Four months ago I had a spot.
Just a small one – no bigger than a period in a paperback – and it sat there, patiently waiting under a layer of skin. After three weeks of this, I made a mistake – I picked at it – thinking, as seemed reasonable at the time, that external bleeding was better than internal bleeding. Now I know better.
External bleeding I got, and far too much of it. As soon as the spot ceased to be spot it became a spring. Not the spurting kind of spring, no – just a slow, steady stream of blood than never clotted and (shockingly) didn’t even hurt. I washed it, treated it, bandaged it, but still every time I removed the bandage, the blood would flow again. At the time I called it “Hemophilia of the Thumb.”
By the time I came back to the States this past summer, a thin layer had finally formed over the wound and I was down to using only one band-aid a day. But if a frisbee hit my hand in just the right way, or the King of Spades slid across my thumb at just the right moment, it was all over – and all over it was several times a week (much to the dismay of those around me).
Three days before our wedding, Amanda and I took my poor phalange to the doctor. “Yeah, we’ll have to whack it with a cauterizer,” he said, and walked out the door to check his schedule. The next morning and five shots later, I sat in a doctor’s chair with a numbed thumb. At least, I thought, the drama will be over in a few hours.
“Pam,” said the doctor (whose age had taught him nothing of propriety), “you’ll probably want a face-mask for this one – these things are known to splatter.” And with that, the burning of the thumb began.
Once, twice, five times the doctor went into the finger with his cauterizer, and five time the doctor shook his head. “Well, we won’t charge you for this one, buddy -” he said after he turned the tool off, “That didn’t work at all.”
Next was the plastic surgeon, two days before the wedding. She took one look at the mangled thing and frowned. “So I shouldn’t have picked at it, huh?” I asked her after her own head-shaking was done. “I’d make it a rule,” she said, “to not pick anything in Papua New Guinea.” She sent us away and told us to come back when the burn wounds were all healed. Of course, by then, we were back in Papua New Guinea.
So here we are in Australia four months later, still with the bleeding thumb, and waiting patiently for an operation on Tuesday. Here it is in it’s present state:
Do pray that the doctors don’t shake their heads this time, and that the well-spring of blood is finally stopped.
My students, if no one else, will be happy to get their papers back without my usual warning: “Now a few of these, I’m sorry to say, may have some blood on them…”