Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Friend in Need

I was dazzled and impressed by the injuries listed by Boo and offered my own unimpressive highlights, when I remembered the best part of the story of getting my nails being pulled out. Perhaps a little background would help explain:

My sophomore year in college, I developed strange white spots under two of my fingernails. None of the doctors who saw me had any idea what was going on. In response to the mystery spots under my nails, I started washing my hands even more frequently (with harsher soaps and hotter water) and disinfecting them with whatever I could get my hands on. This overzealous approach may have resulted in the subsequent infections under my nails. No one knows for sure, because the infections couldn't be explained by any of the doctors either. Over time, my nails started developing small holes, which lead to more infections, and more washing. Wash, disinfect, repeat.

By the beginning of my junior year, when I was an RA and a newly minted Microbiology major, my index and pinky finger sported holey, twisty nails that oozed fluid. It got to the point that I rarely used my right hand for anything close to my face. In early October, I decided that if something wasn't done to fix the grotesqueness of my fingers, I'd have to chop them off in the kitchen sink. With that, I marched myself to the student health center where every doctor, nurse and administrator knew me and my fingers. I told them I needed to schedule an appointment to somehow resolve my nail issues. They promised me an hour on the following Tuesday when the residents and specialists from UMC would do rotations.

The following Tuesday afternoon, I walked to the health center, sat on the bed and obediently modeled my warped fingers to each student and resident in the room. After a brief break to discuss the situation, the whole lot of them came back and their Leader announced that the best course of action would be to remove my nails and allow my nails to rebuild and regrow. He also recommended a round of medications which would 'possibly effect my family planning decisions'. I wasn't planning a family at the time, but the idea that my fingernails would prevent my ability to bear children was more than I could take. As the tears flowed, I tried to muster as much dignity as I could and asked, "Could you just start with removing the nail?"

And good doctors that they were, they listened. As the nurse injected the anesthesia, she asked if I was planning to have children soon. "No, but I'd like to keep my options open."

As she stepped aside, the Leader told me to lay down and relax. Unfortunately, I did and they pulled the nail from my index finger. I'm not exaggerating when I said I practically hit the ceiling, screaming in pain. The Leader was shocked, and asked if I actually felt anything. WHAT THE F#$!#@ DO YOU THINK?

I don't remember anything about the removal of my second nail, because I passed out. When I came to, I had three fingernails on my right hand and was clenching my teeth so hard I felt light headed. They tried to keep me until I was a little more comfortable, but I had to get away from there. All the way from the health center back to the dorm, I was hyperventilating and doing my best not to scream.

As I walked into the dorm, one of my residents saw me and asked what was wrong.

"Noth-ing. Pain. Can't. Breathe."

And that's when she did what any caring, kind resident would do for their RA. She smacked me so hard that the shock and impact almost knocked me over.


"Isn't that what you do to help people when they're hyperventilating? Or is it when they're having an anxiety attack? I heard it somewhere. Oh my God! I think you need to breathe into a paper bag. Are you ok?"

I almost started laughing at the sincerity of her effort and the ridiculousness of the situation.

Wednesday morning, I went to class with two bandaged, throbbing fingers and a bruised face--and offers of assistance from a very apologetic resident.


Alex the Odd said...

... and now I can't eat my breakfast. Ugh, I feel ill. That is one truly horrifying story. And the medication could have affected your fertility? Really? Because of infected nails? Ok, now I'm actually scared to touch anything.


Anonymous said...

What the eff? So did you ever discover the mystery of the nail-eating infection?

Oh, and my experiences with student health are too numerous to divulge, and could be considered slanderous, that is if they weren't true.

My conclusion: student health=no health.

Jayne said...

oh you poor thing! I had some bad student/university clinic experiences as well, but that one's by far the worst I heard. Yuck Yuck Yuck.

So how long did it take to heal? I assume that they did in fact grow back?

and sorry I've been MIA- it's been a crazy week. I'm off to Africa in a few days!!!

litelysalted said...

Holy crap. I feel nauseous and lightheaded just from reading that.

Just... Holy crap.

girl with curious hair said...

Sorry to make you all sick and nauseous, guys.

Alex--for a while they thought it was an extreme case of psoriasis, which they needed to treat with some craptacular cycle of medication that would require quarterly liver biopsies and consent that I was aware of the 'family planning' issues.

Ba-Namak--Yeah, when people talk about their college memories, I have this to share. Impressive, huh?
Jayne--yes, they eventually grew back, although very, very slowly. They are still warped looking and occasionally start peeling off but nothing like what happened before. They are my only imperfection (on my fingers).

Boo--Yeah, I'm pretty sure the only thing student health is good for is cheap birth control and confused looks. Of course, some don't even provide the cheap birth control...