Battle Scars

There is no content here this afternoon. If you want content, go read Lyz Liddel’s hugely heartening post on the Secular Student Alliance and the work of all these wonderful student groups. It hews very closely to her speech at the Freethought Festival, but it gets me every time nonetheless. It heartens me to no end to see people organizing this way at an age when I had all I could do to sort myself out.

Read it. It will make you happy.

Now, the reason I don’t have content of my own for today is not for the squeamish. Thus, it’s tucked below the fold.

That foot would be mine, last night.

Just in case any of you may find yourself in need of this advice: If you bump into a carbon dioxide tank and it starts to tip over, be careful that the reflex to pull your foot away does not put said foot directly under the regulator. The regulator is that lumpy piece at the top of the tank with bits sticking out every which way. This makes for a rather extreme contrast with the smooth sides of the tank itself.

When in doubt, catch the tank, not the regulator. Doing otherwise leads to conversations like:

Me: Aaaagh!

Ben: Are you okay?

Me: No.

I will be fine. The bruise will fade. I’ll regrow skin on the top of my toe. All the joints still flex without making me scream, and the big laceration, while resistant to solid scabbing, will require much less babying than the spot where I stuck an axe in my toe one Fourth of July. That one should have had stitches, but didn’t want to spend the evening in the emergency room with people who had been (marginally) even stupider than I had.

But it will leave an odd scar. And instead of writing a post for you last night, I took a Vicodin for the pain–much better today–and hopped on Twitter. Yes, I know I’m full of good ideas.

This one at least led to swapping scar stories with WilloNyx, April, and Xanthe Cat. They all have much more interesting scars than mine. My most interesting trophy is a set that run straight up my wrist. They were acquired from hardware cloth, but that’s not the assumption most people would make.

So what’s your most interesting scar or scar story?

Battle Scars
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24 thoughts on “Battle Scars

  1. 1

    I have a scar on the top of my head from when I cracked it on the second floor.

    My parents live in a split-level house, and I was excitedly jumping down the stairs cause my brother was going to buy me a PS2. Since part of the upper story comes out above the staircase, I cracked my skull on the jutting out part and fell to the floor.

    No biggie, I’ve done that before. So I head out to the car, hand on head and pull it away suddenly to see all the blood on it. I freak, my parents calmly get me into the bathroom, clean the wound, shave a little of my hair with a razor and stick a butterfly closure on the cut.

    I passed out too, it was fun.

    Still got my PS2 tho!

  2. 2

    W00t for the PS2! Yeah, this was one of those shocky injuries too. I almost managed to grab everything I needed to take care of the toe before it hit, though. 🙂

  3. 3

    No great scar stories.

    Only one I an think of was when I was 12 this stupid dog was chasing me through me and my neighbor’s yard (or whatever you’d call that cement area with one tree behind that apartment). Tore my jeans pretty bad crawling underneath an old chain link fence. Wasn’t until I got home that I noticed I had two parallel gashes going down my leg where I’d torn my jeans. Don’t remember feeling them but I remember being able to put a good bit of my pinkie in one. Damn things would pus so bad every morning I’d have to peel my sheet off them.

  4. 4

    So what’s your most interesting scar or scar story?

    Well, the old one is from when I was running laps during track practice and the discus toss went a bit off course and caught me in the shin. Hard to find that one now, more than 40 years later, but at the time I got some interesting comments about sweats with one white leg and one red one.

    The most recent one is pretty freaking obvious, though, and ties into the X-Ray I use as an avatar. Yup, that’s me.

    And just in case anyone doesn’t know: when you do rude things to your bod like Stephanie did to that poor toe, it’s time for RICE:

    * Rest: let Ben do the walking
    * Ice: cooling it off makes for less swelling. Not so cold it hurts, thanks, and take the ice off when it gets uncomfortable. Keep it cold for at least 24 hours.
    * Compression: Or not; depends on the injury. If you do compress, always check that the distal circulation, movement, and sensation are OK on a regular basis.
    * Elevation: Keep the injured part above heart level; lower blood pressure also reduces swelling.

