I have been an accident just waiting to happen all of my life! It started at the age of 3/4 when I grasped the heating coil of an old electric fire just after it had been switched on. Had I been born a cat I would have probably be on my third x 9 ‘lifetime’, by now. The fact that I was also born lucky is, for one thing, testament to that fact that I am able to write this now but more likely that I have been lucky enough to have the most miraculous medical treatment just when I needed it most.

The hand, well most of the inner hand and fingers were burnt off as the coil became heated. The electric current held me fast to the fire until it was switched off. Not that lucky you might think! Well, how about this then. My podgy little arm was held firm to the metal casing of the fire by the electric current, instead of the electric charge travelling through my body and possibly/probably killing me, it had continued to complete its circuit to the fire via my hand and arm. The upside of which meant that I lived to tell the tale. The downside was that the fire continued to heat the coil to red hot, burning me even more as it heated.

Okay, don’t be impatient; I’m getting to the really lucky bit now!

Unlucky by accident

I was taken to a hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex. There, a brilliant surgeon called Archibald McKindoe, (later made a Sir), had set up a pioneering medical team to rebuild and repair RAF pilots and personnel who had suffered horrible burns, disfiguring injuries whilst on combat duty during the second world war. This was totally experimental and before the age of plastic surgery or the, ‘we can rebuild him-Bionic man.’

This became known as the ‘Guinea Pig Club’ by his patients. This is what the patients of the post wartime medical heroes under Archibald McKindoe and his pioneering medical team really were. McKindoe and his team were reconstructing human disfigurement and terribly injuries with nothing more than their skills and innovative ideas and in the process creating new lives and futures for those seriously injured or burnt with methods never tried in medical history before. Recently, the hospital opened an exhibition centre which illustrates the amazing work that McKindoe and his team did, not just for medical science and those terribly wounded patients but also for pioneering treatments and welfare to help offset the physiological trauma which affected many of the badly injured airmen.

You guessed it! I was lucky enough to be treated by this team of medical heroes who took what was left of my hand and fingers, or I should say stumps, and carefully re-sculptured the entire hand with layers of skin from my postural region. The result of which meant that, in future, I would never be able to say to anyone, ‘does my bum look big in this?’ It took a lot of skin which never quite recovered.

Initially my hand was a tightly clenched fist but after a number of operations over the years gradually the surgeons opened, rebuilt and manipulated it to the extent that now it is a normal hand albeit, a little bit curly and smaller than my right hand. Very few people could ever tell that something has happened to it, (except American airport customs officers who refuse to accept that my left hand has no fingerprints to identify me on their machines and insisting that I keep trying until the prints appear).

This, I believe, must qualify me as a junior member of that exclusive club or, perhaps, at least my being a member of the ‘Guinea Piglet Club’. (I made the Piglet bit up). But, above all, that horrific incident certainly makes me one lucky person, and so far, very lucky to this day and something I will never forget!

This was the start of many unfortunate accidents or episodes that has befallen me throughout my life, but, combined with that rather peculiar habit, I was always fortunate enough not to have something so serious that it could not be repaired by the most incredible and skilled people who, no matter how much damage I did to myself, had the ability to put me back together again-until next time!

I am sure that many people have similar tales to tell and have had the good fortune to have been treated timely and skilfully by the most fantastic and dedicated medical experts we are all fortunate to have in the western world and been repaired, cured, or rebuilt like myself. Sadly, that is not always the case for everyone. Many people in this world, particularly in third world countries, are not so lucky to be as fortunate as us and certainly as me.