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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Exciting Procedure...

You will thank me later when I tell you up front that I have no pictures to post.

I went to the clinic today to participate in a training session although, in all honesty, I thought I was going in for an appointment with a qualified physician to have a very minor, mostly cosmetic, "procedure" done. Turns out, my doctor mostly sat by and mocked me and complained about the clinic, while a kid still in medical school fired-up a tool he had never seen before, so we could both learn what burnt human skin smells like.

Good times.

I know, many of you might have been outraged by such a situation, but I'm a person who rarely engages in medical procedures, and the ones I do participate in are usually very minor, so why not let someone get a little practice? In fact, when I had my vasectomy years ago, the doctor showed his Med Tech how to perform the procedure on the first side, then handed him the pliers and the soldiering iron and let him do the other side. It has been over twenty years and Maury Povich hasn't called, so it must have worked out, right?

So about six months ago, I was looking under my arm, not for anything in particular, but I found this tiny little growth of skin. Like a mole or something. Then, curious, thinking maybe it was just a normal body part I had never noticed before, I looked under the other arm, and sure enough, there was one there too. WTH? Turns out, these little babies were what the medical professionals call skin tags. Turns out, lots of people have them, especially if you are over your maximum allowable weight. I am.

So really, nobody, myself included, looks at my armpits all that often and I just sort of let the little skin tags go. And then a few months later, I was looking inside my thighs. Yea. One skin tag on each side. WTF?

At this point, my wife suggested that she take a strand of her hair and tie off each of the offending tags with some sort of special fishing knot, and then the tags would simply fall off. As entertaining as that sounded, I suggested I would prefer someone with a little more medical training. She also suggested cutting the tags off with a knife, but again, I figured I'd like to be treated in more of a sterile environment.

Long story short, I consulted my doctor because I wanted to be sure that these little things weren't lethal in any way. He set me up with an appointment to have a quick procedure to have them removed. What he didn't tell me is that this would be a complete circus environment.

When I got in the office, there were two doctors, a technician, and a young man who looked younger than both of my kids. I sat down and as one of the doctors rattled through a form explaining to me all the possible things that could go wrong, I noticed that the method for performing the skin tag removal was still not circled. They were going to freeze it off, cut it off or burn it off, but even though I was signing a release form, they still hadn't figured out which method.

I know it isn't brain surgery, but I kinda thought someone would have at least had a game plan. As the one doctor was going over the release, my doctor was upset that the room we were in did not have the supplies we needed. For example, he wanted the burning tool. It is like a hot blade that just sears the skin tag off and leaves the wound cauterized so it won't bleed. Unfortunately, they didn't have one. Next, he was not comfortable that the scissors in the treatment room were sharp enough to get a good cut.

Now keep in mind, I'm hearing his complaints about the lack of proper surgical tools while the other doctor is reading a list of things that could go wrong.

The technician was dispatched to go found either a sharp pair of scissors or a cauterizing device and my doctor begins to tell his colleague how bad the clinic is outfitted. I strike up a conversation with the young medical trainee asking him exactly how much medical training he has had. The kid seemed pretty sharp to me and he was not in any way intimidated by the lack of proper tools; all he knew was he was going to be cutting on someone today. As comforting as that was, the conversation between the two real doctors continued on in the background.

In all honesty, in addition to feeling a little nervous, I started believing that Howie Mandel would show up in surgical scrubs at any moment and tell me that this is "Howie Do It." There was no way on earth that this little circus was real.

Instead, when the door opened, it was a different technician who rolled in the fancy cauterizing machine. My doctor immediately asked him how he got it and he just smiled and said, "Don't ask, but I need to get it back in 15 minutes or they will know it is missing." For some reason, I joined the doctors in giggling like 12 year-olds. The guy doing my procedure giggled like a 22 year old.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the young medical student and the doctor training him had never set eyes on the equipment about to be used, prior to this event. My doctor had only used one similar to it, and suggested they "turn it up about half-way, and see if that works." The two began turning knobs and touching probes and such.

I again looked around for Mr. Mandel or at least his camera.

I sat on a chair with my shirt off and held my right arm up exposing the small skin tag, and honestly, for a moment I thought to myself, it really doesn't look bad enough to warrant removal. Just then the doctor asked me if I was ready. I in turn asked the young med student if he was ready!

Holding the offending tag with tweezers, the young guy pulled it away from the body and began the first of what would prove to be a series of painful and useless swipes at it. I have to admit I flinched on the first pass, simply because I had no idea what to expect. This went on for at least twenty seconds when finally, my doctor intervened and suggested that first, he needed to bump up the power, and second, he needed to just do it quickly. To that, I said, Amen Brother!

Now when they started, I noticed the setting was on the number 5. When they decided to crank it up, it was moved to 39.5! Holy crap! When the instrument was next placed near my skin tag and the heat was administered, it was a quick jolt of pain but done in just a second, and my tag was next seen on a tray, smoldering. Yea, burnt flesh just an hour after lunch. Good times.

I'll leave the rest to your imagination, but believe it or not, not a drop of blood and not once did I faint (which is pretty standard for me in medical situations), and no, Howie Mandel never did show up.

Oh, and in spite of the circus-like atmosphere I described (and it is all true), I really do like my doctor. He seems to know what is going on; he just doesn't have the tools he needs. I like his matter of fact bedside manor. When I had my first appointment with him, he told me that for San Antonio, I'm not really that fat. But he told me, if I ever go to the east coast, I'll be really obese. You gotta like a doctor that can explain things to you in such simple terms.


RB said...

Have you tried the VA yet? What a treat! I was to give blood for a lab and the poor student couldn't find a vein. She finally ended up digging around on the inside of my elbow and as the PA looked over and realized I was just about to pass out from the pain, he made her remove the needle and did the job himself. Good Times!

Anonymous said...

My buddy freezes his skin tags with a can of compressed air. Bourbon helps.

Dave said...

Bob, maybe you need to try a little Bourbon with your VA appointments!

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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