Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A tale of two medical procedures...

As I write this, I have two friends in the hospital.

They are unrelated and not unexpected, but I wanted to devote a little space here.

First of all...

M-

I just got a call from D. M is in labor right now, and baby B should be born any minute now...

Here's Mom, Dad and big sister last Halloween (they're the three on the left).

Hope everything goes perfectly.

Stray Thoughts-

I promised I wouldn't type his name, but regular readers know of Stray Thoughts from his comments here. He's going under the knife for a minor surgery today. It's a removal, but alas, it's not a vestigial twin, a tail, or even an extra toe... Here's the preliminary story (from an email reprinted with his permission) in his own words:

Warning, this is a bit gruesome, you won't want to read it if you're having breakfast right now.

The Back Story...literally...
Most of you know I've had a cyst on my back for a few years now. I think it made it's debut around '98 or '99, so I've lived with this thing on the back of my right shoulder for over 7 or 8 years now. My family doctor said it was just a cyst, and not a vestigial twin, totally dashing my hopes of a future career as a sideshow freak. It's nothing to worry about he said, and that I should make an appointment if it ever bothered me. This is assuming that the thought of being a hunchback didn't already bother me, but I didn't want to be a baby about it, so we let it be.

Present Day...
Last week, while I was miserable from a sore throat, the cyst started to feel sore too. I thought maybe it was having sympathy pains for me, but it was looking a little pink, so I thought I should take it to the doctor. I live on the other side of town now, so I figured it was high time I started to see a physician in my own neck of the woods. My new employer, an enthusiastic Swede, suggested his family "Dok-Tor" (that's just how he says it), so I called up to make an appointment.

The earliest appointment I could get was a week away, so I made the date & doubled up on my DayQuil with NyQuil. After self medicating in downtown Detroit over the Super Bowl weekend (with a constant dosage of alcohol, not crack, crack is wack kids), it appeared that I had drowned the sore throat, but the cyst was still sore.

By Tuesday it had become a nuisance and had also changed colors a few different times. Not, unfortunately, in a psychedelic way; there were no stoned college kids staring at my shoulder, mouths agape, muttering "whoa"s, which meant again, sadly, no sideshow career. But the area around the cyst was swollen & had gone from natural skin tones (ok, extremely pale skin tones) to pink to purple to blue to red, so I thought it might be a good time to stop by Urgent Care for a professional opinion. (Although I have a sneaking suspicion that any doctor at an Urgent Care Clinic might be stretching the term professional.)

There I made the acquaintance of a Dr. xxxxxxx with an accent of indeterminate origins (I can't say his name either, but it's on a bottle of yummy pills). My best guess is he was of Eastern European or Mediterranean descent, but you're guess is as good as mine, and "Where the hell are you from?" did not seem a question to ask of someone who's opinion you're about to require. His part in this bit of the conversation went something like this...

"So you've 'ad dis seest on your beek for a coople of years, an is bottering you new. So take off your shart and let me OH, THAS BEEG!"

After working "beeg" into his next ten statements, he then told me I needed surgery and explained that he could call a Doctor xxxxx who had office hours right now...to which I replied, "you want to operate NOW?"

Thankfully, he did not mean NOW. As visions of a dark back alley procedure and fear for the future of my kidneys dissipated from my mind, the Doctor told me to make sure I made it to my appointment for Thursday & gave me a prescription for antibiotics, Keflex.

Between getting the Keflex & the appointment for Thursday, the cyst started to creep towards painful, but the itching subsided. Did I mention the itching? There was itchiness. Anyway, I saw my new doctor today. He managed to keep his use of the word "big" to a minimum when he saw the "hunch", but then asked me, "How's your tolerance for pain?"

This question doesn't seem to be a good one, but it instantly brings to mind countless memories of injuries in my childhood where my Father, "The Coach", says things like, "Walk it off.", "If it hurts when you do that, then don't do that.", "That's why God gave you two.", and "Don't be a baby." (That last one might have been my Brother, but they blend together in memory, especially when they're golfing.) These thoughts flash through my mind in an instant and I respond, "Good. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain." To which a small voice in the very back of my mind says, "Huh?"

Moving ahead...
I proceed to lay on the table & the Doctor begins to apply some different kinds of gel to my back, while he explains that he is now going to cut open my back to relieve some of the pressure & hopefully remove most of the infected tissue. The little voice in the back my head tells me, "That's gonna hurt." To which another voice answers, "You can take it. Take it like a man." At this point a third voice chimed in & told the other two to piss off. I'm glad it did though b/c one voice sounded like my inner pussy & the other voice sounded like a bad war movie
sergeant.


This is where it gets graphic...You think you've felt a blade slice into your skin. How many times do we cut ourselves accidentally over the course of a lifetime? Well that's different. You don't know that's coming and it's often over before you realize it. Then you get the "Shit, I cut myself." response & wait to see how bad it is. This experience is more like the prick of a syringe that doesn't go away and then slowly moves across your skin followed by the slight feeling of warmth. It's like a
tiny boat slicing through the water of your skin; there's pain at the bow, cold
numbness across midship & aft, & then a warm, aching wake. All in all, it did not hurt very much, but if you can actually feel the tip of a blade cutting through you, then I felt each millimeter of progress, slicing the skin apart.


I was surprised by how bad it wasn't, until he grabbed the skin of my back & tried to pop the cyst like a deep, persistent zit. That was the painful part.

At this point he wiped my back up & asked me if I was at all squeamish, which I didn't think I was, then he asked me if I wanted to see what was coming out of the cyst on my back. I have to confess that I was extremely curious, if morbidly so, and wondered at the contents of this growth that I had lugged around with me for nearly a decade. So he proceeded to show me on a napkin. You know those cheap napkins/paper towels that all doctors and dentists keep within arms reach in every examination room. Just like that, but half drenched with my own blood and a lovely smear of yellow to clear puss in the middle.

