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Carol Perkins: The Needle

It was a freak accident: Half a needle lodged in her toe. Surgery in a critical area - a wrong cut could have left her crippled - was required, made all the more difficult because the surgeon was given the wrong X-ray. Read what could only happen to Carol Perkins, below.
The next earlier Carol Perkins column: Carol Perkins: Public Restrooms

By Carol Perkins

Jon was only three days old when I was walking through the den and felt a sharp pain in my foot. I hobbled to the nearest chair, but could see only a pinhole where something had obviously penetrated, but I couldn't see a sign of what it might be. There was no splinter, so I obviously had stepped on something thin and straight. I feared what might be in my foot and didn't want to give voice to my suspicion.

I have always been a seamstress of a sort. Nothing like Project Runway couture designers, but I found great pleasure in taking a piece of fabric and wearing it in a few days. The only place I had to sew was on my kitchen table, so almost every night after the dishes were cleared, the portable machine that I had had since I was thirteen vibrated the legs on the kitchen table and the sewing began.

Even though I tried to be careful, at the end of the night picking up the dropped pins took awhile. They popped out of seams as the machine needle fed through the fabric. Along with straight pins, I often found a few lost needles. This particular night I found one and it was in my foot.

I didn't tell Guy what I feared because I was feeling really stupid just about this time, sitting with my foot propped up on a pillow, waiting until morning to see the doctor. Even then, the magnitude of what occurred had not registered.

The x-ray confirmed my suspicion. Lodged between my little toe and the one next to it was half of a needle. (I later wondered where the other half was.) My choices were to leave it in my foot or have it removed. If I left it in my foot, it would probably never give me any trouble, but that was no guarantee. I could wait before making a decision, so that is what I did.

One day I was visiting my mother and my uncle Leon (Reece) was there, too. The subject of the needle in my foot arose as they drank coffee around the kitchen table. I'll never forget his words; "You need to have that out of your foot. A needle can travel through the body to the heart and kill you without warning." That put the fear into me but good.

I soon had an appointment with a surgeon and the surgery scheduled. It was to be a fairly simple removal, according to the doctor, but that did not turn out to be true.

I was wheeled into surgery and rolled over onto a cold, stainless steel slab. A mask was placed over my face, but instead of being out cold as I was supposed to be, I could faintly see the doctor at the end of the table, along with a few others in scrubs. I heard him say, "Where are her x-rays?" Someone handed him an x-ray, but it wasn't of my foot.

I heard him clearly, "This isn't her x-ray! Where is HER x-ray?" He was irritated. There was a scramble in the room and I am half under and can't communicate with a mask over my face. "Find me her *&^* x-ray!" The last words I heard him say were, "I'll just have to figure this out." With that, I went under with eyes wide open.

What he figured out was that it was lodged between tendons and bones and if not careful, I could be crippled. With great precision, he cut up from the bottom of my foot and down from the top of my foot to get it out, all without a roadmap. At least he cut into the correct foot!I woke up in a deathly shiver in a room with bodies to the right and left. Having never had a surgery, at first I thought I was in a morgue. Before long, a nurse hustled around me and explained I was in recovery. What a relief.

The real recovery was lengthy. My friend Donnie Butler loaned me a wooden wheel chair from the funeral home (nobody had wheel chairs like those of today) and for a week, I was in it.

Taking care of a four-year-old and a newborn and not being able to walk almost put me over the edge and into postpartum (we never heard of that back then either).

Some of the most careless incidents can cause us the most pain. This was not the only thing I have done to land in the ER or on crutches, but it was the worst. By the way, I never did find the other half of that needle. It may still be in the carpet. -Carol Perkins

This story was posted on 2011-03-27 05:52:55
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