On 31 July THEY rebuilt my left hand with my left thigh. The scarring on its back and its first web space hurt, was an esthetic crime, and prevented my hand from fully opening at the thumb. I was gently lulled into high expectations, long term, unclouded by clear memories of what those bastards do to you in the here and now. That is why they trank you to Hell and back the first time. There was a new Thai RN in Burns Recovery who had an absolutely wonderful attitude - and a very soft hand - toward male patient recovery. I guess both my hands were unholdable. One bright spot... One overnight stay. Five days at home oozing plasma from the donor site in a bedroom smelling like a newly stocked butchershop. I endured a very sore thigh, having had more than a quarter square foot of skin peeled off, but very little pain. The graft site never hurts - the nerves take almost a year to grow in, if ever.

That Monday THEY went to pull all the staples out, but neglected to first order the standard pain med: 15mg of morphine sulfate IM. This is why you really have to make a nuisance of yourself asking questions. This is why being nice gets you shafted. What do I know about pulling out staples? They drugged into semi-consciousness the last time because of everything else.

I went in, they unwrapped my paw (purple yecch), and started pulling staples. A very expensive 304SS steel surgical staple puller looks much like the common desk item, only smaller and less effective. I had Nurse Suzi, who is very nice, rather pretty, and not necessary the best at doing anything they do to patients in that building. She started by saying "Boy, I haven't pulled out many staples like these." I was sitting up. I decided to lie down. She went to it and, believe me, it was not pleasant. She went 'round and 'round my hand and up my fingers. A bunch of steel in my thumb just WOULD NOT COME OUT. I was shivering in a pool of my own cold sweat. Nurse Suzi said she never saw a face that color green before, except maybe after a cardiac arrest.

My wretched squeals of agony were off-putting to the doctors on rounds - bad for business. They had me dumped in a wheelchair, and hauled my sorry quivering carcass across the entire UCI Medical Center to get to the opiate dispensary. The trip ambled past an outdoor cafeteria. I am not all that shy, and possess an unusual sense of humor... no doubt resulting in a brisk day for post-prandial Compazine administration. Compazine keeps your tummy's contents tucked nice, safe and neat below your short ribs instead of dribbling down the front of your shirt like so many folks in the food court after I passed by... and waived.

Anyway, they shot me up. Nurse April had nice hips and wielded a sweet staple puller. She pulled more staples, but finally gave up for the day when I stopped moaning with each increasingly outrageous rape of my flesh. They lose points if the patient punches out without permission. The next day, they resumed their task AFTER the morphine, a new nurse remarking,

"Did they pull out any staples last time?"

The bastard MD's should be made to fire a machine gun, to get it out of their system. I had more steel in me than the Terminator.

So far, so good. The transplanted patch maintained a lovely shade of eggplant purple for about two months. Then perhaps I should have plunged my reconstructed fist down the doctor's throat, grabbed his asshole from the inside, haul it back through his mouth, and tied it into a bow. NO PAIN MEDS! Should I be grateful that they went to all that trouble to knock me out before surgery?

Then again, the nurse might have unwrapped the surgical dressing to find that baboon's head grafted to my stump. UCI has a teaching hospital dripping with hominids who used to be diversity med students. It is lucky for us all that there is an overabundance of Third World rejects and elderly living dead for them to work out their mistakes upon. Watch out for wild-eyed egoists in green jogging suits with thick little paperbacks in their side pockets Beginning Surgery. The first 40 pages are devoted to rectal exams. I always listen for a male's screech followed by a new female intern pissing and moaning because she broke a fingernail. The patient has the right to refuse therapy. Just say "no." Just say it as loudly as you can and as many times as it is necessary. They hate it when you panic the other patients.

The doctor suggested that we embark upon one final scar revision, that of my right elbow. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. Thanks but no thanks. I decline the honor. The patient refuses further therapy. FORGET IT!

I sleep, I dream, and only the Burn Psychologist still screams in the night. Good enough.

(The ropey elbow scar transformed into normal anatomy within a year. I'm in real tight with my meat. BTW... girls really do dig scars.)

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