It's a gruesome story, not one for the faint of heart. Much like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, I share with you today: The Tale of the Effin-Painful Finger.
The terror begins with a slamming door and a blood-curdling scream. Swearing and shrieking and swearing some more, I stumble to the kitchen. I wrap the finger in ice and huddle in wide-eyed fear, until every cube melts into a faintly pink pool of water. Only then do I peek to assess the damage.
My finger appears roughly the size of a fat Cuban cigar. A purple one. With an ominous black fingernail. If I had a bottle of OPI Black Onyx, I could paint the other nine for a matching Gothic set.
I wiggle the finger and blow out a sigh when nothing appears to be broken. So do I rush to the ER, where I risk a three-hour wait only to be sent home with a bandage and some Neosporin? I do not. I do what any sensible person in the 21st century would do. I Google.
The most common treatment for such an injury appears to be this: the doctor drills a hole through the fingernail.
I fight back the bile building in my throat. I read on. Terrifying, yes, but the blood is consequently released, the pressure relieved, and voila! The demons are defeated, and the horror story has a happy ending!
Sadly, I couldn't operate a Black and Decker tool if I owned one. Yet surely I can improvise. I survey the surgical instruments at hand: a safety pin, a stolen nail from a picture hanging from the wall, or a shish kabob skewer.
I opt for the safety pin. I bite my lip and punch through the fingernail. A few drops of blood ooze out. And then--nothing. I punch again. And again. After ten minutes of self-surgery, I'm left with a blood-tinged Kleenex and a fingernail much resembling a window screen.
I plaster the finger in Neosporin, bandage it and let it incubate for three days.
Despite my adroit medical skills, I wind up at my doctor's office with an infected finger.
The nurse leads me toward the exam room. "Let's just have you step on the scale first."
I freeze and brace myself against the wall. "You're going to weigh me? But I... I'm only here for an infected finger." I thrust my damaged digit in front of her face. I realize, too late, that I have just flipped off the nurse. A justifiable defense, perhaps, for anyone being threatened with a scale.
"But wait," I plead, "I'm wearing my heavy winter boots."
"Yes, I'll be sure to make note of that." I note the wicked glint in her eye.
I collapse on the exam table, and the nurse promptly takes my blood pressure. I frown, confused by the order of events. Surely if physicians' offices tested a patient's blood pressure before making her step on a scale, blood pressure rates across the world would plummet. But clearly, this is part of the evil conspiracy.
The doctor finally enters the room. Fearful she might order me back on the scale, I shout, "I slammed my finger in a door. See?" I am careful to stick out my entire hand, not just my middle finger.
She examines the infected finger, tsk-tsks a bit, and prescribes an antibiotic. She tells me to return in two weeks. "Or," she adds as an afterthought, "we may have you see a plastic surgeon."
I raise my good hand to my face, pondering what, exactly, she thinks needs work.
"A plastic surgeon?"
"The nail bed could be permanently damaged. You may lose the fingernail."
"Oh, that." I nod, smug in my Google-researched medical knowledge. "Yes, I read about that on the internet. Right before I poked all the holes in my fingernail."
"Huh." Oddly, she appears less-than-impressed with my personal doctoring. "So then, you also understand that the nail might die, but not fall completely off on its own?"
I stare at her, still not comprehending.
"And that we may need to pluck out the dead nail?"
This is where the tale gets a bit blurry. It's possible I curl into a ball right here, upon hearing the words "pluck out." (Maybe, amidst their perusal of biology textbooks, medical students should also be required to study a thesaurus for more benign terminology. The words "pluck out," along with the words "I need to probe the wound," once uttered by an ER physician after my Life-Threatening Dishwashing Accident of 1986, are not highly recommended.)
I yank my hand away and cradle it against my chest. "But then, the fingernail will grow back, right?"
The doctor shrugs. "Perhaps. Or you might just be left with scar tissue."
I'm not certain what more pleasant term exists for a finger forever devoid of a nail, but I'm fairly certain I will find a better one than "scar tissue" once I consult my thesaurus.
First, however, I stop at the pharmacy to fill my prescription. While there, I pick up a package of press-on nails. And a strong pair of tweezers.
I figure I can handle any at-home surgery now. After all, I am a Google-certified physician.
But you can bet I won't weigh myself first.
That should eliminate half the pain.
Tell me my fingernail is a survivor. Tell me you Google-treat your own medical issues. Tell me I'm not an idiot. (OK, maybe that's reaching.)