Reflections that make having a broken back, a banged-up thumb, and a disturbing kidney cyst seem almost inconsequential.


Two thumbs before the right one was drained. 
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS A POST-SURGICAL PHOTO OF THE THUMB ON THE LEFT

It’s funny how, on an ordinary day, not one person out of a million feels grateful for having a right thumb, but if a doctor tells you might lose yours, and then you respond so well to treatment that he tells you that you won’t, it really makes you think about how dependent you are on that thumb and how much you would miss it if it had to be cut off. Other things that I am grateful for...

Peggy. I had rather have a broken back and be with Peggy than to be healthy in every cell but be without her. What I have been through of late has been much harder emotionally for her than for me, yet she is the one who has to carry the burden of caring for a husband who can no longer attend to many of his own basic needs. Now, another job has been added to her list, that of preparing soak water for my thumb every six hours and, the soak being done, replacing the old dressing, a process that causes me so much pain that it makes her queasy to do it.

Walt. He spent six hours on each of two snowy days taking me to three doctors, two drugstores, one orthotics supplier, an imaging center, and maybe other places for all that I can remember. Without him, I don’t know what I would have done. Other people would have wanted to help, but he had that needed combination of studded tires, excellent driving skills, a completely open schedule, and the ability to make a person feel well taken care of in his presence.

After being drained and having dead tissue removed    
Brewsky. One of his contributions has been to greet me at the door after my many medical appointments. Another is to keep me immensely touched and continually entertained with a greater range of facial expressions than I ever imagined possible for any creature, much less have had the pleasure to experience. He exemplifies what it means to be fully present, completely open, and utterly without defenses. If a cat can be called an angel, then Brewsky is an angel.

My plants. Every time fear and despair threaten to crowd in, my plants shove them right back out. I have long enjoyed potted plants, but once I am over this, they’re going to see how good their lives can get because I realized within a day of breaking my back that my 17 indoor plants were to be among my chief allies in healing. I would move every one of them into my bedroom right now if I had a suitable place for them, and making a suitable place is what I intend to do as soon as I can, only I look forward to having a lot more plants than seventeen.

Having a house that I love. Many a time as I worked on it over the past 23 years, I would envision a day when I was too old to work, and I would think about what a comfort my earlier work would someday bring me. Now that day has come, through accident rather than age, and I am grateful for all that I did to make this house what Peggy and I wanted it to be.

Medical care. It's criminally expensive, yet I can afford it; it's pretty good here; and it's also close to home. I've thought a good bit about what a different end this week might have come to had I been unable to get to a hand specialist within an hour of being referred because that's how close I came to losing that thumb, and I could have lost far more than a thumb--my implanted left shoulder joint, for example.

I had rather that any bad thing that can happen to a person happen to me rather than to Peggy. I would have once expected her to feel the same--and maybe she does for all I know--but I've lost all interest in such things because I know that whatever either of us gives, it will be 100% of what we have to give, and for that I am grateful. We share a level of trust and commitment that I would guess is pretty rare, yet I can't imagine how people get by without it.

34 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Oh Snow. Hugs and love - to you, to Peggy, to Brewsky. And big thanks to Walt.
I do understand being preferring that this latest debacle happened to you rather than directly to Peggy. I have had similar thoughts here.
Your thumb looks truly gross and makes me glad to be a vegetarian and not face to face a meat meal anytime soon. And the skinny one may have to endure a meat-free meal today.

Charles Gramlich said...

damn man, that is pretty rough. I'm really sorry to hear of this. I know I've said it before but it's hard to know what to say in such situations. Words are hardly strong enough.

lotta joy said...

Isn't it amazing how intensely a finger can hurt? Here I was, worrying about what may, or not, be wrong with me and I thought of all the worst case scenarios...except for one. My doctor called and said my excruciating pain is probably the return of my crohns disease.

My first thought was. "I can't survive, if it comes back. It hurts too much."

My second thought was of Joe, being unlucky enough to have to live with me if it is crohns.

NOT pretty.

Stephen Hayes said...

Those pictures make me feel faint. Usually I have a high thresh hold for pain but these look extremely painful. Take care.

Snowbrush said...