    Less swelling means more comfort and faster healing.

  5. 5

    Meh, that doesn’t look bad at all. I may be a little biased though, I’ve been having to re-dress the open wound on my aunts leg every day for the past two weeks (we’re talking a couple inches in diameter with exposed muscle and bone).

    Lets see…I’ve got a scar on my cheek from a hot welding rod. I set it down on the edge of my workbench and caught the end with my elbow when I flipped my mask up. Made the rod flip right up into my face. Kinda like the rake to the face in the cartoons.

    Then there’s the scar over my eye from where my brother hit me with a golf club. 7 iron, and it split my eyebrow vertically and took 10 stitches to close.

    Those are the two most impressive, at least, even if they aren’t the most visible.

  6. 6

    My most interesting scar stories: There was the time I cut my finger to the bone (literally) on razorwire. I was six. An asshole thought it would be funny to shove me onto a fence with razorwire (me = base brat – restricted areas on base were often fenced w/ razorwire to discourage the curious). My sister dragged me – spurting blood from the hand like something out of a slasher flick – to a local block parent house, and the woman there had what I’m sure was a heart-stopping experience when she opened the door to see two hysterical little girls, both covered in blood and one bleeding heavily.

    Oh, yeah, and she was phobic of blood.

    She handled it admirably, though – got me sitting down and holding a towel to my hand with constant pressure while calming my sister enough to get her to tell my parents’ phone number. There was no calming me at the time – being six and having the first heavily bleeding injury of my life, I was certain with the terror of a small child that I was dying, so I was completely irrational. We soaked through three dish towels waiting for my parents to come (which took about 5 minutes – they only lived two streets away). At the hospital, the doc didn’t want to make a bad day worse for me and chose to close it with butterfly strips instead of freezing it for stiches.

    When all’s said and done, what do I have? A teeny little 1cm scar on my finger, with no visible evidence of how dramatic the injury looked when fresh and bleeding.

    My most dramatic-looking scar is one that goes the full length of my right foot. It’s also the one with the silliest cause: a cat scratch. No infection, cleaned out right away, but it left a big long scar the full length of my foot for some reason. Then there’s the scar on my forehead from smashing my head off a desk and not washing it out because I was in a rush and getting cellulitis as a result. Not dramatic, but a bit of a piss-off because I knew better.

  7. 7

    Ever played one of those games where you try to carry a greased watermelon? Well, imagine that the watermelon has fangs and claws and is determined to get away from you at all costs. That’s what it’s like to shampoo a semi-feral pregnant cat. I have a trapezoid of four little white dots on my forearm where I was bitten by just such a cat. Not a very impressive scar, but, in a way, it’s a wonder that I don’t have worse scars from that fiasco. The bite also got infected and for a while I could shoot pus geysers across an entire room.

  8. 8

    Mine came from running through a sprinkler once when I was fourteen, but started at the Gospel Mission (my dad sent me for a weekend, a “scared straight” attempt that backfired terribly). I wore my canvas shoes to the Gospel Mission, where they had me, among other things, wax a floor. This meant that not only was there virtually no traction on my shoes – they were also lightly coated with wax. Running through the sprinklers was rather fun at first. I could slide like crazy. At one point my feet went out from under me and I sat down on the sprinkler – it felt like I had taken a very hard kick in the ass.

    Only it was a tad more complicated than that. See, before I sat on it, I kicked it out of the ground. The spike that held it into the ground was thus pointed upwards when I went down. It put a 1.5″ laceration that went almost two inches into my left buttock. There is still an indentation there.