After a second go at popping that sucker, he informed me that he was going to have to make the incision larger. This felt like he made the incision longer & deeper. Again, I felt every bit of progress the blade made cutting through my flesh. He went at my shoulder again & I felt the release of pressure and the tiny feeling of triumph that comes with popping a zit. He wiped again & he showed me the results again. I think he was proud, and with me being the only other person in the room, felt that I should see and share in his accomplishment.

Cysts are filled with some kind of rotting, coagulated, cheesy substance and it stinks. It reeks like month old sour milk. And the doctor was holding what was approximately a one inch diameter ball of it right in front of my face, surrounded by what appeared to be a puddle of my own blood.

He then informed me that there appeared to be a second hole in my cyst, that some "material" was being forced out the other side & that he would have to make another incision. He cut me again, and at this point I think I realized that he was enjoying himself. During the excruciating pain of having someone try to squeeze your flesh out of a fresh cut, I felt a drop of something wet on my ear, which the doctor attentively dabbed off for me, after wiping off the majority of my shoulder. He then decided to go back to work on the first hole.

My view as I lay on the table was of the wall, the closed blinds, and the window sill. The blinds were the beige horizontal cheap kind, but they were doing their job. The wallpaper was also beige and cheap, but textured in a way that makes you wonder how old it is. You know, when was this stuff put up, b/c it's not pretty? And is this old wallpaper sanitary? Those types of thoughts. I did spend some time with my eyes closed and some time with my head down, but I was looking at the wall when my blood splattered all over it. I guess the doctor had gotten what he wanted, and whatever he was looking for was now sprayed across the wall, the blinds, oh, and the back of my head. The doctor again dabbed at my ear, wiped the back of my head off, and I think he removed a chunk of something from my arm, but I was distracted by the surreal view of it all. Specks of my own blood sprayed across the ugly, beige wallpaper. Drops of blood with chunks of what looked like brains dotted across the blinds. And a chunky mess of blood & that cheesy substance on the paper covering the table, next to my face.

The doctor wiped up some more and went to the hall. I heard him apologize to his nurse and tell her that she might want to keep people out of that exam room for the rest of the day. She came in to change the garbage and laughed. I apologized too. She said it was all right, and as the doctor walked back into the room he said that she'd blame him anyway. I told him I blamed him too. It was almost a bad sitcom moment, well except for the huge splatter of blood. We did manage to keep it off the ceiling though.

I have to go back next week so he can take another look. I'm still on Keflex, but now the painful pressure is gone. I have painful open cuts on my back, though. The doctor says I need to have surgery if I don't want this thing to come back. I'm gonna opt for the surgery, I think.

I did learn a bit about myself though; some things I suspected already. I do have a high tolerance for pain...I guess I can thank my Dad & my Brother for that... although a high tolerance for pain might just be a polite way of saying you're too stubborn to yell uncle. If that's the case, then my Brother alone is the one to thank. And I'm not squeamish... I didn't have a problem with the blood, chunks of pseudo-brain, or pus... the worst part was the smell of that cheesy substance. I guess I'm rational about it. So I don't have any issues with gore... at least not with my own bodily fluids, who knows what's inside you though. I wish I could comment poignantly about health care in America, but I'll have to wait for the bill for that.

Now for the really bad jokes...I guess this the first time in a long time that I got to see what I was made of (literally). I'm calm when the shit hits the fan (or the wall, or the blinds, or the back of my head). Feel free to chime in with your own bad jokes...

That's it. It was just a strange day. I even went back to work afterward, too. I think Dad would be proud of that.


So, as he says good-bye to his "beeg" friend, I wish ST the best of luck on the table.

8 comments:

Mike said...

I just hope he doesn't lose all his special powers when they take it off.

stray_thoughts said...

I'd like to inform you that the cyst has been removed successfully and Mike will be happy to hear that it does not appear to be the source of any of my "special powers". I'm fine, but back at work today...you have to take the good with the bad I guess...

I'll let you know more later.

I hope everything went well with D&M, and look forward to meeting Baby B soon...

Writer Mom said...

Congratulations are in order for Baby B! Foul smells do occur during births, but the outcome is a beautiful child, rather than a ball of bloody pus.

Goodness. And I was eating a ham sandwich. I ignored the warnings.

I learned that Stray Thoughts is hilarious, even under the knife, and I salute him. Glad it all turned out all right. Now I'm concerned that Tom has several smaller lumps around his body (told it is the side effect of weight lifting as a teenager). I don't think he'd be as brave as ST if all of them were removed under similar circumstances.
He, too, as a morbid fascination with what he gives birth to, and would undoubtedly greet me in the waiting room with a mason jar full of fatty balls and pus.
I will prepare myself for the smell.

Happy recovery!
(Thanks so much for sharing, Alpharat.)

agentpaprika said...

ham sandwich, that's nothing, i had yogurt.

i thought because i'd heard the story before, it wouldn't be so gross. i was wrong.

plynn said...

As soon as read this I knew I had to post a link on the gross-out thread at Bust. Nice job with the description, though, especially the 'blood spattering on beige wallpaper part.' Very, uh, vivid.

(http://lounge.bust.com/discus/messages/14/35181.html?1142359980)

Surly Ride said...

Hi, I read this via the link on the Bust thread. Freakin awesome. :)

alpharat said...

Welcome to the ladies from Bust! I hope you decide to check out the rest of what I got going on. It's only about 60% grossout!

ZILLA said...

So THIS is why it pisses Ange off that S_T doesn't blog!