Scars

I had the muscle biopsy (left quadriceps) on Monday the 9th. On Monday the 16th the surgeon who did the biopsy removed the waterproof bandage from the site, looked at his work and was well pleased, and explained that the wound would heal soon, leaving only a small scar. I allowed that at this point in my life, a small scar was as nothing; I already had 7 visible scars on my body, the last one an impressive disfigurement, a cicatricial landscape over a foot long and over an inch wide at its maximum. So I should care about a small scar on my left thigh?

Meanwhile, I’m all anxious over the results of the biopsy, which still haven’t come in, after 15 days. (Maybe the crucial staff are on vacation; it’s that time of year.) While waiting, I’ve entertained myself by making an inventory of my visible scars and considering taking photos, so that if I were kidnapped, murdered, and dismembered by a deranged maniac — hey, this happens on television all the time — my body parts might be identifiable through their scars. Morbid, but absboring.

The current wound. Still healing, but moving towards inconsequential cicatricity:

Why oh why? The biopsy is but the most recent chapter is my two Medical Mysteries. The assonant Mystery Dyspnea and the alliterative Mystery Myalgia.

The dyspnea, shortness of breath on (certain kinds of) exertion, has been with me for over a year, severely limiting my life. (Note: please don’t write to offer possible diagnoses or treatment regimens. Please don’t. Suppress the instinct.)

The myalgia is tricky in a different way. After severals months off Lipitor / atorvastatin (prescribed to control cholesterol levels), the crippling pain receded some, and then hitting it with prednisone made it go away entirely (at the cost of unpleasant side effects from the prednisone). I’m now down from 20 mg of prednisone a day to 5, with some return of muscle pains (at entirely manageable levels) but also some prednisone side effects still. Meanwhile, the search for a root cause goes on; the muscle biopsy was a joint recommendation of two of my current nine specialists (the rheumatologist and the neurologist), hoping to get some insight not provided by the phalanx of other tests I’ve undergone over many months. I wasn’t especially sanguine — it is, after all, a surgical procedure, with anesthesia, inconvenience, some pain, and recovery time —  but they ganged up on me. I’m hoping it was not in vain.

The scarventory. You really don’t want to see pictures, especially of #7. In, as best as I can reconstruct things, the order of their acquisition:

#1. Early childhood. Playground scrape. Half-inch linear scar on my left elbow. Complete with grit embedded in it.

#2. Later childhood, 8 or so. Slipped pen knife. Hockey-stick-shaped scar at the base of my left thumb.

#3. Later childhood, 10 or so. Dog bite. Circular scar on my right wrist.

#4. Later childhood, 11 or 12. Bicycling accident going down a steep hill. Large circular scar on my right knee.

#5. Teenage years. Appendectomy scar on my belly.

#6. In my 30s. Laminectomy (L5/S1) scar on my back.

#7. 2003, scars from a week of debriding surgeries on the underside of my upper right arm and my right armpit, dealing with necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria, MRSA specifically).

There are others too small to be be noticeable, or hidden — in wrinkles, under hair, etc.

I’m much better with broken bones. So far in my life, only a couple of bedpost fractures (spiral oblique fractures of a phalanx bone).

Now waiting for messages from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation…

2 Responses to “Scars”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Comment by Tim Evanson on Google+:

    It is Shark Week…

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    “Note: please don’t write to offer possible diagnoses or treatment regimens.” Well, I spent a year setting up performing, and interpreting the histochemical stains done on muscle biopsy specimens, so I’ll gladly take you up on that suggestion.

    The two week delay seems excessive, but the studies can be complex and time-consuming, particularly if electron microscopy is needed, which it at least occasionally is. Usually the specimen needs to be sent to a distant laboratory, and is often sent without clinical information, and that adds further to the slow turn-around.

    I’d be very interested to see the pathology report, likely to be several pages long.

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