I spared myself a visit to my hand surgeon last Friday. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a great physician. But the presenting problem resolved itself, so to speak.
The presenting problem was a piece of calcium the color of volcanic ash that has been emerging from the pad of my right thumb for nearly a year. It almost surfaced back in the winter, then receded for several months before pushing closer and closer to the top layer of skin. Finally, a few weeks ago, my thumb erupted.
But all I could see was the tip of the iceberg (mixing metaphors, here—for some reason, the calcium deposits that my scleroderma manufactures have changed in color from white to dark gray in recent years—no idea why). Slowly, it revealed more of itself, but not enough so that I could pull it out easily.
So I resorted to trying to gradually soak it out of my thumb, using peroxide morning and evening, plus antibiotic ointment with gauze and fabric bandages to protect it during the day and overnight. This seemed not to accomplish much, other than protect me from infections. I finally decided to make an appointment with my hand surgeon to see if he could extract it in the office. I was hoping that would help the pit to make up its mind to come out on its own.
Still, it needed more coaxing. This required the proper tools. I turned to my father’s old dissecting kit. Made of black fabric, lined with purple felt, it contains everything you need for high school biology to dissect a frog, including a pair of very fine needle-nosed tweezers. I have some unkind memories of those tweezers—my dad used them to pull splinters out of my fingers when I was a kid, a procedure that never failed to make me squirm and scream.
However, they are the best tweezers for pulling calcium pits out of my fingers (especially since I’m the one doing the operation). Every morning and night last week, leading up to the scheduled Friday appointment, I wiped the tweezers with an alcohol pad, daubed peroxide on my thumb, and proceeded to try to loosen up the calcium pit from surrounding skin.
Finally, on Thursday morning, I got lucky. The calcium pit gave up and I plucked it out—a quarter inch long and eighth of an inch in diameter. The biggest pit I have ever extracted. Lots of blood, but pressure stanched the flow. I filled the hole in my thumb with antibiotic ointment and covered it up. Then I cancelled my appointment.
A few days later, the skin has nearly filled in. As strange as this disease gets, it’s always a relief to see that my body can heal itself, too.
Image Credit: Jack Ebnet