Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Knitting Career

I'm in Utah now with two of my five favorite people in the world. My number of people used to equal six, but one has lost his slot. I'm not yet sure if the loss is temporary and the person will do something to redeem himself, or if he's off my list for good. I'm also not sure he gives a rat's anal orifice as to what is his status on my list.

I had a new cast put on my leg in the San Joaquin Valley about a week or so ago because the old one got so soaked that it was moldy. Once I arrived in Utah, it became apparent that my skin was reacting poorly to the lining of the new cast. The itching was horrible, and the swelling was visble above and below the cast. Scott, on the list of my five favorite people in the world, who is one of my hosts in Utah while my parents are on a cruise, called in a friend from two doors down who has already earned his MD status. Scott is a fourth-year-medical student, but can't legally prescribe and doesn't feel comfortable diagnosing anything but no-brainer cases without an actual MD to confirm his diagnosis.

The friend and Scott poked and prodded. They decided a hospital visit could wait until morning since I was scheduled to be a featured case for Scott's group of little medical student buddies. The friend hooked me up to an IV. They gave me fluids, anti-diarrheal medicine since it had been a problem for days and the antibiotics weren't likely to help the situation, antibiotics, antifungal medication since there was evidence of fungal infection, and giving just antibiotics when a fungal infection is also present can make things worse, anti-itch medication, epinephrine or something similar, anti-nausea medication, and pain killers. They checked it all out on someone's computer to make sure none of the drugs in combination caused problems. They gave them one at a time about fifteen minutes apart so they would know which drug caused the problem if there was one. They cut up one of Jillian's (my other host and one of the other people on my list of favorite people) silk blouses and shoved the pieces as far under the lining into the cast as they could make it go. The friend said he would have cut the cast off, but my bone-grafting surgery was too recent and he didn't have adequate splinting material. They all kept telling me not to scratch, but it was so hard not to. Finally the anti-itch medication kicked in a little bit, than something in the cocktail of drugs made me sleepy, and I dozed off.

When someone carried me to bed, someone found the knitting needle I had been using for scratching inside my cast. It's a really dull needle. I had it hidden it in in my pillow case. I noticed it missing the next morning, but decided it would be buying trouble to ask about it.

I went to the hospital the next morning. The Dream Team of Know-Nothings, as Jillian calls Scott and his cohorts, were assembled to solve my case. Jillian went along so she could ensure that they didn't do anything stupid that would kill me or cause me to lose my leg. When they cut off my cast, one of the guys got light-headed and had to lie down on the floor to keep from fainting. The entire leg apparently looked bad, but the incisions were positively gross. They took samples and ran cultures so that they could give me the right antibiotic. They untrasounded to look for internal infection, but that part looked OK. The internal bone graft and the places where the silk was able to cover the skin were the only places on my leg that looked remotely non-terminal. They splinted my leg and put it in traction.

Everything up to that point was handled as well as anything you'd see on "Grey's Anatomy" on a functional episode. Then the Dream Team made their near-fatal mistake. The called my Uncle Steve in California. My parents are on a cruise, and Uncle Steve is designated as my legal guardian whenever my parents can't be reached.

My Uncle Steve and I have normally had a close relationship. I first met him when I was two. He had just returned from his two-year mission for the LDS Church, but was already on his way out of the church. My grandparents had offered to babysit my brother and me so that my parents could have a skiing trip without having to worry about their two-year-olds.My grandparents had an ulterior motive: they wanted to have my brother and me "blessed" in the LDS church, and they knew my father would never go along with it. So they arranged the babysitting stint so that we would be with them on a Sunday. Relatives who hated my parents showed up in full-force probably mostly out of spite for my parents and their choice of Catholicism over Mormonism.

I discussed this in a much earlier post, so feel free to skim over the parts that sound familiar. Mormon children are usually blessed as infants, so the officials weren't quite sure of the protocol with two-year-olds. Usually all the men gather in a circle and jointly hold the baby as the father, or occasionally someone else, gives a blessing to the baby.
My brother was tall for his age, so someone got a chair and he sat on it. The men placed their hands on his head while my grandfather gave him his blessing. My brother sat there perfectly cooperatively while it all took place. I don't remember what my grandfather said in my brother's blessing, but it seemed like he talked forever.

