Saturday, January 14, 2012

THE UGLY FINGERNAIL AND THE DICTIONARY



I’m wearing a bandage on my left index finger at the moment, and all I can say is when it comes to do-it-yourself medical treatments, sometimes the Internet can be a dangerous thing.

It all began a few months ago when I noticed that my fingernail was growing a vertical trench up the center of it. There seemed to be no reason for it – I mean, I couldn’t see anything that would cause a trench, like a needle imbedded in the nail or a creature of some sort burrowing under it – so I ignored it.

Or at least I tried to.

As my nail grew, so did the trench. I soon discovered that painting a nail with a trench in it was a real challenge because the trench acted like a reservoir and the nail polish pooled up in it. I’d think the nail was dry and hold up my hand, only to have polish ooze down to my knuckle. Not only that, the polish didn’t camouflage the trench as I’d hoped it would. The frosty pink color and shininess seemed only to highlight it. I may just as well have hung a neon sign on my finger that said, “Hey, everyone! Look at my ugly fingernail!”

A few weeks later, a small bump appeared at the base of the nail. It was a squishy bump, perfectly round. Whatever was causing the bump, I deduced, was what must have been causing the trench.

So just before Christmas, when my husband had an appointment at a clinic in Concord, I made a detour to the dermatology department and showed my finger to the receptionist.

She glanced at the bump, which had doubled in size by then, but made no comment other than to ask me if I’d like to make an appointment. When I nodded, she studied the computer screen on her desk. “The soonest we have an opening is May.”

I just stared at her. “May? My finger could fall off by then!”

“Sorry,” she said. “We’ve been really busy. Would you like to book the appointment?”

“I think I’ll pass,” I said.

When I got home, I headed straight to my computer to search the Internet for information about bumps on fingernails. There, I found a photo that was a clone of my fingernail. Not only did it have a trench in it, it also had a bump at the base of it. The article said the bump was a ganglion cyst that probably was filled with joint fluid from the first knuckle.

I researched ganglion cysts and came across an interesting tidbit of information. It said that back in the old days, people used to get rid of them by smashing them with the family Bible.

“Do you know where your Bible is?” I asked my husband later that night.

He gave me a suspicious look. “Why? What did you do?”

Apparently he thought I needed to repent for something. “I didn’t do anything. I just need it to smash something with.”

His expression told me he wanted to ask me a question, but he remained silent, probably because he thought he’d be better off if he didn’t. “It’s a paperback,” he finally said. “You won’t be able to smash much with it.”

I frowned. “Oh, OK, never mind then.”

I set off in search of the heaviest hardcover book in the house. I found it in the form of a Random House dictionary about three inches thick. I lugged it out to the kitchen, stretched out my index finger on the counter and then tried to get up the courage to slam it with the book.

At that precise moment, my husband entered the kitchen. He looked at the dictionary, which I’d lifted to about shoulder height, and then down at my finger on the counter. An expression of sudden realization crossed his face.

“You’re not actually thinking about smashing the bump on your finger with that dictionary, are you?” he asked.

I nodded. “I read on the Internet that in the old days, that’s how people got rid of ganglion cysts.”

“But weren’t those on their wrists?’ he asked.

I shrugged. “What’s the difference? A ganglion is a ganglion!”

“You sure you don’t want to borrow my hammer?” he asked. “If you’re going to do something dumb, you might as well go all the way!”

I glared at him, and then without further hesitation, slammed the dictionary down on my finger.

The sound I made scared away the squirrels from my bird feeder outside.

When I dared to look at the bump at the base of my fingernail, not only had it flattened out, there was a gaping hole in the cuticle area, as if something had blown out right through it. The thought did cross my mind that I might also have flattened a few essential bones in my finger during the smashing process, but to my relief, it seemed to be working fine when I tested it.

So now I’m waiting for the hole to heal, which is why I’m wearing a bandage. The crater already has closed up a little, but I have the feeling the healing process is going to be a slow one.

My husband, however, thinks the only hole I should be worried about healing is the one I obviously have in my head...for doing something so crazy.

I blame it on the Internet.

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