Tuesday, January 22, 2008


So last night it was time to change the dressing covering the incision where they stuck the tube that removed the air from my chest and allowed my lung to reinflate itself. I'd rate myself as middling on the sensitivity-to-gore scale -- a PG-13 guy in an R-rated world. My blood and I just don't get along any more. So it was at the last permissible hour, and with a good deal of trepidation, that I peeled off my shirt and began working on the thick layers of white tape that swathed my thorax like an umpire's chest protector. 

At first, I'm nervous. Then, trying to work the maze off centimeter by centimeter, I start getting pissed off. The stuff has practically bonded to my skin, and there's a lot of it; yanking on it just painfully pulls my gristle into a hump, so I have to get in underneath it with the fingers of my off hand and work it to the side so that the other hand's pulling removes tape instead of flesh. This takes a long time and manages to be simultaneously painful and tedious. When I've finally freed the multiple straps holding down the thick wad of gauze, I yank the whole thing off and look up at the mirror, worried about what I'll see.

I look, then look again. There is a crusty smear of dried blood, a small yellowing bruise, a few crisscrossing straps of lobster-red skin, and... nothing. I'm standing there with a couple of squares of yellow petroleum gauze stuff, trying to figure out where to slap it down, and the only plausible candidate is this spider bite, a sorry looking little red scab. This is it? This is the sum total of two procedures, six milligrams of morphine and, initially anyway, a considerable amount of discomfort. Well, yes. I apply the jelly and gauze and fasten it all down with as little tape as seems prudent.

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