Friday, September 5, 2014


Three weeks ago I woke up with a flat red spot on my nose. When I went to bed the night before, it wasn’t there. It just mysteriously appeared while I slept.

The spot was pretty weird looking, I thought. For one thing, it was shaped like a pentagon. It also burned. In fact, it felt as if I had a lit cigarette pressing against my nose.

I didn’t think too much about it. I slapped some antibiotic ointment on it and figured it would go away in a few days. A week later, however, it still was there. Even worse, it wasn’t flat any more, it was bumpy. And it still burned. The only thing that seemed to help was to put ice on my nose. I swear I saw steam rise from it when I did.

I also became obsessed with looking at my nose in the mirror, mainly because I was afraid the spot was going to burn a hole in my face. I must have picked up that mirror a dozen times in an hour. I even bought a magnifying mirror so I could see a larger-than-life image of my nose. Believe me, it wasn’t pretty. Enlarged, my pores looked like a topographical map of the moon’s surface.

By the second week, I’d decided I’d suffered long enough. Not only did I look like Rudolph’s ugly sister, I was getting frostbite from putting so much ice on my nose. So I checked with my insurance company for its approved list of dermatologists and phoned one for an appointment.

“Well,” the woman who answered said, “we can squeeze you in sometime at the end of November.”

“That’s three months away!” I said.

“I’m afraid so,” she said, “but we’re better than most of the other dermatologists in this area. They’re not booking anything before 2015. New Hampshire has a shortage of dermatologists…unless you’re in an area near the Massachusetts border.”

I figured I’d either be noseless or completely healed by November, so I didn’t make an appointment. Instead, I searched the Internet in an attempt to self-diagnose my mysterious spot. That was a huge mistake. The noses on there that looked similar to mine had been diagnosed with everything from poison oak to flesh-eating bacteria.

I waited another few days, hoping that whatever was on my nose would just go away on its own. It didn’t. So last weekend I finally got fed up and headed to a walk-in clinic. I wanted to find out once and for all what the alien spot was and hopefully get some long overdue relief.

When I walked into the clinic, the first thing I noticed was the waiting room was empty, which I thought that was unusual for a weekend. The woman at the desk greeted me and took my information, then told me I’d have to pay $150 up front before the doctor would see me. By then, I’d have been willing to sign over a kidney if it meant my nose would feel and look normal again.

The gray-haired doctor stood and stared at my nose for quite a while. He then moved closer and checked it with a magnifier of some sort. He also looked up my nose. Finally, he stood upright and said, “I have absolutely no idea what that is.”

My first thought was, “Well, at least the guy is honest.” My second was, “Does this mean I can get back my $150?”

“Maybe it’s a fungal infection,” he said. “Or maybe a bacterial infection. Or maybe it’s contact dermatitis – or cellullitis, or shingles. Or maybe it’s something…more serious.”

“That’s a lot of maybes,” I said. “No offense, but you’re not much help.”

“Sorry, I know,” he said. “Well, I guess I can prescribe a few medications you can try.”

“Are you talking about pills…or ointments?” I asked.

“Oral medication.”

“Um, I really don’t think I want to take anything internally and risk suffering from any nasty side effects unless we know exactly what we’re dealing with first.”

“OK, then,” he said. “Let’s try an ointment. I have an antibacterial, an antibiotic, an anti-fungal and an anti-inflammatory. Pick one.”

The look I gave him clearly told him I was wondering by then if he’d earned his medical degree from Acme Online Medical School.  I mean, from what I’d read on the Internet, if you treat a fungal infection with a hydrocortisone-based ointment, you could end up with a nose the size of zucchini.

You’re the doctor,” I said, even though I was having serious doubts by then. “Which one do you think I should try?”

He shrugged. “Either the antibacterial or the anti-fungal. I’d say the least effective of the four probably would be the antibiotic.”

 “Then give me the antibacterial. It sounds as if it can kill more stuff.”

He got the ointment, then said if the spot on my nose looked any worse over the next few days, to call him and he’d see about getting a dermatologist for me as soon as possible. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of doctor he’d be able to come up with on short notice – his cousin Floyd out back in the barn?

So I’m trying the antibacterial ointment. The doctor said to give it five days.

If the spot doesn’t look better by then, I’m seriously going to suspect it might be some kind of implanted signaling device for alien spacecraft.



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