Yeah, this sounds kind of gruesome, but since you weren’t there, you didn’t feel a thing, right? Well, I certainly did!
I don’t know why, but pain and agony has been following me around for quite some time now. I mean, they’re not with me constantly, but every so often, “WHAM”, I get hit right in the stomach, hand, knee, or this time, my neck.
Actually, this time, it wasn’t as bad as a “WHAM”, but more of a, “You’re gonna’ have to do something about this, and today is the day.”
You see, I’ve had this, ah, “bump” on my neck for quite some time. I can’t exactly say when it got there. I think it was probably the results of one of those alien abductions I was exposed to at a pretty young age. I always thought that it was an alien interstellar communications device and someday, I’d get a call from something. So far it hasn’t happened and now it never will.
Now, I’m not saying I was abducted by aliens because to say that, I might get put away, permanently. But, I just don’t know how to explain the “bump” thing growing on my neck from just after I started shaving. Yeah, I know most of you think I started shaving when I was 3, but that’s not true and that’s not very nice!
Anyway, this “bump” has actually been pretty benign for quite some time. I did have kind of a flare-up a while back, several years ago, in fact, and I went to my doctor to have him look at it. His diagnosis was that it is or was a “sebaceous cyst”. He said it needed to be cleaned out, but I’m not going to tell you why. He and his nurse did this procedure while wearing some highly questionable clothing, the type you see in a quarantine area, breathing masks and all!
Needless to say, while I’m sitting on his little patient examination table in just my regular clothes, I was kind of worried about their attire and why they felt they had to cover themselves in the extreme.
My Doctor, in his never reveal anything tone, just said that the contents of my sebaceous cyst has an odor! While he and his nurse proceeded to clean it out, I had to agree…it did stink! My, oh, my, I don’t think I would have ever expected something that smelly coming from a live human and certainly not from me. I won’t go into a whole lot of details, but just imagine if a warthog and a skunk were to get into a fight right under your nose while your were sitting in an outhouse!
Surprisingly, I didn’t pass out during this ordeal. I just hoped they had cleaned it out permanently and that I wouldn’t have to go through this ever again. I think the doctor also decided right then and there that his office was no longer going to treat people with sebaceous cyst, and I don’t blame him one bit.
When they were done with me, the bump had gone way, way down and I asked if the cyst was permanently gone. Sadly, he told me no it wasn’t. He said that it could come back or fill-up just like it had done this time, although it might take a long time again. He also said he would refer me to someone else to take care of it next time.
I think it took a good week or two before his doctor’s office got to smelling somewhat normal. I wasn’t there, of course, and made a point of not going back to the doctor’s office for quite some time. I figured that if anybody went to him right after my ordeal, if they weren’t feeling sick before they got there, they would have been after sitting in the waiting room for a minute or two! Man, did it smell! Sorry!
So, my life goes on. I have other things to contend with and I gave no thought to my neck. I took a shower and shaved every morning, yes! I do, so I just didn’t pay any attention to it; not one bit. Then it happened!
As I was shaving one morning this past February, I noticed the place on my neck where my “bump” had been was a bump again! I thought, “Crum”; yeah, that’s about the extent of my emotional thoughts. I didn’t want this bump to be coming back so I did what I usually do when confronted with something unpleasant. I ignored it.
Then on another February morning, my bump had turned into a mountain! I was just stunned. I could no more ignore this gigantic thing on my neck any longer. Plus it was starting to hurt and it was now bleeding! Yuck! Yuck! Yeah, I know this is unpleasant, but remember, it’s happening to me, not you!
I figured I had better head to the doctor and find out why this thing was going haywire again and growing.
Of course, the doctor took one look at my neck and didn’t want anything to do with me! He said, “You gotta’ go someplace else to have that worked on.” He got me a referral to someone else real fast, and threw us out the door!
Well, I thought, that might be a good idea. Send me to some sebaceous cyst specialist and maybe they would get rid of it for ever. That’s what I hoped anyway.
Hmm, well, I got a referral alright. It was for Wilford Hall, Lackland Air Force Base, TX. Now, I’m not especially keen on military hospitals or military doctors. I don’t know why, but they kind of scare me. I have no idea how much a private doctor makes, but it’s got to be a bunch considering the insurance bills I pay. But, I know how much an Air Force Captain makes whether he/she’s a doctor or not, and it ain’t much. I firmly believe that military doctors are really, really “practicing” medicine; like they just can’t figure out how to do it for real. So, I’m real nervous about going to Wilford Hall, Lackland AFB, TX. But, I do it anyway! I already stunk up my doctor’s office once. I don’t want to be banned from his place forever!
