My finger health problem

by Rob Tiller

Why is it other people’s health problems are so uninteresting, and my own are so fascinating? I’m kidding. Kind of. At one level, I understand that my own health problems are of no particular general interest, but I do find them relatively interesting. It would not surprise me at all to learn that everybody else thinks the same.

At any rate, I work hard to minimize certain health risks. I consciously avoid eating things that have no nutritional value, and consciously eat a balanced vegetarian diet. I get up early to exercise most days, either swimming, spinning, lifting, doing yoga, or the elliptical machine. I use sunscreen and drink filtered water. And so on. I even quit using pans with Teflon.

None of which will help me against the wrong piece of bad luck, be it my own cells malfunctioning, an invading superbug, or a drunk driver running a stop light. But I like improving the odds. And for the most part, I like the process. True, I still haven’t figured out how to make an omelette that doesn’t stick without Teflon, which is unfortunate. But I actually look forward happily to yoga class, for example. (Which reminds me, after some struggle, I finally managed to do an unaided head stand for the first time this week. Hurray!)

The net of my exercise-and-eating program, good genes, and good luck has been a long run of no health problems that seemed interesting enough to talk about, even to me. I didn’t have even a cold in three years (though that particular string was broken by an enterprising but not particularly dramatic virus last week).

But starting last Sunday, I had a bizarre problem that seemed small at first: the tip of my left forefinger was exceedingly tender. I initially thought I must have somehow bruised it, but this seemed unlikely — it would have taken a memorable blow, like slamming it in a car door, to produce such discomfort. Over the next couple of days, it became swollen and took on hues of red or purple. It was warm to the touch, and it throbbed. I couldn’t play the piano without causing great pain, and any small ordinary knock on the finger was agonizing. I began to wonder what life would be like after amputation of a left forefinger, or the possibility that there was a serious internal problem there that could spread.

So I made a rare appointment with my GP, Dr. Gagliardi, who generally knows me only from check ups that are not as frequent as he would like. He diagnosed the problem in a matter of seconds as paronychia (an infection), and said he would cut it to let out the fluid. I noted that I have a reasonably high pain threshold, but because of the extreme sensitivity of the finger, it would be nice to have some anesthetic for this operation. He said that was impractical. So I took a deep breath.

Fortunately, he found some deed skin to cut on, and I never felt a thing when he did the cutting. And in a moment a yellow pus began to emerge in surprising quantities. I began to feel better almost immediately. I’m using a prescription antibiotic cream and band aids to complete my recovery. The wonders of modern medicine! Every now and again, it works really well! Thanks, Dr. G!