Thursday, July 01, 2004


I just returned from the dermatologist, where I had a mole removed from my back.

I paid handsomely for the service, as Kaiser had no appointments available until the end of time (read: August), and I had to take matters into my own hands, then deposit matters into the hands of a real dermatologist.

The mole was harmless, and I've had it for awhile. When my old dermatologist told me he would have to cut it off (as opposed to the more passive T-1000 freezing method), I opted not to bother, as it was small and not a big deal.

Lately, it's gotten a bit bigger, and every time I see it I'm reminded of this old Chinese man who once gave my sister swimming lessons at the public pool. He had this enormous growth on his leg, this whole extra flop of skin just hanging off his calf. It didn't seem to bother him, but it was unsettling to share the water with this misshapen parasitic life-form. I guess the old man was not self-conscious about it, but at a certain point, you need to take action not out of insecurity, but out of simple consideration for others. I'm not saying I was at this point, but I feared I was falling into this man's oblivious mindset. Now, I tend to take off my shirt in public about once a summer, but I will be ready for this year's appearance with only a polite scar and not a curious bump.

Waiting for the surgery was a little nerve-wracking. First the assistant informed me that I would only be charged for the labor of the operation, and not a consultation visit, providing I had nothing else to ask the doctor. I promised not to ask about anything else. She led me to the surgery room, and I signed the usual form warning me about all the horrible things that could possibly result from this most minor of surgeries. Then she left me alone to look at the tool chest with drawers labled things like "chin implants" and "nose splints." People have gotten plastic surgery in this very room, I realized, and the idea seemed strange to me.

You expect a surgery room to have fancy equipment, and there was expensive looking stuff around, but I found it weirdly unsettling that other stuff was as cheap and normal as things you find everywhere else. A sign on the emergency exit read "Never unlock this door," and was printed on simple 8.5x11 paper and taped onto the door. The surgical tools were literally in a tool chest. Cardboard boxes in the corner were blocked off by an oriental paper curtain thing. An old defribrillator against one wall. That's expensive. But old. And... do people getting dermatological or cosmetic surgery need defibrillating? Scary.

The actual operation was quick and painless. I felt the prick of the needle delivering the anesthetic, then waited for it to take effect. I couldn't really tell whether it had or not, and it felt like the doctor was dabbing me with something as he talked to his assistant. Then it was done, and it turned out the dabbing had been cutting. Dang, that anesthetic worked fast. He said the whole thing would take two minutes, and it felt more like one.

Now I have to deal with the chore of keeping the surgical site clean and uninfected for the next week, so ideally I won't botch that up.

No comments: