October 2, 2022

an accident

Jack (it would have to be Jack) ended his day out on the year 7 trip to the hands-on science exploratorium in Bristol in casualty: we had a call from his house master around 2.30 to say he’d got his hand caught in some display and could we meet him at the BRI asap?
turns out he’d been fooling around and got caught off-balance in a revolving treadmill-kind of thing that’s supposed to lift weights through two-child-power – Jack had ignored the notice saying ONLY TWO ON THIS APPARATUS AT ONCE and had joined them inside the revolving drum, only to find that he had nothing to hang on to, so when it started to tip him over he’d reached up and grabbed the lip of the drum, only to find that his hand was being dragged into the gap between the drum and the external sleeve that it was revolving in. his two friends stopped treadmilling when they realised he was caught, but by then his hand was braking their combined weights, and had become completely stuck. nightmare scenario for anyone involved in that sort of thing, of course, and, as far as I can judge, a very efficient team swung immediately into emergency mode, supporting his weight and comforting him as they struggled to realease him without causing further damage. eventually they had to partially dismantle the drum, and his hand was freed, and they whisked him off to A&E.;
by the time I arrived – it’s an hour’s journey – he had been examined and X-rayed and they were awaiting the results. he was in shock, and his hand was seriously contused and bruised, but there wasn’t, it seemed, any serious damage. he had clearly fallen in love with the dark-skinned hero who had supported his weight throughout his ordeal and supplied him with energy drinks ‘to keep his blood-sugar up’ (?) and was beginning seriously to enjoy all the attention.
the X-rays were all clear, but apparently there’s a vulnerable bone in the wrist called the scaphoid that’s very vulnerable to fracture in these kind of accidents and which is very difficult to X-ray properly, so they decided to put his arm in a cast just to be on the safe side.
so now he’s the super-cool dude with his arm in a cast, and he’s milking it mercilessly.
“no washing-up for the next three weeks, hey, dad?”
“hmm, methinks you can still heft a vacuum-cleaner left-handed, dude.”
“awww, daaaaad!”
he was lucky. I shy away from thinking what might have happened. if the drum had been powered, for instance. but he was lucky. if anything, it’s been more a pleasurable experience for him than a painful one. obviously, I’m not denying him his half-hour or so of what must have been very severe pain – but, once rescued, it turned into a fine adventure, and it’s given him tremendous kudos amongst his schoolmates.
I’m sure I’d feel very differently if he’d been more seriously injured, but it seems to me that this is a fair example of a true accident – something that just happens, from time to time, for better or worse. eleven-year-old boys are always going to ignore safety notices and fool around. there is no situation in which anyone can feel perfectly safe. a place such as this one in Bristol – that attracts thousands of children – is subject to a seriously heavy set of meticulously policed Health and Safety regulations. having spoken to the guy in charge this morning, it’s clear that they take an accident like this very seriously – that it has revealed a flaw in an otherwise completely clean safety record which they are going to have to address, but, equally, as I gladly acknowledged, it found that the emergency and first-aid procedures in place against such a contingency worked impeccably.
there’s no question of us taking this to litigation – the boys were horrified at the idea, and it only came up in the course of idle chatter about how differently we behave (it seems to me) than the majority of Americans, who, as far as I can judge, would automatically sue in a situation like this.
I’m very glad we don’t yet inhabit that kind of culture, although increasingly there is lowlife pressure (tabloid-and TV-advertising personal injury lawyers, the appalling example of every film- and pop-star parent) to follow, in this as in so many other ways that reflect a deep distrust, not only of one’s fellow man, but of one’s own humanity. a life without risk, it seems to me, is not a life worth living, and one can’t define well-being as a function of security only, to the exclusion of all that is unknown and unpredictable. shit happens. sometimes the only ones to blame are ourselves, just for being unlucky enough to be there when the rock falls out of the sky.