Southerly by David Haywood


Dear Dr Bollard

In this week’s column, the Governor of the Reserve Bank uses his medical expertise to help people with health problems.

Dear Dr Bollard,

Sometimes I have difficulty breathing, particularly after I've exercised. Is it possible that I'm developing asthma?

Yours sincerely,

The good news is that you definitely don't have asthma, Theodore. The bad news, however, is that you do have a serious blockage in your windpipe -- and you're going to have to give yourself an emergency tracheotomy.

Here are the tools that you'll need:

  1. A sharp kitchen knife.
  2. Some spare tubing (for example: a length of old garden hose, or the neck of a broken bottle).
  3. A strong disinfectant such as petrol.

The most difficult item to obtain will probably be the petrol. Since this is an emergency situation, it is perfectly permissible to siphon fuel from your neighbours' car. Of course, you don't have time to borrow the keys, so just hack into the side of the car (next to the petrol tank) with an angle grinder or an oxy-acetylene torch.

Drain four or five litres of petrol, and use it to wash your kitchen knife. You want that knife good and clean, so give it a thorough rinse.

Now -- with as much force as possible -- plunge the knife into the side of your neck in the location of your windpipe. The knife should leave a large gaping wound with little or no blood. If blood is fountaining from the hole, then you've probably hit a carotid artery or one of your jugular veins, and you'll need to stab yourself in the throat again in a different location.

Take the end of your garden hose or broken bottle, rinse it in the petrol, and force it between the wound 'flaps' that you've made with the knife. You'll have to push really hard to open up the incision. If your tracheotomy 'tube' still won't go into the hole, then take a heavy object -- such as a brick -- and use it to hammer the tube all the way into the wound.

Once you've finished, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Well done, you've saved the most important thing that you own -- your life! Some people find a tracheotomy tube to be disfiguring, but why not make a feature of it? Try draping a piece of ribbon around the tubing. How about a balloon on a string? Learn to live a little! Don't be such a whiney bitch your whole life.

Dear Dr Bollard,

I've recently re-paved my drive -- and, after lifting a heavy wheelbarrow of concrete, felt a sudden sharp pain. Have I given myself a hernia?

Yours sincerely,

Oh, Gwen, Gwen... it must be wonderful to live in your little fantasy world. Of course it's not a hernia. It's angina, and you're going to die -- unless you perform surgery upon yourself immediately.

Now about half the patients I diagnose with angina will tell me: "Of course I've got angina -- I'm a lady." Well, I'm not talking about that sort of angina, Gwen. I'm talking about the other sort; the type that kills you. Here are the tools that you'll need for your operation:

  1. A bottle brush.
  2. A clean rolling-pin.
  3. Some fine piano wire.
  4. An ordinary circular saw with a 250 mm blade.

If you're not musical yourself, then you'll have to take some wire from your neighbours' piano. There's no time for social niceties such as ringing the doorbell, so take an axe, and hack through the wall of your neighbours' house. Chop open the piano and remove a length of the thinnest wire that you find inside.

Lie down on your neighbours' kitchen table (there's no point in getting your own table messed up with blood), and start the circular saw. Cut cleanly through your breastbone, then -- thrusting both hands inside the incision -- 'crack open' your chest cavity. Wedge the rolling-pin into the wound to stop it from closing.

Using the circular saw, deftly trim off the various veins and arteries that connect to your heart. In all probability, Gwen, your angina will be caused by atherosclerosis, so take the bottle brush and give everything a really good scrubbing
-- making sure to remove all the atheromatous plaque. Work quickly, because with your heart disconnected there'll be no blood supply to your brain, and you could lose consciousness.

Use neat stitches of piano wire to reconnect your heart, and use any leftover wire to sew up the incision in your chest. Phew -- you're done! Give yourself the rest of the morning off, and don't barrow more than five tonnes of concrete (in total) for the rest of the day.

For the next few years, you should eat mainly a lard-based diet, in order to 'plug' any gaps that you may have left when sewing up your blood vessels.

Dear Dr Bollard,

I'm not normally a drinker, but last night I went to a party and foolishly allowed myself to be talked into having a glass of shandy. This morning I awoke feeling terrible: my head was pounding and my hands were shaking. What should I do?

Yours sincerely,

I'm afraid this is a textbook case of alcohol abuse, Paul. Your hands are shaking because you've permanently damaged the motor-control regions of your brain. Happily, the good news is that if you act now -- right now -- you can stop the damage from spreading. Here's what you'll need to do the job:

  1. An ordinary drill-press big enough to take your head.
  2. A 13 mm drill bit (Important: do not, under any circumstances, attempt to substitute an imperial 1/2" bit).
  3. A bicycle pump.
  4. A dewar of liquid nitrogen.

The liquid nitrogen will obviously be the most difficult item to obtain, and I suggest that your best bet will be your local hospital. Because this is an emergency situation, you won't have time to get your own car out of the garage -- so hot-wire your neighbours' car.

Drive to the hospital and smash the car through the front of the building. Make your way to the section containing the medical laboratories. If the corridors seem too narrow, then 'flick' the car sideways onto two wheels so that it can be driven more safely. Remember that you're in a hurry, so keep up a brisk pace -- don't go any slower than, say, 170 kilometres per hour. Keep an eye out for anything that looks icy.

Once you've located the liquid nitrogen, plug in your drill press, place your head on the clamping table, reach backwards over your shoulder to operate the drop-arm, and plunge the 13 mm drill bit into your skull -- it doesn't matter where, any random area will do. Caution: you should stop driving and get out of the car before attempting this step.

Now look at your hands -- are they still shaking? If they haven't stopped shaking, then repeatedly drill through your skull at different locations until you notice a change. As soon as you do, then you've located the alcohol-damaged part of your brain! Use the bicycle pump to suck a measure of liquid nitrogen from the dewar, and squirt it down the hole to 'cauterize' the damaged neurons.

You're done! But you'll need to be extra-cautious when driving home because drilling into your brain may cause side-effects -- such as loss of vision or your sense of uninhibitedness.

As a final point, Paul, I should perhaps mention that some of the steps in this medical procedure weren't strictly necessary -- but you needed to be taught a hard lesson to stop abusing shandy.

Dr Bollard is a proper doctor and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand advises that you should immediately act upon his advice -- without seeking any further medical opinions.

David Haywood is the author of the book 'My First Stabbing'.

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