Seam ripper surgery still reigns supreme

In the right hands, seam ripper surgery can save time and money. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

A word of warning: This is going to be a real nail-biter of a column. Not in a scary sense, but because I’m going to talk about the unsavory personal habit of nail-biting. More disturbing is the

When I was a kid, I was a full-fledged, down-to-the-nubs nail biter. Not just with my fingernails, but my toenails, too. Fortunately, I’ve since outgrown at least one of the two. And while I’d like to take credit for it, reduced flexibility is probably the more likely reason for victory.

Childhood toenail biting led to a nasty unintended consequence: Ingrown toenails. But not to worry, our family had its own “doctor” in residence in the form of my father. His bedside manner was on par with that of “Doctor Smith” on the 1960s television show “Lost in Space” that I used to watch in nail-biting suspense.

Far worse than my father’s approach was his equipment, if you could call it that. His chief tool, okay, his ONLY tool, was his trusty (and rusty!) jackknife. I’m not making this up! You can verify it through the photos contained in the retro-active child protective services case my therapist helped me to file. My older sister was also tortured, though less often.

My mother served as medical assistant for the procedure. In a pre-surgery attempt to reduce my pain, she would prepare an Epsom salts footbath, pouring boiling water from the teakettle into the pail she normally used to Spic-N-Span the kitchen floor. Our ignorance of nosocomial infections must have protected me from contracting one.

Similar to blanching the skin from a tomato to ready it for canning, my foot would be thrust into the scalding bath to ready it for surgery. In my mother’s mind, she was priming the pus-producing nail for pronto pop-out as soon as my father pierced the problem. In my mind, both parents were nuts and should have had their imaginary medical licenses revoked. I heartily disagreed with their medical philosophy: Why pay for a doctor’s visit when you can perform surgery in your own kitchen?!

If there was an upshot to the Epsom salts bath, the pain of the scalding water did take my mind off the sensation of my father’s jackknife plunging into my toe. If I screamed or squirmed during the procedure, he’d have my mother pin me tighter to the chair and say something deeply compassionate, such as, “Just last night I cut a grub out of cow’s back using this same knife and she didn’t even flinch.”

Other times, he would reassure that he wouldn’t do anything to me that he wouldn’t submit himself to. Of course, this came from a guy who regularly had dental work done without anesthesia and never missed a day’s work, even puking out his guts. I found his rhetoric less than comforting.

Once the rogue nail was yanked from its offending position, my father would hold it up, trophy-like. And my mother would plunge my foot back into the Epsom salts bath for a rinse. This is what passed for family entertainment in the years before home theater systems were available. Although my father might have upgraded his tools and technique, had he been exposed to the Surgery Channel.

What did I learn from the experience? From a primitive perspective, “Toenail biting bad!” On a more sophisticated level, I found myself a more sophisticated tool: The seam ripper. No more juvenile jackknife jive for me!

I arrived at my discovery serendipitously one day. While rummaging through my sewing box, I accidentally encountered my seam ripper and ran its pointy blade into the corner of my index finger nail bed. Zowie! But I was impressed with the quality and depth of the cut.

That thing really worked! It also worked for ingrown nails, pimples, slivers and all forms of skin tags. Even skin cancer, although I do sport a small scar just above my left collar bone that might have benefited from a second opinion. There’s no limit to the surgical maneuvers possible with this helpful tool. And no Epsom salts required! Get yourself one today and start carving on yourself.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sheldon Phillips
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 18:54:58

    Awesome! you get the creepy award today!!! I loved this story!


  2. Debbie (Craig) Egnatuk
    Oct 22, 2011 @ 09:02:09

    We enjoyed your column this week! The stories you tell……………


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