    To make it even better, there was serious confusion on the part of the EMS team, because one of the kids who was with us passed out three times because of all the blood (there was a *lot* of blood). The folks in the office (we were playing outside the clubhouse of the trailerpark where one of my friends lived) took me into another room, in the hopes of Matt not passing out anymore. I was fine with one of my friends holding a towel tight against the wound, so the ladies in the office were focused on Matt.

    And as an aside, I won my EMTs drinks on the other EMTs they dispatched with, as mine was the strangest call for that week (this included the confusion with them trying to take care of Matt first).

  9. 9

    I’ve got an inch long scar along my chin. When I was eight, I was playing Inquisition with my best friend. I was the witch who was to be burned at the stake. There was a shortage of stakes at my house, so she tied me to my little sister’s highchair instead. I tried to escape by ‘walking’ the chair – shifting my weight around so that it lurched forward. Unfortunately, I lost control of it. My hands were tied, so I fell face-first to the floor, where my chin landed on a not-quite-pounded-flat nail. I ended up with six stitches and a very long lecture from my mother.

  10. 10

    I have a lot of scars because I scar easily and, to be honest, I am one of the clumsiest people on earth.

    My favorite scar, however, is ~3/4″ wide and 10″ long, and starts just below my right knee, curving slightly along my outer calf. People assume there is a suitably dramatic story to go with it, but the truth is: I just wasn’t looking where I was going.

    My parents were re-doing a house they’d just purchased and, as part of the process, were replacing the forced-air heating system. My son, his fiancee, and I were dropping off some sheets of plywood when I forgot there was an uncovered floor vent in the living room, and dropped right in. While most of the duct work had been removed, the flashing around the edges hadn’t. It scored my leg clear down to the muscle (and ruined a perfectly good pair of jeans).

    My son, who is a corrections officer, passed out. His fiancee used what may have been an entire roll of Bounty paper towels (the only absorbent material available in the gutted house) to stop the seemingly gallons of blood pouring out of me before rousing my son from his faint and driving me to the ER.

    Because the flashing had carved a nice big groove out of my leg instead of simply cutting it, it couldn’t be sutured into a pretty line, but instead had to be coated in ointment, covered in gauze, and left to fill in on its own. (Which it did, eventually.)

  11. 11

    I used to cut myself. Stupid, I know. But there I was, taking a knife to my left upper arm, and I cut just a wee bit too deep. Like, I cut into the muscle. It looked pretty gnarly, but kinda awesome (because how often can you look into a hole in your own body, right?).

    Now, if you thought I was dumb for cutting on myself, heh, this time I was REALLY stupid and didn’t get it treated. It took a good two months to heal with self-treatment (cleaned out 2x daily w/ soap and water), and didn’t heal up quite right. It hurts in cold/wet weather.

    Everything else? Either surgical, or the result of me obsessive-compulsively scratching holes in myself during mosquito season.

  12. 12

    It took a good two months to heal with self-treatment (cleaned out 2x daily w/ soap and water), and didn’t heal up quite right. It hurts in cold/wet weather.

    Soap and water on an open wound? No wonder it scarred and took forever to heal.

  13. 13

    I mowed the end off my wedding ring finger in a push lawnmower when I was about 9. My brother’s fault; he had it upside-down and was feeding flowers and blades of grass into the blades while I spun the wheels. “Faster!”

    And then I noticed blood on the wheel and stopped. I didn’t feel anything at all, but my brother went into a panic and ran into the house screaming. I remember going up the stairs behind him, repeating quietly, “My finger’s off, my finger’s off,” and grandma trying to find out where my brother was hurt.

    It wasn’t entirely off; there was a bit of skin holding it, and the doctor sewed it back on. 15 stitches; I was very proud of them. But he didn’t get it quite straight, so the tip of that finger is displaced towards the thumb. And it still hurts on rainy days, 60 years later.

  14. 14

    I’m glad the Vicodin helped, Stephanie, and that you got a good night’s sleep!

