It’s amazing how you can get so used to having an inch-deep draining hole in your butt.
Things had leveled out a little since I went back to finish my undergrad. It was collectively decided that daily home care maybe wasn’t a good idea for an otherwise mobile 21-year old student who lived with other people (no shit, I thought).
Instead I went to a hole-in-the-wall clinic three times a week to get my ass-wound packed. Oddly enough, the clinic was shut down a month after I left town because of budget cuts. I’m pretty sure the only patients there were me and the guy with the diabetic foot ulcer.
The nurse who worked at the clinic was Pam, who insisted on being called “Nurse Pam.” I learned a lot about Nurse Pam — she liked mystery novels and flea markets and Harrison Ford (me too, Nurse Pam).
I timed my clinic visits down to a science. Catch the bus to uptown at 1:45, be at the clinic for 2:00, catch the bus at the clinic at 2:30, grab Starbucks, catch another bus back to campus, go to class.
Here’s why the Starbucks was crucial:
At some point the outside of my wound had started hypergranulating. This is medical terminology to describe what happens when the wound is too moist (not my wording) and excess tissue starts to grow. Too much excess tissue and the wound won’t close.
How do you get rid of excess tissue? You burn it off. With nitrate.
Three days a week.
Skin. Chemically. Burned. Off. My. Butthole.
You know when you have a wart on your foot and you go to the doctors to have it burned off, and then it feels like you can’t walk on your foot for the rest of the day? Imagine that feeling in your butt. And then having to sit on a city bus.
I earned my five-dollar latte.
An attitude that is common in those who live with a chronic illness is one of adaptation. So what if I’ve got an inch-deep draining hole in my butt? I still need to get on with my life.
I did a couple comedy open mics. I finished my degree and flew to England, with a weekend-long detour in Amsterdam. I went clubbing on my birthday in a tight dress, even though I didn’t feel pretty or clean enough to be wearing it.
It’s become a cliché of clichés for the well-to-do millennial, but my social media began to feel fraudulent. As I documented my trip around London — macarons at Covent Garden, cute Snapchat geofilters, West End shows — a friend commented at how “sophisticated glam” my life looked.
She didn’t see me in the hotel bathroom with medicated gauze and a compact mirror. Nor did she see me trying to rinse the blood and god-knows-what from my underwear. Nor feeling the pain from my wound but ignoring it because goddammit Emma you’re on vacation, just try to enjoy yourself.
I was still going to a clinic, this time in my hometown. Instead of Nurse Pam, I had a revolving door of nurses. Sometimes they were my own age. It was at this time I developed a not-entirely-irrational fear of having someone I went to high school with look up my butt.
I say “not entirely irrational” because when I went to the gynecologist for the first time, the resident who was going to examine me was actually a former coworker from my first job at Old Navy. We mutually agreed it was best if someone else looked up there.
I was also seeing Dr. J again. We were coming up on our one-year anniversary.
He gave me two options: leave it, or let him go in to scrape out the dead tissue and re-stitch the hole. The latter was going to be more effective, in his opinion. I still trusted his opinion, so I agreed. It was going to be an easy, in-and-out procedure. I could go home the same day, and go back to my summer desk job the same week.
After all, law school was starting in a few weeks. I need this wound gone by then. I mean, can you imagine trying to balance first-year law and a chronic wound?