A Stitch in Time

I told the plastic surgeon that I wanted to look like Paul Newman in the the 60s.
Not when Paul Newman was in his 60s. Paul Newman in the 1960s. You know.. his heyday of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Sting and Cool Hand Luke. Not only did I see these movies, but one of my aunts used to read a lot of movie magazines and his photo was always front and centre. He and Robert Redford were Hollywood’s honchos back in the day.

No…no. I don’t consider myself a honcho and I’m certainly not heading to Hollywood. But a few weeks back I took a puck in the mouth. Luckily I was wearing the mouthpiece the dentist made for me back in 1973. I kid you not. It has saved a lot of teeth for me over the years.

This time the skin was ripped apart from my mouth to just under my nose. Needless to say the blood was gushing like a geyser.
“You better get to the dressing room,” one of my teammates informed me. “You’re bleeding all over the ice.”

Oh. Yes. I know that. Thanks. I gathered up my second stick at the bench and trundled off. Anyone tracking my path would have had an easy time of it.

Paper towels hardly stemmed the flow. I couldn’t undress while holding my hand to my mouth so a paper towel stuck to my face with hockey tape did the trick. Ray, a teammate, had followed me in a few moments later to offer assistance. He was an ex-RCMP cop who had a son who had played briefly with the Montreal Canadiens and now played in the Russian K>H.L. He had seen a few injuries in his day.
“You better get yourself to the hospital,” he advised. “You’re going to need a few stitches.” My only concern was leaving my teammates shorthanded and leaving the ice with an injury that wasn’t a bone sticking out. I was leaving myself open to being called a suck or, even worse, a word that rhymes with wussy.

Whenever I go to the hospital I am always amazed by two things: the never-failing courtesy of the whole medical and support staff and also the fact that half the city’s population always seems to be sick, injured or avoiding work. My bleeding still hadn’t stopped as I was moved along from one waiting area to another. I was also attracting some curious looks. Probably, they thought, another derelict who had been fighting for a panhandling position on the street. My life-long lack of a fashion sense probably didn’t help.

Two hours later a young Asian woman appeared. She took one look at me. “Yikes !” By this time I’d had enough and was ready to go.
“Can you stitch me up ?” I pleaded.
“I’m an intern,” she informed me. “I’ll go get a doctor.”
Wonderful. I’d already waited more than two hours for an intern. How many hours more until a licensed doctor made his way in through the sick, injured and hypochondriacs to take a look at a bleeding sexagenarian who stems the flow of blood with bathroom paper towels and hockey tape? Oops… I meant to say her way in. Seventy per cent of the physicians I see now are female. That’s a figure I just made up. But… something like that.

Another hour passed and a middle-aged male ambled through the doorway. He took one look at me and probably decided that this particular patient no longer looked patient. He was right. I cut to the chase. “Puck to the mouth,” is what I said. I figured a male Canadian of his vintage would understand. But he said nothing, gave me a long look and it was easy to read his mind. “At your age, shouldn’t you be playing Bingo or Bridge or something like that ? Ever hear of Pickleball?”
All he did was sigh. “You’ll need a plastic surgeon.” He turned on his heel and started to leave but not before I was able to blurt out, “I’ve had over 200 stitches in my face over the years, some of them done with me lying on a table in the dressing room back in the 70s. How complicated can it be?”

He chose to ignore that. “The plastic surgeon is operating at the General right now.” We were in the Civic. “He’ll be here when he finishes over there.”

Wonderful. Another wait. And now that everyone is on their phone all the time the hospital doesn’t even provide any magazines. I didn’t have my phone and to tell you the truth I’m not on it too much anyway. Twitter is too bitter, I don’t like like looking at other people’s photos very much, reading someone else’s political views just makes me angry and I don’t need to be texting anyone with a breathless account of every move I make. Yeah… I’m a relic. Probably of medieval times.

Finally, five hours after check-in a plastic surgeon arrives. She looks young enough to be my granddaughter, or at least my daughter… by a second wife. At least she admits it. “I can do it,” she says as she examines my split-open face. “But I’ll need some supervision.” Two hours later the supervising physician arrived. He examined me carefully. “Do you want me to do it?” he asked his younger colleague. She seemed to already have the freezing needles at the ready. Five minutes later all I could feel was the slight pull on my skin as she sewed in 15 stitches from my mouth to just under my nose. Another young plastic surgeon had been called in to watch or cheer on the spectacle. I felt like an aging Hollywood starlet with all the attention, but even more fortunate… I didn’t have to pay the bill. I sat up and looked around, anxious to avoid any mirrors. All the time and work of three highly-skilled medical practitioners and a Hollywood screen test was not even a consideration. “You can have the stitches taken out in five days,” the youngest physician, who had actually done the work, told me. “The swelling and scar tissue will gradually disappear with time.”

I thanked them all as I stood up. I felt some of the wrinkles under my eyes. You know, maybe a little Botox would fill in all those lines.
But looking like Cool Hand Luke was still a stretch.

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