    My scar story takes us back to 1977, when I was in prep-grade and playing in the part of the playground specially reserved for prep to grade 2 students. One minute I was talking with a couple other five-year-old friends, the next instant I’d been bowled over onto a thick wooden beam. (Legend has it a teacher had been spotted and so I’d been hit like a pinball for several metres by an escaping fourth-grade student, who wasn’t supposed to be in the little people’s area.)

    I don’t remember being taken to the sick bay. I was already there when mum arrived, prior to the ambulance nurses taking me off to hospital. I can remember arriving at the hospital and going more or less straight into surgery. I’d had a minor green-stick fracture to my right elbow earlier in the year, and so this knock into a piece of solid timber had resulted in a complete fracture into several (at least three) sections. So I got a nice, permanent piece of surgical steel inserted to hold the joint together for my trouble, and a two (and a bit) inch scar with nine stitches. The stitches came out, the pin’s still there.

    Being right-handed, it was rather pointless going back to school being unable to write, so I was out of school for two months. (I was already ahead of the class so I wasn’t hugely phased by that.)

    Having a scar like that at that age meant that it grew with me, remaining in proportion to my arm, so it’s now about four to five inches long, rather pale and white, and only about half of the eighteen stitch holes are still discernible. It’s fun showing it off since it looks far ’worse’ now then it did at the time.

    April’s scar story is way more impressive. 🙂

  15. 15

    Y’all are making me cringe. Keep it coming. 🙂

    D. C., I had to skip ice. I couldn’t manage that and the other three at the same time. So there is more bruising than there might have been, though the elevation and compression helped with that. It’s kind of funny to see dark bruising at the tip and base of the toe and next to nothing in between.

  16. 16

    I was an accident prone kid through a combination of absentmindedness and youthful invulnerability (most people claim this is a teenage thing, but I apparently went through it far younger). This has led to tons of unremembered scars on knees, elbows, ankles.

    Some come with stories that my parents tell with relish, “Do you remember the time April got hit in the eye with a roof?” or “Do you remember the time you didn’t recognize your own daughter after she turfed her biked in gravel?” Two stand out as particularly traumatizing, and to understand why the biggest scar wasn’t stitched, I have to explain what happened with my face.

    This would be the beginning of third grade. My grade school had a fairly impressive jungle gym, and I had played on it countless times without incident. But it only takes one slip when the bars are wet to send you plummeting face first into the gravel below. In the process, I slightly chipped a tooth and bit clean through my lower lip at the bottom edge. I was rushed to the nurse’s office, which I remember had a bathroom mirror covered in paper to keep kids from panicking when they saw how bad things looked.

    I, contrary to what you might expect, was fine. I held an ice pack to my mouth and chatted amiably with the nurse as we waited for my mom to arrive and take me to the hospital. When my mother walked into the room, I looked at her with the superior confidence only a precocious little shit child can muster and told her not to overreact.

    At the ER, they got me into an exam room and my mom let one of the nursing staff or PAs know that she needed to use a phone and let my dad know what had happened. While she had left me alone, someone thought it would be a good idea to try and get me numbed for stitches. This was a remarkably bad idea, and one I blame for cementing a phobia I have to this day.

    A child already afraid of syringes is not going to react well when you come at her and demand that she allow you to stab at her face with needles. It is worse when her mommy has just walked away. I resisted, so they strapped me down on a papoose board so I couldn’t move a muscle. Which is how my mom found me screaming in terror and defiance as they shoved bits of metal into my lips while my head was held in place.

    Now, the wound definitely needed stitches and I didn’t even disagree about that then. But what sort of idiot decides to go ahead with treatment immediately instead of waiting for parental reassurance? I’ve worked on conquering the fear for years, and I still sweat, tremble, cry and get woozy for the most routine vaccinations. This fear of needles is also responsible for why all future injuries were bandaged.

