As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (Aug 2012)


      I am blessed to have had some mighty proud accomplishments in my life. Earning my black belt. Successfully communicating in another language abroad. Inspiring a “no high diving unless you are on the diving team” rule at the local pool. But one of my most treasured feats would have to be prompting an X-ray technician to say, “You know, you do this for 17 years, and you think you’ve seen everything.”

      Years ago at a Friday night karate class, I kicked, and the blocker made contact with my foot. Something felt amiss afterward, and it was still bothering me the next day. Could it be a fracture? I thought it wise to find out for sure, so I went to the ER. It wasn’t long before someone sent me off for a couple of X-rays, then I was taken to a little room and told to wait for the Nurse Practitioner to arrive.

      A few minutes later, in walks a six-foot gentleman or statue, I couldn’t tell right away. Turns out he’s an ex-military nurse with a Ivy League graduate degree in hottie. I’m sorry, that was supposed to be an Ivy League graduate degree in Acute Care Nursing.

      He approached, deftly stepping around the growing puddle of drool (occupational hazard, I suspect), and smiled before introducing himself. I think. I didn’t exactly hear what he said because the sparkle in his teeth was accompanied by a chorus singing, “Aaaah!” in A Major.

      My lipreading and body language interpretation skills led me to believe he wanted me to explain why I was there. I did, he nodded. When he wasn’t smiling, and when I wasn’t looking directly at him, I was able to make out bits and pieces like “going to go take a look at the X-ray” and “be right back.” Then he smiled again (“Aaaah!”) and left the room.

      I was still rubbing my eyes from the glare when he returned, but this time I had no trouble understanding him because he was no longer smiling. In fact, he appeared quite confused, and asked me to tell him again what had happened, as though he had missed something the first time. I obliged, and he then began to examine my foot (which was totally fine with me, for the record). He pointed to an entirely different spot and asked, “There’s no pain over here?” Nope. He began inspecting my instep and the sole of my foot from multiple angles, as if in search of something specific. I hated to interrupt, but I couldn’t handle the mystery anymore.

      “What are you looking for? Is something wrong?”

      He stopped and said, “Well, you appear to have a piece of metal in your foot.”

      Come again?

      He repeated himself, but made no more sense than before. He asked if there could have been something sharp in the other person’s karate uniform, or if I’d had my socks on during the X-ray, since one may have picked up something metal from the floor. I honestly couldn’t remember if my socks were on for the X-ray because my mind was still replaying, “You appear to have a piece of metal in your foot.”

      I asked to see the image, and it was unmistakable. Something like a pin or needle was smiling and waving at us, just hanging out, enjoying a nice game of cards with all its little bone friends in my foot. The NP was reasonable to assume that this UFO (Unidentified, in-my-Foot Object) had arrived the night before, which would explain why he was so perplexed by the lack of any detectible entry wound or pain in that area. We even went back to the X-ray room to take one more shot, which was when I got to hear from the Tech on duty. Shockingly, he had never before encountered someone who didn’t already know she had a piece of metal in her foot.

      I was just as mystified as everyone else until, back in the ER room, as I stared at my own foot’s internal pieces-parts and their house guest, a vague memory started a leisurely swim to the surface.

      “Wait,” I said to the NP. “Wait a minute.”

      I remembered that, a full year prior to this, I had stepped on something sharp at home – a needle from a sewing kit, or one of those pesky carpet staples, I assumed at the time. I checked the sole of my foot and saw a pinprick and a little blood, but nothing attached. Whatever it was had obviously gone in and out. I searched in the fluffy carpet hoping to find it so I could throw it away but, alas, it eluded me, so I resolved to be careful in that area until it turned up. And I did have a strange feeling that something might be in the wound, but I prodded, pressed, and pinched, and the only thing that came out was more blood. I saw and felt absolutely nothing foreign, and the sensation could easily have been soreness since punctures generally lead to discomfort, no? I shrugged, kept the hole covered and absurdly clean and, once the soreness was gone, returned to the normal life of someone who doesn’t have a piece of metal in her foot.

      Well, found it! Only took a year. Turns out I stepped on a needle and the end broke off, leaving the rest in a cozy spot, snuggled right up against a bone. This not only kept my broken needle guest from being lonely at night, but also kept me from having any chance to feel it when I prodded, pressed, and pinched. The NP commended me for having taken such good care of the wound, because there had been no residual pain or infection despite a year of having a piece of metal in my foot. Go me. I’d like to thank the Academy, everyone who voted for me, and the makers of hydrogen peroxide. Meanwhile, he also diagnosed a mild sprain in the totally other part of my foot that brought me to the ER in the first place. Two mysteries solved in one day. He was smiling again, so I couldn’t hear another word he said, but I think he conveyed that he and the X-ray tech would never forget me. I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually say, “You can play with my feet anytime” out loud, which counts as one more proud accomplishment for my list.

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