The sound that is made when you are biting through your own flesh is a little like that of thick rubber being torn. It’s wetter, and when you hear it inside your head, it’s kind of terrifying.
I bit a hole about the size of a dime deep into the top of my tongue, near the centre, the other day. I don’t know how the hell I managed to do it. I was eating some soon-dae (potato noodles spiced and stuffed into pig intestines, with boiled, sliced organ meat on the side – tastier than it sounds) when suddenly the molars on the right side of my mouth met a bit more resistance, there was that odd sound, loud enough that my wife beside me started and stared, and the hot, salty flood started. No pain, not right away.
I went to the bathroom and let a mouthful of blood pour out — a real Wes Craven moment, which made me once again wish we could afford that digital camera I want — and had a look. Great meaty flap, deep hole, reddish-black blood gushing out. Cool.
I hate doctors, so I applied ice and didn’t eat for a few days. The nub of flesh that pokes up out of the scar and the crater beneath it will be with me for life, I suspect. This is, in its way, good.
The sound that the small bones in your foot make when they break are not so much a crunch as a crack, startlingly loud. About 3 months back, I drove the corner of a doorjamb between my third and fourth toes on my left foot as I walked calmly into the bedroom to get the ironing board. Broke both toes, and a couple of bones in my foot as well, judging by feel. I did the ‘apply pressure/apply ice/elevate above your heart’ routine to minimize swelling, and bound the toes together.
I hate doctors, so I self-medicated, went back to work the next day, and limped around for the next 6 weeks or so while my foot slowly changed colour. I don’t think some of the bones set properly, and the area is still a little tender if I poke or prod it the wrong way. This is, in its way, a valuable reminder to watch where the hell I’m walking.
I’m not sure precisely what led me to my wholehearted loathing of the medical profession, although I do have a few ideas as to the antecedents.
My hometown, an island of a couple of thousand brave and drunken souls isolated in a sea of trees way up in the part of British Columbia where the map merely notes ‘Here Be Monsters,’ was served by an odd, sullen, ragtag crew of medical practitioners over the years I grew up there. Most were South African, and were bound by contract to be there in order to get their residency in Canada. How much our town benefitted from the Immigration Department requirements that doctors migrating to Canada spend their first few years dealing with family violence and alcohol-related injury in the Boonies was debatable, perhaps. Still, they were a novelty, with their funny accents and poorly disguised, simmering resentment.
I particularly remember one Vietnamese doctor who was, in fact, one of my favorites (and a rarity in a town where there was precisely one Asian family – the Chinese folks who ran two of the half-dozen restaurants), and who, thanks to his redneck comedy gold inability to pronounce /r/ and /l/ according to my expectations, precipitated one of the funniest conversations in which I have retrospectively been involved when he handed the 10-year-old me a plastic cup and a small wooden ice-cream spoon and asked for what I swore was a ‘stew’ sample.
One of the various medical mistakes, blunders, and life-threatening f–kups (back before the first thing I did upon injuring myself was Google up some advice) that I was either the victim of or a witness to was, for example, my bottomless prescription for tetracycline (a broad-spectrum antibiotic) as a teenager, intended to combat the Aetna-shaming eruptions that my face and body produced. Not on-and-off, but on, for years, nonstop. My body, strong as it is, is still paying the price for that. And this was in the early 80’s – not before medical thought had come around to understanding that continual massive doses of antibiotics might just have a deleterious effect on the patient overall.
My step-father, who pulled Dad Duty from not long after my father died until about 20 years later, died, I am certain, as a direct result of the interactions in the cocktail of drugs prescribed by his doctors — by this time another ragtag gaggle of Africans, mostly — but not after going quite mad beforehand. Or if not bibbledy-bibbledy mad, so far sunk into full blown paranoid delusions that it was painful to carry on a conversation with him on anything but the most trivial matters.
My current step-father, ‘Ol’ Number 3,’ a tough, boozy, no-bullsh-t ex-cowboy, experienced runaway heart fibrillations and tremors and pitty-patting for more than four months this year, to the extent that any kind of physical labor would sometimes make him lose consciousness. This was deeply embarrassing to him, and made life extremely difficult for him and my mother. He visited the docs over and over again, several times a week, a situation made more difficult by the 140 km of unpaved road between the fishing lodge where my folks live and the nearest town. Bamboozled, they merely scratched their heads in confusion, and ordered more tests. Finally, after months of this, unable to take it any longer, he just stopped taking his meds (including the new ones the doctors had prescribed), and the problem simply went away.
(There are more stories, and I’m sure you have a few too. C’mon – share!)
To hell with doctors. They can keep their pills and their guesswork. Unless I need a limb sewn back on, I’ll be taking care of myself. This attitude draws great chagrin from the wife, who is a big believer in the power of The Doctor, like most Koreans I’ve known, who tend to run in panic to the nearest doctor (and Korean doctors are a worry in and of themselves, let me tell you) if something flies out of their noses when they sneeze.
I tell her that whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I’m certain, as she shakes her head in annoyed bemusement, that in her mind she replaces ‘stronger’ with ‘stupider.’
I can live with that.

