Michele’s foot hasn’t been doing well. I talked to her on the phone today. She said cheerily that it looked like they’d only have to amputate a third of her foot. “But there’s a vein of black going all the way up to my ankle,” she said. “And when I say it’s black, it’s not blue or dark. It’s black like coal. But I’m hoping that part is just faking it.” They scheduled an MRI today to see how much bone was alive. If bone is dead, it doesn’t grow back. They have to cut it off.
I was a little distracted the rest of the day.
I went to visit Michele this afternoon and got to be there while the foot doctor was there. I even got to watch him change the dressing. “You okay with this?” he said, as I eagerly peered forward.
“Oh yeah,” said Michele.
“I used to work in the OR,” I said.
He nodded and unwrapped stained bandages. Michele’s foot looks horrible. It’s the worst wound I’ve ever seen. I watched an amputation once when I worked in the operating room as an anesthesia aide before going to college; a lady with diabetes had to have most of her foot taken off. That was gross. This is unbelievable horrendous looking. Her flesh is a raw mass of black and red and blue on one side of her foot. The two toenails look like fuzzy growths of fungus clinging to a rotting loaf of what used to be bread.
“This is good,” said the doctor, pointing at her toes. “See this pink here? This wasn’t there before.” I have to say that it looked like a miracle to me…that new life could be generating out of that ugly mass of black seemed entirely improbable.
He doused it with a little saline and then wrapped it up again. The MRI results weren’t ready yet, he said. He’d come back when they were.
He popped back in the room a little later. No change in the bones, no spread of dead tissue. He wouldn’t need to amputate tomorrow. He wouldn’t do any cutting, just “power-wash” the dead stuff away and put synthetic skin grafts over the places where the skin was gone.
I asked him about these grafts, and he started explaining them. Michele said something like, “Ooo! Biotech!” and wanted to know all about the company. I was interested in the science. He said they have big petri dishes where they grow skin cells. Then they remove the cells, just leaving behind a protein matrix. He said he’s starting to use this kind of stuff to replace injured cartilage in knees and stuff too.
He was explaining all these while Duncan walked in. Poor Duncan was waiting to hear how much of his wife was going to be removed, and the doctor kept going on about the technical aspects of this new grafting technique. Finally, I blurted out, “He’s just going to do a power-wash tomorrow!” which, I’m afraid, didn’t help Duncan out at all.
The doctor explained what that meant. He said Michele would probably lose both toenails, but with her continued recovery, he expected her to come out of the hospital with all ten toes. “There goes my modeling career,” said Michele. He said he might send her home Friday. He says he’s very happy that there has continued to be no infection, and he thinks she’ll be less likely to develop infection outside of the hospital.
All three of us looked like we were trying not to break into tears.
Boy, this has been a roller coaster day. I’ve been asking God all day, why. And he seems to be saying, “Oh, I’m not finished yet.”