The truth about (my) staples

I know that you all meant well. I know you did. Truly. But, well, I don’t know how else to put this: you were wrong.

Or were you just trying to reassure me? My friend Keri said to me today while chatting, “Yes, I did lie. Sorry! I didn’t want you to worry. Sorry sorry sorry.” She had experienced staple removal in her knee area when she was much younger. “It feels like it’s never going to end,” she said.

The thing is, when I had my fifty two (yes, they counted them) surgical staples removed today it was not only uncomfortable through the entire process, it really f#$%ing hurt about a fifth of the time. I’m not exaggerating, folks. At one point, after my doctor had removed a particularly testy staple, I let out an expletive that I usually don’t let loose in examination rooms. Dr. Nettum said, very patiently, “you say whatever you need to, Michael.” I said, “Don’t worry, I will.”

I wondered, going into this how the procedure might be painless. I tried to imagine how the staples might be engineered to make them painless upon removal, but I couldn’t get the image of a standard office staple out of my mind — the way it punches through and then curls at the end to trap the paper. I wondered if my staples were more like construction staples, fired with pneumatic guns, going straight in, without bending at the ends. But that didn’t make sense, because what would give them their strength?

Well the fact is, at least for the fifty two staples in my body, that they do curl at the ends in order to keep the wound bound together better. This requires a staple remover tool that essentially pinches the center of the staple, causing either end to bend upward — the idea being to create an easier exit for the staple. This worked in a relatively pain free way most of the time. But some of those pesky things must have liked where they were, because they clearly did not want to come out.

Dr. Nettum and his nurse, Christina, worked on my staples simultaneously. She started at the top, he at the bottom (like digging a long tunnel, they met in the middle). The first staple he removed hurt like hell. By the end of the ordeal, I told Christina that every one of you that told me that the staple removal would be easy, pain free were going to get an email letting you know how wrong you all were. She laughed. I didn’t.



There was one area of my incision that opened up a little when they removed a staple. Because of this, my abdomen is covered with a very big bandage and I will be seeing Dr. Nettum again tomorrow to make sure it’s okay.

Beyond that, we still do not have dates set for appointments in Indianapolis with Dr. [name withheld] and Dr. Einhorn. We’ll keep you posted on that.

I will be seeing my local oncologist on Friday, but not for a medical visit. We are interviewing him for the Cancer Stories Project.


7 Responses to “The truth about (my) staples”

  1. Check THAT off your life list. Geez!

  2. Ouch. I’ve played with the staple remover at my mom’s vet clinic, and it didn’t look like a whole lot of fun. I’m glad it’s over.

  3. I had four staples in my elbow and I remember when they took them out, I could feel them scrape against my bone. I cannot imagine 52, I am sorry. Yuck.

  4. Juli Ann, you nearly made me get the tunnel vision and the cold clammies.

  5. cripes, jeezus, mary and joseph, what a nightmare!! aaaaaaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhhhhh!!
    one time i was doing a school job for a teacher and i stapled myself with an industrial stapler. i pulled out the staple and blood just spurted out. i passed out immediately on the linoleum. that’s what a wuss I am. You must be the bravest person in the world by now, a super-duper Mike that can withstand 52 hideous staple removals. You rate an exquisite bottle of scotch or something – o my GOD. steph

  6. I wasn’t lying! My staples really didn’t hurt when they came out. But my surgery was on a much smaller scale than yours, so must have been a different kind of staple or something.

  7. I feel absolutely faint as I read your staple story. Please don’t have staples again. I think the floor just hit me in the head.

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