medical (2)

When I was about seventeen I saw a film 'Blowup'. The plot doesn't matter too much but basically it revolved around David Hemmings playing a freelance photgrapher in London during the sixties.

Within the first ten or fifteen minutes he'd snapped a few pictures of some old doorways, rolled up back at his warehouse-converted-to-photographic studio in a nice open topped E Type Jag. He's intercepted by a twenty year old Jane Asher and some other just as fit chick who want him to take their piccies. Five minutes later and they're all rolling around naked in the background paper.

Ah ha, I thought. That's the job for me.

So, about ten years later (but not much wiser) and after a few other jobs I packed everything in and hiked myself off to study photography. That took a few years but I'm proud to say that I passed out top of my class. Clutching my certificates I applied for a few jobs and finally took one in the Department of Medical Illustration at a nearby hospital. I specialised in burns and reconstructive surgery and probably the least said about that the better.

The main reason I took that job apart from my open hearted and completely altruistic desire to serve my fellow man was because the current Head of Department was just a few years away from retirement.

Two and a half years later I'm screwing my nameplate to my office door. Master of all I survey.

I'd persuaded the hospital to spring for a new purpose built department and to doubling my staff. Studios, Seminar room, darkrooms, offices and enough equipment to stock a fairly large camera shop. The world was my mollusc.

But, the higher you get the less you can do. I enjoyed my photography, an interesting gallstone was the highlight of my day and a good traffic accident was worth it's weight in gold.

"What's that you say? A new ampoule that snaps at the top without putting powdered glass into the medication? Bring some 'round and I'll immortalise it on film."

Even collaborating on an article in the BMJ called 'The vascular features of plexiform neurofibroma with some observations on the importance of pre-operative angiography and the value of pre-operative intra-arterial embolisation' held a certain fascination for me.

As those on here who have worked in the medical field will know, you do develop a rather odd sense of humour. It's a way of escaping from all the blood and body parts I suppose. I remember being called to the shock room to discuss a pretty messy amputated foot and what could be done. There it stood on it's drawcloth, one foot ripped off about six inches above the ankle.

Consultant surgeon "What do you think?"

Bernie "Have you ever seen one of those elephants foot umbrella stands?".......Sorry, it was the first thing that came into my head.

Trying to stick it back on would have been pointless. Six months later somebody has his arm ripped off and they flew him in by helicopter. TV cameras everywhere, Consultant running around under the rotor blades like Hawkeye Pierce. There was no chance at all that it could be reattached successfully. But, it got the Consultant on the news.....I was starting to get disillusioned.

Doctors were starting to come first and patients second. Bernie had a pretty bad accident that mangled up my left hand and left one of the fingers mostly hanging off.

Roger (Consultant surgeon) "Lucky we have that new microsurgery unit. We can try to reattach the nerves."

Bernie "Amputate it."

Roger "I'm sure we can keep a good blood supply too."

Bernie "Cut it off."

Roger "You may have some numbness afterwards."

Bernie "Let's cut it off then."

Roger "Just sign these consent forms."

Bernie "To cut it off?".

I woke up still with a full complement of fingers. I still can't use it. A wooden peg would be more useful, at least I could stick sewing needles in that.

I began to dislike Roger more and more. He always stopped for coffee in the morning but never contributed to the coffee fund. His teeth looked too big too.

He asked me to trot up to theatre to take pictures of something or other that he'd found inside some poor sod on his table. Bernie gets his cameras together, goes up, gets changed into his greens and turns up ready to go to work.

Roger "You took your time."

Bernie "I stopped for a pizza."

I was beginning to hate Roger. I engraved his name on a .303 rifle cartridge and kept it on my desk as an ornament (right next to the silicone breast implant I used as a paperweight). When he walked into my office (without knocking) he picked it up and didn't seem to even see his own name on there.

I was just pulling into the carpark one morning at about 6am. Still pretty dark and nobody around except Roger, grinning and waving at me. I put my foot on the floor and headed straight at him. He dodged off between two other cars, still smirking. His face was all horse teeth. He thought I was joking.

Aaargh. My fingers must have left dents in my steering wheel, I'm pretty sure my eyes were bulging out of my head. I was out of the car like a shot and rooting in my boot (trunk) for a tyre iron. I'd fix the b*stard. I could see myself standing over his twitching corpse slamming him around the head with my lovely tyre iron.

"Reconstruct that you f*^$'ing *&%@?".

He'd got inside the hospital through a keyed door and my keys were still in the car. When I got to my department he was standing there drinking coffee.

I resigned before my face was on 'Crimewatch' or 'Britains Most Terrifying Photographers'.

Running my own business in fashion, advertising and glamour photography was much more fun. Somewhere along the line I seemed to have aquired a moral sense and so there wasn't as much rolling around in the background paper with the models as I'd anticipated when I was seventeen. That's probably for the best though.

I think what I'm trying to say is that if you don't enjoy doing it then don't do it. Life's too short.