Hearing an interview on the radio with a doctor who had written a book about his experiences as a doctor in primitive areas of Africa reminded me of an operation that I underwent in Africa nearly 30 years ago.
On a previous visit I had shown the doctor a lump in the middle of my back that my girlfriend was concerned about. He’d said that it was probably a benign cyst and that I should make an appointment with his receptionist to have it cut out.
So, on this occasion I was ushered in ahead of all people in the waiting room, and about a dozen African faces turned to watch me disappearing into the doctor’s office. I reminded him why I was there, and Dr Muir (I think that was his name) showed me into an adjoining room.
“Take off your shirt”, he said.
While I was still unbuttoning the thing he grabbed it from behind, shoved it upwards, wiped the area down with something cold, then stuck a needle into my back. This was clearly somebody who didn’t mess around.
He then grabbed a scalpel and started cutting. I couldn’t feel anything but could hear a fairly loud tjick, tjick noise as the scalpel cut through my flesh.
He hummed a tune as he worked, and then exclaimed excitedly, “There it is; you should see it – it’s the size of a golf ball.”
“Dr Jones, come here and give me a hand.” A young doctor appeared from a side room.
“He’s bleeding like a stuck pig; help me stop the blood. What’s the matter with you: you’re a doctor aren’t you? Haven’t you seen blood before?”
I wished I had a mirror so I could watch the comedy show behind me.
“Look at the size of that thing! Oh shit, it’s fallen on the floor. Now the cat’s got it!”
He was not one to cry over spilt milk. He grabbed a needle, stitched me up and slapped a dressing on the relevant spot.
“OK, you’re good to go. Change the dressing regularly.”
In case anyone is wondering where this little drama took place, it was near the southern tip of Africa in the upmarket suburb of Rondebosch.