Just beneath the surface of normal

From The Archive: Fun With Plastic Surgery II: Wound Care

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The follow-up to yesterday’s post from 2006, in which I tentatively venture into the world of plastic surgery for the first and last time. The update at the bottom is from then, not now.

Last night I decided that I’m not really the sort of person who suffers for beauty. I wear minimal make-up, I don’t pluck – heck, sometimes I can’t even be bothered to shave for months on end – why did I think that I would not mind tending to five bleeding holes in my head?

The answer is simple: I didn’t know I would have five bleeding holes in my head.

See, when I went to my initial consult with Dr. Nippentuck, I failed to hear the part about treating post-op wounds and skipped straight to the bit about it leaving a little pale spot where the “mole” had been.

So what I imagined is that underneath the undesired lumps of brownish flesh my real skin would be waiting, all pristine and pale and ready to go. Much like when I was a child and I was sure that my real parents were wealthy and patient and would come for me one day and take me away from the horror of this poor, struggling single woman who called herself my mother, and even had the (clearly doctored, I thought) graphic black and white pictures to prove it.

In neither instance did that bear an even passing resemblance to reality.

What I have, instead of five flat, pale ovals, is a volcanic mountain range: steep, swollen edges which plunge at the center to a deep crater spewing forth blood at the slightest agitation.

Without access to mirrors all day yesterday, I was not aware of the masses of crusty blood forming around my band-aids, making me look like a soccer mom who thought it might be fun to take up street fighting.

So imagine my horror when I arrive home and stroll into the bathroom to check things out in the mirror, a mere twenty minutes before the start of my daughter’s holiday concert.

In a panicked rush of fantasies about huge disfiguring scars resulting from my four hours of wound negligence, I grab a bottle of peroxide and, in an act of charmingly optimistic self-delusion, a single cotton ball with which I will somehow sop up half a liter of dried blood at night in a drugstore parking lot in under five minutes, without glasses.

I dash through the drugstore like a contestant in Hospital Supermarket Sweep, grab up some of those subtle little round dot bandages and some antibiotic ointment and rush my loot to the car, where I proceeded to rip off the band-aid over my eye wound, which then begins to gush blood.

I clean this up as best I can with my lone peroxided cotton ball, dab some ointment on it, and whisper a little prayer as I slap a bandage on it.

Two seconds later the bandage is soaked with blood and sliding down my eyelid.

Running out of time and not knowing what to do, I shove the bloodied cotton ball between my eye and my glasses and tear off to the school, deciding that my appearance will just have to suffer.

I skid into the school parking lot at two minutes to seven, dab some more ointment and stick on another dot, which promptly falls off and hits my glasses because there is now too much gooey ointment to adhere a half-gallon of superglue, much less a few millimeters of non-latex adhesive.

I give up and go inside, wound gaping, and sit down next to the ex just as the first notes of the band began. About halfway through the second song of the choir’s performance, I feel a trickle on my eyelid. I look at ex and ask as casually as possible, “is my eye bleeding?” to which he shakes his head while I spend the rest of the concert dabbing at my eye in paranoia. Ah, some things never change.

Fast forward to the end of the concert. Corinne comes out to hug me and immediately recoils with a horrified, “mom, what’s wrong with your face?! It’s scary!”

I try to say soothing things and show her my open wound on my eye, which I’ve yet to see in the light, to show her that it’s no big deal. The look on her face indicates that it is, in fact, a big deal and that she will be sleeping with the lights on at dad’s tonight.

I do what seems to be the right thing to at this point, which is to take my hideous disfigurement and slink home, where I find myself peering into the smoldering depths of Mount St. Laser, with a flow of blood crusted all over my eyelid.

Oh, no – what had I done? This could never possibly heal over as a nice pale, smooth spot formerly occupied by the Wart That Ate Manhattan, like I had so often imagined.

‘Well,’ I sigh encouragingly to myself, ‘I can at least minimize it by keeping on top of my wound maintenance.’

It takes me seven cotton balls to clean up all the dried blood, and four wasted spot bandages before I give up on the fantasy of forcing tiny discreet bandages to adhere to my hemorrhaging eyelid and resort to mounds of gauze and surgical tape, which, combined with the spot bandages on my cheeks and forehead, make me look like someone who had been sucker-punched while shaving the upper half of her face.

Forty five minutes after I began, I finally walk away from the sink.

Less than two hours later I am back to see what the wetness leaking from the bandages on my cheek might be.

Why, oh why, had I even bothered to wonder?

Sighing, I wipe the blood from my cheek, tape a monster hunk of gauze to it, consider again Jim’s suggestion about wrapping my head like the invisible man, change the other bandages for good measure, and go to bed.

This morning I wake up extremely early for some reason. If you know me at all, you know that there are only three reasons for me to wake spontaneously: 1) it’s one o’clock in the afternoon, 2) there’s a vomiting child hovering over me, or 3) I have told myself exactly what time I’ll wake up before going to sleep, which is an extremely useful subconscious ability for which I have no explanation. This is none of these to the best of my knowledge, so I roll around under the covers for a while, looking for the right position to drift back to dreamland for another hour.

After thirty unsuccessful minutes I sigh, trudge out of bed and return to my new altar, the bathroom mirror.

Thirty minutes later, once all the bandages are changed and the old ones are flowing out of the bandage-wrapping-filled bathroom trashcan, I it occurs to me that my subconscious knew just how much time all this wound maintenance was going to take, and had roused me for just that purpose so that I might make it to work at a reasonable hour.

The bleeding seems to have largely stopped, which is a relief, but the tedium of maintenance is far from over. I find that it’s lunchtime now, which means it’s time to peel off the morning’s dots, add a new glob of ointment and put on a new one, yet again. Such is my fate for the next two weeks.

Except I forgot the gauze and tape for my eye. Perhaps this time I’ll run over to the drugstore *before* I remove this morning’s handiwork.

I beg you: If I ever begin to fantasize again about unnecessary procedures, please, please, please, stop me. No matter how enthusiastically I show you how small and invisible the currently giant spewing craters of doom have healed to become, just remind me of the wound maintenance before they got that way. That should bring me to my senses.

UPDATE: I’ve determined that there is a variation on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which explains that an adhesive may stick to skin or hair, but not both. The dots stuck to my eyebrow only and were pathologically repelled by my skin. The “sticks to anything” adhesive tape I bought at lunch sticks to anything BUT my eyebrow, which is still an important anchor, given the crater’s proximity to it. Maybe I could apply for a grant and something good could come from this after all.


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