I’ve written in the past of my professionally given label of “a medical anomaly” when it comes to my physiology/immunology/genetics. This handle was given to me via a Stanford University medical conference luncheon, in which one of my former doctors highlighted my case in his widely received presentation on ‘reconstructive maxiofacial tissue surgery and uncommon obstacles’. Since that moment in time, most, if not all, of my loosely interwoven healthcare team have adopted the name for my reference. In fact, the nickname seems to be a kind of industry-driven joke from which all humor is lost on me, completely…but what the fuck do I know?
But, I digress.
One of the elements rendering me as such is something known as “Raynaud’s Phenomenon” – a multitude of micro-vascular spasms occurring simultaneously in the digits (and the nose for some people, as well –though I am not one of those thank the Gods…) affecting gangrene and, oftentimes, the loss of one or more dead fingers or toes. You’ll note the word “phenomenon” in the title of the ailment that I foster; this is because there are TWO forms of this thing: one, the most common type, being called “Raynaud’s Disease”, is a chronic and life-altering disease that appears in exceptionally cold environments and/or in the users of regular operation of machinery such as… let’s say – a jackhammer, or the likes. Some doctors even say that this condition is exacerbated by “stress” (in which case, I’m fucked!!!).
I am a beach bum in California with no prior jackhammer experience; so when I was first (and finally, after many initial months of painfully spreading gangrene in all ten of my shriveled toes) diagnosed in 2003, I was defined as having the more difficult type of the ailment known as a “phenomenon”, based solely on the elusive cause and randomly occurring symptoms. The archaic doctor who was on call at the ER where I was FINALLY properly diagnosed and treated called every physician and support staff into the pocket room where I sat with bare feet on an exam table and said to the group of about twenty young med-school graduates,
“This is something you may never see again, so I want to make sure to share this…this Raynaud’s phenomenon; do you all see the skin blanching that happens when the tissue is prompted?”
He pinched and prodded my raisin-esque toes to reveal an odd renewal of color immediately beneath my skin there: they began to oddly shift from black – to dark blue – to a deep, angry red – to a yellowing, white-ish color wherever they were pressed.
“Oooooh ahhhhh.” the young students all cooed.
Very riveting; just give me some pills so my toes don’t fall off, please. Anyway, thankfully the old quack knew his shit and I was finally given the gift of balance and mobility back – not to mention, I was able to keep every toe in its original form.
I have been stricken three times by this “phenomenon” thus far in life; the second time was upon my landing at the Oahu International Airport on the most recent real vacation I took in 2005. The key is in Angina treatment, typically a vasodilator to thin the blood and break up the tiny spasms so far away from my heart. I am currently to the point not being to balance myself or walk normally due to loss of feeling in my feet, especially the right one. My toes have already shriveled quite totally and are shedding entire layers of epidermis as a snake sheds scales – fully intact toe-sized chunks that are being held to my feet with bandages and lots of salve. Warmth only creates a swelling that becomes so uncomfortably shiny and plump that heat offers no help at this point, either. I finally sucked it up and went back to get a script for some good ol’ Nifedipin.
…And, while I shuffled myself down an endless corridor to the pharmacy hidden in a basement of the hospital in the middle of the night – last night – guess who I spied in a bed, unconscious from an attempted suicide by means of drug overdose?
You called it; there was the one and only Boo, my only child.