My Latest Procedure Didn’t Go as Planned

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by Brianna Albers |

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One might say I was giddy.

Once or twice a month, I drive 20 minutes to get shot up with allergens (mold and cat dander, for the curious). So the act itself was mundane. There was nothing special about trekking across the suburbs to my clinic of choice, aka my home away from home. It was what came after the shots that was unprecedented.

I was getting surgery.

I’ve written column after column on medical trauma. Everyone knows that I hate surgeries — even the gastroenterologist who replaced my feeding tube after my service dog pulled it out. By all rights, I should’ve been out of my mind with anxiety, on the verge of an existential panic attack. But I wasn’t. The procedure was outpatient, the anesthesia was local, and I was looking forward to a brand new experience. I was going to deal with my ingrown toenail. For good.

A matricectomy, you say?

A matricectomy is complex and more than a little gross, so I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say that acid and lidocaine were used. According to my podiatrist, there’s a 3% chance of the nail growing back, which was music to my ears.

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I was, of course, nervous. But there was a thrill to it. I’m the 2021 equivalent of a closeted sick woman, so there’s something to be said for a brand new experience, with benefits — significantly less toe pain — to boot.

All in all, it could’ve gone worse. Getting your toe stuck with needles is no one’s idea of a fun time. But once the lidocaine kicked in, the actual procedure was painless. I couldn’t see what was going on, so I cracked jokes as my podiatrist jabbed my toe with toothpicks (allegedly) and my dad looked on in horror (confirmed by eyewitness testimony). I left the clinic with a bandaged foot and aftercare instructions.

The healing process is ongoing. As I write this column, my foot is propped on my footrest, my toe open to the air. Earlier today, I texted my aunt and cousin — both nurses — a picture of my toe and asked if it looked infected. When my aunt responded in the affirmative, I settled in for an hourlong ordeal, jumping from the triage nurse line to virtual urgent care. I’m starting an antibiotic, with the understanding that I’ll contact my podiatrist if things get worse.

I wouldn’t say I’m in pain. My toe throbs, especially after cleaning it, but the pain is nothing compared to my constant sinusitis. I can’t wear closed-toe shoes, which is maybe the worst part — October in Minnesota isn’t the best time for Birkenstocks. But I’ll survive. I made it through a life-threatening spinal fusion, so a matricectomy is nothing in comparison.

My dad jokes that “everything is an adventure with Brianna.” He’s not wrong. A matricectomy is perfectly safe. Mundane, if you will. I was ecstatic about the use of local anesthesia — finally a procedure that wouldn’t have me sobbing on the operating table. It should’ve gone off without a hitch.

But that’s the thing about spinal muscular atrophy: Nothing goes off without a hitch.

I did everything I was supposed to. I soaked my toe in warm salt water; I applied liberal amounts of Neosporin; I kept my toe bandaged for a week after the procedure. I shouldn’t have had to call the triage hotline at 2 p.m. on a mild Monday afternoon. But such is life with chronic illness.

Sometimes you get breathless jokes as your dad winces at your toe, and sometimes you get a 10-day supply of antibiotics, just in case.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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