Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Purple Toes of Doom

Well, you may recall that a few days ago I was rammed in the shin by one of my ewes, who at the time was apparently trying to break the sound barrier (and coincidentally, my shin.) It was like being hit with a woolly sledge hammer. Kinda hurt.

As is usual for these sorts of events I had a greeeaaaat big bruise on my shin, which I ice packed at my earliest opportunity. A few days later, I noticed I had an even larger bruise on the BACK of my calf, about 120 degrees rotation away from the original. Wha...? Could it be some sort of contra-coup injury, where the shock wave has travelled through the limb to create a bruise more or less opposite of the impact site? Then I noticed more bruises, pretty much circumferential around my leg. My ankle, not surprisingly, was about twice its normal size (presumably as the fluids from the initial bruise migrated south with gravity.) Unfortunately, all of the bruises hurt. I can only assume that the inflammatory mediators that were released with the initial injury went right along with the other fluids as they travelled about my leg.

Now, of course - having worked for many days with the Giant Bruise of Death on my shin - the top of my foot has a weird dusky corpse-flesh appearance, and my toes are mottled and splotched with a color like a ripe plum. I would happily document this for you in photos, but luckily for you my digital has suffered an untimely demise and my film camera has too long a lens on it to get the shot. So you will have to be content to take my word about the bizarre and increasingly gangrenous appearance of my leg from the knee down.

One of the many misfortunes of this event is that, even without socks on, my ankle is so swollen that I can't get my foot into my Sorrells without distinct pain and suffering. If I take the laces completely OFF and open the boot shaft as wide as it will go, it is still slightly excruciating to get my foot into it. God forbid I should do something so foolish as to, say, wear a sock, or perhaps (gasp!) an Ace bandage. I can't get my gym shoes on. My ugly/comfy Croc clogs are right out. I do have one set of old leather cross-trainers that I can (barely) flare out enough to accommodate my ankle. This is fortunate, because OSHA frowns on doctors working barefoot in the hospital. For added entertainment, sometimes the slightest brush of my slacks against my shin is cause for marked grimaces, and two or three times a day it's evidently time for Random Shooting Pain Hour. If that wasn't enough fun, the entire leg from knee to toes has become inexplicably but increasingly itchy, particularly on the surfaces of the bruises. Which naturally you don't want to touch, because they hurt, but you are DYING to touch, because they itch.

Helpfully (or not), the other day as I was limping around in the X-ray suite my nurse J remarked, "You're limping MORE now than the first day. Are you sure you don't have a giant clot in there, waiting to break off and kill you?"

Oh, excellent. That would be perfect. In some alarm I yank my pants leg up and inspect my shin for new disasters. Hmm. Still looks like crap, but it's the same crap as yesterday.

"I don't think so," I say doubtfully, poking things gingerly. "There's no cramping or cold or numb spots, and it's not worse than yesterday; I think it's just travelling around with gravity, you know, like when I sleep on my side and all the blood runs to the outside of my calf and stuff." But now I have a new disaster to think about. Oh joy.

Meanwhile J herself has had a recent fascinatingly disgusting injury, which may be encouraging her to her ghoulish speculations. She was doing something with her dogs and happened to have her hand palm-down on a hard surface. A flexi-lead somehow got jostled off a higher surface and fell directly onto one of her fingernails. This, I can tell you, hurts. There are tons of nerves in the hand, and they are MOST eager to report to you even the slightest injury, so I'm sure J was hearing quite a lot about how one should never allow a flexi-lead to fall on a nail-bed. Not surprisingly, in view of the nature of her job, J was finding this a bit unpleasant at work. She decided to soak her finger in DMSO. Now here please note that I am NOT advising anyone to try this at home, nor did I endorse J's decision to do so. But, it's not illegal, and she knows better than I do how she feels about these things - plus she's an adult and a medical professional, so even though I said "Well, *I* wouldn't do it," she went on ahead.

The first thing that happened is that J said her finger DID feel better. The next thing was that it got all pruney and turned a lovely corpse-flesh grey. Gak. Okay, still not my finger, so I just kept my mouth shut about it and went on with things.

A few days later the surface skin peeled off, and the finger was a normal color again (except for the nail, which is black. But it was black to begin with, so that's no big deal.) Now, several days on, she is on the verge of losing the nail (that was a foregone conclusion, and obviously her fate from the moment the flexi-lead fell.) It doesn't hurt, so J is inclined to press on the end of the nail which makes the bed of the nail pop up disturbingly. Brr. I lost a toenail once when I was a kid (courtesy of a little brother and a full jumbo-sized can of Dow bathroom cleaner), which experience I do NOT remember fondly. Seeing the nail bed popping up like that kind of creeps me out.

