I spent one harrowing week in Mongolia at a local hospital having a tick removed from my head. I’d tried to remove it myself and accidentally pulled its head off. Bad move. I got quite sick.
I went to the UN doctor who then took me to Hospital #1. Don’t be fooled by its name. Number 1 doesn’t mean its the best, it means its the oldest. And it was scary.
The first doctor we saw turned me away as he only dealt with ticks on arms or legs, not heads. Apparently tick removal is quite specialised. Next we went upstairs to the floor for doctors dealing in eyes, teeth and head-related things. This was more like it!
I had a sinking suspicion that the ‘doctor’ was in fact a dentist… as I sank down into an ancient dentist chair – a gothic torture contraption with a gimballed steel head rest and cracked brown leather – and half expected to be strapped in. I tried to distract myself with the view of the dilapidated factory rooftops next door. Until he came at me with a huge metal syringe fit for a horse! The UN doc who was still there assured me it was local anaesthetic and quite sterile. I shut my eyes and tried to relax…
With part of my head now snoozing, the scalpel came out. Oh, why did I look?! Why did I watch it being retrieved from an ancient metal tray filled with (hopefully) disinfectant? I clenched my eyes shut again and shuddered. Think happy thoughts! Think happy thoughts! OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT?!
The blade made a hideous scraping sound against my skull – too close for comfort! – as infected scalp and hair was removed. I tried not to gag as the bloodied bits were plonked into a chipped-enamel kidney bowl on my chest. Oh boy, that view out the window? Its never looked better.
With the tick gone and what-felt-like half of my head in the bowl, they proceeded to staunch the wound, stuffing thin strips of ‘sterilised’ (well, it was wet..) material into the cavity. This did not feel good, not even with the anaesthetic. I didn’t get any stitches and wobbled out, slightly in shock.
The next couple of days I returned to have my bandages changed. The lack of any anaesthetic as they removed and replaced the blood encrusted bandages nearly caused me to launch myself into that mesmerising factory-roof view. Whoa! Holy shit-filled croissant Batman, did that hurt! At least the re-stuffing procedure was over comparatively quickly.
As I walked out I caught my reflection in a cracked mirror above the sink. The liquid dripping down the back of my neck was actually blood, not what they’d been cleaning the wound with. The nurse who was washing the surgical scissors in the enamel sink with a well-worn toothbrush handed me a wet rag. I fled!