As I reported previously, I injured my right hallux (or ‘big toe’, as it’s also known) a couple of weeks ago by kicking a bus shelter in frustration. It hurt like a mythical underworld for several days and then, last weekend, I was able to squeeze out a fair amount of orange, bloody pus from a gap between the tip of the nail and the skin. Once drained, it was clear that the nail had pretty much completely separated from the nail bed. It was still swollen and painful.
I therefore bowed to the inevitable and went to a doctor that one of my colleagues helped me find. When I went there, I asked if I could use someone else’s insurance (which I’ve heard of being done before), but they said no, so I walked around for a bit looking for another oegwa uiwon or external medicince clinic that was a seonghyeong oegwa, or cosmetic surgery place.
I didn’t find one, so I ended up back at the same place.
The doctor didn’t speak English brilliantly, despite having studied in London and Minnesota, but he was friendly and down to earth. He knew exactly what was up with my toe and said the nail should come off. He didn’t order an X-ray, which is the main expense I was worried about. He also looked at my thumb and didn’t diagnose any great problem.
He planned to inject my big toe four times around the base to anaesthetise it. However, the only other time I’ve had injections in my toe – part of my warts treatment – it was incredibly painful. I started getting nervous; my ankle and foot were sweating a lot. The doctor changed his mind and instead used a thicker needle to give me only two injections, but these ones were each administered in two stages. There was a first, surface injection, then he push the needle most of the way through my toe to inject the other side. It was a bit painful – I gasped a couple of times – but it wasn’t terrible.
Once my toe was completely numb, the doctor insert one blade of a small pair of tweezery scissors under the tip of my nail at one side then swiftly rolled back the nail, revealing a sticky, bloody mess underneath. He dressed it and said I should come back every couple of days to have the dressing changed; I wasn’t allowed to shower.
The toe was still painful for a while after that – the fact that it was wrapped in a thick coccoon of gauze that got squeezed inside my shoes didn’t help. But it rapidly improved and when I went back subsequent times, the nail bed looked a lot better. I only went back twice, as having graduation and leaving the country somewhat interfered, so on the last occasion, the doctor changed his mind about applying gauze and instead simply covered the injury with a bit of ‘artificial skin’, which is an elastic, waterproof, skin-toned, adhesive layer of thin plastic or rubber. It’s surprisingly effective at its job and doesn’t peel away much when you’re wearing socks and shoes.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for – photographic evidence.