Friday evening, I was doing little more than looking forward to a warm weekend of chopping down trees. Myster (Mystery, the pit bull, my favorite dog) had been out for his first evening walk, and was looking to play a little. I got down on the floor and wrestled with him for a bit, till he flopped to his side and waited, waited, for me to rub his belly. I complied, and of course told him repeatedly, in the same silly voice that a new parent would talk to a baby, what a good boy he was. As I rubbed I spotted a fresh tick starting to burrow into his front armpit. This is not unusual, as we live in the woods, and even though we do treat the dogs; ‘Frontline’ takes care of only most of the ticks. Occasionally we will find one like this that didn’t quite get the memo that this dog was protected. I rubbed Myster’s belly a little more, sending him to a near comatose state of utopian glee. I focused in on the tick, formed my fingers into pinschers, reached in and yanked.
This was a colossal, monumental mistake. Apparently I pinched more dog than bug, and Myster curled upright, yelped and snapped, all in about a half-nanosecond. Before either of us realized exactly what had happened, I felt a sudden tearing pain, and blood started flowing freely from my lower lip. His reflexive snap had torn through my lip from the pink top, down an inch or so leaving a clean, yet gaping slash, nearly all the way through to the inside.
I leapt up, grabbed the blood as it fell, trying to put it back. I cried out for mommy. Actually, I called for Angel, which is almost as good. She was outside on the deck ignoring me, or as she calls it ‘reading a book’.
“I need your help!” I called, but with my lip split open and being firmly held by my hand, she only possibly heard “I meeb ur helm!
“What? She asked without looking up. “Ibe ga wa pwoblumm!” I shouted incoherently.
She finally looked up. “What did you do?” (This was not the time or place to analyze the accusatory nature of that question, but I have not forgotten it.)
She looked me over, I mumbled what had happened, and re-mumbled painfully as required. “Ewww, gross!” was her diagnosis.
I washed it out and slapped a clean rag over it. She caged up the dogs, left a note for the boy on the family whiteboard and she drove us to the trauma center in Fenton, about twenty five minutes away.
The pain was surprisingly not all that bad. There was pain, but I had always imagined having one’s face bitten in half would be a LOT more painful.
There was a short wait after sign-in at the center. We sat and watched less injured people, mostly softball players get tended to, till finally they called my name.
Angel tagged along fortunately, because between the gash and the direct pressure, I still sounded like that one kid on Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon.
We told the nurse/receptionist the story, she had me uncover the wound. “Ewww!” she replied professionally, scooting back. She wrote something down, then looked up at Angel. “Is the dog okay?” Angel reassured her that Myster was just fine, and hopefully would not suffer long term trauma. The lady then began describing her dogs to Angel, I stopped the insanity before they could pull out any pictures. “Excuse me, I’m the one bleeding from a torn face here!” Is what I said, but once again I do not know exactly what they heard. They both sighed and changed the subject, insurance stuff, phone numbers.
They sent us back into waiting, but only for a few minutes, Angel grumbled about not bringing her book with her, I selfishly grumbled about having a bloody gash in my face. I was eventually called and sent to a clean room with all kinds of gadgets and gloves and lights and other medical looking stuff. A tech came in and took my blood pressure and pulse. “Hmm, seems to be a little high” she said. “Really ? I answered, though not at all sarcastically, “Could that be because I just had my face bitten in half?,” The tech did not have a sense of humor, and pumped up the cuff again. I forced myself to relax a little, reciting my personal mantra (I have no mantra, I have no mantra. . . .). She seemed less concerned with the second reading.
She then asked me to remove the rag, and offered up some moist gauze to replace it. As I did she looked at the damage. Her immediate medical assessment was “Eww!” though she added “That’s going to be a problem, we can’t stitch that here, you’re going to need a plastic surgeon.”
The ‘problem’ was, medically speaking, that the tear transcended the vermillion line. In English that means that not only was the full pink part of my lip torn, but the gash passed over the border into the perfectly tanned regular skin towards my statuesque chin. Standard stitching or gluing would likely not heal straight enough and would leave me with a smile that went slightly different directions, and that could cause me to be unattractive.
“Oh”, I replied. “So now what?”
“Well, the doctor will have to look at it, but probably will tell you the same thing, and you’ll need to go to the emergency room. We can call ahead and get that all lined up so it won’t take so long.”
She left, instructing me to wait there till the actual doctor checked on me.
A few moments later, the door opened and in walked a large and physically alarming woman, who quickly introduced herself. She asked me to show her the wound, which I did. Though she did not utter the sound her face certainly broadcast ‘Ewww!’. Come to think of it, she never did actually enter the room, she stood holding the door open, looked quickly and pronounced “You’re going to need plastic surgery” which was remarkable in that I was thinking exactly the same about her.
She let the door close on her way out. The tech returned shortly with an envelope and directions to the nearest full-service hospital. I will not mention the name of the hospital since I will be saying less than flattering things about it later.
It was now about nine thirty, nearly two hours into the saga. I mumbled to Angel, using hand signals and grunts that we need to go to the emergency room, but that was okay since the trauma center had called ahead to get them to warm up the plastic surgeon.
Storms were threatening to the north and west, a fast moving front coming in. We beat it to the hospital though, and entered the busy place high and dry. We charged up to the triage nurse and dropped the envelope on her counter. She opened it, looked up at me, and said “Oh yes, you’re our dog bite!” I was, of course, a bit miffed. “There’s much more to me than my injury ma’am!” I declared. Angel elbowed me, which is what she does when I say hilarious things.
“I’m sorry sir, I’m sure that there is, but that’s just how we classify you.”
At this point, most timid men would have just chuckled and let it go. I was not at this point feeling timid. Instead, I looked her up and down slowly and countered: “Would you like to know how I classify you?” Angel must have REALLY thought that was hilarious, she almost broke my rib.
