Diagnosis: Frostbite! A Chilling Tale Told in One Whole Parts
****Four Weeks Ago: Temple Grounds****
I limped away from a mass of mud-covered people of varying ages. Some were wearing crash helmets. Others jumpsuits. Some high heels and skirts. I, however, had managed to not get muddy at all.
“Well, what did you catch?”
An elbow to the eye, a crack in the ribs, a stomping on the foot and other injuries too manly (pansy-tastic) to report. I was shivering, wet, and could see my breath billowing out in front of me. All for….
“Beans.” responded I. “I caught beans.”
I looked at the packet of dried beans. I shoved them in my pockets of my overalls and Osh Gosh Bgoshed my way out of the temple grounds.
****Two Weeks Ago: Nurse’s Office****
The door closed behind with the aforementioned sound.
The school nurse was busy watering the plants in her office. She was doing it with the kind of care and tenderness one would expect from a school nurse….that is to say she was pretty much just dumping cupfuls of water into the plants.
“What is it?!…oh! Nick! What’s wrong?”
Should I be doing this? Should I say anything at all? This is a school in Japan, Nick! If you tell her what is bothering you, half of the population of this city will know what is wrong with you by the end of the day. Maybe you should just tough it out. Go to a proper doctor. Besides, you never kn….
“It’s my foot. Something odd has been going on with it for the past few weeks~ can I get your diagnosis?”
DIAGNOSIS: FROSTBITE! A CHILLING TALE TOLD IN ONE WHOLE PARTS
****Four Weeks Ago: Hawk’s Apartment****
I had my socks off and was sitting in front of the heater in my apartment…well urban sprawling in front of the heater. It was a Sunday evening and too cold for me to do more than try to raise my body temperature a few degrees…well that and read comics…while listening to music….and eating some chicken noodle soup.
The 節分祭 I had attended had left my bones feeling like rods of ice.
I had consumed my packet of delicious ( flavorless) dried beans and was washing it down with some Campbell Chicken Noods. Said noodtastic times were interrupted by a sharp stinging pain emanating from the fourth toe on my left foot.
What the germaniums is this?
Upon closer gazection, I noticed that said toe was bright red. There was a small bump on the …er knuckle?….toes have knuckles….yes? Whatever. There was a bump on my fourth toe.
What is this? Did something bite me? I bet something bit me in my sleep! Probably one of those uber small spiders you hear about….the kind you eat like 5 of every 2 years or whatever. This one was probably paragliding about my apartment, hoping to land in my mouth…when an upward gust of NMW (Nick Mouth Wind) caused it to change course and land on my…exposed toe? I don’t sleep with my feet out of my blankets! What the heck bit me!? Argusss!
Like a responsible adult, I went into the bathroom, grabbed some hydrocortisone cream, and rubbed it on my toe……ok so I decided to ignore it and went back to eating my chicken noodle soup. It was cold, ok!
****Two Weeks Ago: Nurse’s Office****
“Can I get your diagnosis?”
Over the past two weeks, things had gone from bad, to weird, to worse. Each day the toe got redder and grew in size…like a Ballpark Frank. I tried icing it, heating it, putting delicious relish on it, serving it with a side of chili fries…but nothing worked. It got painful enough that I was starting to limp quite a bit.
My limpy gait was causing a rather large callus to develop on the hallux(!) of my left foot. Thus my entire left foot was turning into a pain wagon…except unlike normal pain wagons, the only way to get off the wagon was to cut off my left foot.
…because the foot is the wagon in this analogy you see and…
….is there even such a thing as a pain wagon?
The morning before coming to school, the little toe beside the goomba-ed toe had developed a red bump of it’s own. It was officially no longer a bug bite. It was time to take action…i.e.:
“I’m just the school nurse Nick…but I will take a look at it.”
I took a seat on a chair and took off my sock with a good deal of apprehension. Not only did it hurt to do so, but I was somewhat worried that a good amount of foot funky-times could emerge.
The sock came off.
There was no funk.
But the toes looked worse than ever. Reddish-blackish, medieval time, George RR Martin plot devices. This was not good. I made eye contact with School Nurse.
She laughed at me. This was not the response I was expecting.
「Oh this! That’s just 芋焼け！」she said like laughing and looking relieved.
… that didn’t sound right. You see, 焼芋 is when you take a sweet potato and bake it via fire/large black cauldron. Etc…. as for what 芋焼け is…the only thing I could think of was if someone was ordering someone to grill a sweet potato…
which would be weird given the current situation. We ended up playing the language game where I tilted my head as she said a word and she attempted to repeat it so I could understand it.
We were clearly onto something with this 霜焼 business….however I had no idea what that was.
Now here is the problem with medical diagnosis in languages that are not your own.
In your lifetime you hear about a lot of medical illnesses…even some you have never had, you tend to know a little about. Common ones aren’t so bad…
For example, there are quite a few people in this world who have never caught the flu.
One day, you may feel yourself coming down with something that feels like a cold that is hyped up on cold medicine and Red Bull. You are in Japan and go to the doctor to find out what is wrong with you. The doctor says,
「咳か？軟便 か？ああ！その症状のパターンによって本症であると見分ける 事が出来りゃあ！普通のインフルエンザ！」–> “A cough you say? Some lose stools? From those symptoms I know what you have! It’s the flu!!”