    The story that makes people cringe

    I climbed trees a lot as a kid and I was good at it. I could get up into the highest branches of a tree by carefully picking where to place my weight. But I only ever climbed one tree that was in the process of being taken out. There was a tree next to a chain link and wood fenceline that would allow me to see into my friend’s yard on the other side. I called hello and clambered up it.

    Unfortunately, once I got above the fence, the bark pulled away in my hands, and I fell backwards toward the chain link. It was the kind where the upper prongs were not turned down.

    The barbs caught me at the base of my back and tore all the way up. By the time it reached the top of my back, I had slowed enough that my t-shirt was strong enough to catch under my arms and suspend me from the top of the fence, unable to get up or down. I hung there, shouting for help, only no one was close enough to hear me. It was only luck that about a half an hour later my grandpa popped outside to check on me, and got me help.

    But after the earlier experience with local anesthetic and stitches there was no way in hell I was consenting to that again. Despite perfectly well meaning doctors explaining that it would heal better and be smaller if I just let them stitch it up, I refused. So they covered me in butterfly bandages and sent me home.

    The scar has always been dramatic. For years I was asked if my family whipped me. I grew to dread locker rooms and went out of my way to get there and change before anyone else could arrive. I was nervous and self conscious about it all through adolescence.

    It has faded ever so slightly over the years, but I got over being worried about it. Most of the time I don’t even remember that it’s there; I only ever remember anymore when I catch someone’s expression as they see it.

    I sometimes wonder if I was a cautious teenager specifically because I had some terrifically close calls as a kid.

  17. 17

    This should perhaps be obvious on a thread like this, but I’ll give a TRIGGER WARNING for grievous bodily injury by way of motor vehicle anyway.

    Let’s see, I have all sorts of scars on my fingers and hands from various not-terribly-serious injuries over the years, some while building theater sets, some not. I have a large scar on my left wrist from slipping while climbing a tree when I was perhaps twelve. I tried to step on a dead branch, it broke, and I started falling. I managed to catch myself, but in doing so, I wound up with a nasty cut on my left wrist.

    I also have scars covering much of my nose; less noticeable ones on my eyelid, lips, and chin; and mostly-not-visible scars on my scalp (only visible when I shave my hair off) from being hit by a car while on my bicycle when I was 19. I was stopped waiting in the left turn lane at a busy intersection a little after ten at night. There was steady traffic on both sides of me, and one of the oncoming cars angled into the turn lane and hit me head-on going maybe 30 mph. I flipped up onto the hood with my bike tangled in my legs, smashed the windshield with my face, and then slid off as the car stopped (I actually have no memory of the ten seconds or so immediately following impact; I hit the windshield and the next thing I remember was being on the street with my entire face numb from the impact/shock and my mouth full of glass and grit – since I couldn’t feel much, I was convinced I had shattered all of my teeth, and that is what was in my mouth). All of the skin and some cartilage had been gouged out of the bridge of my nose, and I had lots of cuts with glass embedded in my face and scalp. A guy came over from the bar on the corner and helped me out of the street, then called 911 for me.

    The funniest part was the reaction of the woman who owned the car, but whom had not been driving (her friend was the designated driver – he was actually sober, but I can understand how he might have been distracted with the car’s owner riding shotgun). The police showed up quickly, and were interviewing me about the accident. The car’s owner came up to me while this was happening and started shouting at me, absolutely furious that I broke her windshield. I was stuck between trying to answer the officer’s questions and laughing at the absurdity of this woman screaming at me for leaping in front of her car and breaking the windshield. I was also not thinking entirely clearly, having just had my head smashed into a car, so I couldn’t really concentrate. I had to turn to the officer and say, “Can you please get her away from me? I can’t deal with this right now.” The police led her away while she was still shouting at me.