By now my bump has gotten pretty gross. I’m covering it with a bandage, barely, and most people won’t stand very close to me for some reason. I’m trying not to take it personal, but I didn’t go out in public much the latter part of February.
The day of my Wilford Hall Military Hospital appointment comes and we head over there. Now, from where we live, this is about an hours drive even though it’s just on the south of the city and we’re in the north. I get through traffic as best I can all the while I’m worried about being late for my appointment. You see, military hospitals are really, really strict about people keeping appointments. While I was working at Lackland AFB, I saw signs that warned Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines NOT to miss a schedule appointment with anyone at Wilford Hall. There were threats about reporting to your superior and all sorts of references to the Uniformed Military Code of Justice (UCMJ) for failure to report! Great, I thought! Here these people are probably sick and ailing and the military wants to dump some legal junk on them. Typical military!
Well, I figured, the worst they could do to me was put me back on active duty, but I figured once they got a look at me, that would be a very short tour. Still, I made sure we got to our appointment on time. I imagined a room crowded full of active duty young kids and then a bunch of us old guys sitting around waiting for days! I figured I’d give them one shot at doing something to my bump and if I didn’t like what they thought they were going to do, I was going AWOL!
So, we make it to Willford Hall. The place I have to go is somewhere in the basement, but I didn’t know that initially. In fact we couldn’t even find a directory or anything. We took an elevator up to the second floor since we saw a sign that said something we recognized, but turned out it was wrong. We found two guys coming out of a room and asked them where the place we were to go actually was. They told us we needed to go to the basement. I figured they were sending me to the morgue!
Surprisingly, we actually found the right place pretty easily when we found the basement. We walked in to this huge room with tons of seating space, and not a single person any where! Even the check-in station had only two of the four people that should have been there! I thought, either this place is very good or so bad, that no one wants to come here.
We check in and they tell us to have a seat and someone would be with us shortly. So now I figured would be the long wait! I heard horror stories of people waiting in a military hospital emergency room for days! I knew were not going to be here that long because I’d get hungry pretty soon and nothing stops me from eating! No way!
Finally, after an entire 5 minutes waiting, this young lady comes out and tells us to come with her. She takes us to an examining room and starts asking us some questions about why I’m here. I answer all her questions mostly truthfully and then she takes my vitals to prove that I’m still alive for their records. I ask her if she thinks something could be done about my bump which she has already says looks pretty bad. To her remarkable credit, she didn’t say a thing about the smell! She says she’ll have to go talk to the doctor and find out when he can work on my bump.
I’m figuring we’ll have to come back at least three more times before something is done. Once for them to study my bump in detail, then again for them to tell me when they will do something, and finally a third time before they actually do anything. I just didn’t figure the military would jump into anything without delaying it as much as possible. I also figured they would try to give me plenty of time to just go away!
So this administrator/nurse leaves and comes back in about 30 minutes. She says the doctor will fix my neck in about 30 minutes. I almost fainted right then and there. Then I recovered enough to ask, “What do you mean by, ‘fix’?”
She says he’ll perform a surgical procedure that will completely clean out the cyst and should remove the root so it might not be able to come back ever! I’m astounded. Then I ask if I’ll have to be admitted to the hospital and how long will I have to be here?
She says, “Oh, the doctor will do the procedure just down the hall and you’ll be up and gone in about an hour or so!” Again, I am stunned. Surely, this isn’t a real doctor. I’m thinking they got some guy that wants to play doctor and are going to let him play Zorro on my neck to see how he does. I’m not so sure of this.
But, shortly, the nurse hands me this paper gown and asks if I mind walking down the hall to the operating room in the gown. I tell her no, let’s go. We get to this small room that has a bed, it’s like an examination table, and I also meet the doctor for the very first time. Turns out he is a young Air Force Captain and has been practicing medicine for some time. I ask him if he has ever cleaned out a sebaceous cyst and he says, “Ah, yes, a few.” I sure wished I had a lie detector about then.
They ask me to lie down on my side with the bump on my neck facing up. Then they stuff a bunch of pillows under my head and I’m resting pretty comfortable. I figure they’ll be giving me some kind of knock out stuff pretty soon so I won’t know what they’re doing or feel a thing. I’m pretty happy right now that something is going to be done and done quickly.
Then things kind of start going down hill! A young Airman is standing over me with a bottle of something. I think it’s some kind of antiseptic because the doctor starts telling me what he’s going to do. I should have got up and ran out of the room right then.
