Friday, August 26, 2005


In Which They Take Me Apart A Piece At A Time...

Here's what I hate about every dermatologist who's ever been drafted to treat my drama-queen skin: It's the fact that they specialize in the care of the largest sensory organ that the human body possesses, yet they are always astounded by your reaction to the sensory signals that organ transmits when they poke you with a knife or lancet or needle.

Every single dermatologist who has ever teated me for anything from horrific mutant teenage acne to removing a mole has always said, "This won't hurt." And THEN had the nerve to act all surprised when I howled loudly enough to be heard from the waiting room (and I don't think it's telling tales out of school to say that being heard from the waiting room was sometimes my goal).

In my case, it's even worse because I'll tell a dermatologist up front that I'm expecting to feel pain. "Oh you won't," they'll say. "We'll be injecting a little bit of anesthetic under the skin." And then I point to my medical file, the part that explains my weird resistance to most of the local anesthetics doctors favor. And they smile indulgently and say how that's impossible, and then wonder why I'm writhing and screaming two seconds later.

"Oh. Did you feel that?" they'll ask, puzzled.

I used to say simply "Yes," but over the years, I've found that shouting "What the fuck?!?" is much more satisfying.

This was the sort of thing I thought about as I sat in the empty reception area of my local dermatology practice early on the morning of 48 hours ago. It also occurred to me that this would be about the 8th or 9th time I have had a piece of my skin removed, by means professional and amateur.

The first time occurred when I was about 5. Our family was visiting the farm of some friends--I believe their name was Tautkus. They had a great old Colonial farm up in the hills near where we lived in New Hampshire and we loved to go there in the late summer and early fall, helping the family pick veggies from their massive garden, and watching as Mr. Tautkus made apple cider in the large old hand-cranked press he kept behind the barn. As the day wore on, the adults would repair to the porch to sample some of the harder varieties of cider Mr. Tautkus made, while the kids went off and played in the barn or out in the driveway.

This one year, one of the Tautkus boys, who was my age, had received a Big Wheel for his birthday. I LOVED Big Wheels, but never had one myself, so I wanted us to spend our time in the gravel driveway, racing that thing til the cows came home.

Problem is, Big Wheels were designed for paved surfaces and the vehicle's performance lagged severely on the gravel track of the driveway. After watching us spin wheels and spray rocks hopelessly for several minutes, my brother and the oldest Tautkus sibs decided to help us out by giving us pushes that sent us rumbling down the driveway with satisfying velocity.

On about my third turn, I instructed my brother to give me the proverbial Really Big Push This Time. Of course, we all know what kind of push that is: it's the one guaranteed to end in tears.

As I sat at the controls, my brother backed up a good 10 feet and started his run. When he reached me, he grabbed the back of the Big Wheel and with a lurch we hurtled forward. I swear, you'd have thought my brother was trying out for the Olympic bobsled team the way he was running. He dashed on, pushing me ahead of him for several more feet, then with one mighty shove, he sent me rocketing away. And I promptly lost control.

I spun in one complete circle, gravel flying everywhere, then spun another 180 degrees and found myself flying backwards down the incline of the driveway. I shot across the dirt road out in front of the house (thankfully, the farm was on a quiet country lane that was seldom trafficked) and landed in a ditch, flying off the back of the Big Wheel.

As soon as I landed in the dirt of the ditch I felt a sharp pain in my elbow. I don't know whether it was a piece of broken glass or a jagged rock that did the job, but when I pulled my arm up in front of my face, all I could see was a ragged flap of bloody skin dangling off my elbow. The elbow on which I had a huge brown mole. The mole I could now clearly see in the middle of that ragged flap of skin.

Naturally, I cried and made a big deal of my wound (wouldn't you?) and in short order I was surrounded by grown-ups, the other kids, and my duly chastened brother. My father carried me up to the porch of the house and while Mrs. Tautkus went to get some gauze and antiseptic, I sat on the porch steps and whimpered.

In response to my whining, out from under the porch came the Tautkus' old golden retriever, a lovable lump of dog with the unfortunate name of Pooper. He came right over and sat next to me, licking the salty tears off my face, then sniffing around my bloody elbow. Presently, he started licking that too.

