Thursday, November 10, 2011
I had another visit with Dorothy on Tuesday. I'll share a story she told me, in just a minute, but first let me update you on her condition.
Not much change, which is a good thing. She's holding steady, which is probably the best that can be hoped for considering her panoply of maladies. The cards and letters from you have most definitely had a cheering effect. She loves receiving them, and she is the hit of the nursing staff because of them. She tells me they fight with each other to bring them to her bedside and read them to her (as I've mentioned before, Dorothy does not have good vision, so she needs to have most of the writings read to her. She can see the drawings, photos, and other large visuals well enough, though.) She (and the staff) are continually amazed at the variety of places from which the mail has come - across the U.S., from Canada, from Europe, and this week Malaysia made the list.
Her spirits are high. I'd like to think she's that way all the time, and not just when I'm visiting, but she lights up so much when I walk in, I have to think she might not always be so bright and peppy.
(I'm not saying it's me, specifically, who makes her so cheerful. I think any visitor would do it. It has to get somewhat tiring just laying there in bed. That's why the cards and letters are having such a great effect. They break up the day.)
As for her physical condition? Her weight is alarmingly low, but she has always been thin. Hard to tell, visually, if she's lost any more weight. She has the translucent skin I've also been "blessed" with, so aside from skin and bones she is all veins, but she has been that way for most of the recent years, even before this hospitalization.
Anyway, I am blessed to have so many wonderful readers who have gone out of their way to drop her a line. I'll give the address again, in case anyone else wishes to join in. For further background on Dorothy, in case you have no idea who or what I'm talking about, go HERE and perhaps HERE. The address:
Dorothy Luff, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900
And now, here’s the story I promised you.
If you’ve ever had an ingrown toenail, you know how painful that can be. I’ve never had one, myself, so I have no idea. I’ve been told it’s sort of like a toothache of the foot. If that’s true, I can imagine it quite well. I’ve had more than enough toothaches. But, before I start rambling on about my former teeth, this story isn’t about me. It’s about Dorothy. It takes place during the summer of 1940, when she was thirteen years old.
Dorothy, as you may have already guessed from the idiotic preface I’ve provided, had an ingrown toenail. It was on the big toe of her left foot. Having never had an ingrown toenail before, however, she didn’t know that she had one. All she knew was that her foot hurt.
She soldiered along for about a week, wobbling a bit here and there, until her older sister, Patty, saw her limping and grimacing. Patty asked Dorothy what was the matter. Dorothy said her foot hurt. Patty asked Dorothy to show her the foot. So, Dorothy did. She sat down on the edge of her bed and removed her shoes and socks.
What Patty saw was a big toe swollen to about twice its normal size, discolored almost to the point of being purple. Since Dorothy had the world famous translucent and very white skin that many in the Sullivan clan were favored with, this was even more pronounced a discoloration than it might have been on someone of a darker complexion. Patty became alarmed and called for their mother.
Anna, her mother – and she was the Sullivan side of their heritage, thus a woman who didn’t believe in sitting around when action could alleviate a problem - came into the room, took one look at the toe in question, and told Dorothy to put her shoes and socks back on. This wasn’t because she wanted the toe covered up (although she no doubt did) but because she had immediately decided a trip to the doctor was necessary. They dressed and went out to Hyde Park Avenue to catch the streetcar.
The streetcar came and they boarded. It was a warm summer afternoon in Boston. As she and her mother rode the slowly moving crowded streetcar, Dorothy began to feel a bit queasy. The prospect of going to the doctor, the hot streetcar swaying slightly on the tracks, the sweaty patrons filling the seats around her, and not least of all the toe itself, all added up to make Dorothy nauseous. Dorothy tried thinking cooler thoughts, but it didn’t help much.
Anna and Dorothy arrived at the doctor’s office and were checked in by a nurse. They were ushered into an examination room and told to wait for the doctor. In those days before widespread air conditioning, the close confines of the windowless exam room offered no respite from the heat. Dorothy was still nauseous.
After several minutes of warm waiting, the doctor arrived. He asked what was the matter. When he was told about the toe, he instructed Dorothy to hop up onto the examination table (as best she COULD hop, given the circumstances) and he then removed Dorothy’s shoe and sock.
There was the ugly toe, still swollen and purple. The doctor gingerly touched it. Even that little bit of pressure made Dorothy wince. She also felt slightly faint. She let her head drop a bit, and, in so doing, she found herself looking directly down at the doctor, who was kneeling in front of her as he examined the toe.
The doctor saw that the best immediate action would be to release some of the pressure on the toe. He reached into his pocket and took out a small scalpel. He lacerated the toe, releasing an arcing stream of yellowish and foul-smelling pus.
Voluminously, and with great color.
Right onto the doctor’s head.
One good thing: she immediately forgot about her toe hurting.
When she was done retching, Dorothy was mortified. Even BEFORE Dorothy was done retching, her mother was doubly so. The doctor, to his eternal credit, kept his calm. He told Dorothy not to worry. He straightened up, and left the room to change clothes (and possibly professions.)
There’s no kicker to this (Hah! Kicker! It’s a foot joke!) except to say that the doctor came back and excised the toenail from its painful position, trimmed it back, and then Dorothy was A-OK shortly thereafter.
You may be wondering, though, about how it came to pass that Dorothy told me this story. She didn’t just come up with it out of the blue. You see, she was telling me about how she had requested some scissors from the nursing staff at her residence, to trim her toenails, but that they wouldn’t give her any because they feel that some patients are so despondent they might use the scissors to do harm to themselves or another patient. So, Dorothy feared getting another ingrown nail, and she told me about what had transpired when she had her first one.
If I were on that nursing staff, I’d give her the scissors. Anything she does with them would, to my way of thinking, probably be preferable to what might happen if Dorothy did get an ingrown nail and they had to end up treating it. I’m just saying.
Soon, with more better stuff.