The Great Toe Incident of 2017

Hi, everybody. I want to talk about my toe. Pretty much everyone I’ve seen in the past 3 weeks has heard about the Great Toe Incident of the Spring of 2017, but I just can’t put it away yet. I have noticed lately that people see me and abruptly turn around and get very busy while walking in the opposite direction. But now I have a captive audience who can truly appreciate the depth of this story. It’s filled with human pain, suffering, tragedy and triumph. And just like the TV mini-series, ‘Fargo’; it’s all true, except for the stuff I made up.

About six weeks ago I noticed that my big toe began to ache, and like most things like this, I chose to ignore it in hopes that it would just go away. Well, my initial intervention of nothingness failed to do the trick. While at work in the nursing home a resident ran over my foot in her wheelchair (that happens to me a lot there; they usually do it on purpose in an act of defiance after a particularly difficult session or when I try to interrupt them during Bingo or The Price is Right). The pain was fairly intense. I looked as pasty as a person from St. Louis in February (the enchanting land of gray days). So that night I decided to take a look at what was the matter. I discovered I had developed an ingrown toenail. I’ve never had one before, but I’ve seen plenty of people who had been treated for it. My toe was now swollen to a size that made me think I could make a balloon animal with it, so I decided to try to take care of it myself. 1st, I engrossed myself in causes and cures for ingrown toenails by reading quack remedies on the internet. I’m pretty sure that most of the curative options cited would have made my toe fall off. One of the most common causes seems to be wearing high heels. Well, I haven’t worn high heels since 1983 ( I know that men’s high heeled shoes went out of style well before then, but it was very hard for me to give up those 2 extra inches). I do, however, have trouble finding shoes that fit. My feet are shaped like an elephant foot. They’re kind of round with five very stubby appendages sticking out of them. So I’m blaming my very painful malady on tight shoes and maniacal wheelchair-bound patients.

Next came my curative intervention. Since I’ve seen plenty of people with healing toes and the internet said I could do it, I decided to perform an operation to cut the ingrown part of my toenail out. I used the little scalpel I have for cutting my pills and went to work. I then soaked my foot in Epsom salts (it’s pretty weird that Epsom salts are also used as palm tree fertilizer). Soaking actually helped a little, but the infection took over again and it still hurt. I was telling my story of woe and subsequent intervention strategies to the Resident psychologist who works for me and she said “You know you’re not that kind of doctor, right?”…. I wonder how her job search is going.

Since my toe wasn’t getting better, I decided to do something drastic that I rarely do, but I felt I had no other choice. I went to the doctor. I figured that I had already cut out the ingrown part of the nail, so I would just get some antibiotics to take care of the infection and be on my way. Well, that wasn’t the case. I am friends with a podiatrist, but he had the audacity to be on vacation, so I chose the walk-in clinic we frequent when we need urgent, but not emergent care. The nurse practitioner came into the exam room, took one look and a very painful little poke and said, “Hi. You have an ingrown toenail. It has to come out. I’m not going to lie. This is going to hurt. I have to go get some tools.”

Tools? Well, I thought. I’m a big boy (I’m not, actually, but I still think of myself that way). I can handle pain. I’ve had kidney stones twice and spent eight hours in the emergency room throwing up in a bucket. I can handle a little toe pain. Boy, was I ever mistaken!

When she returned, the nurse practitioner had a tool kit I am convinced came from the Spanish Inquisition. I had evidently just been accused of witchcraft. The kit contained two needles each about six inches long, some tin snips and a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Then she again understated, “This is going to hurt a little”. She then wielded one the needles into my toe. It would have hurt less if she had pounded a rusty railroad spike into my toe with a small sledge hammer. But the masked Inquisitor was just starting her tortuous routine. The needle squirted it’s contents of hot molten lava into my toe that spread another form of searing pain throughout my foot. I don’t think I have cried at the doctor’s office since I was four years old, but I seemed to have broken that streak with this visit. She finally finished with needle #1 and out came needle #2. I thought, “At least this one won’t hurt as much, since there is already numbing medicine doing it’s magic from needle #1”. Well, that was wrong. She slammed the 2nd railroad spike in my toe generating all the pain of the 1st. But this one was filled with some kind of flesh-rotting acid that matched the pain of molten lava. I truly hope I just imagined her snickering at my reaction.

Finally, there was no feeling in my toe, so the Grand Inquisitor took out her tin snips and went to work by cutting my toenail in half. Watching that procedure made me almost thankful for the needle torture The tin snips dug in and soon half my toenail was gone. Next came the needle-nosed pliers. I thought I had cut the ingrown part out, but the tool belt master proved me quite wrong. She stuck pliers into the side of my toe, grabbed hold of pesky little problem and yanked it out with two giant tugs. My toe was a bloody mangled mess, but the Inquisitor had performed her exorcism of the problem toenail with absolute mastery. She bandaged up my toe and I was ready to go. Now here is the rub. I have experienced absolutely no pain at all since the anesthetic began to work.

So here is what I learned. I will not wear shoes that are too narrow. I will seek professional advice in a timely manner. If I get another ingrown toenail, I will cut my toe off before go through that experience again.

Ahh, I feel better now. I can move on to my next adventure.