Not surprisingly, it turns out that the price of vanity is a pretty steep price indeed. I’ve had a minor medical saga that’s been going on for the past three months. It is at last coming to a close but there is no question that it has contributed greatly to my prolonged funk.
I decided to have some visible spider veins in my legs treated. Two patches on my left shin would turn very dark like bruises when my heart rate increased such as when I was really hot or when I was exercising. I found them unpleasant to look at. And because I wear shorts and skirts most of the year here, I was looking at them often. After some tests to make sure my veins and arteries and valves were functioning as they should, I arranged to have several areas of spider vein in my legs injected with a chemical that burns the tiny capillaries out.
The doctor clearly and on two occasions reviewed the risks with me: blood clots, ulcers at the injection sites, shifting of the spider veins to a nearby location, etc.I went ahead with the procedure fully informed of these risk. I want to be clear on this because what happened is not the doctor's fault.
The two patches on my left shin were large and required injection of a considerable volume of the caustic chemical. I had half a dozen other smaller areas treated at the same time. All is well with the small treatment areas. But within 3-4 days of the treatment, I developed two large ulcers, each about 2.5 cm in diameter, on my left shin. The chemical burned out the veins and the surrounding tissue as well.
I’ve been living with these open wounds on my leg for more than three months. They have to be treated with a type of antibiotic ointment that is used on burn victims (they were the result of chemical burns, after all) and covered at all times, mainly because it was very painful when fabric brushed against them. The doctor debrided both of them three times, an excruciatingly painful procedure in which he cut and scraped the dead tissue out. It felt like he was grabbing nerve fibers with tweezers and yanking them out of my leg. The ulcers were always extremely painful to the touch…I had to be careful that the dogs didn’t bump my leg.
There is no CVS here where I can get bandages or gauze or things like that. I managed to cadge some dressings from the doctor at each visit, but when those ran out I had to cobble together coverings for the ulcers out of eye patches, the only bandage I could find here that was large enough to cover them.
Finally, one of the ulcers got small enough to excise. Two weeks ago the doctor removed a lump of flesh from my leg about the size of a meatball and stitched me up with several yards of what felt like 30-lb test line. Now I had an entirely new type of wound to clean and care for. The incision was about 6 cm long. Not surprisingly, for the first week, it was very painful. But, amazingly, quickly, it began to heal. After two weeks, the doctor removed the external stitches (there are some dissolving ones inside) and seemed quite pleased with the result.
Even the quiet little Jordanian nurse seemed pleased, telling me “mafi mark, mafi mark,” an amusing conflation of Arabic and English (mafi means no or none). I agree: the thin scar that will eventually be left will certainly be better than the hideous round scar that would form if the ulcers were not removed—and who knows how many more months it would take for the ulcer to completely heal, if it ever did?
As an aside, I should mention that the excision procedure itself is rather messy. Only a local is used so I sat up and checked on things every so often out of morbid curiosity. The excision part itself goes quickly. Cauterizing the veins and arteries is a bit complicated; lots of them are exposed because of the depth of the incision. Because an electric current is used to cauterize them, I had to be grounded to the machine. Even with that, if the doctor held the probe to my tissue for too long, electricity would begin to flow through my leg and it would begin to twitch like I was some sort of frog in a dissection tray. He had to give me more local anesthetic injections to shut off the nerve response to keep my leg from moving. There was quite a bit of sizzling and smoking as well. Puts one right off beef, I'll tell you. But the stitching up part was by far the worst. I could feel every single tug and pull of the sutures; my brain was screaming "pain!" even though all I felt was pressure.
I don’t have to cover the first excision site now, and only have to apply some basic antibiotic ointment once a day for a few more days. Whew. Low maintenance wounds are a great improvement over those damned ulcers.
And at last, the second ulcer shrunk down to a manageable, or I should say, excisable size. It was cut out yesterday morning. Another 6-cm incision, another meatball removed, and more 30-lb test line. But by the time I head out for my holiday in mid-May, my medical saga should be behind me.
The price of vanity? I won’t have to worry about those damned spider veins on my shin now. No, I will now have scars to replace them.