The triage nurse had an evil sense of humor as well, as we did not speak to anyone else for at least an hour. I spent the time reevaluating my people skill strategies. Angel spent the time ignoring me I think, I was too wrapped up in my own problems to really notice.
They finally called me back, asking the exact same questions as they had in the trauma center, taking my blood pressure again, twice, not liking the first numbers.
The tech was a young guy, very professional and courteous. I felt no need to put him in his rightful place with my rapier wit. Soon a real, live LPN came by and took my temperature and blood pressure again, and I, for the third or fourth time had to make up an interesting story about how my injury came to be, and for the third or fourth time answered the same predictable question with “Yes the dog is just fine.”
“Hmm, said the LPN staring into the tissue ravine in my face, “you’re probably going to need plastic surgery for that.” (she definitely had ‘eww’ in her eyes as well.) She sent me back to the waiting area, where Angel I and waited and the storm came, and went.
Finally at around one or one thirty we were called up and sent in to an exam room, and asked to wait. We were given the TV remote, so we flipped through the seven available channels, all but one were showing infomercials. HGTV to the rescue fixing up and presenting houses for fast sale. A Dr. type came in, but immediately apologized “I’m sorry, I just need to use your sink” She stepped on the foot controls and started slathering foamy soap. “I’m running around with blood on my hands” She said, apparently feeling the need to explain herself.
I thought about the greater meaning of what she had said “I’m running around with blood on my hands” so I replied philosophically “Aren’t we all in one way or another?”
Angel thought that was hilarious as well. The Dr. type just smiled and left, not the philosophical sort, I supposed.
Eventually, a man-doctor walked in. Not young, not fresh, more oldish and haggard really, but he had an air of confidence about him. He looked at the five or six hour old injury and made the official declaration: “You’re going to need a plastic surgeon.”
We discussed options and decided there weren’t any. He checked the availability of the on-call guy and announced the good news: “He’s already up and finishing up with a call at another hospital, and can be here in an hour and a half!” Angel and I looked at the clock; one thirty.
We watched TV, uncomfortably. There was a bed, slightly less comfortable than an old sofa sleeper, and there were two chairs constructed entirely of rigid steel at precise right angles. By three, we were on our third or forth second rate home-fix show, and both moaning and whining uncontrollably. Both of us had made a few excursions down the hallway past the small ‘café’ by the gift shop, and to and from the restrooms. By three thirty our patience was starting to wear thin. By four thirty we were plotting mutiny, growling at everyone that walked by.
Sometime before five, the door opened and a sober and serious professional man entered. He made very little small talk, checked my eight hour old injury laid me down and wasted no time. He did offer one sort of apology. “I would have been here sooner, but I fell asleep in my car in the parking lot.” Yes, I was a bit startled, alarmed, so I asked “But you’re okay now I hope?” He didn’t smile, he just assured us, after thinking for too long of a moment; “Oh yes, I’m fine now, it’s been a terribly long day.” By this time of course, Angel and I were beyond cranky tired, but knew this man was our only hope, so we did not respond: “Oh did your face get eaten by a dog too?”
During this entire ordeal, there was little pain. On a scale of one to ten, I was asked to rate it, with zero indicating no pain at all, and ten being the greatest pain imaginable. I rated it two, and it never really varied from that. What the Dr. did next though blew the lid off the ten point scale. He said as he held the hypodermic over my face, “This is going to hurt, a poke and a burn.” He poked, I definitely felt it. I was tolerating the poke just barely, and then he said “It’s not the poke that will hurt, it’s the. . . ” At which point I grabbed the rails of the bed and screamed at the top of my lungs…. Trust me folks, I’ve been burned before, soldering irons, hot coals, stove tops, mufflers, the scorn of a crazy and vindictive ex wife (and her lawyers), I know ‘burn’. This was different; this was, in my lips, not once, but four times, the most excruciating experience of my rich and ample life. I screamed in unmitigated agony as my lips were injected with angry and aggressive, acid laced lava. In my mind I was crying out at the deities; some worshipped, some forgotten, and some entirely new ones I made up on the spot.
In a few moments, the pain subsided, and the tugging and pulling began. The stitching, small and precise went smoothly, it felt no more uncomfortable than having someone tug at my sleeve, that is, if my lip had a sleeve. I could sense the tugging, but only indirectly.
During the stitching, my face was covered, I listened to the TV, concentrating on the news channel to reports I had heard a dozen times already.
The Dr. only spoke once, to Angel I assumed, since I had no ability or motivation to speak. I didn’t hear the question, his voice seemed quiet and remote, but I did hear Angel’s answer: “Yes, the dog is just fine, he’ll be just fine.”
We finally got home at seven A.M. I drove, since Angel, not being an IT system administrator herself, was not accustomed to staying up for twenty four straight hours. I on the other hand was not only good for the drive, but knowing that I would not be able to relax and sleep for another couple of hours, offered to tend to the dogs once we got home. I immediately took Myster out for a walk. We didn’t talk much, we’re guys, and we’ve known each other for several years, so not much really needed saying. There was an unspoken understanding, no need to dwell on it.
I have since been eating bite size portions of food, remembering my antibiotic horse pills, drinking through a straw. (not recommended for coffee, think ‘liquid oral blowtorch’) and generally keeping my lip clean and adequately coated with smelly ointment. The swelling has gone down quite a bit. The stitches are tiny, but there is more than a dozen of them traversing a sideways V starting in the top middle of my lower lip about a half inch downward then doglegging to my left another half inch or so. I will visit the surgeon sometime this week, so he can admire his handiwork.
By the way, I know what you’re wondering; Mystery is doing just fine.