Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Periodic Maintenance And The Medical Amateur

You know how you check tires on your car? Your looking at the tread wear, checking for damage--that sort of thing? As a barefoot runner I check the wear and tear on my feet. During last night's cursory exam I noticed a splinter. I probably picked it up from one of the bridges in Riverfront Park. This conversation took place:

Me (my aged eyes looking down my nose through the bottom of my bifocal lenses at my upturned sole) : "Hmm, I gotta splinter."

Kathy: "Well, get it out."

Me: "Why? It's not bothering me."

Steph (probably remembering her interest in surgery the last time this happened): "Let me have a look." And she proceeds to poke, prod, squeeze, scrape, JAB!

Me: "Now it's bothering me."

Steph (helpfully pointing along the bottom of my foot towards my toes): "It went in that direction."

Good of her to notice. I got myself a safety pin--why would they give it that name if it wasn't okay to use, right?--straightened it out, and began digging into the skin to remove the embedded sample of chemically treated wood that had now moved "in that direction". Thanks to my bifocal-enhanced lousy depth perception I managed to dig a sizable hole right next to the splinter. My eyes kept lying to me. "Almost there. So close. Just a little more. Don't give up yet, you almost got it." Steph got a bright LED flashlight to help me, but that just made the bottom of my foot look whiter.

Steph (in her most encouraging voice) : "Dad, you're next to it. You're not getting it. You're just digging hole."

Maybe feeling a little responsible or maybe looking for an opportunity to see just how interesting the medical field could be, she volunteered her assistance with a "Let me do it." I relinquished the pin to her all-too-eager hands and she started tunneling sideways from the hole I'd already made.

Steph: "Can you feel that?"

Me: "No."

Steph: "Okay, good, 'cause this is a really deep hole."

Then she grabbed the tweezers. Now the ends of eyebrow tweezers are not fine enough to grab an exposed splinter, let alone a splinter that's buried under really thick skin and kind of off to the side of the hole dug in the wrong location, but that wasn't going to stop Steph from trying. She gamely pinched away. I squirmed and complained.

Steph (in a commanding voice): "You need to hold still and be quiet. Okay? Just be quiet."

Well, I don't want to freak her out, now do I? The pin returns to explore some more when suddenly our good doctor jumps back saying, "Ewwwwwwwww. I made your toe twitch."

I was more concerned with getting the splinter out than I was with my icky involuntary reflexive reactions. (As an aside, it wasn't until later that I realized that while this was going on, my loving wife--a nurse for many years--never once volunteered to help. Hmmmmmm.)

After about ten more minutes alternating between the pin and tweezers and me quietly sitting still, Steph triumphantly extracts the tiny sliver.

Steph: "HA! In your face!"

I wonder if surgeons say that to their patients after an appendectomy.

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