said politely.

I nodded again. Alone for a few minutes with silence to savor, questions crossed my mind.

Things like, “when was the last time I had stitches in an emergency room?”

My racing mind was quick to respond.

“It was that warm summer afternoon at your grandparent’s home in Pittsburg,” it whispered. “Before you entered first grade.”

Summer days spent with my father’s parents as a child were good times. Great memories.

Granny lived in Pittsburg in the same house from 1930, until she died in 1993. That likely had something to do with why she had lots of friends.

Mrs. Martin was one of those friends. She lived on a street somewhere south of the old downtown depot. Over toward what I remember everyone calling the box factory.

Granny and Mrs. Martin enjoyed coffee together. On the afternoon that came to mind, Mrs. Martin’s grandson was visiting. Lucky for me. I was rescued from listening to their coffee chatter. Sitting quietly in a house adorned with ornate little knickknacks on every table. All arranged on crocheted white doilies. And looking at Mrs. Martin’s shoes. Black lace-up shoes with thick high heels. What I called “old ladies” shoes.

“You two be careful,” the grandmothers harmonized. And we dashed out the door.

As I recalled the rest of the day, my newfound friend was the good guy for a game of cops and robbers. I was the bad guy. Fair enough. We were on his turf.

Roles established; play time was on. In the 1950s, kid-type make believe. Shooting at each other with trusty pistols that were always with us. Three fingers rolled into the palm, the thumb stuck up for the hammer and the index finger pointed to resemble the barrel. Shots mimicked with lots of loud “pows” and “p-pings.”

I hid beside a car in the driveway, confident I had found temporary cover from flying bullets. That’s about the time law and order got the drop on me. Literally.

From out of nowhere, something landed on the back of my head. I was hit. The renegade outlaw was down. Crying his eyes out. Blood everywhere.

Grandmas to the rescue. Granny took me to Pittsburg’s M&S Hospital on Quitman Street. The old white 1940s structure with hospital rooms on one side and doctors’ offices on the other.

“Let’s have a look at that,” said Dr. Reitz.

Percy Reitz was a World War II veteran physician who saw me often during summers spent in Camp County. Our relationship began in 1948, when he delivered me into the world on a cold January night. Snow was falling, so I was told.

He had a deep, husky voice. Primarily professional. Not much chitchat. Medical treatment often delivered while smoking a cigarette. An ashtray sitting among the medical paraphernalia. It was the early 50s. Everybody smoked. Everywhere.

“Hold him tight, Mizz Aldridge,” he said. “I need to stitch him up, and he doesn’t like needles.”

Dr. Reitz knew me.

Granny got my attention with promises of an ice cream cone from Lockett’s Drug Store and a trip to the toy store down by the post office. She then embraced me in a bear hug that would have rendered even Walker Texas Ranger immobile.

I was snapped back into 2024 when the ER doctor came in. Whisked away from memories of the last time and the only other time I’ve required emergency room stitches.

“That’s gonna need a few stitches,” he said, assessing my self-inflicted damage. But you’ll be fine in no time.

“Stitches on my left gun barrel, huh” I chuckled.

“What’s that,” the doctor said? “Aw, just on old memory,” I said, rubbing the scar on the back of my head.

“Just don’t hurt me, Doc. Granny’s not here to hold me. And I still don’t like needles.”


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