Monday, December 05, 2005

Vicki's Story, Part Six

Click here to read Part One
Click here to read Part Two
Click here to read Part Three
Click here to read Part Four
Click here to read Part Five

Part Six

The most bittersweet day of my entire childhood was the day my mom and I drove downtown to my doctor’s office to get the dreaded buttons removed. I was thrilled to be rid of the big, ugly, tight uncomfortable things, but dreading it also as it would be the first in-office procedure I had ever had done….without anesthesia.

It’s one thing to boast of never crying when they knock you out cold every time they touch you. Now would be the test – could I get these buttons pulled out of my face without losing my cool? I was determined – no matter how painful it was – I was not going to cry!

And so there I was in that wooden-chair infested office, flat on my back, holding my mom’s hand. I didn’t say a word. After all, denying pain when someone has their fist all the way up your nose takes a lot of concentration.

The doctor shoved an extremely cold pair of pliers up my nose – farther than I imagined possible. His teeth clenched, both hands gripped around the handles, he pushed on the wire cutters with all his might. I heard a loud snap from within my nose and the wire cutters slid out. My eyes were closed. The doctor announced that he would now remove the buttons. I braced the pending pain by gripping my mom’s hand hard enough to sever it from her wrist.

The doctor put his hand down on my forehead, bearing down his weight on my head to keep it still. With his other hand he pulled the blood-clotted, mangled wire. He threw his arm back and ripped the wire out with the force of a rip cord out of a lawnmower.

Searing pain – like shots of fire – ran through my nose and down into my jaw. Rebracing his free hand on my forehead he pulled again. Hot streaks of pain shot up into my eyes, filling every ounce of my head with shooting pain. “I won’t cry…I won’t cry…” I thought as I gripped mom’s hand even tighter. I took a deep breath as the doctor ripped the wire over and over again, like a sadistic clown pulling his never-ending train of wire hankys from out of my eye sockets.

At last, he was finished. It was done. My body filled with a warm joy. Certainly this is the way an athlete feels after a game-winning touchdown or a soldier limping up to receive his purple heart in front of cheering peers. I always felt a physical feeling of overwhelming triumph whenever I survived a painful ordeal without tears. I couldn’t control anything happening to me. I had no choices, no options. But I could choose to not cry – I could control one thing at least.

Do you want to keep your buttons for posterity sake?” The nurse chirped happily.

Are you crazy? No! Of course I don’t want them!” I spat. I used to get toys and lollipops when I had to endure pain in doctor’s offices and this woman had the nerve to offer me my buttons. I didn’t save them, but now I wish I had. I didn’t realize at the time what trophies those things truly were.

I jumped off the table, smiling. I looked over at mom, she smiled back, rubbing the blood out of the hand I had practically torn off during the ordeal. I walked over to the mirror and examined my new face. My eyes were pretty swollen. Soft pink circles now book-ended my nose the way the buttons used to. I didn’t even care. They buttons had come off just in time. School pictures were two weeks away. The pink circles would be long gone by then.

I was so distracted by the mirror’s new reflection that I had primarily been ignoring my doctor’s chatter. Usual nonsense – make another appointment….fill this prescription…get this special cream….have Vicki rub the cream into the button sores three times a day…

And then my heart sank. “The cream will soften the scar tissue,” the doctor droned on. “We can’t do more surgery until the scars have softened. The cream never works, but we’ll try it for now. Next time she comes in we’ll start the steroid injections.”

Injections?” I said, spinning on my heels to face the doctor. “You mean shots?

The doctor nodded with no emotion.

Shots? On my face?”

Make the appointment for a month from now…” the doctor said turning away from me.

Please…I don’t want shots on my face…” I said…almost betraying my “no tears” rule.

In a moment of unorthodox sympathy, the doctor turned to me. “I’ll make you a deal. If your scars are soft enough a month from now, I’ll let you keep using the cream instead of the shots. But I must warn you….the cream never works.

That night, locked alone in the bathroom with the big silver tube of cream in my hand, I put gobs of ointment on my tender, throbbing scars and rubbed until my fingers went numb. “Please God….please God,” the prayer reverberated in my head and I applied more cream to my nose. “God, please don’t make me get shots in my nose,” I begged.

Unfortunately, I was eleven and my discipline ran out shortly after that first night. Before I knew it, my doctor’s appointment was the very next day, and I hadn’t picked up that tube of cream in weeks.

Oh God, please help me…” I cried as I sat locked in the bathroom the night before that fatal appointment. “Please soften these scars, Jesus….please….”



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