Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Healing Ridge

I went to see Doctor Cough today so he could have a look at the incision he made two weeks ago.

Better him than me, though. I'd left the final covering, a square of gauze over my navel held in place by a large bandage, right where they'd put it. I didn't want to fool with it. What if I pulled the wrong string and it all came undone?

In the waiting room, the morning show on CNN blared forth a story about a poor trapped dog that the reporters had discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. When no one claimed him, the one reporter adopted him and took him home and named him "Sunny."

Some other folks came and went, some showing up after me and walking right in which I never understand. There's a triage of existence that we're not meant to understand, I guess.

The first thing the nurse did after ushering me into the examining room was remove that final bandage. She seemed surprised that I was still hanging on to it. Interestingly, the awful itching that had been plaguing me there recently disappeared as soon as she removed the thing.

When my gaze stayed firmly forward, she asked "You don't even want to look at it now, do you?"

"Not really," I said.

Of course, as soon as she was gone I went for it.

A two-inch scab, curved like an eyebrow, lay right above my middle with five thin gauze-like strips branching out like rays of sun from my navel and spread wide across the incision.

I was a little startled at first. I hadn't expected it to be that large.

Doctor Cough quickly showed up and asked if I hadn't had a beard when he'd operated on me. Ah, well done, Doctor. Indeed, that was my "sick beard," the appearance of which was meant to clue you in to the fact that I was too sick even to shave. I'd only done away with it the night before.

He took a look, declared everything ok, and asked a few questions about how I was feeling and if everything seemed "back to baseline," as he put it. I assured him that everything was fine. He went into some detail on what exactly was done and why (hopefully, I'll never have to hear the phrase "trapped fat" again) and discussed the slim possibility of a recurrence.

Did my weight gain ultimately cause the hernia? Well, no, said Doctor Cough, at the most I may have speeded up the process, like someone with a chronic cough, but it would have happened eventually.

My big question, though, had to do with the way it felt. When I would touch the area, it felt like the piece of mesh that they dropped in for repair was sitting just below the skin. It felt as if there were a small square plate just underneath. I hated the idea that this could be permanent.

Not the case at all, said Doctor Cough. What I was feeling was not the mesh, which was as thin as a sheet of paper in any case, but rather what they referred to as the healing ridge.

It's a combination of the scar tissue, fluid and other things all involved in the healing process. After a couple of months it starts to soften up and eventually return to normal. But I wasn't in danger of going Vader on anyone, "more machine than man," as it were.

I liked the idea of a healing ridge, though, that point at which one could look over the horizon and see that you'd made it through the worst of it and were now on the way to recovery. That point at which hope became less of a ghost and more like flesh. A little like being born.

I never told you what happened to the dog. The young woman who was Sunny's original owner eventually tracked him down and the reporter drove the dog all the way to Nebraska to be reunited with her. They showed footage of Sunny licking the woman's face and excitedly jumping on her.

The woman called the dog by his original name, Nevaeh, which they explained was Heaven backwards.

I walked out of the examination room and back into the waiting room where the triage continued, almost everywhere.


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