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Saturday, May 10, 2008

JAPAN LITE

Bamboo and the bambino


One day not so long ago, my husband went out into the forest to cut down some bamboo. He returned about an hour later and said in a smooth, calm voice, "Honey, could you please bring me a Band-Aid?"

Because of this smooth, calm voice, I knew it was nothing too serious. But when I went outside with the Band-Aid, there was blood dripping from his hand. A string of bamboo had sliced his little finger. It was a small but deep cut and would definitely need stitches.

Just a few days before I had noticed a new medical clinic with a sign in katakana and English that read Takenoko Medical Care. The sign featured a comical drawing of a little doctor with a pointy head, glasses, and a stethoscope. Remembering this new clinic, I took my husband there.

We arrived without an appointment but as there were no other patients in the clinic, we were immediately ushered into the back room. It did occur to me that perhaps we were their first customers ever.

Inside the small back room stood five people who immediately swarmed around my husband's finger a little too enthusiastically, as if they had been sitting around all day just waiting for a finger accident.

Only two of the people were wearing name tags, each bearing the title Medical Adviser.

As my husband started to take off the bandage, two people from the reception came into the room in addition to two other people just returning from lunch. People were crowding around, actually standing in line, to see the unveiling of this finger.

The way all these women swarmed around it, each trying to get a glimpse, was a bit like groupies swarming. Finger groupies, waiting to get tickets to the premiere of James Bond's movie "Gold Finger." Who knows, maybe next they'd want to camp out all night with the finger. I was beginning to wonder if we had come to the wrong place.

The injured finger was unveiled to several oohs and aahs. "It's deep," remarked one of the groupies. "Jaaa," said another groupie, and she went straight to work cleaning the wound. Then the next person and the next each took turns until the finger had been cleaned by no less than five people.

All this was under the strict tutelage of the older medical adviser, who I surmised was the doctor. She made sure everyone wore rubber gloves before touching the finger, which had by now reached cult status. Everything else had to be picked up with pincers, very long pincers.

Each piece of gauze was individually unwrapped with pincers, the gauze was dipped in antiseptic with pincers, and then this gauze was used to clean the wound . . . with pincers.

All activity took place at least 30 cm away from those performing it to insure there was absolutely no chance of infection.

With all these people in the room, I was prompted to ask, "Who is the doctor?" The younger medical adviser put up her hand. The rest, they said, were nurses, and nurse's assistants. The older medical adviser, it turns out, was a midwife (just in case the finger gave birth?). Hmmm.

Now, on to the stitching! I expected them to bring out a Juki sewing machine with the zigzag stitching function, but instead, the doctor sewed up the finger herself. The midwife gave her some pointers such as "Open the palm a little more until it's flat so you don't sew the finger while it's in a relaxed position."

The stitching took an unusually long time and included a glove change midway. In the end, there were four stitches, each tied up with a surgical knot with the ends of the threads sticking out all over the place making the stitches look more like four little spiders.

Upon leaving the clinic I picked up their business card and couldn't help but ask, "What's with the little man with the pointy head, glasses and stethoscope?"

The receptionist explained, "The name of the clinic is Takenoko." Takenoko in Japanese means bamboo shoot. "This little man is a bamboo shoot."

At least there was no longer any doubt we had come to the right place for an injury involving bamboo. Not only that, it finally hit me as to why the midwife was there. After all, the injury was to the baby finger.



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