"Your thumb looks truly gross and makes me glad to be a vegetarian"

I would guess that only a vegetarian would be likely to see such a photo and think of eating meat. That said, when I saw my first autopsy, I realized that a fat man and a hog look amazingly alike when gutted. That right there was a serious blow to my religion, by which I mean that I could clearly see that we share our animal nature with countless other creatures, and this made it harder for me to think of my species as the darling of a divinity.

"I know I've said it before but it's hard to know what to say in such situations."

Yes, of course, but I hope you don't feel badly about it because I'm doing really well, knock on wood. Maybe it's partly the Fentanyl, but I'm not at all depressed, and I'm even quite optimistic. When I was told that a broken vertebra can take a long time to heal, and I asked what that meant, and the answer was two months, I thought that, hell, I was told to give my last shoulder surgery two YEARS, and it really did take two years before I stopped seeing improvements. Now, I'm just hoping that this brace will enable me to heal properly without having to have surgery to pin everything together. I'm supposed to get news about that this coming Monday, and if it's good news, I'll be really riding high and can move onto the kidney issue.

"Isn't it amazing how intensely a finger can hurt?"

Not nearly so much as my back. Either would be a big deal by itself, but both together are practically black humor. In fact, I wanted to write a comedic piece about my thumb, but what I find is that when my readers can't easily tell what's true and what's not, it throws everything into doubt for them, which is very hard for me because I would never make stuff up about anything important. It's only the trivia that I play around with--for instance calling myself "God-fearing" in my last post. When I wrote that, I making fun of the idea that only theists can be ethical. My intent was to use "God-fearing" as a metaphor for goodness rather than as an actual belief in God, but I might have been the only person who got it, and I guess it is a little obscure.

kylie said...

i wish you had a warning on this post!!!

Snowbrush said...

"i wish you had a warning on this post!!!"

I considered it, but couldn't think of a good way to do it, by which I mean a way that didn't sound teasing, condescending, or otherwise objectionable. Plus, I couldn't think of what good it would do to be warned since I really couldn't imagine that if I had said something like, "Warning, photo of thumb following drainage and tissue removal ahead," that anyone would have said to themselves, "Whoa, I'm sure getting the hell out of here before such a horrible image burns its way through my retinas." Maybe it would have given people time to prepare, but prepare for what exactly, and what could they have done to prepare? Finally, I had the thought that, as gore goes, it just wasn't that bad, or at least I didn't think so). Okay, so those were my thoughts; now I would like to know more about your's if you don't mind taking the time to share them.

kylie said...

well a warning would probably make me more inclined to look but that one was a bit of a shock. i dont know what it is about gore, some gore bothers me and some not so much.
i dont really have much other comment, i expect you to have a long and at times frustrating recovery and there's not a lot to be said except that the way time passes it wont be long and you will have passed the worst and you will look back and wonder how you coped.
i slipped in the kitchen a couple of weeks back and hurt my knee, i thought it was going to be a horrid injury but two weeks on i seem only to be affected by the ever present arthritis. a session of acupuncture was an excellent help, so much that i almost look forward to the next miracle cure, except that would require injury or illness.
hugs to you

Mim said...

That is one hell of a thumb.

rhymeswithplague said...

Re your comment up above about using "god-fearing" in your last post causing readers not to know what is true in your writing and what is not, I knew it was just a little poke, a jab, a wink at the end to those of us who know your beliefs and/or lack thereof. My comment about it all being fiction and an assignment in your weekly writing class in downtown Eugene was just a little poke back, a jab back, a wink back that we who read your blog regularly knew that you were just having a little fun with us there at the end of what was obviously a completely true post. You needn't have worried, about me at least. I can't speak for other readers, however. You'll have to canvass them individually.

Strayer said...

Boy you did your thumb badly. Why were you going to lose it, to infection? Dead tissue you mentioned. That looks mangled. I love the photo, thanks for posting it. The shock value really woke me up this morning and made me sit up straight instead of slunched over. I can't believe you messed yourself up in so many ways, rapidly, like dominoes falling over. I hope in the end you will heal, but that's wishful thinking on my part. Makes me think of all the raw bloody awfulness people go through after car wrecks. I used to know this guy who drove tow trucks. He'd tell me very gory details about car wrecks.

kj said...

