Part 2: Blood behind my eyes

Written by Bert Plomp

At the beginning of the summer vacation in 1959, as an eleven-year-old, I, along with other family members, headed to our regular holiday spot – the tent house at Camping Het Grote Bos in Doorn. Without unpacking my belongings first, upon arrival, fuelled by summer enthusiasm, I sprinted straight to the large playground. I wanted to dive into one of the play structures right away.

Unfortunately, in my great zeal, I overlooked the fact that a heavyweight, seated on a steel swing, had just reached the highest point and started the descent. With incredible speed, this swinger plunged downward, and upon arrival, he collided with my unsuspecting little head.
It felt like my head was being separated from my body. In such a separation, one can officially declare someone dead without further ado, provided the head is at least thirty centimetres away. So, if you’re not entirely sure, you just place the severed head a bit further away.
Because I managed to keep my head intact, I concluded that it was still attached to my body. Zigzagging like a heavily intoxicated individual, I somehow managed to reach the tent house, where I eventually passed out completely.
A neighbour, along with my mother, drove me to the AZU (Academic Hospital Utrecht) after the incident. After a thorough examination, we returned to the campsite that evening. My mother informed the gathered camping community with great importance that the consulted specialist had confirmed the presence of blood behind my eyes and that I had suffered a severe concussion.
As for the medical implications, I had no idea. However, the mention of blood behind my eyes sounded quite intriguing to me. I was even a little proud of it. Every camping friend who came to visit, I solemnly informed that there was blood behind my eyes.
As a little boy, I wondered how the specialist could have taken a look behind my eyes without popping them out first. Was he able to peek straight through my eyes?
With a rectangular pocket mirror, I looked deeper into my eyes for several days. It yielded nothing. After that, I attempted multiple times to roll my eyes as far back as possible, hoping to discover a pool of blood at the bottom of my eye sockets.
Perhaps it was too dark behind my gaze, but I saw nothing. I only ended up feeling dizzier than I already was and also started to cross my eyes.

Given the crushing medical diagnosis, my older brother Theo was promptly instructed to give up his privileged sleeping place. For the entire summer vacation, he had to surrender his standalone single bed to his younger, injured brother. Although Theo resisted considerably, I slept in the coveted bed the same evening, and he ended up in the wobbly bunk bed upstairs.
After lying flat for fourteen days, I’d had enough of resting. I felt fine and had no intention of lying down for the prescribed six weeks. From that moment on, I sat upright again, fully engaged in card games at the big table.

Before I ventured into secondary education, my head suffered another blow. Fortunately, not excessively severe this time. During a wild chase through the corridors of the primary school, the person I was pursuing slammed a glass door shut right in front of my face. My momentum left me no choice but to dive through the door pane. Under the motto ‘if it has to be done, do it well,’ I did it with a graceful dive.
Although many pupils were impressed by this acrobatic feat, I had to pay for the jump with a few cuts on my head and a substantial gash in my left arm. Of course, there was also glass damage. That was billed to my parents, and they passed on this setback to me. To start with, they treated me to a series of slaps on the head. They kept at it until they lost the pleasure in hitting me because their hands hurt.
The incurred cuts made no impression on my parents. It was my own fault, and I had to deal with it.

All these head troubles occurred in my younger years and could perhaps be attributed to a certain youthful recklessness.
The last time my head suffered severely, however, was quite recent. A few years ago, at my house in Ireland, I was in the process of moving an antenna mast. The antenna had to relocate from one hill to another, aiming to achieve better TV reception.
Since the southwest coast of Ireland can experience severe weather conditions, it’s crucial to anchor everything exposed to wind firmly, including antenna masts. When installing the antenna, I had poured concrete at the base of the mast.
On the day I wanted to move the mast, including a hefty chunk of concrete, I had to dig it out first. With great effort, I managed to lift the whole thing out of the pit. Then, the mast with its accessories had to be moved from one hill to another. The entire load was too heavy to simply carry to the new position. However, a handcart provided a solution.
I could relatively easily load the heavy cargo onto the cart. The problem arose when I manoeuvred the heavily loaded cart downhill. The cart, along with its cargo, chose its own course and dynamics and threatened to overtake me during the descent. During this overtaking manoeuvre, the weighted antenna flew off the cart. Like a sledgehammer, the structure struck the left side of my head, resulting in an enormously swollen temple.
Getting a blow to your temple is already quite risky. What about a sledgehammer blow?
It’s a miracle, but despite all the attacks, my head is still intact. If I ever have a headache, it’s probably due to the consumption of wine.


For all episodes, click on: Keeping your head together

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