He says the Airman will swab my neck to make sure it’s antiseptically clean. The Airman’s idea of swab is more like scrub until it’s raw! Now my bump is and has been very sore. it’s infected which is never pleasant and I have made a very specific effort to not touch it. But, this Airman doesn’t know any of this and I don’t think he cares. He scrubs my neck area while the doctor is asking me if I’m still OK! I stifle a scream and tell him, yeah, I’m still alive, but this Airman is definitely off my Christmas card list!
Then the doctor says he’s going to have to deaden the area around my cyst so as to reduce any pain I might feel when he really starts to work. I’m figuring he’s got some topical anesthetic that will make everything just fine. I’m also wondering where’s the anesthesia; this already isn’t much fun!
Unfortunately, he’s applying the anesthetic to my neck with what feels like a needle gun with about 10 tiny needles in a circle jabbing into my neck! It hurts like crazy! Man, it hurts! And he keeps doing this about five or six times. He says he wants to make sure it’s good and deadened before he starts cutting. I tell him I’m already about dead. He kind of laughs and keeps doing what he’s doing; stabbing me in the neck!
About that time, a nurse places another towel or surgical blanket over my head and shoulder to make sure none of the blood gets on my clothes! Blood, what blood? Who said anything about blood?
Now the doctor is poking around on my neck with his finger or something asking if I feel anything. I tell him, yeah, I feel a hot poker sticking me in the neck. He says that’s because some the tissue is infected and as such it won’t respond to the anesthetic! But, he says, there’s nothing he can do about that. I would have smacked him one if I wasn’t lying down. Here my neck is hurting like crazy and he really hasn’t done a thing. I decide right then and there that this isn’t going to be pleasant!
Now, this doctor says he’s going to have to make about three circular incisions on my neck and then scrap the content of each out until he can see the infected tissue is gone. He tells me to be careful and not to move during this time. He didn’t tell me what would happen if I did move!
I now know what a scalpel feels like cutting through skin. I could feel each time it went down in my neck and each time he moved it around. Then he scrapped my neck. I think he and everyone in that room was expecting me to pass out about now! Or, at least, scream! And, I would have except that I was getting real hot and could hardly breath. They had my head covered up so good that no air was getting to my face. I asked if they would please let me breath. I think they then realized that I did in fact need to have some air. I also think they figured i just wanted to get a lung full of air so I could let out a very loud scream!
But, I didn’t. I just laid there and went to my happy place. My happy place was just about anywhere but there! The doctor kept drawing circles on my neck with his knife and then scraping stuff until I was getting quite used to the pain! Yeah, right! I wasn’t happy, but I figured he had to run out of neck pretty soon.
Finally, he asked if I was still with him. Using a lot of self control, I refrained from making a smart aleck remark, and told him, “Yes, I haven’t felt a thing!” He kind of chuckled at that and made one more deep cut to fix that remark! Then he said he was done.
A nurse left the room quickly and came back with a bottle of cold water. I thought it would be nice to have a drink about now, but no, she used that to pour over my open wound on my neck and down my chest. And still, I didn’t scream! Oh, the pain and agony!
You should know that they brought Ramona into the operating room about half way in to the procedure. I almost thought they were going to let her do part of the surgery. I know there are probably a lot of wives who would love to take a knife to their husbands throats, but fortunately, not mine! She stood right next to me on the other side of the table from the doctor while watching the doctor cut into me. Didn’t phase her a bit. She says after raising two boys and all their “accidents, nothing bothers her any more! I just want to know why she was grimacing so much though.
After about an hour or so, I think they finished. They took away all the blood soaked towels and tools. I noticed they also quickly took off all their blood soaked gloves. In fact, I think they put away all the evidence that showed an operation was ever done. That by itself was kind of strange. I’m wondering if this was just something they all got together and decided to do? Hmm?
Anyway, they told me to sit up slowly, which I did. I wasn’t really sure my head was still attached, but I did manage to sit up. I had a gigantic bandage on my neck, but I didn’t want to even look at it. The nurse helped me to my feet and I got all my personal stuff, i.e., hat, wallet and other pocket junk. Then we headed out the room back to the waiting area.
We then met a Chief Warrant Office by the name of Amber Lea. If you don’t know what a CWO actually is, then I’ll tell you. For one thing, they are rare in the military as far as I know. Used to be, CWOs were helicopter pilots and maybe they still are, but we don’t have that many helicopters any more either. But, most CWOs are highly specialized in a specific field. They know more about their field of study than just about anybody in the world. You can trust Chief Warrant Officers to know what they are saying.