I read this effortlessly--not often possible with your posts because you propel deep thinking. What I feel in my bones from you today is gratitude. You articulate it by example and given what are are going through, it becomes a gift to me too. Over the years I know and care about you more and more .

That thumb is unbelievable. I'm so glad it's yours to keep.

And I'm glad for Peggy, your friends, and your wisdom in loving plants

Happy holidays snow
Love
kj

All Consuming said...

Just put (graphic content) at the end of the title, I faint at the sight of such photos, the image then engraves itself on my retinas and I have to spend a few hours doing everything I can to not think about the image I don't want to think about so I don't bloody faint again.I'd have got hubby to read it to me and then scroll down so I could comment is the answer to the second part.
You wren't expecting a telling off I bet eh? Hahahaha. It's ok, others never get the squeamish thing, and to be fair you have so much more on your mind. The post made me cry too so I hope you're happy with yourself. Which is the point actually, you are happy with what you have, who you have, the work and effort put in, the fact that friends love you enough to be there like Walt, Brewster and his furry love and the pleasure that your plants give you. And that's a fine thing, it really is. I've been housebound so many times for so long over the years that my abode has become a shrine to making me happy when I look at it. The view from the bed the same. So I'm with you, but not as with you as I'd like to be. Xxx

All Consuming said...

*ps - please don't make it your 'thumbnail picture'. *smashes two cymbals together then curtsies.

Snowbrush said...

"well a warning would probably make me more inclined to look but that one was a bit of a shock."

I thought a good bit about what to do. First, I considered including photos of Walt and Brewsky so as to dilute the shock value, but ended up just going with a warning (look at it, and see if it's okay).

I don't like gore, but it's not gore that gets to me; it's odors. I watched the surgeon do his cutting on my thumb and found it, if not enjoyable, at least interesting, especially the part where he removed the nail. Since boyhood, I have had a horror of being tortured by having splinters driven under my fingernails, and it's still with me to the point that I have to force myself to clean under my fingernails (Peggy has offered to do it for me, but that would be even worse because I would have no control). What the surgeon did looked like what I envisioned would happen during torture, but I felt okay about it, if only because when the possibility of losing my thumb came up, I was gung-ho him doing anything right then and there if it would prevent that. When the odor of the bloody puss wafted upward, I commented that it was really bad, and the doctor said, "Yeah, that is SO gross," and I thought, "Hey, you're a surgeon. Nothing is supposed to gross you out unless it's the very grossest of the gross, and surely you're not saying that's what I am!"

Walt and Peggy were both in the room, and she watched, but he didn't. I could no more understand how he could NOT watch than he could understand how I COULD, but, as I told him, "It's something that I can't take my eyes away from." I am that way about all surgeries, and no surgeon ever put me to sleep except over my strenuous objections. My ideal is to watch every move that he or she makes.

We had been running around that day--Walt, Peggy, and I--and hadn't eaten much, so I ate a granola bar as the surgeon prepared his instruments. He commented that I could eat during the surgery if I wanted to, but I think his point was that I wouldn't want to. Later, I realized that I easily could have. I remember from my days in funeral homes that undertakers who weren't actually doing the work would sometimes have snacks during an embalming, and there was nothing contrived or macho about it. Rather, it was natural to them, and maybe that had an influence on it, yet I don't think anyone would ever want to have a snack if the corpse was badly decomposed because of how horrendous the odors would be. Even so, I've read books about the WWII battles in the South Pacific where the dead and the living would lie together for days and days in 110-degree weather, and some people managed to eat and some didn't.

Sissy said...

That is the worst looking thumb of my long memory! (Nothing upsets me as the sight of blood - I wonder why; we have plenty.) I hope it was drugged numb...and you too. Hmm, I'm guessing this made Peggy hurt the most while caring for it. Ah, you have good caretakers; I'm glad you do. Brewsky has a soft spot for you too, eh?

Maybe you think we don't get your joking - and maybe you don't get ours sometimes. I often do make tongue-in-cheek remarks (like my last one), yet rarely if at all, do my readers "get it" ...I find you don't. Ho, ho, so goes the art (or lack of) blogging communication.
Get well fast as possible, blog buddy.

