There was a time when every hospital had a Casualty Department. When my sister broke her arm playing fairies and witches, she was taken to Casualty. When I got a toy flying saucer stuck to my lower lip, my mother sent me to Casualty. After I’d fallen from a slide and hurt my shoulder, I went to Casualty, where there was a boy who had a fish hook stuck in his face. Casualty was where casualties went.
These days, Casualty only exists as a loose term (and as a Saturday evening soap). Hospitals have A and E Departments, Urgent Care Centres, Minor Injuries Units, or nothing at all. Furthermore, we’re exhorted not to go to A and E (which presumably includes Urgent Care and Minor Injuries), unless it’s serious. It seems that people who are unable to get an appointment to see a doctor are turning up at A and E for treatment, instead of just dying quietly.
Accordingly, when I took a piece of flesh the size and shape of a contact lens off the top of my finger while slicing salami, I didn’t go to A and E. Strictly speaking, I didn’t go to the Urgent Care Centre, because there’s no longer an A and E Department at West Cornwall Hospital, but the principle is the same. Instead, I put a plaster over the hole, which was about as effective as throwing a floor cloth into the Thames. A lint dressing and some micropore was a little better, turning the trickle into an ooze and a drip, but it was still far from ideal, so I reinforced it with kitchen paper held in place with a rubber band. That more or less worked as an interim measure, though while I was eating the salami (waste not, etc), the kitchen paper did start to look a bit red.
Top of the list of places to go instead of A and E is the pharmacy, so after lunch, that’s where I went. The assistant took off the kitchen paper, and put another dressing over my lint, but she told me to go to the doctors’ surgery, and to get a nurse to dress it properly. The receptionist at the surgery was most helpful, but she said that all the nurses were at a meeting, and wouldn’t be back until after half past two. “If I were you,” she said, “I’d go to Casualty.”
And so I ended up in Casualty (or the Urgent Care Centre) after all. I read a couple of old National Geographics before a doctor assessed me, a nurse sorted out my dressing, and I was sent home. I did apologise for turning up at Casualty, but none of them minded. “It’s what we’re here for.” The doctor even gave me a couple of surgical gloves to take away, in case it started leaking.