Me|dia, Reminiscences, Uncrappy
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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Shit, I’ll be up all night with that first image.
    Loved your Mefi comments on the circle jerk.

  2. Oh oh oh oh. Mmmmmphphphphh. Grrrgggghhh.
    Thanks a bunch, Stav. I’m gonna have the willies for a fucking year, I swear. *shudder*

  3. The worst thing about the Korean attachment to doctors is that they have to be Korean doctors. I have seen students travel all the way to Korea and back to visit a doctor in the unshakeable belief that an Australian doctor will not be able to cure them because they are Korean.
    In my experience, things usually get better by themselves and only if they don’t should a doctor be consulted. Of course, any wound where you can see bone (and I have had a few of those) is probably the point where a doctor can be useful. Doctors seem to view antibiotics as a standard requirement for anything that ails you and I am sure that this is at least a partial cause of many people getting sick all the time – the antibiotics kill off all the “good” bugs as well as the bad ones, making you even more susceptible to the next germ that comes along, aided and abetted by the modern tendency to insist on every part of our lives being totally antiseptic, which prevents our bodies from building immunity to germs in the first place.
    Apart from almost making a doctor’s receptionist almost faint when I showed her my knee joint to prove that I was worthy of a visit sans appointment, I don’t really have any interesting tales to tell as my injuries have been pretty boring on the whole. I also broke my toe by kicking a doorway and it was a constant reminder to watch where I walked for a couple of years after that because, while it was fine normally, the slightest bump would produce excruciating pain for several days. I never bothered to visit a doctor because I already knew what he would say – “Try not to bump it for a while until the bone heals properly”.

  4. Hey, Mr. Zilla…
    I think you were there when I turned my patella into a fine replica of the Mercedes Benz symbol. The nearly retired Orthopede in charge of my rehabilitation never did answer the question about the odd loop in the incision for the restorative surgery and furthermore looked amazed when I subsequently asked about physiotherapy. “What, you want to have a massage?” was his astonished reply. With ex-physios as mother and mother-in-law, I was equally surprised by the response.
    The other memorable experience was while living in London. I had been suffering a horrible head cold for more than a week. Those who know me will confirm that I do not look for help in such matters unless it’s *really* a problem. After a 15 minute investigation the aged GP wrote me prescription while saying “gargle with this”. I didn’t scrutinize it before I took it to Boots the Chemists so I was taken aback when the pharmacist suggested I buy Aspirin off the shelf at a much lower price than over the counter. That was my first and last visit to a practitioner in the UK.

  5. While many of your friends have long thought that you should bite your tongue before letting lose, we meant this figuratively.
    I hope the hole heals quickly. Nasty place for a gash.
    And as you said in email, my what an odd coincidence, my news and your posting. But I agree with you — I really prefer little to do with the doctors, but sure am glad I have insurance when I need ’em!

  6. I have to be almost dead before I’ll go see a doctor, except for my yearly – over 50 – exam (just to keep something nasty from sneaking up on me).
    So you grew up in PG eh Stavros – my deepest sympathies 🙂

  7. About 100km north of there, DD.
    Upside : no pulp mill stench. Downside : well, quite a few, actually.

  8. Oh err, sounds painful. Keep us updated!

  9. Welcome back there mr C. Yup the very average South African doctors still manage to inhabit our lovely community. Glad I don’t get sick that often. “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”. That sentence seems to work just as well as most antibiotics.
    Lessee my last trip to the hospital was New Year’s early am about 3 years ago now… after around 20 jello shooters, then trying to dance and oops falling down cracking my head on the “Lodge” fireplace 10 stitches later at 4am… well you get the idea, at least I didn’t need any painkillers… till the hangover.

  10. Heh. Ashes and I were separated at birth, I think, at least with regards to our many and varied Drinking Injuries, shared over decades of co-drinking, in the same place and otherwise.

  11. I’m starting to feel weak…

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