Sunday, September 6, 2015


Backstory:  What is Dupuytren’s Contracture?  In older men of northern European extraction (I have to cop to at least two of these three characteristics), oft times the fascia overlaying and protecting the tendons which allow the fingers to flex and/or straighten, shrinks up – contracts – disallowing the tendons to do their job. Most commonly, this condition arises on the little finger and, secondarily, the ring finger.  In my case, I found that I could no longer straighten my pinkie.  Repair involved the surgical removal of a section of the uncooperative protective tissue.

A follow up appointment was scheduled three weeks after surgery.  Upon rising that morning, I removed the bandage, showered – the thing could now get washed and dried according to the medicos – and, before rewrapping it, decided to brew a little coffee, sit out on the back porch, let the thing air out and enjoy a little morning sunshine.  (The gauze wrapper really dries and chafes the skin and any moments without that irritant are pleasant ones.)
Sipping my Joe, I inspected the wound.  Last week, just after the sutures were removed, it looked like I’d engaged in a pitched a battle with Hannibal Lector and nearly lost.  This week not so bad, things seemed to be knitting nicely.  Lifting the coffee mug with my gimpy hand, a ray of sunshine glanced across the incision.  Shocked, I observed that portions of the scabbing wound near the tip of my little finger were purple – or for Crayola Crayon aficionados: blue-violet.  Purple-blue-violet!  Yikes!
Gobsmacked, I nearly dropped my coffee cup onto the glass table.  I stood up to get some better sunlight on it.  Yep!  The damned thing was etched in a sickly bright purple-blue-violet color.  And was that the beginning of some white – I don’t know – a moldy looking fuzz covering the colorful wound?
I shared my concern with wife, Candace, who, with a slightly twisted look of concern – no, more like horror – backed away for a moment.
Should I call and ask about this?  Or should I wait until my 3:00 PM with the physician’s assistant?  Mulling for some time, I decided that the circumstance couldn’t get much worse in the intervening five hours.  I resumed with my French Roast and read a cover story in the local paper about a dog that died suddenly after swimming in the Russian River where there were blooms of a mysterious blue-green algae.  We’d been out to the Russian River just yesterday.  I reconsidered calling the doc, but didn’t.
Rebandaging the finger, I couldn’t help periodically peeking under the gauze roller to see if the purple-blue-violet streak was still purple-blue-violet.  It was during one of those peek-a-boo moments that I noticed the same discoloration at the other end of the work area.  I wondered if it is going to creep across the palm of my hand and up my arm to my elbow.  What’s going on and what might be the fix?  And if they have to amputate my arm, will I have to give up riding the motorcycle?
The appointment was only two hours away, so I tried not to fret.  But the fingertip was a little numb and is the joint stiffening up?  Was I going to end up in some sort of a colony?  And what about that flesh-eating mold?

Those two hours passed like molasses in the winter months.  Finally, I sat in the office of the physician’s assistant.  She asked if I had concerns.  I mentioned the discoloration that I’d only seen for the first time this morning.
“That’s a skin marker,” she said.  I nodded, not wanting to ask more, assuming that what I was seeing was some chemical or biological reaction that occurred as the traumatized skin worked itself back together.  She added, “The doctor is in the next room.  Let’s have him take a look at it.”
My mind immediately flipped back to gangrene or scurvy or Dutch elm disease.
The doctor walked in and casually fingered my hand while nodding approval.  “Looks good,” he intoned.
“What about this purple-blue-violet?” I asked, trying to subdue the squeakiness in my voice so as to mask my burgeoning panic while pointing to the growing, brightly hued stripes.  (Was it creeping toward my elbow yet?)
“Oh that,” he said.  “I take a felt tip pen and outline where we are going to make the incision.  Nothing too precise.  I chose purple Magic Marker to mark your skin.  Somebody’d left the cap off the red one.”
“Oh.  A skin marker,” I said.
“Yes.  What were you thinking?”
“Oh…  Nothing.”

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Glad there were no issues with the hand. Funny how our minds can play the worse case scenario tricks on us.

    1. Ain't it, though? Would rather be scribing about a great coastal bike ride than the current circumstance, but the current circumstance will abate soon enough. Thanks, T, for reading my scratchings!