The Snoozeletter @

Onychocryptosis (toenail detail). 

In the early 1980s, I accidentally kicked a desk, which pulled the nail up from my right big toe at a 45-degree angle. Yeah, it was horrifying. You remember when George Clooney got his fingernails pulled out in Syriana? It was like that. Only different. I pushed the nail back down, in the vain hope that I could somehow make things better, but the situation just deteriorated from there. The nail eventually turned black and fell off. However, our bodies are amazingly adept at healing themselves, and a new nail grew back, during the next year or so. It was weird and thick and funky-looking, but at least it was a nail.

Flash forward to late February, 2016, when I made a painful discovery. Over the years, my toenail has become as hard as titanium, and now requires specialized tools just to survive the monthly toenail-cutting ritual, Plus, the side of the nail has been insidiously invading the skin of my toe. Evidently, that nail does not wish to endure a repeat of the desk-kicking-toenail-detaching incident, so it's been growing a firm anchor into my flesh. Doctors call this an "ingrown toenail," but it felt like a jagged rock had lodged itself inside my toe. My wife, bless her heart, attempted some minor surgery, Poor Anikó never thought "in sickness and in health" would include this kind of sh*t. She really went above and beyond the call of duty, and for awhile, I thought she had fixed it. Then I limped around in pain for a month, hoping against hope that my body would again heal itself, but no such luck.

So I finally broke down and made an appointment with a podiatrist. I was convinced that a massive spiky object was growing inside my toe, so I had him take x-rays. Nope, it was just a "simple" ingrown toenail. He prepared three needles to numb my toe, and after the first one, I said, "That's not too bad." He smiled an evil smile and replied, "Don't say anything yet. I'm not done." Sure enough, the second one was a killer. When his needle went all the way through the width of my toe, I yelped and cursed his entire lineage. He smiled again, and later accepted my apology. Evidently, this is standard procedure for these types of operations. The three needles were not enough to numb me completely, so he inserted three more, about ten minutes later. My toe was already partially anesthetized, so those were not quite so bad.

The surgery involved cutting a quarter-inch-wide strip from the right side of my toenail. I was surprised that he had to remove the entire length of the nail, and I watched with fascination while he wiped the blood off the nearly-two-inch-long strip of nail, He showed me the tiny two-pronged dagger that was causing all the trouble, but then he went digging around inside my cuticle, too, He laughed and said, "This is where you want someone with experience." After rooting around in the blood for awhile, he ripped out a tiny piece of the nail root, with a triumphant exclamation: "Aha! This little baby can often cause a lot of trouble." That was when I decided that podiatrists are really just closet sadists.

No, no, no, that's not fair. Dr. Connell patiently took x-rays to soothe my concerns, even when he knew the images would show nothing. And his off-the-hook sense of humor helped me get through a nightmarish experience with some hearty laughs. Good guy. Good doctor.