So here I am running around the clinic with my Purple Toes of Doom, and J is running around with the Black Finger of Death and suggesting that maybe I should soak my whole leg in DMSO. Somehow (and here I'm sure you'll be surprised) I have managed to resist this enticing suggestion, and am making do with my own self-made three-day-old-corpse coloring. If my shin doesn't start to look a whole lot better in a few days I may X-ray myself to look for bone chips, but I am NOT painting my entire calf with DMSO. I may look like I have some hideous tropical disease in my leg, but at least it's not all rubbery grey and pruney.

Meanwhile I'm plotting my revenge (and living for the day I get my stockdog back). Next time it'll be me and the Snapping Jaws of Menace (aka Raven the Border collie) against the Shetland Sledgehammer.

Wish us luck. We may need it.


MaskedMan said...

Vengance is mine, sayeth the stockwoman... Your furry sledgehammer better beware, if nothing else, the dinner table...

I can empathize with the various injuries. I tore my quads through, more-or-less completely, and whilst the obvious bruising was minimal, it was very disconcerting to watch the muscles in my leg twitching and jumping all on their own, without any directed input.

I also smashed a fingernail, getting an index fingernail caught between a 100# roll of linoleum matting and a angle-iron brace. After all the grossness and pain, the nail that has regrown is perminantly distorted, and is both thicker and at the same time more fragile than any of the other nails.

Sympathy/Empathy... These things do pass - eventually.

1sheepdoggal said...

Just say NO to DMSO!
Been there.done that. And definitly dont listen like I did, to stupid BF and then after soaking, wrap appendage in saran wrap and then an ace bandage. After I came to me senses, I went to the doctor, turns out I had a broke arm!

Cavewoman said...

Sorrels. Those were The Boots To Have when I was little. I haven't been able to find any in awhile. Are they still as good as they used to be?

I hope your Purple Toes get better soon. And J's black finger.

And what's DMSO?

Dragon43 said...

Funny you should have pain and discoloring right now.....

I have neither great toe nail, both removed, lots of nerves still there.

Sympathy & Empathy from here also.

Get a new to you digital soonest before I send you one. Pictures, hear? Pictures.....

AKDD said...

MM, you are right on the mark about Our Priscilla. If she doesn't have a more successful lambing season this year than last (one stillborn lamb), she's too much trouble to keep around.

DMSO is dimethyl sulfoxide, a substance that penetrates through the skin to be absorbed into deeper tissues. The idea is that it increases permeability, so it would allow edema fluids etc to escape and therefore decrease inflammation. It also, however, is capable of carrying things that are on the surface of your skin along with it, so it's a bit scary to me. Who knows what kind of microscopic cooties I might have on my hide? :o

As for the Sorrels.... I saw them for sale in the grocery store about 2 weeks ago. Mine are about 18 years old, so I don't know if the new ones are at the same standard, but I l-o-v-e my Sorrels. Mind you, if it's REALLY cold, the model I have isn't adequate (it's not their coldest-weather version.) This might also have something to do with the fact that the rubber uppers have developed some cracks - after a mere 16 years of hard wear! Who can believe that? However, they're my first-choice winter boots for general use. They're what my BF refers to as "piss-quicks": the boots you jam on real fast so you can go outside and take a piss quick. If you are a boy, mostly. :D They're waterproof (or were until the cracks started!) and comfortable, and I've worn out two sets of liners for them. The leather shaft is in good repair and the sole, while somewhat worn, still has tread and traction. I believe I'm still using the original laces, too. :p

Thanks everyone for the sympathy and empathy. I'm sorry you've all had the Big Ouchies, too - some way worse than me! The good news is that I've got about 50% of my ankle mobility back, it appears. Woot!

(D43, you are right about the camera. I am still pouting over the death of this one, though, as it has sentimental value.) :(

Mutt Gal said...

Oooh, the fingernail story made me gag a little bit.

I'm glad you didn't paint your leg with DMSO. When I was a horse groom, if I even got it on my hands for a few seconds while wrapping a leg I could taste it in my mouth all day. Weird stuff. That sounds like a super-painful bruise, though. I hope your digi cam can record the awesome shades of yellow and green it's going to turn soon.