Luck wasn’t on our side. What had we done to deserve this? We weren’t bad people; we were entertainers…singers…whatever you want to call us. We’d been adored by millions of people all over the world, and now by a cruel twist of fate, we were being picked off one by one in this god forsaken jungle. Five already dead, one almost killed by a huge snake and another sick with an infected leg wound.
We carried the almost delirious Howie in the stretcher as he was too weak to walk. He slept off and on; we didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I wished we had a doctor amongst us.
“Dude, I’m fucked, shall we call it a day?” AJ stopped and leaned against tree, careful to make sure it was snake-free.
“I guess here is a good enough place” Brian agreed and we lowered Howie gently to the ground. He was sleeping thankfully.
“What I wouldn’t give for a packet of cigarettes right now” AJ said dreamily, looking off into space.
I supposed that was one good thing about being here; AJ had been forced to quit smoking. If we ever got out of here though, I had a feeling that he’d run straight to the nearest place he could buy them!
“It’s about time you quit” Brian told him.
“Yeah maybe” AJ replied, but I knew he was only saying that to shut Brian up.
While we still had a bit of daylight, I unwrapped the bandage on Howie’s leg to take a look. It wasn’t looking good. The skin wasn’t knitting together as it should’ve been by now; instead it was a gaping, festering, necrotic looking mess. The wound looked kind of greenish black and didn’t smell too good, in fact it smelled pretty bad. I had to turn away and take a deep breath of fresh air. I’d dealt with enough horror story stuff with Jordan. I could not deal with that kind of thing with one of my closest friends.
“Bri, come and take a look” I asked.
Brian knelt down beside Howie and lifted the dressing off for a closer look. “Holy cow, that doesn’t look good at all” he muttered quietly, hoping not to disturb Howie.
“We can’t leave it, but we have no medicine. What the fuck are we supposed to do?” I scratched my head in frustration.
“I hate to say it, but amputation comes to mind” Brian replied.
“We can’t cut his friggin leg off” AJ said, absolutely horrified at the thought.
“What else can we do? If we leave it, he’ll die” I choked out the words. I couldn’t bear the thought of Howie dying. If I had to chop off his leg to save him, then I’d just have to man up and do it. What did soldiers do on the battlefield when they had no medical equipment? They improvised. We would have to do the same.
“Let’s assess it again before we make any hasty decisions” Brian suggested.
We decided to wait until Howie woke up. We couldn’t just start hacking his leg off without his permission and whilst he was sleeping, even though the knife cutting through his skin would be sure to wake him up screaming in pain.
We didn’t have long to wait until he woke, crying out in pain and with sweat running down his pale face. He was getting worse; there was no doubt about it. It amazed me how fast the infection had taken hold of him, but maybe it had been manifesting there since the crash and only now we were seeing the visible effects of it.
“Oh god” he cried out in pain “just kill me now”
Seeing him like that was heartbreaking. Howie had always been the strong one, the one who could handle anything life threw him.
“Howie” Brian began calmly “your leg isn’t looking too good, with your permission we’d like to try and cut away the infection”
“Do it” he panted in pain, but at least he was coherent at the moment “chop it off for all I care”
“That’ll be the last resort” I replied, hoping it wouldn’t come to that. I really couldn’t face doing that to my friend.
“Make. It. Stop. Hurting” he gasped in pain.
“We’ll try our best” Brian consoled him.
With no way to sterilize the knife properly, we did the next best thing. We lit a fire and boiled the knife in water over the flames, which would hopefully be good enough and not introduce more bacteria into his wound. We left it boiling over the fire for nearly an hour. In that time we prepared Howie for our makeshift surgery by cleaning the wound and making sure we had clean bandages on standby.
“I can’t watch” AJ turned away “sorry guys”
“No worries” I told him. I wished I didn’t have to look. But I knew that of all of us, I had the strongest stomach for gore. Hadn’t I proved it already with Jordan?
“We ready?” Brian asked.
“As we’ll ever be” I replied.
“You sure Howie?” we both asked the now delirious Howie, who was mumbling all kinds of nonsense. We made the decision to just get on with it and hoped he was still alright with it.
Brian held Howie’s tourniquet readied leg steady and also shone the torch whilst I deliberated over how I was going to begin. I really hoped it wouldn’t come to it that I’d have to amputate, I wasn’t sure I could have that on my conscience. Howie may never forgive me for it.
Slowly and ever so carefully, I carved around the necrotic skin, hoping the incision was deep enough to get it all out. Howie thrashed around in agony, but Brian was strong and managed to keep his leg still for me.
“Oh shit, I guess I should suck it up and come help” AJ muttered and came to help keep Howie still.
“Thanks” I told him.
“You get his top half and I’ll keep his legs still” Brian advised, glad of the help.
I carried on cutting away the rotting flesh, trying not to gag as the knife went down to the bone as I scraped away the infection. Blood was gushing out of the wound and Brian tightened the tourniquet. Thankfully the blood flow stopped and I was able to carry on.
After carving away at his leg like a pumpkin on Halloween, I was finally done. I pressed a clean dressing against the gaping hole in his leg and with Brian’s help, bandaged it up.
“I think that’s it, I got all the discoloured stuff and also a bit extra to make sure” I sat back and sighed.
“We did our best, that’s all we can do out here” Brian said.
“Well I think you two are fucking amazing!” AJ told us “the way you did that…just wow”
I just hoped Howie would think so when he regained his senses.