What seems to be quite a famous incident that is still talked about also left such a vivid and shared memory by all those who were present on a particular fateful day in 1990, at a particular boarding school for the deaf. On this day, which seemed to start out like any other school day, we went about our usual routines unaware of what would happen next.
Having just attended assembly, we all started to make our way back to our designated form rooms. My form room happened to be the one beside the Home Economics room, which was directly across from the assembly hall so there was no urgency or hike back to gather our books for that morning’s timetable. Momentarily, a couple of us paused in the communal area outside the assembly room for a quick “Hello”.
A classmate of mine had said something to me there and then and in annoyance I ran after him. He proceeded into our form room intending to close the door behind him but as I ran after him, I stopped the door from being closed onto me and tried to continue running after him. However, I could not, and I was being held back. I did not sense anyone holding me back so I could not understand what or who was holding me back. My arm seemed to be held into place – glancing down at my arm and then my hand. It immediately made sense – I could see the door handle protruding from inside my hand. “So this is what was stopping me!” I thought…. I could not contain my anger so screamed, shouted and kicked at the blooming door – for hurting me like that. Mind you, I was only thirteen years old at the time.
A couple of sixth formers came to my rescue, shielding me, controlling and deflecting the building crowd of onlookers who were startled by my screams. The headmaster, Dr Tucker suddenly appeared alongside the school nurse and Mrs Fenney, the cookery teacher. There was this brick of a mobile phone too. I do not think I had ever seen one before then except in the films – Dr Tucker was calling the emergency services who very quickly appeared on scene.
A mask was offered to me, “Breathe hard until it clicks” I had no idea what I was going to breathe in or what I would experience! There was a click and I soon drifted off to “sleep”.
As I was being sat down by supporting hands, the groovy effects from the gas and air wearing off – I was “waking up” again, looking around me to pinpoint where I was. I was somewhat disappointed to find I was still in the very same spot and turned towards the school nurse saying, “I thought it was all a bad dream”. She responded albeit with tears in her eyes “So did I”. Dr Tucker started to look overcome with relief.
I then found my right hand resting on a pillow, which had been placed on my lap – the door handle had been unscrewed away from the door. It was decided that the handle should be left inside my hand in case of any serious blood loss or nerve damage. The door handle had gone through my skin between the middle and ring finger and still protruded outwards, where the handle bends. It felt quite uncomfortable but not painful, at all.
Being wheeled outside of the school, I spotted an ambulance – I had never been inside one so I anticipated a great ride! So I thought. It inched ever so slowly down the country lane heading towards the motorway. Much to my dismay because ambulances to my knowledge were always whizzing around and here I was, having what felt like a race with a snail. It had to be so. Because the aforementioned door handle impaled my hand and they did not want any further damage to be inflicted. Bless them.
I learned afterwards, that my classmates were watching the ambulance carting me away, from their Physics lesson in the science block, in what one described as a “rather sombre mood” – I had got out of doing physics – go me! In all seriousness, one person was feeling extremely upset and overcome with guilt.
Two hospitals later (because the first was only very small with no hand specialist), armed with my x-rays, it was finally deemed safe to remove the door handle, from my hand. I watched as a nurse treated my hand like a pincushion turning the area numb and ready to be handled (pardon the pun!) – holding my hand upright, the handle was slowly being edged out. It came out cleanly with such care and ease. Was blood going to spurt out? Was it going to be like in the films? Blood spurting everywhere… Alas no, except a cavity was left behind, tissue had been pushed down upon meeting the handle. A huge syringe filled with sterile water washed out the cavity, of which was kept above my line of view so I could not peer inside. This massive curved needle suddenly made an appearance and was guided through each edge of the open wound, gradually closing it together. I had a new addition to my collection of scars – sporting six stiches!
As my hand was being bandaged up and arm then put into a sling – there was a message for me.
“In future, never run after the boys – let them run after you!” said the ambulance staff that had looked after me earlier that day. This witty remark somehow made my day.
My writing hand thankfully, was not seriously damaged. With physio and time – it would heal. To this day, whenever it aches, this lets me know it is going to rain heavily within the next 24 hours. My very own barometer.
Mrs Fenney who had stayed with me throughout, I will never forget her for her kindness and patience. My mother joined us and we decided to buy a box of chocolates – not for us but for one particular person. Arriving back at school, everything became a haze. People wanted to know what happened, how I was…. Then much to my surprise, the person whom we had given the box of chocolates came to see me, they had saved the very last chocolate – just for me. He was being such a gentleman. I will always remember the apologetic look on his face yet he had nothing to be sorry for because it was purely an accident and besides, he got a box of chocolates whereas I got a door handle!
The one and only.
The door handle was presented to me, with masking tape on it indicating the depth of the meeting that took place. To this day, I still have it and I write this for posterity.
Now you will understand why, all the doors at the Mary Hare School were replaced into much safer (push open) ones that especially had no door handles!
A heartfelt “Thank you” to all those of you who supported me on that very day x
~ SJ (Sara Jae)