Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Leg Wound

Here's something you never want to do.

I was stepping off the train at Bay Shore, same as I've done every day for seven years, and I somehow caught my foot between the train and the platform. I spun around, and slammed my leg on the concrete. My laptop bag went flying, contents everywhere. I gathered everything up and looked down at my leg to see the scrape I'd gotten.

But it wasn't a scrape. It was gushing blood down my leg. And I'm not using "gushing" in a dramatic sense, either. I've never seen so much blood coming out of my body so fast. It was already starting to soak my sandal. I hobbled down the small set of stairs, rifling through my bag for a napkin or something that I could use to wipe up the cut a bit. All the people who usually stand there on the train silently next to me were asking if I was okay. I found a napkin, and started wiping my leg down a bit.

That's when I discovered that I didn't have a cut. An area about the size of a dime was chunked right out of my shin. For the first time in my life, it hit me that I'm actually made out of meat. At the same time, I realized that I was probably going to have to do something about this beyond a bandage. A guy offered to take my bag from me, but I politely waved him off and stumbled across the way to my car. Pressing tightly on my leg, in considerable, throbbing pain, I drove home. It didn't help to think that from now on, all the silent commuters I know by sight would think of me as Bleeding Idiot. I might have to take another train from now on.

I limped in, changed from my nice shirt into a crappy T, washed off the leg a bit, tossed on a pair of sandals that weren't making squishy noises from the blood on them, and drove off to Good Sam hospital. I walked in, holding a bloody paper towel to my leg. They'd stationed a semi-cop inside the door of the ER, sort of a Wal-Mart style greeter with a badge and a gun. As I hobbled in, his first words to me were "You not feeling well?" Well no, that and the fact that I can see daylight through my leg, thanks for asking! Fortunately, there weren't too many people in triage, so I was the second person they saw.

I was able to walk without additional pain, and the bleeding had abated somewhat, although I was still getting regular throbbing pain accompanied by more blood. The attendant who signed me in said that his dad did the same thing once when he gouged out his leg on a metal highway divider in the dark, then waved me over to the waiting room to sit down. The Good Sam ER waiting room is bright and cheerful, with several overhead TVs competing for your attention, a variety of delicious snack and soda machines, and a frail, young woman in a wheelchair with her head in a bucket, retching constantly. She seemed to be permanently stationed right near the door so that you had to walk past her to get in or out.

They called my name after about five minutes, and I went over to register. I had to answer most of the same questions a second time, but that gave me a chance to flip my bloody rag to the non-saturated side. I didn't feel like waiting with Lady Retchson again, so I asked if I could stand outside and use my cell phone. They said it was no problem, and that they'd call me in for the FastTrack in a few minutes. Lo and behold, a nurse actually came out to look for me in about 10 minutes, saying that they'd been calling me for a long time.

I dragged my leg back inside, and they asked me the same questions a third time. No allergies, no tetanus shot in the past ten years, yes, it happened on the train, yes, I'm an idiot, no, it hit on the concrete. The nurse swabbed out the wound, had me flex my leg a couple of times to see which way produced the coolest blood spurts, then shot my leg up to numb it. Mmmmmm. That stuff worked great. She started stitching it up, and I warned her that she'd better not make the scar spell out her initials. I was so numb that I didn't feel the stitches at all, but I got three on the inside just to tighten up the leg meat, and another six on the outside to close up the hole. Then she asked about the tetanus shot again. I told her that it probably wasn't necessary, because the platform's soaked with urine, which is sterile, but she insisted that I get one. A quick jab later, I was ready to go.

So now I have to stay off my feet for two days so that I don't pull out the stitches. I have to go back on Saturday for some sort of Wound Reunion club. And I have to pop antibiotics 28 times. The numbing stuff wore off, and every time I stand up my leg is in throbbing pain. I can't sleep. I can't get my leg wet. The only salvation is the bottle of Canadian over-the-counter Tylenol with codeine hidden away for situations like this.

But I took a cool picture of my leg. Notice how I've unnecessarily peeled off the bloody gauze and placed it just above the wound to make it look worse.

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