THINGS THAT GO
8 May 2003
It's amazing that someone as clumsy as I am has not had more serious accidents. I tend
to walk into furniture, trip over rugs, and you don't want to be with me in one of those
cutesy stores filled with breakable tsatskes. There is some comment about bulls and china
shops which might be appropriate here.
But somehow I've avoided any self-inflicted major damage to my body.
The first oddball thing that I can remember happening to me didn't happen until I was
in high school. I'd grown up in the 1950s, in the days before Jonas Salk developed his
polio vaccine. I had a wonderful streak of hypochondria and after seeing a movie based on
the tear-jerker TV program, "Queen for a Day," where one of the
"queens" was crowned and given assistance to help her care for her
polio-stricken child, who was living life in an iron lung, I was convinced I would
contract polio. I had night terrors about polio and would often wake screaming, convinced
that I was moments away from an iron lung.
Needless to say, I did not contract polio and lived an incident-free life until one
summer when I was visiting with my cousin, who lived in the outskirts of Sacramento, what
is now a bustling metropolis, but what was then a town so small if you blinked you missed
it. Over the fence in her back yard was a field where horses grazed. This was country.
One night I woke up and my hand was swollen to twice its normal size. Naturally I
panicked and couldn't understand why anybody else wasn't concerned about my poor swollen
hand. My aunt, a nurse, explained it was just a spider bite. I'd never heard of biting
spiders before and I did not, after all, lose my hand--but I still remember the terror of
that long night of the spider.
I managed to make it to adulthood without breaking a single bone. I suspect that was
due more to inactivity than luck (and definitely not to graceful coordination!). But in
the early years of our marriage, we used to buy our beef by the side from a marvelous, now
defunct, butcher in San Francisco and bought a big upright freezer to store it in. David
was a baby at the time and I went to the freezer to get meat for dinner, and in the
process knocked a frozen roast off of the shelf and onto my toe. I literally saw stars.
We were babysitting for the son of an orthopedist at the time. When Dad came to
pick up son, I told him of my accident. He glanced at the foot and said
"yep--looks like you broke it," as he went down the stairs. So there I was --my
first broken bone. Broken by a frozen roast beef.
It wasn't too many years later, by which time we could no longer afford beef and led a
simpler life, when I dropped a container of frozen beans on another toe, breaking it.
I've pretty much stopped buying food in bulk or making things to be frozen for use at a
later date, and my feet have been happy ever since.
I have a lower leg which is permanently discolored. Now there was a real incident
worthy of the klutz that I am. We were in New York at the time, walking through Greenwich
Village. I was deep in conversation with our guide and didn't see a huge concrete post and
walked smack into it at full speed. I didn't break anything, but the leg was painful for
weeks and became quite discolored. Normally, I would have gone to see a doctor as soon as
we returned, but it was only a few hours after that accident when we received the call
telling us that David had been in an accident and wasn't expected to live. Somehow in all
the busy work involved with the funeral and the grief, it just never occurred to me to see
a doctor. By the time I cared enough to think about it, the pain had long since passed and
only the discoloration remained.
I've asked several doctors about it. The first was my PCP, for whom I also worked, who
said, very wisely "Ouch--that looks painful." That was the professional
diagnosis, I guess. A nurse told me it looked like cellulitis, but nobody ever suggested a
treatment, so I just let it go and now it always looks like it's a burn in the process of
recuperation. (In some ways, it's a reminder of David. I'm not sure if that's
a good thing or a bad.)
I also developed a ganglion cyst on my hand, which I had for several years. Ugly thing.
Big ol' lump on the back of your hand. To a person, everyone -- professional or
non-professional -- told me that the cure for it was to smash a Bible on it. I've always
wondered what was so special about a Bible. Nobody ever suggested "a thick
book." It was always a Bible. I guess that "War and Peace" didn't quite
have the heft of the Good Book.
I mention all this because when I was in Boise, I discovered a lump on my wrist. It was
small, but hard and painful. Fortunately, I have gotten past my hypochondriac years and so
didn't immediately begin pricing voice activation software in case my hand had to be
amputated, but I did wonder how I'd managed to develop this lump.
The only thing I can figure is that one of them Boise critters must have bit me because
in the last two days it has become quite colorful. Half my hand is a lovely shade of
purple or red or a combination of both. I guess it's not serious. When I started to make
some mention of it to Dr. G, he just brushed me off with a "yeah, I noticed," as
he handed me the next batch of typing to be done.
I guess as long as it doesn't affect my typing speed it can't be all that serious.