FICTION - I was looking through patient admission records before my evening ten o'clock ward rounds when a vehicle roared into sight.
Its emergency blinkers flashed brightly on the single cabin utility and the engine overrevved as it screeched to a halt.
The urgency of its arrival attracted immediate interest from patients and carers, some of whom rushed outside and stared curiously.
I left my desk in the outpatients’ section and approached the vehicle.
The driver's door opened and a man got out, moving to the tray.
That’s when I noticed a second person assisting a man on the tray.
He whimpered as the two men quickly helped him off the vehicle.
I guided them as they half dragged the injured man to Accident and Emergency.
He had a strip of cloth tied firmly some inches above where his elbow should be. His left forearm was missing.
The humerus bone of the upper arm was exposed and he was losing a lot of blood.
I could see the bloody trail from the vehicle to A&E.
I dispatched a co-worker to inform the sister-in-charge, feeling we might need her advice on what to do.
I believed the injured man, now very disoriented, needed to be moved urgently to the referral hospital to be saved.
The health centre had no facility to store blood for transfusion.
I administered emergency treatment to the injured man, now in shock.
I asked him gently to lie on the bed while pillows were used to elevate his upper arm.
I carefully washed the exposed arm and wrapping the wound with a sterile pressure dressing to stop the bleeding.
It took two dressing to control the flow of blood. At the same time I talked to him calmly. This was a very traumatic experience for him.
While we were waiting for the sister-in-charge, the vehicle’s driver explained what had happened.
The three men were on their way to a nearby logging camp after dropping off a colleague in town.
It was already dark and they stopped to buy some beer at a trade store just before the turn-off from the main highway, a kilometre from our health centre.
Everything was going fine as they drove along the logging trail. There was no one else on the road. And no sign of activity or anything out of the ordinary.
They downed their first beers as they approached a low steel bridge.
Just before they drove on to the bridge, they spotted a huge black dog.
"It was enormous. I’ve never seen a dog like this before. It was standing in the middle of the bridge,” the man shivered recalling what he'd seen.
In the blaze of the headlights, they could see the dog rearing up as if to pounce on them.
“There was an unearthly luminous glow in its eyes.
"I could feel my hairs standing. It was like death staring at us on that damn bridge," he said shaking.
His offside in the front passenger seat reached for more cans of beer and, as he passed one to the man in the back, the driver now smelling the evil, shifted gear and accelerated.
He saw the canine, or whatever it was, leap at them from where it was crouching.
It was then he heard the terrified scream of the man at the back.
The thing had cleanly severed his left forearm as he reached for the beer can.
"All this happened so fast... I ... I don't even know if what happened actually happened."
As the vehicle accelerated to the other side of the bridge, his off-sider their mate had a serious injury.
The driver stopped the vehicle. Their injured man was screaming that something had cut off his forearm.
"I went out with a torch and tried to calm him down. I tore a piece off my shirt as a tourniquet to stop him losing more blood.
"I looked around just for a minute on the bridge to find his arm. But I couldn't see it. There was no sign of blood, nothing, it was unnerving.
“I told my off-sider to look after him and drove here as fast as I could.”
The driver paused and shook his head as if in disbelief.
By now the sister-in-charge had arrived and was reviewing the man's condition.
She wrote a referral note and I accompanied the injured man, now moaning softly, in the ambulance.
The driver had informed me they would go to the police to report the incident and seek their help to recover the missing forearm.
Fine, I told him.
I don't know how the duty police would react to their story.
And I didn’t think there was much chance of recovering that arm.