To the Point: Stone mad for wearing masks

PUBLIC enemy number one came in the form of a jagged, stubbornly attached and brutally painful 8mm kidney stone deemed far too large to pass through the narrow 4mm tube available on a route certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Given the measurement imbalance and the little matter that eight into four doesn’t usually go, I imagined the services of Isaac Newton himself or even the brilliant rock and roll scientist Luke O’Neill would probably be required to determine a practical extraction method.

But where there’s a will….

And so, Covid checked and cleared 24 hours in advance, I presented myself for admission at the surgical ward of a hospital – not in Kerry – where one of the country’s great urologists awaited, scrubbed and gowned to boldly go where nobody had ever gone before.

It was, I was assured beforehand by the charming anaesthetist, merely a routine, straightforward, everyday procedure but a general anaesthetic was still required – for my own good.

Probably opting to spare me the knee-crossing anguish the specifics would bring, no great detail was volunteered so a quick check with Dr Google briefed me on all I needed to know.

Furious and quite horrified by the hospital encounter, I’ve been on an almost frenzied mask watch alert in Killarney since then

Don’t mind what the medical professionals will tell you, Dr Google is great. And there’s never a fee or a packed waiting room. But, on this occasion, I wish I hadn’t checked, given the rather delicate matters to which it referred.

On discharge the following day, there was one lingering issue that remained to be tackled – the procedure didn’t work. The Rock of Cashel was still welded to my right kidney for no other reason than eight into four still didn’t go, unless a little help was provided to facilitate a second attempt at another time. And the less spoken about that the better.

With the procedure rescheduled for six weeks later, it was a case of second time lucky and although success brought with it a share of discomfort for a week or so, the nasty 8mm boulder had been blasted, in little pebbles, into oblivion.

I have the photographic evidence to prove it, courtesy of one of the theatre team’s uncanny knack of being able to double job with a sharp surgical instrument in one hand and a smartphone in the other.

I share this tale of personal woe for a particular reason and it is this: In the days before admission for the elective procedure I was instructed, in writing once and by telephone on three occasions, to wear a face mask on my arrival at the front door of the hospital and not to remove it, at any stage, until told that it was safe to do so.

The security man at the door wore his, the lady behind the admissions desk did too and all along the long and winding corridors, and right through to the next day’s discharge, almost every member of staff was adhering to the golden rule.

I say almost because there’s always one. In every facet of life, there’s always a rebel that will go left when told to turn right and stand up when advised to sit down.

Masks and gloves were available free of charge everywhere in the hospital

This particular member of staff, who was a regular visitor to the ward and a familiar sight on the corridors, obviously felt it was perfectly adequate to have the mask dangling from one ear or tucked in under the chin.

“Would you not wear the mask properly?” I enquired.

“I hate them,” came the fast as you like reply, “they’re very hot and itchy”.

“Might be better to be hot and itchy than ending up in a bed with more serious matters to concern you,” said I.

“Yerra,” came the retort, “I could be killed by a bus crossing the road and what good would a mask be to me then?”.

The point of it all was obviously never going to be grasped.

The said staff member’s supervisors were either entirely oblivious to the situation or there was nothing they could do about it but it was hardly acceptable that anybody could be let loose in the wards of a hospital where people were vulnerable, petrified about contracting Covid and not there by choice.

Signs encouraging everybody to wear masks were everywhere int he hospital

Furious and quite horrified by the encounter, I’ve been on an almost frenzied mask watch alert in Killarney since then; frowning when I see them dangling from ears, tut-tutting when they are being pawed and shoved any which way into trouser pockets and throwing my head skywards in despair when I listen to those moaning about how much of an inconvenience they are.

I’ve walked out of a supermarket because a staff member on a till was not wearing a mask. I refuse point-blank to frequent business premises where a visors-only approach is accepted. And I have turned on my heels and walked out anytime I encounter sanitiser dispensers drained dry which is all too often.

You could say I am a fully paid up subscriber to the ‘if you find a mask uncomfortable try a ventilator’ brigade.

Festive fright: It’s all the RTÉ Guide’s fault

So guess what happened to me yesterday?

On a quick dash to a local shop for a magazine –  the RTÉ Guide Christmas edition if you must know  – I was puzzled when one of the two staff members behind the counter threw me a look that could kill, adjusted her mask and kept her distance while I processed my contactless payment.

I realised why on my return to the car when I found an ear and no string as I went to remove the mask I wasn’t wearing.

My defence is quite pathetic: I was in a bit of a rush. I wasn’t driving my own car in which there’s always a packet of disposable masks in front of me and it was next to near impossible to find a parking spot in the vicinity of the shop. But I plead guilty.

I can imagine the two ladies behind the counter complaining that there’s always one. And there always is so maybe we are all a bit too quick to pass judgement.

The only consolation was that I was in the shop less than two minutes and there was a protective glass separating the staff member from the idiot with the RTÉ Guide.

I apoligise to the ladies involved. It won’t happen again. Of that I’m certain. I can only hope that hospital staff member will also realise the error of their ways and cop themselves on.

In the meantime, let he that is without sin among you, cast the first stone – even if it is as big as the Rock of Cashel.

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