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Toenail Sketch

by Stephen Rekas

Recently an ingrown toenail on my right big toe prompted a visit to the podiatrist. I would never have imagined that so much pain could be generated by one digit. Under a double dose of local anesthesia the doctor removed the offending ½" x 5/8" x ¾" triangle of nail. Aside from the pain, this has to be one of my most memorable doctor visits.

On entering the examination room, I was instructed to remove my shoes and socks and seat myself on a powered examination chair/table. After taking a cursory glance at my foot, the Dr. ordered the appropriate anesthetic and instrument tray and sat down in a straight-back chair with my newly-formed podiatric medical history chart. He was genuinely and disarmingly funny as we talked about various treatments for the athlete's foot and toenail fungus that have plagued me for twenty-five years. We also discussed ingrown toenail prevention techniques. I promise you, I don't want to have to go through this again.

The Dr. said, "There are two types of treatments for toenail fungus- internal and external. The internal treatment has a higher cure rate, but you run a slight risk of liver failure which could precipitate an organ transplant or even death, in which case your problems would be over… (silence) …because you would be dead… That was a joke." I wasn't laughing. I just didn't expect humor when I was in such agony. We then discussed the external treatments I would be using.

Wanting to get to the source of my problem the Dr. asked me about the type of work I do. I told him, "I'm a music and text editor for Mel Bay Publications, Inc." He said that he was interested in the guitar and thought he remembered seeing ads for the Mel Bay method in the back pages of comic books he enjoyed as a kid. [I checked with company president William Bay and he said that it wasn't Mel who placed guitar instruction ads in comic books, but some other publisher with a warped sense of entrepreneurship.]

I asked the Dr. if he played the guitar and he said, "No, but I've always liked the guitar and I have a patient who is a professional guitarist. He brings me instrument catalogs and tells me about the deals he finds in pawnshops."

"Do you play the guitar?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, confidently waving my carefully manicured right-hand nails in the air, "I play the classic or nylon-string guitar- so I'm very knowledgeable about nail care."

Without looking up from my chart, the Dr. said with a sly smile, "You must be really good if you can play it with your feet."

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