Heard the one about the man who mistook his iron for the phone? It's no joke if you're the doctor, and as for shifting light bulbs...
Tuesday 17 December 1996
Embarrassment is a very personal thing and often completely unjustified. An iron looks a lot like a telephone so it's an easy mistake to make. Nigel was too ashamed to visit a doctor, but fortunately the wound is healing well and all I could advise was to take the phone off the hook when he's carving the turkey. Or stoking the fire. Or plunging the toilet. In fact, it's probably best not to have a telephone at all, Nigel. Just to be safe.
At school, there was a boy called Jack with no middle finger. He and his father were sorting out a very long string of Christmas lights and, without realising what the other was doing, they each put a plug on their end. Father finished first, turned on, and you can guess the rest. Jack could never talk about his accident without blushing, especially when it came to explaining to the doctor what had happened. Another pupil, Brian, did something even less socially acceptable - he got his penis stuck in a milk bottle - but revelled in recounting the story. For some reason, his mother called the fire brigade and they were very professional, breaking the neck in a non-judgemental manner. Embarrassment, it seems, is far worse if you confess to Dr Foster rather than Fireman Sam.
Doctors are not well-known for their embarrassment-handling skills, as anyone who's tried to ask their GP for a morning-after pill or turned up to casualty with a cotton-bud stuck in their ear will know. Then there's the erection that won't go away, an increasingly common occurrence thanks to the development of intrapenile injections for impotence. Get the dose wrong and you're stuck with a six-hour stiffy which, if not reduced, can turn to gangrene. Alas, the simple treatment for unwanted erections (a sharp tap with Sister's pencil) is no use here - the blood has to be syringed out through a small needle. At times like these, you're thankful for the British obsession with the weather.
Falling asleep with your penis enlarger on is another one to avoid. Vacuum expanders are best used only for short bursts of half an hour or so. Overdoing it can lead to gross swelling of the foreskin and paraphimosis, another medical emergency caused by a foreskin getting stuck in the pulled-back position. Not pretty.
Straying ever downwards and backwards, we reach, in the tradition of all medical columns: St Elsewhere. A colleague has sent me a helpful article from a surgical journal, entitled "The Management of Rectal Foreign Bodies". Included is an exhaustive list of retrieved items that reads like The Generation Game conveyor belt (spectacle case, tobacco pouch, can of Impulse body spray - "You can't help acting on Impulse" - potato, cuddly toy, coffee percolator, etc, etc). Some of the objects are unfeasibly large but the male G-spot is only a few inches up in the prostate. So why use a candelabra when a carrot will do?
The article describes the mechanics of removal, but there is no mention of how to handle the embarrassment. Sniggering in the coffee room simply won't do - you have to acknowledge the whole person as well as the light bulb. And if he says he swallowed it, then so do you. Just don't expect him to vomit it back up.
For those who wish to know how to get it out without causing damage, the author advocates the use of papier-mache strips (remember your Blue Peter?). These are carefully laid over the bulb until it is fully encased. It takes an hour or so to set - you can't just produce one you made earlier - so there's time for more weather chat. Then you crack the outer casing, the bulb smashes and you retrieve every last splinter in one careful tug. Nice work if you can get itn
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