The it was my turn. They debated using the chair, but decided that since I was roughly half my brother's size, they would hold me as they would an infant. Had they put me on the chair, I would have jumped off and run so fast that it would have looked like an old Keystone Cops movie with a bunch of men in suits chasing an undersized two-year-old all over the church. As it was, there were so many of them that they couldn't find places to put their big hands all over my tiny body. Usually the men just sort of support the baby's weight with their handes, and if the baby cries, the father holds it closer as the other me keep their hands somewhere on its body. It was clear that I would not lie there complacently on their hands for the procedure, so they each grabbed some part of my body in a vise-like death grip while I struggled and screamed. Practically every male relative, and there are many of them, who held the priesthood and was therefore eligible to participate, wanted in on the un-sanctioned ritual. I must have had at least twenty-four hands grabbing me. My grandfather talked to me and threatened me to try to get me to be quiet, but there was no way in hell I would go along with this willingly. My grandfather said what he had to say, but I don't think anyone, himself included, heard a word he said. All I could hear, besides my own screaming, was the sound of giggling children and teens.

The blessing concluded, and my grandfather headed in the direction of the exit door with me firmly in his grip, intending to make good on his threat of beating the living daylight out of me. That's when my Uncle Steve came to the rescue. My grandfather was big (he's since shrunk a little) but my Uncle Steve was bigger. He grabbed me and said quietly but firmly, "Give her to me!"

My grandfather replied, "No! I promised her what I'd do if she didn't stop screaming, and I intend to deliver."

My Uncle Steve said, "We can make a scene if you insist, but you're not taking her anywhere. Give her to me now!"

It was probably the shock of being spoken to in such a manner by one of his own children, which hadn't likely happened before, but my grandfather relinquished his grip and gave me up to my Uncle Steve. From that point, he was my savior and hero. I clung tightly to him in church until I sobbed myself to sleep. I woke up on my grandparents' sofa hours later. I imediately got up and went looking for Uncle Steve. When I found him, I grabbed him around his legs as hard as I could. He picked me up, and basically never put me down for the remainder of the day except if I needed to use the bathroom or if he did. When he used the bathroom, I sat right outside the door so he would hear me scream if my grandfather came near me.

When my parents arrived to pick us up the next day, I was still clinging to Uncle Steve. My parents probably thought little about it, as Uncle Steve looks very much like my father, and they maybe thought I found the resemblance comforting. Steve said he seriously considered telling my parents what had happened, but still had one more semester of BYU and no way to pay for it on his own, so he kept his mouth shut. Neither my brother nor I told our parents anything about it, probably because we thought we had done something wrong and may have been punished. When it all came out about two years later, Uncle Steve told my parents everything. He said he had seriously considered trying to wrestle me away from the men, but was worried I would be physically harmed in the struggle, so he let it continue.

My mother remembered that she had noticed a very dark bruise with swelling just above my left ankle shortly after we got home. She was concerned enough that she asked my dad to examine me. He decided that there wasn't enough evidence of a fracture to warrant an X-ray, but they were both worried. Mom asked me how it had happened. Normally I could have answered very articulately, but I was afraid to tell about the blessing, so I lied and said I didn't know. She called my grandmother to ask if she knew how the bruise got there. My grandmother became irate that my nother would accuse anyone in the family of either not watching me closely or of outrightly abusing me.

When the story came out, my mother remembered the bruise. She asked my Uncle Steve if he knew who was holding my left ankle. My Uncle Steve possesses a high level of intelligence and an excellent visual memory, and was able to replicate in his mind the sequence of men around the circle. "It was Mahonri,' he answered. Mahonri was (and still is ) married to may Aunt Marthaleen, the oldest of my grandparents' daughters, born just under two years after my father. My mother wanted to call him. My father told her he would handle it. I didn't hear the call, but my Uncle Steve told years later that my dad told Mahonri that he was not ever to touch either my brother or me again, as in if we were choking, let us choke until he could find someone else to perform the Heimlich meaneaver, or if one of us was drowning, he could extend a pole, but he'd better not as much as lay a finger on either one of us. If restraining orders and formal charges were necessary, my dad told Mahonri, they would be sought. My mother has never spoken more than twenty words to Mahonri since then. He's been in our home once, and my mother refused to be in the same room with him except for a brief polite exchange.

