Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pasta Can Kill You

I never would have guessed that something as mundane as doing the dishes could result in minor surgery (but leave it to me to find a way).

I was living with a roommate my senior year in college and it was my night to do dishes. The roommate had boiled pasta for spaghetti the night before and some of the noodles had ended up drying to the bottom of the pot. So I applied a little elbow grease with my fingers in order to scrape them out. Well, as I was scraping, one of the noodles broke off and slid under the index finger of my right hand.

It hurt. Like. Hell.

It ended up breaking off under the nail so that I couldn't even get to it. I tried soaking it in salt water, then peroxide, then just plain old hot water, hoping to soften the noodle. Alas, it wouldn't budge. After the pain eventually became unbearable (twelve hours later when I hadn't been able to sleep because my finger felt like the size of a lightbulb), I drove myself to the emergency room of the hospital. The ER physician was amazed! (Somehow he had gone his entire professional career and never once had a patient who had a broken piece of spaghetti stuck under his fingernail. Imagine that!) He said he would have to do a digital block (numb the whole finger from the knuckle down) and scrape underneath the nail. After three shots around the knuckle (and a subsequent warning of a sharp pain from the doctor) I laid for fifteen minutes while the novocaine took effect.

The doctor then came in and proceeded to scrape under my fingernail with a small pair of forceps. But my finger wasn't numb enough and I could feel it. "Wait wait wait wait!" I yelled. He thought for a minute. He scowled. He looked at me. He looked at my finger. He scowled again. Then he said to me,

"I want to do this with the least amount of pain caused to you as possible." "Thank you for taking that into consideration" I replied.
"We're going to have to numb your finger again."
"And it's going to be very painful", he warned.
"Well, I hate to be wimpy about it but it really does hurt."
"Oh, you're not being wimpy at all. Remember, things shoved under fingernails was a form of torture during wartime. What you're not going to like is where we have to inject the novocaine."
"Umm. . . where?"
"We have to inject it next to the injury."
"Meaning ... ?"
"We have to inject it under the fingernail itself. And it is going to hurt."

Ohmigod! A needle going under my fingernail! If I could feel those forceps, how in the world was a needle going to feel? I held onto the bar alongside the bed with my left hand. The doctor asked me to squeeze his hand with the remaining fingers on my right and I braced myself.

Never before in the history of my life had I ever experienced such physical pain.It hurt, and it didn't, both at the same time. I felt sick to my stomach. I felt dizzy. I almost fainted. After the injection, he lifted my nail and scraped the underside of it with the forceps, then flush out the end of the finger with a syringe. He then popped my nail back into place and plunged my finger into an iodine mixture. I was sweating at this point. He then administered a tetanus shot (which I didn't even feel compared to the previous situation), allowed me to rest and sent me to the pharmacy for a prescription of cephalaxin and acetamenophin.

I then went home and, with my other good hand, punched my roommate in the stomach.


  1. Owowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowoowowowow!!! Man, I would STILL be complaining and having had outpatient eye surgery (yay!), I'm familiar with needles in highly uncomfortable places.

    I'm curling my fingers into the palms of my hands just thinking about. And silently vowing to avoid all boxes of angel hair, spaghetti, and macaroni (just to be safe) for the next few months. Or years.

  2. That's AWFUL. My roommates doing the dishes next time we have pasta.

  3. I just dug really deep grooves into my palm reading this post with clenched fist in sympathetic pain.

    But I love the ending.

  4. hey man, i feel your pain, literally. I was washing the dishes today and did exactly the same thing. Went to emergency room and had a very similar experence (except he cut away a vetical slice from my nail, leaving a huge gapping hole that now hurts like hell.

    Why doesn't the deading medication work!!

    Anyway, I only found your blog by searching for ways to get the pasta out before going to the doctor. Your experience almost made me not want to go, but it hurt so much I figured extreme pain in a short period of time was better than what I was going through.

    Anyway, hope yours is healing.