I giggled through my tears. Pooper's muzzle was tickly as he licked the blood off my elbow.

And then I heard a strange snarfing sound and felt a sharp pain as Pooper suddenly hoovered the dangling flap of bloody skin into his mouth and ate it. Mole and all.

If I screamed at the sight of this, I couldn't hear myself doing it, because I was drowned out by Mrs. Tautkus, who had just that moment returned to the porch. The roll of gauze fell from her hand and she shrieked like a victim in a slasher movie. I think it's fair to say everyone was either appalled or grossed out by Pooper, who sat there, thumping his tail on the porch in a tentative way and smacking his bloody chops thoughtfully, acting for all the world as though he hadn't just snacked on a juicy morsel of my tasty self.

When the skin grew back on my elbow, the mole never returned.

I kept the rest of my moles intact for the better part of the next two decades. But in my early and mid-20s I went through a three-year period where I had them razored, burned, or frozen off at a rate of about two per year.

Probably the most dramatic removal--and in many ways, I feel this example even trumps Pooper the Flesh-Eating Dog--was the winter before I turned 24. It was an icy February and I was on my way to a doctor's appointment, coincidentally enough, although my reason for seeing the doctor had nothing to do with my skin (I think I had a sinus infection or something).

The practice where my doctor worked was in part of a large hospital complex, but her offices were in an older building, on a side street that rarely got a lot of attention from the hospital's maintenance crew. The driveway and sidewalks were poorly plowed and salted, so I had to pick my steps carefully as I trod the icy pavement up to the building.

It was a lovely old building with an ornate brick facade and a wrought-iron fence around the front. To be honest, I had never really paid much attention to the fence, at least not til that day, when I opened the gate to it and slipped on a patch of ice at the same time.

I didn't fall, exactly, but I did go down on both knees, right in front of the gate. As I dropped, my head fell more or less exactly between two of the pointed iron pickets that composed the fence and gate. It was a lucky thing, how I landed, because those pickets had decorative tips that resembled nothing so much as spearheads. As I went down, the picket on my left side poked me, hard, just under my jaw line.

For brief second I was trapped, neck stuck between two pickets on the gate. But I took a deep breath, found my footing and pulled myself back up. Then I walked inside.

As soon as the heat from the office hit me, I felt a pulsing pain in my neck where I had been poked by the fence. Instinctively I pressed my hand to the sore spot and walked up the receptionist.

"Hi," I said. "I'm here to see the doctor."

That must have struck the receptionist as one of the great understatements of all time, considering her perspective. Because what she saw was a pale guy holding his hand to his neck, a guy who was unaware that bright red blood was not just flowing, but bubbling from between his fingers.

Without a word to me, she grabbed the phone, punched some buttons, and announced to whoever answered that she had an emergency walk-in.

It was at that moment that I became aware of the wet sensation on my hand and injudiciously brought it away from my neck. As I stared at my blood-soaked hand, I went suddenly dizzy. Not from the sight of my own blood so much as from the loss of it. My hand, you see, had been the only thing keeping it from pouring out of my neck.

I grayed out.

Next thing I knew, a sharp, jerking pain brought me to my senses. I was flat on my back, a bright light in my eyes. People in medical attire were hovering over me, one hovering very close to my face on my left side. His hand moved and suddenly I felt that visceral tug that can only come from having a needle and thread inserted into your skin and then pulled and tightened.

"Don't move," murmured the doctor, as he did it again.

Well as you have no doubt surmised by now, when I slipped outside, I didn't just fall on the wrought-iron gate, I impaled myself on it. I had a cut that went in about half an inch. And on the way, I nicked something important. I thought the doctor said it was my carotid artery, but for all I know about anatomy it could have been my jugular. Either way, it's lucky I chose to impale myself right outside a large hospital with a superb ER, don't you think?

Now that was one boo-boo that was a LONG time healing, let me tell you (and indeed I still have a pretty impressive scar from it). And when I finally got the stitches out and the bandages off, it was only then that I noticed the mole that had resided on my neck for as long as I could remember was missing, apparently a dermatological casualty from when the ER surgeon debrided the wound. I was a little surprised no one had bothered to mention this at the time. But in the end, I supposed I was lucky the surgeon didn't simply nibble the thing off (so far as I know).