Snowbrush said...

I think I wrote "puss" somewhere up above when I meant "pus." It's funnier with puss.

"You needn't have worried, about me at least."

Oh, but I do! I also very much appreciate what you wrote.

"Why were you going to lose it, to infection?"

To Brewsky. I was seven minutes late with his supper, so he ate as much as he could of my thumb before I knocked him unconscious with a head-butt.

"Dead tissue you mentioned. That looks mangled."

It only looked mangled after the surgeon fixed it. Before he came along, it was swollen like St. Nick's belly, and red like Rudolf's nose. Okay, so you want the real story? I've had a hard time getting around since breaking my back, and my back has often threatened to go into a spasm that would surely knock me right down to the floor. So, one day, I grabbed the bathroom door to steady myself. My left hand was on the knob, and my right hand on the hinged edge of the door. Being focused on my back and not where my right hand was, I pulled the doorknob toward me, and mashed my right thumb. The thumb later became infected, so what I wrote about the surgeon was true. He was the one that made the thumb look mangled, but it sure felt better that way than it did swollen.

"What I feel in my bones from you today is gratitude."

Indeed, I'm glad you saw beyond the shock value of the photo (which, I fear was bit more than I anticipated).

"Over the years I know and care about you more and more."

Oh, KJ, thank you so much.

"*ps - please don't make it your 'thumbnail picture'. *smashes two cymbals together then curtsies."

Oh, that IS good. Golly gee, every site I join from now on, I'm going to use that very photo for my thumbnail picture despite the fact that the nail is gone to wherever the good nails go when they die.

"I often do make tongue-in-cheek remarks (like my last one), yet rarely if at all, do my readers "get it" ...I find you don't."

Well, maybe sometimes people don't get it, but I would guess that other times they do, but just don't have much to say. It's also true that writing robs us of a lot of the clues that we look to in our attempt to determine whether someone is serious or not, so no matter how good our sense of humor is, things slip by us, especially when we're not anticipating them.

Linda said...

That truly looks gross. Gross in the sense that it looks like a thumb that is suffering. I once had an index finger on my right hand that called for a trip to the doctor sometimes every day. I commented that I was afraid I was going to lose my whole finger since the infection and inflammation had actually reached the base of my finger and was encroaching beyond that joint. The doctor said, "I am afraid you are going to lose it, too!" I could no longer type and was in grad school at the time. typing with just one finger was impossible because of the pain.

However, I had not lost that much skin. And, I am sure your pain eclipses mine. I am glad you have Peggy.

PhilipH said...

Graphic post, in words and pictures Snowy.

It's also a 'count your blessings' offering, so to speak.

The mangled thumb! Been there back in 1972.

Moving from south London to Melton Mowbray. House sold. All the furniture taken into storage and everything ready for our long car drive to new home.

Front door locked, keys popped thru letterbox for next owner.

Then: "I've left my handbag in the kitchen!" says the missus. Oh calamity! How to get back into the house?

Brilliant idea! 1st floor bedroom window left slightly open at the top to keep room aired. Get ladder from shed. Clamber up to the partly open window. Pull window down. Start to climb OVER the half-open window. Sitting astride said window, right hand gripping the top sash. Weight of body causes sash to drop further and crush right thumb. Ouch! to put it mildly.

Thumb swells up; pain surging. Nail turning blue, then black. Agony, but with two kids in the car and a most important journey to make I retrieved the handbag and set sail for London, the M1 and Melton Mowbray.

Got there. Went to local doctor. He said he would pierce the thumb nail with a needle to relieve the pressure. "No!" I yelled. I do not want THAT. He shrugged and said take painkillers then.

It gradually healed up, thankfully.

Yours looks much bloodier and I am amazed at your fortitude. Wishing you well, asap.

Linda said...

PhilipH,
If you were sitting astride a window that slipped and crushed your thumb, you should count your lucky stars that you finger was all that got crushed!

Snow,
I put on my post:

If you are eating,

avert your eyes

avert your eyes

I warned you

avert your eyes
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Anyone who complains about a warning should also throw up or be queasy because that person was well-warned.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Oh Snow! I'm so sorry you are going through so much! Glad you won't lose your thumb but geez it looks awful! Hope the pain is easing up!

