There Will Be Blood: Incisions and Extractions

CW: mentions of surgical procedures, with accompanying grossness.

So I have had the displeasure of needing several medical procedures recently, first at the beginning of February my lower wisdom teeth were removed, and more recently I have had an infected sebaceous cyst removed from my back.

Having medical procedures done is never going to be a fun experience (unless you love puns and the procedure involves your humerus), and can be even more stressful when in a country where your native language is not the same as the majority of medical personnel.

Procedures are done around you and to you, but you’re not really part of the process. Conversations happen over your head both literally and metaphorically.

While the medical professionals have all been pleasant and personable in their interactions with me, there is an undeniable disconnection between when they are Talking To The Patient, and when they are talking to communicate.

I sit while a loud discussion happens as they drill through a molar. They seem upset – something isn’t happening the way it should? Someone is doing something wrong? I catch a word in four – it’s enough to know a thing is doing another thing, but I can’t follow the accents at that speed, and probably don’t know the vocabulary in any case.

By the time they finish extracting the first tooth I feel fine. But it took three times as long as they expected. They had to give about six extra injections of local anaesthetic. Apparently I’m resistant. The dentist asks if I’m a heavy drinker – apparently that’s a cause.

I feel fine.

The Next extraction takes longer, hurts more, and when they finish it takes some time for the bleeding to stop. I feel wrung out. I don’t bounce back like the previous day. I can’t feel half my tongue, which is normal with the local anaesthetic. But it doesn’t wear off. They tell me this might take months to go away. 

The surgery on my back is faster, but infinitely less pleasant. A series of sharp pains as local anaesthetic fills the painful swelling on my back.

“Does that hurt?”


“Is there pain here?”


“Does this?”

“Quite a bit, yes.”

“Ok. There.”

“That hurts immensely.”

“Ok. This will hurt. Just hold still.”

The conversation continues, but I think we’re both just making noises. Different species flashing colours and making noises that the other doesn’t quite understand or seem to register. I feel like I am literally being stabbed in the back. Which, to be fair, is exactly what is happening, since the first three exchanges were accompanied by rapid incisions. I assume they are being done with a scalpel, but for all I know it could be a chisel.

The surgeon tells me that the anaesthetic is less effective because of the infection and swelling. While I appreciate the information, this does little to lessen the pain.

It gets worse as the surgeon begins to remove the pus from the swollen, infected cyst. At some point he stops probing the abscess and carves the cyst tissue out of my back. The sensation is not much different.

My hands are shaking from clenching in pain. The adrenaline is probably not helping. I wonder how much longer it will take. I can’t tell how long this has taken.

By the time they irrigate the wound to try and wash as much pus and necrotic tissue from the wound as possible, it’s actually a relief. The sting of the antiseptic as they clean up is a welcome pain because it means the procedure is over.

The wound is packed with gauze – eight pieces. The surgeon is sure to conscientiously confirm this with the nurse to ensure that when I return they are all properly removed. A massive gauze pad covers my back. A piece of plastic adhesive sheeting holds everything in place.

They leave me lying on the hospital bed, and tell me to wait twenty minutes for observation. Half an hour later I put on my shirt, I take my backpack, and I go home.



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