I’ve come to the studio to send a job to print and write an accompanying email, but forgot Jemima is preparing for a photoshoot today. She is drilling a large 2×2,4 m frame of wood together which is pretty noisy but she assures me she’s almost done. Then the drilling stops and she says ‘Oh-oh’. 

I go over to see if she’s OK and it appears she has drilled a long screw through the wooden frame and into her thumb. We both stare at it for a while. The screw is disappearing into her thumb and is visible as light grey inside her thumb for a few millimetres then just continues and the thumb is pink again. I can’t tell how deep it’s gone but it seems to be properly wedged in there. 

I’m walking backwards and forwards within the room which I take as a sign that I haven’t the slightest idea what to do. I wonder where the information is stored in my brain for such emergency situations, but there seems to be none. Then I wonder where the information is stored in Jemima’s brain but there doesn’t seem to be any there either. 

I decide to think logically. I explain to Jemima that she has screwed something into her thumb, so perhaps she should unscrew it. Jemima is exclusively looking at her thumb but seems to be registering what I say. She now appears to be going along with my suggestion as she points the drill towards the screw once more. I am very keen to know if she has set it to unscrew rather than screw and she nods. She then applies it to the screw and lets out a howl which suggests it may not have been such a good idea after all. I try to visualise the screw working its way backwards along a fleshy groove but can’t figure out the mechanics. However, it still makes sense to me and I wonder if she should give it another go.

Jemima would rather I fetch the first aid kit which is under the sink but which I can’t find. She’s also calling her boyfriend with her right hand which is free. He seems to be uncontactable since he is on site on a job, so “he’s no fucking use” to her there as she explains to the lady on the phone.

I’m suggesting we call an ambulance but Jemima responds with ‘Why am I so fucking stupid?’ so I don’t really get an answer. Now I’m back at the sink looking for the first aid kit which Jemima assures me is there. She can’t really show me herself as she’s attached to a 2×2,4 m frame of wood so I must find it on my own. I’m down on all fours starting at pots and pans until she says it’s blue so I yank out the first blue thing I see. I think it breaks as I open it cause some plastic bits fly in the air. Now I’m staring at some band aid inside which doesn’t seem sufficient. There are also some alcohol wipes so I open one and hand it to Jemima who looks at it. I don’t think she’s thought this through. 

I suggest we call an ambulance and ask if she knows the emergency number, which I still don’t know despite having lived in the UK since 1992. I must learn the emergency number. However Jemima disagrees so I respond by walking around the studio instead. I go to the sink then remember I’ve already found the first aid box. I then go to the first aid box, then remember there’s nothing useful in there. Then I go to my desk and remember I’ve almost finished my email, but it’s not really the time to send it.

Jemima has a brainwave. She’s decided she’s going to cut her thumb out of the screw with a scalpel which I must admit hadn’t occurred to me. I hand her a scalpel while saying ‘Are you sure?’ She takes it and starts cutting into her thumb while I repeat ‘Are you sure?’ several times. Eventually she stops, which is a relief.

Jemima is now going through the tools within her reach without making her intentions quite clear. She looks rather desperate. She has taken a saw and placed it between the wood and her thumb. She explains she’d prefer to go to A&E with a screw coming out of her thumb rather than a beam of wood which seems fair enough. She also seems to think she can drive there which I am struggling to visualise so I offer to drive her instead.

I offer to saw the screw off and she agrees. I apply fast, short strokes in an effort to get it done swiftly. Although I am expending a considerable amount of energy the screw doesn’t seem to be getting cut, so I go faster. It appears this has made the screw burn into Jemima’s thumb so she asks me to stop, in quite a polite way considering the circumstances.

Another brainwave. Jemima suggests I saw the plank of wood off at either side of the screw which seems very sensible not least because the frame will have to be considerably reduced in size for her to get past the studio door. Finally we have progress. I saw the wood at both ends which in retrospect seems like the obvious solution: it is a softer material than the metal screw, and certainly less painful than cutting Jemima’s thumb open. She sits down with the screw and short bit of wood attached to her thumb. It looks like she’s holding it, only I know she isn’t which makes me feel slightly nauseous. 

Now Jemima is asking for a banana and some water, both of which I can provide. Her boyfriend calls which is a relief as Jemima tells me he knows about such things. He asks to see the screw, then says ‘Who’s that?’ when he sees me in the background. Jemima says ‘Billy’ but I feel we are drifting off topic here. He then looks at the thumb and says ‘Oh yes’. He suggests Jemima doesn’t look at it, which I decide to put into practice for myself. Jemima’s now hung up and is calling an Uber as she decides taking her car might be difficult because of the parking. I will accompany her to the hospital while her boyfriend makes his way there. I hand Jemima some paracetamol which she looks at.

Uber’s on its way. I get my jacket and gather Jemima’s things then go to my email and type ‘Many thanks, Billy’ and press ‘Send’. Probably a good thing as I would have spent half the day on that email otherwise. Our Uber’s outside already so we set off. We drive towards Kings Hospital very slowly then Jemima gets a call from her Uber driver which is confusing as our driver is not on the phone. But it turns out he’s not our Uber driver, our Uber driver is waiting for us at the studio. It occurs to me we’ve just walked into a stranger’s car who is now taking us somewhere. Where is he taking us? I feel a slight chill run down my neck but our driver seems too lethargic to be a serial killer. Now he’s turning around very slowly, I reckon we’re safe. It turns out we’re in someone else’s Uber and they are in our Uber which shouldn’t be a problem as we both have Ubers, but there’s not much time to debate this so we’re heading back. Admittedly, this hasn’t started well. 

We get back and Jemima walks straight out of one Uber into the other. She doesn’t say a word, which is fair enough, but I decide to smile to the person whose Uber we were in, who for some reason, doesn’t smile back. 

I try to think of how to keep the conversation going but am not coming up with much. I suggest to Jemima that the wood attached to her thumb looks rather comical. She explains she would agree if it wasn’t hurting so much, so perhaps it’s a joke we can share later.

Anyway, Jemima is now swallowing the paracetamol and talking about the rescue dog she’ll get. That keeps our minds off the thumb for a while and I can pretend she’s just holding a piece of wood as the thumb’s behind it, so I can’t see it. 

We get to the hospital and queue at ‘Emergency Assessment’ which seems heaven-sent. What on earth did people do before hospitals? Jemima’s boyfriend calls, he’s around the corner. Jemima thanks me, so I head off leaving her with the wood still attached which is a bit unsettling as I would have liked to see it come out. Anyway, Jemima is curiously upbeat, probably relieved she doesn’t have to rely on me for emergency help anymore.

I later text her and receive confirmation the screw is no longer in her thumb which makes me feel better. I want to ask if they did indeed unscrew it, but decide it may be a question for another day. Boz, who I am drinking beers with, explains you should never remove an object which is wedged in, as it stems the flow of blood. That’s why cowboys cut the arrows in films. Anyway, this will certainly stay with me, although I’m not sure exactly what I’ve learnt.

At the very least, I should learn the emergency number. I google it, it is 999.

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