“Mommy Has Train Tracks”.

Boo used to say that all of the time about my scarring (post-injury), while she was on my lap, admiring me the way kids do to their’ folk.

So…something occurred to me this morning, as I was drying off after my shower: I still find new scars on my body often.
By “new”, I mean scars that I had not seen before; not scars that are actually freshly appeared.
In the hospital (almost a solid year’s time), I NEVER once gave my body/face a second glance at any time, as the times that it happened by accident left me horrified beyond belief. Boo was very observant – always; so when I came home from the hospital, she immediately began to point out staple-lines and track stitches across my skin with her tiny fingers regularly; she was only four then, so I just kinda went with it and never actually paid much attention to it.
After Boo was gone, during a period of time when I hit a very low point again, I began to notice many scars and marks all over my body that I hadn’t before seen. By then, I had already began regularly inspecting my face and neck in front of the mirror; my purpose for this had not been to look for scars, but to re-familiarize myself with my own face and appearance. The face took front burner for quite some time in my mind, as I was extremely self-conscious and unstable when it came to facing the world. In turn, looking back in hindsight, I totally forgot that there was the rest of my body, too. And, in reality, despite the horrific injuries to my neck and face that swallowed up most of the immediate medical necessity back then – my body most certainly bore the brunt of my overall injuries sustained for the duration of my captivity/marriage.
It just wasn’t so immediate to focus on during the “reconstruction” period, I guess…for any of us involved. I was even of the opinion that as long as I could put clothes on every day and did not have to get naked for anyone, my body and I could agree:
I leave it alone, it leaves me alone. Simple.
This worked well forever, too…until I was faced with too much alone time on my hands after Boo was gone; and it was nearly as if I was slowly undressing somebody else’s body for the first time.
UGLY.
UNREAL.
UNFAIR.
UNFORGIVABLE.
UNDENIABLE.

I started to dread bathing, as I would have to accept it all over again; the PTSD really got bad at that point in regard to flashbacks and resurfaced memories – looking at my own skin created this. I lived in a paradox place where my newborn, obsessive/compulsive need to be clean was constantly at odds with my disgust with my own body. I cried a lot. I cursed at the Gods daily. I thought about digging a hole in the backyard and just climbing into it. Eventually, I met a guy who was cool and I relaxed about my body with time – with his help no doubt. He was a total pothead skater and really didn’t ever seem to even notice the shit that I was certain would make him scream and run away. He was super mellow and laid back – simple, really. That helped.
It really doesn’t affect me at all like it used to – finding scars and marks that I don’t recall ever seeing before. I have already come through the stage in which these things trigger physically responsive reactions from me, that no longer happens; as I have recalled what must be an accounting for the better majority of my scars and battle wounds by now. Also, I try not to allow my thoughts to hijack my mind on the topic of HOW I got them…that helps tremendously. I know they are there, I know they represent pain and torture. I know how I got each one. I do not need to think any further beyond these basic elements any more, for the most part – and I don’t – but I can if I choose to, without freaking the fuck out. Which, to me – says something…

“Every rule has an exception. Especially this one.”

Anomalous”, an “exception”, a “phenomenon”; these are all things I have been called in the medical community throughout my recovery from a near-fatal attack over ten years ago.

The “anomaly” came into play during the initial sweep of MRSA that ran through the ICU and burn units, claiming the lives of two patients and yanking many others into the circling of the proverbial drain for months afterwards; I was, once again, somehow spared death at that time as well, despite the many open wounds that left me like a sitting duck for the infectious riptide. Immediately following exposure to the initial strain of MRSA, twelve out of nineteen of the patients there, in my particular unit, broke out with the Shingles (a strain of it that is STILL with at least two of them, to date). Again, I was “unscathed”. It’s important to keep in mind while reading this, that I was unconscious for the better part of 3 ½ weeks straight upon arriving and being rushed into emergency maxiofacial/vasculature surgery – it’s not as if I even had a clue as to what was happening afterwards, in the unit. I wasn’t putting up any conscious fight against anything…that entire period is dark for me, and I carry no recollection of it now. Either way, it was then that I received the medical file label of “immuno-anomalous”; a label that has stuck with me ever since that time – only to be elaborated upon by other surgeons, doctors and various medical professionals in the days to come.

Next was something wonderful: ‘Raynaud’s Phenomenon’.

This is a very strange condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause microvascular spasms in the fingers, nose, and/or toes. Doctors rarely see this condition – it has a very, very rare (identified, at least) occurrence in the world; thus, is difficult to get properly diagnosed, much less treated. I nearly lost all ten of my toes on two separate occasions due to Raynaud’s;

  • Once, before getting it diagnosed accurately, when a doctor came through on his rounds and basically told me that my toes were so gangrenous that they would need to be amputated;
  • Again, before getting it properly diagnosed, another doctor came through on his rounds and said that they wouldn’t need to amputate, because my toes were shriveled into raisins anyway, and would soon “come off on their own” (that was on my birthday, by the way). Happy fucking birthday – you’re toeless!

Either way, I managed to keep my toes – all of them – to the absolute shock and surprise of all of us…I’M still not even sure how that happened without medical interaction – my toes DID literally look raisins for about a week. But – “phenomenally, they bounced themselves back to bloodflow…”, according to the treating physician at the time. And so, was born: “the Phenomenon”.

Lastly, but most sticky, has been “the Exception to Every Rule of Medicine”; a quote, verbatim, about me from a seminary speech made at Stanford Hospital during a retirement celebration thrown for my original reconstructive surgeon – one amazing individual – when he was asked if I was the reason behind his “early retirement”. So many other people from the Medical community were there to hear an esteemed and well-respected old-timer say such a thing, that I will likely NEVER live it down.