Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dorothy & The Ingrown Toenail

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.

Dorothy vomited.

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.


Anonymous said...

That visual? When I'm drinking my morning tea? Made me a bit nauseous. Good thing there's no doctor around.

How mortifying for her...

Daryl said...

LOVE this story. I am so glad she's telling all these wonderful bits of family lore to you .. you now become the keeper of the memories .. they must be shared and not just with us .. with your family .. I wish when my dad and his 'kid' sister were reminiscing that we'd turned on the video camera and captured it all ..

Michelle H. said...

Wow! The visualization. I pictured the whole thing. Glad I don't have anything on my stomach at the moment. I've never had an ingrown toenail, and I'm thanking my lucky stars for that. Another great Dorothy story!

Carolina said...

If this isn't a warning to look after your toenails or to not become a doctor, I don't know what is!

I'm glad Dorothy is reasonably well, all things considered. Love the stories she tells you. She must be the talk of the 'town', with all the mail she gets.


The Broad said...

How horrifyingly disgustingly funny! What a pair the two of you must be together. Glad to say I've never had an ingrown toenail -- corns are more my thing :-(

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I never puked on a doctor, but I overfilled a specimen bottle once when I was twelve.

Jeni said...

Good advice there to take excellent care of one's feet! I had a similar problem when I was around 10 years old -my Mom initially thought it might be an ingrown toenail but as it turned out, it was just the cuticle around the big toe had an infection in it. No incisions needed -just some good old antibiotic, most likely back then, penicillin I would imagine. But definitely do remember how painful that was and can understand why Dorothy is so wanting NOT to have a re-run of something like that!

Reena said...

I love Dorothy! What a character and what fun you both must have in telling stories.

messymimi said...

Reminds me of a comment by a woman who had 10 kids, and whose OB didn't believe in morning sickness. He told her it was all in her head; she said she always wished she had put it all in his lap. Wonder if he would have handled it that well.

Thanks for sharing another of Dorothy's gems, and i'm praying for her daily.

Buck said...

It's good to hear Dorothy is in good spirits and is doing as well as possible. You're a great good man for taking the time to visit... AND for relaying her status to us. Thanks for that, Jim.

Great story, too. ;-)

Moannie said...

lord love you and Dorothy too. So happy to be back wielding the old cursor even on NOAOsons fantastic mac where I have no idea how to to anything but keep writing in a stream of consciousness way...night night

CiCi said...

Keep up the great Dorothy stories.

Maggie May said...

What a story and that poor doctor!

Glad Dorothy is doing well and enjoying her cards. I must send her another one soon.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

lime said...


I feel bad for dorothy and the pain/nausea.
i feel bad for the doctor wearing a vomit toupee.

but by golly, this IS a funny story told so many decades later.

yep, give her the scissors or suffer the consequences, i say.

oh, and vomit toupee would be a really excellent name for a rock band, dontcha think?

silly rabbit said...

Ha! I'm going to be laughing about this tale all day long. I had a similar situation involving my nose and a doc, but not nearly as funny as this one. Snot can't compare to the many colors and textures of vomit!
What an experience! God bless Dorothy.

Craig said...

Mmmmm. . . pus and puke. . . And simultaneously, even! And - 'arcing stream of yellowish and foul-smelling pus' - what a great visual!

Great story, Jim.

OK, this is probably gonna end up in my blog someday, but one of the summer-camp directors I've worked for over the years, was quite fond of cutesy little acronymics, like 'The Three F's' (Faith, Fun, and Flexibility), and suchlike. So when the camp nurse gave the talk about the disposal and handling of Bodily Fluids (wet sleeping bags, vomit, and the like), the staff took to calling it the 'Four P's' talk (Pee, Poop, Puke and Pus). And invariably, the Q&A afterward would involve questions like "What about Snot? Ear wax?"

So, Dorothy made me smile. . .

Alice said...

HEY jim,

thanks for uplifting comments at Mum's and mine...and the emails.

come over and see me sometime fella!!

'alice' (FFF aka saz)

Hilary said...

I'm sure Dorothy wasn't the first or the last person to annoint the doctor in such a manner, and I'll bet it's far more etched in her memory than his.

I'm glad she's entrusting you with her tales. I can't think of anyone , aside from Dorothy herself, who is better suited to tell her stories than you.

Anonymous said...

You have such a way with words that even a story involving ingrown toenails, pus and vomit is highly entertaining! (I, too, would advise the staff to give her the scissors!)

Jackie said...

I felt sorry for the doctor....but I felt so much worse for Dorothy. Poor lady. She was already in pain...and then to go through what she did in having to get to the doctor...and then experiencing the procedure at the doctor's office. Poor dear.
I hope that the staff will listen to her and will make sure that she gets the scissors for her toenails if she needs them. Someone could cut them for her.
I love her through your stories of her. Give Ms. Dorothy hugs from me, please.

i beati said...

I keep warning drs. they don't listen//since every procedure in the last blood cancered existence has gone south , bu t this story is even better..

Cricket said...

Ugh. And heh, heh.

My mom was a nurse, though, and it's very tough to mortify any really experienced medical type. If you do, you can tell that you're really all f-ed up. I'm just sayin'.

Jeri Burtchell (TickledPink) said...

Wow! I have been away so long I had forgotten how funny you are! I love your blog and the stories you tell.

The puke drenched doc reminded me of being a kid and flying with my sister in a Cessna 182 my dad was piloting. I was napping with my head in my sister's lap. She got air sick and I was wearing a puke helmet until we landed and got to an airport bathroom.

That doc may have forgotten his episode of Up Close With Vomit, but I must say I remember mine well.

Keep on bloggin'... I shall return!

Sueann said...

Oh dear! Poor Dorothy! I bet she did feel awful! But after that and the doc coming back and fixing the toe, she probably felt oh so much better!
Love your stories

Clare Dunn said...

Thank you, Dorothy, for telling these stories to Sul! And thank you, Sul, for relating them so graphically! (ack-ack!)

Love& to Dorothy
and you, too
xoxoxo, cd

Kat said...

Oh ugh. Just ewww. Puss and vomit all in one post. Good thing I already ate. ;)
Still, it is a good story! :)

Karen said...

Sounds like she's having fun with visitors and with the cards. God bless her.

Bill Yates said...

Jim, thanks for sharing these Dorothy stories. They're wonderful!

Heidi Olivia Tan said...

Bless you Jim for the time and care you show.
Thanks for sharing.
More postcards from Malaysia are in the mail.

Calgary Foot Doctor said...

Excellent Post. The information is very precise and simple to understand. I hope anyone suffering from an ingrown toenail will take your advice. It is very important for anyone with health conditions such as diabetes to get their feet checked by a podiatrist.

Calgary Foot Doctor said...

I had an ingrown toe nail because my nail was too big for the space on my toe. I had a lot of pain!