And bingo, you know you have the flu. And that the doctor speaks Japanese rather oddly.
However, what I had was 霜焼. And her explanations of what I had were not helping me at the moment. She was basically looking at my toe, telling me about it getting cold and red…itchy and….
….wait. Cold? Red? Itchy? Where have I heard these symptoms before..
Frustrated, she grabbed her English-Japanese dictionary and started inputting complex series of commands that made it obvious that she used this dictionary all of one time per year.
Cold….gets larger when warm…sometimes numb….this sounds bad…..is this….
「Frostbite! Frostbite! You have frostbite!」 she said with a grin.
….I was not grinning.
「Everyone gets it in Japan! There is an enka song about it?」
My head was reeling.
What the bleep I have frostbite!? What?!?! Everyone gets it in Japan? Don’ t people lose LIMBS because of it?!? I don’t wanna lose lim…wai….did she say a POPULAR SONG?!?
I decided to tune back in:
「she is this single mother who has two kids and this was too poor to afford a washine machine. So she had to wash her clothes outside. Even in the winter time! And everyone in town remarked that she was a good mother because you could see the 霜焼 on her fingers」
BLEEP! That woman lost her fingers and was proud about it?!? There is a song about this woman!? This is awful!! How have I never noticed this before….HOLY BEANSTICKS! I BET EVERY JAPANESE PERSON HAS ONE MISSING DIGIT!
「Just massage your toes in the bathtub every evening and wear warm clothing. It will get better…if it gets worse, you should go to the doctor. Don’t worry.」
The door KACHUNKED behind me as I exited the office As I predicted, everyone in the office knew about my “frostbite” and were surprised that I had never had them before. I decided everyone in my office was insane.
****Last Friday: Doc’s Office****
“Ok, let’s see that foot.”
Things had not gotten better. They had gotten worse. My toes were now officially the size of subs from Quiznos. My entire foot was killing me on the nightly basis now and I couldn’t walk like a normal person. I was Quasimoding about and getting stared at by a good number (everyone) of people.
Lunch break came and I made a beeline for the skin doctor that is about 700 meters from my school. I told the nurses what the deal was and they told me to wait in the waiting area. From the waiting area I could hear kids screaming:
「痛いいいい！痛いいいいい！」 -> “Doc, dude…this really hurts! Could you please stop doing whatever you are doing!? Sure, I am only the size of three apples stacked on top of each other…but I know pain when I feel it! Cut it out!”
Oh great. Just great. I suppose a little Japanese boy is getting his toe removed thanks to this 霜焼 business. You know what Japan?!?! You suck right now! I want to keep my limbs goshdarnit!
The crying boy emerged from the room with mucus running down his face. I was struck with a feeling of un-hunger.
A smiling, goateed face beckoned me into the doctor’s office. I am not sure what surprised me more….the goatee or the English. I decided both were pretty shocking…which brings us to me showing the doctor my foot.
“Oh….this nothing! It’s just….”
please don’t say frostbite please don’t say frostbite or 霜焼
“Ah! Sorry! I forgot how to say this in English. 霜焼 It’s…what do you call it…”
This is when I made a crucial mistake. I should have allowed him to open his huge medical compendium and tell me what word was in that for what I had…but instead, with a look of defeat on my face I offered up what it was called…
“yes! Frostbite! I have it now myself! Ha ha! It sure is cold out these days! Here! I will give you this, go to the building in front of this office and pickup this cream! It is a hormone cream! It will take care of it for you! Massage your frostbite toes in the bathtub!”
This is not right! How is it that EVERYONE IN THIS COUNTRY HAS FROSTBITE AND I HAVE NOT HAD IT UNTIL JUST NOW!!!! Why did he not bring up amputation!? What is this magical tissue regenerating cream I have not heard of?
I pondered this as I entered the pharmacy, grabbed the cream, and returned to school in time to have some spaghetti for lunch. Afterwards I rubbed the cream on my toes. They instantly felt better and the color started to return back to “normal flesh color”.
I was confused.
****The Weekend: Hawk’s Apartment****
I was in my apartment making a cup of tea, when my “you have new mail” alarm went off on my phone.
I checked the screen to see that I infact had new email in my gmail account. I checked it.
It informed me that I had a new message on my Facebook wall.
I checked that.
And there I saw a message that I didn’t expect to see:
Chill…blain? Chillblain? What an awesome name to give you kid to ensure he gets beat up!
I immediately went to webmd to see what they had to say about this kid. What they had to say was:
….what the….THAT ISN’T FROSTBITE!!!!
So, what have we learned today?
- You should always go to the doctor at the first signs of a problem? Sure.
- You should use more than one dictionary when translating words that sound ridiculous? Maybe.
- I should not wear dress socks with sneakers when catching beans in the freezing rain..nor should I wear overalls since I am a grown man? Probably.
But no. I think the real lesson we learned is that hormone cream is the best thing ever invented. Seriously, this stuff rocks! It’s like if the makers of Icey Hot and BenGay got together, injected their products with steroids, and mixed it with the powder of Unicorn horns! It feels great!
Now if you excuse me, I suddenly have a hankering for some baked sweet potatoes….