So Amber grabs us and says we are to come with her. I’m not sure why, but we follow along and go to another office. There’s a big, and I mean big, black chair in the middle of her examining room/office which I sit down in. Amber then tells us that she will be providing our follow-up care until she’s satisfied the wound has completely healed. Man, was I relived. Here’s someone who finally really knows what she’s doing. She then says she wants to look at the wound which she gets up and immediately rips off the bandage that was just put there!. She says she doesn’t like the way the doctor packed my wound, so she’s going to re-pack it the proper way!
Ok, so this is what CWOs do. If they don’t think something was done right, they do it their way. That’s fine with me. I have more faith in a CWO and Amber then I did that Captain doctor. Amber is a specialist in wound care. She knows what needs to be done to my wound and doesn’t hesitate to do it.
Which means, as I said, she rips off the old bandage and then proceeds to pull out all the packing material that had been stuffed into my wound about 20 minutes ago!
Let’s just say this hurt! Wow! Did it hurt! The packing material is kind of thirty foot long snake-skin looking stuff. I didn’t see much of it cause she dumped it in the trash right after pulling it out of me.
She then goes to her medicine cabinet and pulls out what looks like the same packing material and a big long stick. She is standing on the side where my wound is, where I can’t see her, and starts shoving stuff in to it using that big stick. While I can’t see what she’s doing, I can sure feel it. Oh, pain and agony!
She tells Ramona to come look at what she’s doing because, as she tells Ramona, she’ll have to do this every morning for the next week or two. Yes, I have to have the old packing ripped out and new stuff, stuffed into my wound! Who’s brilliant idea was this anyway?
Ok, so, she finishes and replaces the exterior bandage and says I’m good to go. She wants to see me again in about two weeks. I’m told not to get the wound wet for a day or two and then to have it re-packed each morning. I’m thinking, this thing is never going to go completely away! But, you know what, nobody is talking about a bad smell any more!
We have progress! Over the next two weeks, my lovely and brave wife, plays doctor to my neck. I don’t know if I could have done that or not. Not that I’m squeamish or anything, it’s that I just don’t like stuff like this. I just can’t see how poking stuff into a wound is going to help it close anytime in the near future.
Well, two weeks has passed and I’m still alive! Ramona says my wound has healed up just great. She says she doesn’t think they’ll need to pack it any more but we’ll just have to see what Amber Lea says.
So we return to Wilford Hall and our appointment with CWO Lea. Once again, we’re right on time and there’s not a single person around. That huge waiting room is still empty. Am I the only wounded person at Lackland AFB?
Amber again grabs us before we can sit down and takes us to her examination/office room. She has me sit in the big chair and asks Ramona how things have been going. She then pulls the bandage off my wound and says, “Remarkable! I think we’re just about done.”
I tell her that I had hoped that my wound would go completely away with no bump felt or seen. She feels around the wound and says, “Well, there is a small bump of skin that is just there as part of the healing process. It’s not really needed, so I’ll take care of it.”
I thought, uh, oh, here comes another scalpel! Instead, Amber pulls out this very, very long dark stick with a tip on it. It kind of looks like a cross between a q-tip and a very, very long match. She moves to my side where I can’t see her very well and does something to the end of the dark stick. I then feel a sharp pain in my neck and I smell burning flesh! I ask her what she’s doing and she just says that she’s burning off that lump of skin. I feel like I’m being branded! Pain and agony! Poor cows!
So that’s about it. We come back a week later and Amber says it’s gone. By now I’m shaving my neck with no regard to where my bump used to be. It’s not there any more and there’s hardly any trace that I ever had a bump. That’s what I wanted. Well, actually, I had kind of wanted a big long scar along my neck to go with the other scar I have! But, I hope the bump is gone forever, this time.
Before I end, I want to say that the doctor, nurses and CWO Amber Lea really, really know their stuff. They treated me with the best medical care I have ever received. They acted as though I was their only patient, never rushing through anything, never hurrying us along. They pretty much explained everything they were doing to not only me, but to Ramona. They also had her involved so she could do a lot of the follow-up care. They were truly the absolute professionals that I should have expected, but, through my own stupidity, did not. I now will never have any qualms about going to Wilford Hall because I now know they have good people there who can provide excellent medical care.
I salute all of them.
My pain and agony has gone…well, almost, until next time!
—- THE END —-