My Uncle Steve lived with us for four years while he was in medical school. I was his shadow, and he must have been driven crazy by my constant presence, but he showed incredible patience. Sometimes my parents would make me get away from him because they knew he needed space, and they did not allow me in his room so that he could have sanctuary, but he never pushed me away.

Anyway, the most puffy cumulous cloud in the sky usually has a dark underside. and so does my Uncle Steve. Even though the actual MD's and not just the Know-Nothing Dream Team assured him that things were under control, he insisted upon flying to Utah from California to personally assess the situation. I was happy to see him when he first walked through the door. Then he held up the misssing knitting needle. (The very thick and dull needle, I might add. You know how food products come with a tight covering somewhere between paper and cardboard to protect against tampering? An offensive lineman from the 49ers couldn't have broken through one of those protective linings with this dull knitting needle.)

Uncle Steve didn't say anything. He just stood there holding up this knitting needle. I was beginning to think he considered it some sort of religious icon and that maybe I should make the sign of the cross or say a "Hail Mary" or something. It's just as well that I didn't, because he started on his diatribe. Anything I might have said before would only have made things worse.

He started out with, "I believe I may have seen something that looked very much like this before."

I didn't respond because it seemed that no answer would be the correct response.

"Where did I see something that looked like this before, Alexis?"
he asked.

"Many people knit. Aunt Frances knits. She may have used one that looked like that," I replied. It was a lame reply, but it was the best one I could come up with on the spur of the moment.

He set the knitting needle down on a counter and folded his arms. "Did you notice that my arms are now folded?" he asked.

I nodded affirmatively.

"I did that so I won't lose control of myself and slap you,' he explained.

There was dead silence, so it seemed he expected a response from me.

"Thank you," I replied in what I thought was a courteous tone.

"They're folded, Alexis, not stuck together with Krazy Glue. I can unfold them if you push me far enough," he said rather rudely.

"So where did this knitting needle come from? And I want the truth,"
he demanded.

"It was hidden in my pillowcase at Scott and Jillian's apartment,"
I answered.

"Why was it there?" he asked.

"So if my leg really, really itched, I could stick it inside my cast for just a second," I answered.

"Where did you get it?" he asked.

"In California," I answered.

"Would you be a little more specific?" he requested.

"Knitting needles come in sets of two. A friend gave me a package as a gift. My dad took one away. That's the one you probably saw that looks like this one," I answered as politely as I could.

"Who gave them to you?" he demanded.

"A friend," I answered.

"I'll need the name of this friend," he said.

"Oh, I forgot, they weren't a gift. I bought them when Aunt Heather took me to Target," I lied.

"I wasn't born yesterday," he muttered. "You did not buy those when Heather took you to Target. I'm not sure Heather even took you to Target.
A friend gave them to you. Now I need the friend's name."

"I'm not telling. I did not cause these problems with the knitting needle. My friend did nothing wrong. I'm not telling," I concluded.

Uncle Steve sighed. "No, you didn't cause the problems with the knitting needle, but you could have. I need to talk to your friend."

"She'll get into trouble with her parents, and everyone will hate me. So slap me or do whatever you want to me, because I'm not telling!"
I spat out at him.

He softened his voice. "I'm not trying to get your friend in trouble, Alexis. I don't even need to talk to her parents. She just needs to understand why it's a very bad idea to provide you with knitting needles.
Do you want to use my phone to call her? Then you can tell her I need to talk to her, and put me on the phone.'

"I don't even know her number," I pleaded.

"Alexis, I'm trying to be patient, but you're pushing me," he threatened.

"Seriously," I told him, "I know hardly anyone's number. Everything's programmed into my phone."

"Where is it?" he asked

"At Scott and Jillian's house."

"I'll call Jillian," he decided "I don't know if she can get the number off it, or if she'll need to bring the phone here."

