12 September, 2011

My Toe as Produce

Never mind how it happened, what matters is that the fourth toe on my left foot — the one beside my minimus, or little toe — appears to have merged at the atomic level with the largest red grape known to mankind. Taut-skinned and the color of eggplant, rimmed furiously red, my toe is more than twice its natural size... and getting bigger. The pain is one matter, but what I truly fear is having to endure the prison's medical treatment for this poor, distended digit.

I hobble up the boulevard this afternoon to an uncertain fate.

The shoe comes off and a nurse covers her mouth, says, "Holy hematoma!" The doctor is called. Busybody nurses with more important tasks at hand nevertheless stop to ooh and aah at the sight. These medical professionals aren't reacting very professionally.

"Oh, my god, what did you do?" asks one.

"What is that?" asks another.

A nurse who appears to be in charge pushes them all aside and declares, "I've never seen one that big before!"

Flattery, my dear, I think, will get you nowhere.

Even the doctor, when he arrives, is alarmed. He opts to drain it. To the emergency room! (It's not what you expect, just a padded table surrounded by cabinets of gauze, a person-sized green tank of what I imagine is nitrous oxide, an articulated lamp, and other triage equipment to be used if the ambulance is undergoing too-lengthy a search procedure on the way into the prison.)

I lie down on the table, uncomfortable with not being able to see what's being done. Thankfully, I have not inherited my mother's squeamishness about my feet being touched. Still.

Eighteen-gauge needle. A brief fumbling. Squirt. A woman I can't see yelps an "Oh!" that makes me laugh. Then the draining, the squeeze. Normally the stoic, I involuntarily flinch.
"Sorry," says the doctor, but I'm the one making someone's job harder.
"No, that was my fault," I say. Unpleasant. Gritted teeth. A light sweat. The bandaging may be worse than the proceure itself.

I get crutches, ten days' worth of unnecessarily potent antibiotics. My gauze- and pad-swaddled foot will not fit back into my shoe, even though I wear a 9½ EEE. Having never before walked on crutches — not even for childhood sprains, bone-breaks, or instances of dramatic malingering — I feel ridiculous. Trying to hold my shoe and my medication while teetering around proves challenging. Under the very best of circumstances, I am fairly physically inept. Vaulting from the housing unit to the dining hall is going to be a pain, I can already tell.
On the walk back, guys I know are yelling good-natured jibes from the nearby yard. Someone runs to open a door for me, then another. Good of them.

I'm scarcely back in my cell, situating myself awkwardly at this desk, when company arrives. All of my acquaintances are checking up on me, eager to hear the gory details of my bloodletting. There are jokes about amputation, of course. I don't mind.

This could have been worse, in all. Like everyone, I've heard horror stories. But there remains the difficulty of taking a shower tonight with a mummy foot, followed by the harrowing returns to the infirmary for dressing changes. If I survive that long, there will be visits to enjoy this weekend; if I don't, someone out there, tell my mother that I love her. And for crying out loud, don't play any of that schmalzy organ music at the funeral — spring for a live band and have a little fun.

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Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.