Thursday, August 24, 2006

Whitlow Awareness Week

The following is a public service announcement from

If you are like me before this week you have never heard of whitlow, a little known affliction of the finger. The human body (not counting the mind) is perfect in many ways. It is a work of art. The lungs breath air, the heart beats, blood circulates through the veins, white blood cells scurry around fighting off infections, etc. But there is a minor design flaw. Once in a while a bacterium or foreign particle might enter through the fingernail, an infection begins, the bacteria multiply and cannot be driven off. From their secure position in their fingertip-fortress, they can plan and execute one attack after the other. Before long, the tip of the finger begins to hurt and swell and demand medical attention. That's what happened to me last week and this - which explains my absence from posting.

The German word for whitlow is Nagelbettentzündung, an easy word to understand: an infection of the embedment of the fingernail. When I looked up the English translation I found I had never heard it before. I asked Doug - I just have to think of one of the nice people who read my stories and they materialize before me - I asked Doug what he thought the word meant and he suggested that my stories had been low on wit lately and that this was probably a sign that I should do something about it. I had noticed the lack of wittiness myself, and agreed with him before showing him the way out.

So if you happen to develop a strange swelling of the fingertip, see your physician immediately. My physician told me I had come just in time. It was already fairly acute and the bacteria were poised for a one-prong attack on the rest of the finger and hand. He shuddered as he mentioned how bad that would have been. So I asked if there was anything I could have done to prevent it. He said no. It can happen if bacteria happen to enter through a wound in the fingernail. Then there's nothing you can do. I just know I got this because my muse always has me take out the garbage. She'll never do it herself. So if you suspect the whitlow is happening to you, be sure to see your physician immediately and have it taken care of. Also, if you wear a ring on that finger, it's probably a good idea to take it off before the swelling gets really bad. The whitlow is unpleasant enough as it is. The whitlow hurt, the shot hurt, it hurt when they took off the bandage which got stuck in the cut the doctor made. It's settled down now - but I only have half a pair of hands at my disposal and I'm off work for a week.

So what can you do to avoid the whitlow? As I said, probably nothing. If it makes you feel better, wash your hands a lot and use disinfectant a few times each day. Take out less garbage. I don't know. Maybe it's enough to just keep your sense of humor.

Say "no" to whitlow!

P.S. I'll post a photo for stories tomorrow. But due to this damned whitlow, I'm going to stay away from the computer for a while. When I'm back I'll post last week's overdue story.


Anonymous said...

I know it's not funny but ....damn it is.

Feel better inde.

Computer keyboards are one of the dirtiest things in the world. They are probably filled with more bacteria than your toilet.
I know this because I am a germophobe of sorts.

I clean my keyboards with alcohol routinely, some call me crazy.............I call me sensible, and not likely to develope that mean finger disease you call Whitlows.

Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

My deepest sympathies, Mr. Indeterminacy. As you know, I also had to take out the garbage after my marriage to Julia and before I was kidnapped by UnCaptist terrorists, and as you know I sustained life threatening injuries. In addition to my accident with the wheeled garbage can, I also developed a large hole in my right paw. My blood dribbled out, leaving an annoying trail of plastic pellets wherever I went, until Mrs. Weirsdo stuffed an old napkin up there. She says she does not recommend this treatment for you, though, and hopes you will feel better soon.

Miz BoheMia said...

Oh my Indy! I can only imagine how painful it must have been to type all this!

Fingers crossed (no pun intended but ha, ha, haa!) that you heal speedily and well!

Unknown said...

You know, while I was reading this post I felt a sudden throbbing in my middle finger. Do you think I should get it looked at?

Indeterminacy said...

Cooper: I wanted everyone to laugh about this. I was just mystified. Never had I heard of this whitlow thing before. It's also called "felon" in English, but whitlow is a much more fun word than felon. You're right about the keyboards. Maybe I should wrap mine in saran wrap or something. It does look awful.

Hobbes: I was very moved by your accident. I have a Teddy Bear of my own, you know, and my grandmother isn't around anymore to fix him if he starts to fall apart again.

Miz Bohemia: I typed this all with one hand, but it had to be done.

Doug: That is true synchronicity, and a little alarming. That's exactly whaat the pain was like, a throbbing kind of pain.