"I think she can get the number off. She's not as inept as some people," I told him,coming as close to insulting him as I dared. I saw him put his hand over his mouth, and could tell he was covering a smile. That made me all the more angry.

He called Jillian's number, which was pre-programmed into his phone. He gave the phone to me. I told her where my phone was and what to look for. Soon my friend Kristi was on my uncle's phone. "Hi! It's Alexis, " I told her. "My uncle needs to talk to you." I handed the phone over to him.

I could tell he was trying hard to be nice about it, but I could also hear bits and pieces of her end of the conversation, and she sounded upset.
I assumed it was me with whom she was not happy. When my uncle asked at the end of his conversation if she'd like to speak to me again, she said no.

My uncle walked out of the room. About a half hour later, he came back with a stack of Internet print-outs. "Read these, " he told me as he walked out the door.

I flipped through them even though I already knew what they were about.
It was case after case of someone having an extremity amputated because of infection occurring after sticking an object in side of a cast to scratch. In some cases it was pens. One case was a coat hanger. The broadest knitting needle cited was 2 millimeters. These cases had nothing remotely to do with mine, PLUS I didn't cause one bit of damage with the knitting needle.

He came back later in the day. "Did you read the journal articles?" he asked.

"I browsed through them," I answered.

"We're not trying to be mean to you, Alexis!" he exclaimed.
"We don't want anything worse happening to you than what's already happened."

"So what am I supposed to do all day around here?" I demanded. "I can only use the computer for an hour a day. I get one hour to play the piano starting next week. I'm so sick of reading that I could burn every book I look at. You can only watch so much TV in a day. "There's "Judge Alex" and "Grey's Anatomy" reruns, and that's about it. So what if I want to take up knitting for a hobby?"

"Baby, the day that cast comes off, I'll buy you all the yarn and needles you want," he offerred.

Some day Uncle Steve will probably find a way back onto my list of favorite people, but it's going to take a lot more than yarn and knitting needles (after my cast is off) for him to get there.


  1. Hi Alexis!
    That was a nice trick, burying yout blog under a promo for you friend Russ Carney's blog. I read your blog anyway. It was reasonably accurate, minus one detail you chose to omit, and which I perfectly understand why you left out. I'm glad your parents chose not to take a computer. They'll find out soon enough anyway, but at least their vaction won't have been ruined by worrying about you. (They DO worry about you!)

    We've been buds almost forever. Even as your primary care physician, I would have been a bit perturbed by your actions in this case, but the real problem was that I had to act as a parent to you this time, and good parents can't always be their kids' friends. It's either a miracle or use of chemicals that both your parents don't have gray hair yet.I know you're mad, but this will pass. We won't have this problem again if you just do what you're supposed to do when your parents leave me in charge of you. Wait until they're home before you do anything really thick-headed again. Then we can go back to being friends and uncle/niece.

    Scott's father (retired engineer) is working on a safe-inside-a-cast-scratching device. He's using a sanded dowel rod dipped in melted plastic. It won't actually scratch your skin, but you can rub it over the itchiest areas. I don't think it's likely that the American mMdical Association will approve this device anytime soon, but if you don't overuse it, you should be OK. Will this get me back on your favorite list? I'm the one who asked Scott's dad to think of something, so even though I didn't invent it, I should get part of the credit.

    Just think - you now have less than four weeks in the cast! Once I get back, we'll schedule the appointment for that week, and you can start counting the days.

    Love you even though you probably don't reciprocate at the moment,
    Uncle Steve

  2. Dear Uncle Steve,
    I sincerely appreciate the trouble Scott's father went to because you asked him to make a safe scratcher. I've neither completely forgiven nor forgotten, but I'm working on it. You are not yet back on my list of my "Favorite People," but you are officially off my
    "$h!t List." I can honestly say that I no longer hate you.
    Your patient and niece,
    P. S. Thank you very much for giving me more anti-itch medicine during the night when I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep because of the itching. I also appreciate the effort you and Scott's parents made to wake up and check my temperature during the night. I think you may perhaps have been a little overly vigilant, but the thought was very nice, and it interfered with all your sleep far more than it did mine.
    I'm thankful for your time and trouble.