    An ambulance showed up and both the paramedics and police insisted I go to the hospital; my face was still entirely numb, and I was feeling okay, so I really just wanted to go home, but I wasn’t in any condition to resist them (I’m still somewhat perturbed at the willingness of all present to deny me agency – I may have legitimately not been acting in my best interests or even thinking straight, but I was effectively kidnapped, strapped into a gurney while insisting that I not be). My face had begun to throb by the time I got to the ER, but they gave me some Vicoden, which had me feeling much better in short order. I spent most of the time my nurse was cleaning the glass out of my face (they missed some, especially on my scalp, which I had to remove later) joking with her; she seemed quite surprised and somewhat worried that I wasn’t particularly upset about the whole thing (and all of the medical staff were very much pushing plastic surgery to repair the scarring damage, which I flatly refused). My dad met me at the hospital, took me to the pharmacy to get my painkiller prescription when I was discharged, and then took me home. My bicycle was totaled.

    I have some lasting damage to my back, and the scars, but the worst part of the recovery was that I developed intense PTSD symptoms that persisted for a solid six months and waned completely over the course of a year. I could not drive, ride as a passenger, nor bicycle on roads for about a month, and then for the next several months I still couldn’t ride shotgun without experiencing intense anxiety episodes/panic attacks at the sight of oncoming headlights. I could actually drive again much sooner than I could be a passenger; I think it’s likely that as a passenger, I had no sense of control, similar to how I felt in the several seconds before I was hit, where I couldn’t move due to traffic on both sides of me, and I could see the car coming toward me without slowing down. The panic attacks eventually became less intense and then faded entirely. I’m back biking everywhere for transportation, 365 days a year.

  18. 18

    D.C. @12
    Nope, sterile saline solution (typically from a can, similar to contact lens solution) or gentle washing with warm water and mild soap solution are how you keep a wound clean.

    It’s what I’ve been having to do for my aunt on her leg wound, at the direction of the Beaumont Wound Care Center.

    In my experience though, you follow washing with the application of a treatment cream of some sort that helps keep the wound from drying out or for debridement.

  19. 20

    Well, I have a big gnarly one down my spine (a foot and a half long!) from surgery, but that’s not the interesting one.

    The interesting ones are on my toes. I broke the medial phalanx of my left little toe as I was chasing my dog around the house; I caught the toe on a doorjam, it popped, and I started yelping. X-rays proved it was broken, and I was sent home with a splint. Two months later, the pain hadn’t gone down, so I went back to the podiatrist, who ordered more x-rays. It hadn’t healed. At all. So he gave me the choice of waiting another couple months and having the bone removed. Being something of a wimp and not really caring about how my feet look, I told him to cut the damned thing out.

    He was a little confused when he took out the bone, and ended up sending it to pathology. Not only had the break not healed, the bone had mostly decalcified. As in turned to jelly. My family instantly dubbed me “Jelly-toed Jeffrey.”

    A few months later, I broke the same bone on the other foot. That time we didn’t bother with the splint.

  20. 21


    Sterile saline is, of course, the irrigation solution of choice.

    When I read “soap and water,” though, I think of tap water and the usual hand soap — nasty stuff for raw flesh.

    Something like PhisoHex is another matter entirely, although still not really necessary unless you’re using creams or ointments (not usually indicated for raw flesh.)

    BTW: I’m sticking to my own “scar stories” — the stuff I see as a medic is quite another matter, and not really within the bounds that Stephanie has set.

  21. 22

    Mine isn’t a scar story, but a suggestion. ALWAYS secure pressure tanks before you remove the safety cap. I hope you heal fast.

  22. 23

    My most interesting scar – nearly invisible now, alas – is the oval on the inside of my upper left arm. It was left by a (harmless) milk snake that my brothers had annoyed by poking it with a stick. Then they caught it and held it up for me “to look at”. It struck and stuck for what must have been several hours. When my Dad got home from he killed the snake (cut its head off) and then pried it off / out of my flesh with a pair of pliers. It didn’t hurt that much, but it bled like a son of a bitch.

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