And so it was with these happy reminiscences that I passed the time waiting to have the latest bloody mole examined.

At length, I was brought in to meet a very young-looking doctor, the new guy at the practice, I was informed as we shook hands. He peeled the sodden bandage off my neck and examined the offending mole. "Yep, that looks funky," he said. "We'll get rid of it." He summoned a large bullish nurse into the room and while she prepped me to be parted from yet more of my skin, the doctor, to my amazement, actually perused my file.

"Wow," he said as he read. "You must have a really high tolerance to local anesthetics. I guess we won't bother sticking you with a needle. No point in adding insult to injury. But I'll do it as quick as I can."

With that, the nurse pinned me stomach-down to the examining table and he swabbed some cold antiseptic on me. I could hear him pick up the scalpel or the razor or whatever they use.

"Let me guess," I muttered, my face jammed into the pillow. "This is the part where you tell me it won't hurt."

"Oh no," said the doctor brightly. "It's gonna sting like a son of a bitch."

And did it ever.

But boy I really liked that doctor. I liked him even better when he called me personally this morning with the news that tests showed the mole to be completely benign. I tell you, this guy can be my dermatologist any time.

"But why did it bleed so much, though?" I asked.

"Probably never know," he said. "People go their whole lives with these things and then one day, all it takes is a good cut or poke and they start bleeding like a stuck pig. You probably did it yourself without realizing it. Are you very accident-prone?" he asked.

"Apparently only where moles are concerned," I said.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Yikes. I mean, that kind of a restriction *should* limit you, but holy crap...Ugh, still reeling.
Very disgusting with the dog thing and the neck accident... Yuck...

I love it when docs are up front with you... I would rather have them honest rather lie to my face.
Gross. >_o I'm think Pooper was sure he was doing a favor there. I think that's up there with alot of your headwounds on the Wierd scale.
I'm? Oops. I meant "I".
I got queasy just reading that and am amazed that they let you out of the house EVER without full protective gear, your nickname doesn't happen to be "Timmy", does it?

(glad it wsa benign)
Congratulations on your benign mole!
Glad to hear all is well. Heal up soon! Pooper... lol
Really MM, I think you need to start putting some sort of vomit rating on these posts of yours! The part with Pooper... ugh. Glad all is well now though. I gotta go lie down after reading this.
Pooper did you a favor me thinks, you know how dogs can detect cancerous cells? That was "Free Mole Removal".

MM my friend, you have more lives than two cats.

Of course, you realize that God only gave you all of these experiences so you could Blog them. Just think how much you would have messed with people's heads if you had an "I'm Blogging This" T-shirt when you were a kid.

That Doctor is a keeper - honest & a sense of humor?!
I can't remember when I have laughed so hard, or so long! :-)
Thanks for sharing this with us!

(I'm glad it had a relatively happy ending, too.)
...yeah, that was pretty gross, all told.

Glad to hear the mole was benign :) And kudos to that doctor!
Glad you're ok, there, MM, but OUCH! That was a painful entry to read...
I second the vomit rating thingy ... I mean, I keep spilling coffees' and stuff on my computer.

My boss is so not going to enjoy me explaining to him why I need a new computer set.

Gotta love the guys luck for getting into trouble and surviving it.

When the world ends, all thats if left would be the roaches and there will be MM right beside them hoping he does not accidently commit genocide on the last remaining living entities on earth.
As a fellow veteran of numerous childhood mishaps and unfortunate incidents, I can say the Pooper incident is all too familiar.
I have no vomit factor due to my accident history so I just would have enjoyed seeng the horrified looks on people's faces. It's hilarious.
Well, it certainly doesn't bode well to be a mole on you, does it?

Although you should be aware that there are *less destructive and dangerous* ways of removing the things.

BTW, I have finally learned to remove all beverages from the area before I sit down to read you. Safer for both me and the laptop!

My husband has all sorts of various moles... is *this* what I have to look forward to!?!?! Eeeekk!

Glad to hear yours was benign.
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