THE SKIN TRANSPLANT

When last we left Uncle Al, his thoroughly cooked remains had been scraped and draped. He had a hose in his arm and a pipe down his nose, and floated in a chemical haze of analgesics, tranquilizers, and histamine antagonists. Could anything happen to make matters worse?

Yes.

When last we left a certain thoroughly cooked right forearm it had been subjected to a fasciotomy (sliced and cauterized) while the rest of Uncle Al spasmed about six inches above the gurney, a massive, appalling sensory catastrophe clobbering that blob of animate grease between his ears. Second degree burns are the purview of nurses, there to aid, reassure, and occasionally and unofficially administer a casual wallop upside the head of a bothersome patient. Third degree burns are the playground of the guys with the scalpels. In the words of the attending physician,

"We are just going to remove the damaged flesh from your arm and replace it with healthy flesh from your thighs."

I admired his enthusiastic attitude. He complimented me on saving so much nice real estate, because dicing up a patient's backside or shoulders for a skin transplant is a real nuisance for the operating room staff. They have to keep turning the body. After he left I contemplated his use of the plural, "thighs." Now wait just a motherless second - and the lights went out.

I awoke that evening in my bed, and nothing had apparently changed. I looked to my left, and there was my left flipper bundled in gauze, burn cream and mesh. I looked to my right, and there was my right flipper, enveloped in more dandy wrappings than a mink coat slyly secreted under a Christmas tree. I wiggled my fingers, and my fingers wiggled. With all ten digits present and hanging proud, I fumbled for the call button preparatory to engaging in the solemn rite of urination.

The nurse came over with the bucket and I swung my legs around and off the bed. Those legs were heavy suckers. They just were not willing to do much. My angel robe parted and there were my thighs stripped clean of skin, brilliant red like venison, my groin to both knees looking like canned ham. There was a surprise coming much later, and another coming real soon, but right now nothing hurt. That was the green light. I attempted to stand and the nurse panicked.

It may be hard to believe, but within the hospital there are forbidden acts. A scalpel slipping and accidentally excising a testicle is discouraged. A patient shuffling off this mortal coil with a little inadvertent assistance from the staff is regrettable. Of all the circumstances that might transpire in a place where blood squirts and pus dribbles, there is only one truly mortal sin: If a patient is dropped on the floor, the paperwork is awesome!

I attempted to stand, my knees buckled, and there was this 95 pound nurse holding a piss bucket trying to levitate 200 pounds of edematous me threaded with IV lines and a nasogastric tube, with no meaningful use of my legs, either hand, or my right arm. I went down and she shot under me, grimly determined that only the soles of my feet would touch the linoleum. In situations like these there is only one thing a human can do. I peed a river, all over her. She managed to keep me administratively clear of the floor. 1.06 pints of pee lighter I eventually oozed back into bed.

Her hindquarters circumscribing a tight figure eight as she strode off toward the nurses station, my angel of mercy of that evening managed to articulate a brilliant radiance of official displeasure. I speculated upon the sensual indulgence of golden showers. I presume that certain sophisticated acts of provocative eroticism were just not within her realm of personal gratification. On the other hand, they were certainly all over her uniform at the start of her shift. It was neither a triumph nor a tragedy, just another demeaning episode to color my imaginings of circumstances to be, apre bowel movement. Don't ask.

With my face, ears and nose cooked medium rare, I could not wear my -10 diopter glasses. My other pair of glasses, that is, the standard set having been blackened and bubbled from the intense heat while saving my eyes. That much uncorrected myopia crosses the line for "Legally Blind." That much nearsightedness means the world is in focus for about a quarter inch in front of my nose. As the days of Hydrotherapy squealed by, I never really got a meaningful look at my new right forearm or my thighs. It was a considerable surprise to me when one morning the nurses at Hydrotherapy talked about pulling out all the staples.


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