Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Doing a Little Minor Surgery

First Aid Supplies came in handy one day.
Photo by Pam Stephan
Dad and I were playing dominoes one afternoon when I looked down at his sleeve and saw a bloody spot. I calmly asked him about it. He said he wasn't hurting any, but may have "leaked" a little. My father is a pretty macho guy and not admitting to pain is a longstanding feature of his character. However, since he developed atrial fibrillation and is at some risk for stroke, he has to take a blood thinner - so when he starts bleeding, it can take a while before natural clotting takes place.

This was a triangular bloody spot about an inch long and half an inch wide, about halfway between the cuff and the elbow of his long sleeve. He offered to show me that "it was really nothing," so he rolled up his sleeve and there it was. A flap of skin had been sheared from his arm on two sides of a triangle. The skin, which was somewhat stiff and dry, was still attached along one long side of the avulsion, and blood and lymph was still weeping from the raw skin beneath. Ugh.

Now I know my father's habits pretty well. He had probably ignored the problem because it was covered by his sleeve, but now that it was clearly exposed, he would want to tear off the dead skin and let the wound "air itself" so it would heal. Keep in mind that he is 88 and that was how he was raised to treat wounds. Actually, he and his brother probably rubbed some sandlot dirt into their scratches to make things look more impressive. He didn't want any treatment for it. But he has one weak spot that I can always use - he loves personal attention.

I made a fuss over his wound and said I would clean it to make sure that no "bugs or germs got in there" and did any harm. So I assembled some first aid supplies:
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • cotton gauze
  • Neosporin ointment
  • tweezers
  • nail scissors
  • non-adhesive bandage roll
We started by cleaning the wound with peroxide. I warned him that it would sting, so naturally he didn't even flinch or blink. I soaked some gauze with peroxide and blotted the wound while I examined it for signs of infection or inflammation. The raw skin was unhappy but not puffy or much discolored. Then I got him to rest his arm on the table so he could hold it very, very still. Here's where the surgery got started. I used tweezers to lift the skin flap away from the wound and elevated it slightly, so it had a little strain on it. Then I carefully, slowly, neatly trimmed the dead skin flap off by using the nail scissors. The dead skin came cleanly away from the raw place (arm hairs and all) and it went to its eternal rest in the kitchen trash can. Here followed more peroxide blotting and then a coating of Neosporin to seal the surface.

Dad followed all this with interest, enjoying the concentrated attention he was getting. He chatted about his brother, the dogs, or whatever came into his head while this was all going on. I was grateful that he didn't squirm around.

We put a square of gauze over the open wound and Dad held it in place while I wound a length of non-adhesive bandage around the gauze and his arm. I really like this stuff - it won't pull on his long, long arm hairs and it can be reused when changing the gauze. That is, it can be used again if Dad doesn't discover it and rip it off, so the wound can "air!"

The bandage that we had on hand was blue. Dad's dog, Toto, recently split a dewclaw and had to have it worked on at the vet's office. We had been using the blue non-adhesive bandage on Toto's foot but it worked well for man and beast. Fortunately, neither the dog nor Dad required the bitter-tasting bandage that prevents chewing and biting by the patient!

Having completed our minor surgery, we resumed our domino game and I believe he beat me once again.

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