Helen said...

Wednesday, December 18:

Hope your thumb is healing, the pain is manageable, your back won't need to be pinned (or anything else)and you are giving Peggy massive hugs (with your healthy arm/hand.)

Rob-bear said...

I am touched, as always, with your gratitude for life and those around you, particularly Peggy.

I do hope that thumb heals well, with no further "misadventure."

Peace and joy from the Bear up north.

Putz said...

to answer your question on sissy's blog<><<>all that gold is not meant for us who live here<><><>brigham said that money would corrup us sanpeters<><><>that gold is for someone else and the lord will decide<><>,.maybe for those who live in the wilds of oregon are to have the spoils of the gold since it probably would not corrupt them like it would sanpeters<><>so you up there north of us whould know how to use the 47 barges of gold for righteousness and will be privy to it<><>the lord will just hand it over to you<><>.,so be ready, snow

Putz said...

p.s. what are you oregons' going to do with all that gold???? give it to your doctors snow><<>some of you might let us who live right next to it a few miles away a few sheckles <><>so don't be greedy<>><<>also did you hear about the appology the church gave to the world about withholding the priesthood from the blacks>>>????? it was all cultural><><>negros always were property in 1856

rhymeswithplague said...

Every time I come here to check for new comments I have to put up my hand and block out the screen while I scroll down past those photographs of your thumb, especially the second one (second photograph, I mean, not second thumb) because I am every bit as queasy as michelle and some of your other correspondents. I am a 72-year-old wimp. In fact, I wouldn't mind one little bit if you just took down this post altogether.

Joe Todd said...

And my main problem is that my new glasses aren't for shit...I saw this quote and thought of you.
I once wanted to be an atheist, but I gave up -- they have no holidays. -- Henny Youngman.. I know your are "bracing up" so best of luck

Snowbrush said...

"Two weeks now past. I'm wondering how you(all) are doing today. Give us an update if you may, Snow."

Thanks for asking. It has been a month today, actually. I'm still in the backbrace, and will be for some time to come. Its tightening bands hurt my back, plus my back hurts anyway, so I tend to stay in bed a lot because that enables me to take the brace off and feel comfortable, at least until my shoulders start hurting and force me to get up again. Once up, I can't stand for more than a few minutes; I'm not supposed to bend over or lift more than five pounds; and the brace pushes against my esophagus when I sit down; so it's soon back to bed. The thumb is continuing to improve, so I cancelled my last appointment with that doctor, but am still seeing my internist, my back doctor, and a urologist (about the growth on my left kidney). Because I will have a lapse in insurance for the month of January, I'm hoping to get my doctor visits out of the way prior to the 31 days of that month. If one of the doctors I am scheduled to see this Monday and Tuesday should insist that I come in, I really don't know what I'll do.

Helen said...

Was thinking about you earlier today, wondering how everything on the health front was going. Here's hoping you can make it through January without having to visit the doc ... any of them!

2014 has to be better! (Doesn't it?)

Joe Todd said...

Just stopped by to say Hi.. Not having the best of days.. Ohio really sucks in the winter...

The Tusk said...

Happy New Year Snow, It takes a full afternoon to read all the blog comments. The lapse of coverage is certainly a downer.

I remember a bit back you took some yoga classes and found a small semblance of results. I'm wondering what made you stop and if any stretching is possible at all in your condition. Meditation on your day to day maybe can relieve some pain. Real or perceived. Begin by sittiing in front of Water, i.e., a bowl a pond a lake, and just sit and think.

It's the new year things will look up soon enough.

By all accounts at least in a month you will have insurance again.

kj said...

I won't stupidly wish you a happy new year, given the circumstances, but I will tell you you are important here and feel better so we can have you back

Love
kj

Robin said...

Miss you....and worry about you...and miss you.... KJ spoke the truth...you ARE important here...to us all.

Love,

♥ Robin ♥

Crazed Nitwit said...

Ok,
I'm a nurse and that picture made me go ewwwwwwww. It's look painful and icky.

Sending healing vibes from up north.