Thumbs down to a lengthy sojourn on A&E

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How highly do you value your thumbs?

This time last week, I’d have said, not very. Not compared to an arm or leg, let’s say.

Sure, they come in handy for texting and picking things up I guess, but otherwise the outermost digit doesn’t get much thought.

Science-bods would probably have a higher opinion of the pollex. Attenborough, Cox and co are forever excited by talk of opposable thumbs and such like, but personally I’ve always thought of them as bit of a ‘meh’ body part. That was until I temporarily lost the use of one after a badly timed catch on the netball court. Having played since childhood, yours truly is used to a few bangs and bruises, but the sickening crunch that came from my hand did, I must admit, slightly worry me. Fast forward 12 hours, and the neighbouring finger had also given up, coming out in swollen sympathy for the badly bruised thumb.

A quick call to 111 - no, I haven’t been to West Africa, and no I don’t think my thumb has Ebola - and I was on my way to hospital with a suspected break.

This was to be only my second visit to accident and emergency. Not a bad record in almost three decades. Here’s what I remember from the first visit: waiting, daytime TV, more waiting, and the strangest group of people I’d ever seen. Oh, and a healed body part by the time the doctor arrived.

Much is said about waiting times in hospitals, but you have to feel sorry for the doctors and nurses working those shifts.

We really are a clumsy lot. During my three hour stint in the waiting room, I overheard a trainee chef talking about how she’d sliced her hand open, a builder who’d tripped on some rubble and broken his leg, and a cyclist who’d fallen off her bike when she hit a curb. What a sorry bunch. And there sat I in the middle of the bleeding groaners, feeling much better after resting my offending digit for a few hours.

When I was finally seen by a very polite and apologetic doctor, it came as little surprise that I was suffering from no more than a badly sprained tendon. There may be a very small break, but bruising, swelling and a little discomfort was the worst I could expect.

She was sorry to have kept me waiting so long. I was sorry to have wasted her time. And more sorry about the bunch of misfits she still had to see. Something told me they wouldn’t be giving her the thumbs up.