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The Little Earl That Couldn't

The little earl that couldn't

Back at the end of July last year I got my bridge pierced at Cold Steel in Camden. As I reported in the original experience I had no problems with it; after three weeks of healing there was no swelling, no redness and only a small bit of crustiness, caused by lymph from the then-healing piercing. In fact there had been no swelling at all, which surprised me somewhat as the bar that Julie had originally put in was a pretty long one (18mm I think) because it is a piercing that swells a lot.

The lack of problems surprised me, but I wasn't unduly concerned about it – the thought that I've had so many piercings that my body's used to it ran through my mind, but I wasn't worried about it. In hindsight perhaps I should have been a bit concerned that it was such an easy piercing to heal, but not being superstitious I figured I was just lucky. Unfortunately that soon turned to cockiness and that's where the problems started.

A month after getting the bridge piercing I was starting a new job at a primary school. A job that meant that I had to take out all facial piercings. I knew when I got my earl that I wouldn't be able to remove it, but figured that after a month had passed I'd be able to put a retainer in, either bioflex or PTFE so that I could remove the balls and to all intents and purposes make my piercing vanish. I went to see a friend of mine, who's a piercer, in order to get a retainer ordered for me. On being told that it would take a while for the retainer to come in I asked him to cut me a piece of PTFE onto which I could screw the metal balls. He did, making the PTFE shorter than the bar I had originally been pierced with as I was finding that my glasses were knocking the balls on the bar when I pushed them up or pulled a jumper over my head, and I left without changing the bar there, confident that I could do it myself. That was mistake number one.

Work, and school, started on 1 September and that morning found me sitting in the car park about 15 minutes early, frantically trying to change the bar for my bridge. Being so sure of myself I hadn't bothered trying to change the bar any earlier; it's a question of taking one out and putting the other in, I thought; easy. Easy it wasn't. The first problem I had was unscrewing the balls on the first bar – they had been put on fairly tightly and after sitting in a warm car struggling with a tiny metal ball for a few minutes my hands, and face, were becoming increasingly sweaty. With rivulets of sweat dripping down the side of my nose I managed to get the ball off and the metal bar out.

Then I tried to put the PTFE bar in.

The bar that I'd originally been pierced with was internally threaded so it hadn't hurt when I pulled it out. The PTFE bar, however, was far from smooth – where it had been cut from a larger length there was a small spike of plastic jutting out. When I started to push this through my healing-but-not-fully-healed-piercing it hurt like hell. Of course I'd started so I had to finish. I couldn't put the metal bar back in because I'd get into trouble. I couldn't leave the PTFE bar out because it would close up. So I kept on pushing, swearing to myself, until I got the PTFE bar in and screwed the balls on the end, then headed into work: mistake number two.

Photograph taken one month after the piercing

That was that for a few weeks. My PTFE bar seemed to be working perfectly, and work was progressing well, with the exception of being called into the head's office to discuss my piercing.
'In the interview you said you were happy to remove your piercings.' 'Yes, I did.'
'But you haven't removed them.'
'Um, no. I haven't had this one long and I'm waiting for a retainer. When I've got that you won't be able to notice it.' And so I began pestering my friend to find out how long it'd be until the retainer came in. A couple of days turned into a week, and then a bit more than a week, until I had a text to say that the retainer was in. With relief, the prospect of getting into more trouble at work has been keeping me tense, I drove over to his and picked up the retainer. At this point I'd had the piercing for about a month and a half to two months. The PTFE bar didn't seem to have any adverse side affects and I figured that the piercing was pretty close to being fully healed (despite being told when first pierced that it could take anywhere from 4-6 months for healing to be completed) so I decided to change the PTFE for the retainer. I went through exactly the same process as that described above. It hurt like hell, even more this time than the first, and putting the retainer in caused lymph, and something that looked suspiciously like pus, to seep out of the hole. But I soldiered on, ignoring the pain and resolving to keep the piercing clean. That was the third mistake I made with this piercing in the space of two months.

In October of 2005 I went back to Cold Steel to get my hood pierced. While I was there I asked the guy at the counter for a smaller metal bar for my bridge piercing as I prefer the look of metal to PTFE. He looked at it and noticed that it was seeping, something that shouldn't be happening with a month and a half old piercing. He told me to keep cleaning it with sea salt soaks and to not even think about changing the bar. After that things went progressively downhill. The piercing began to get more crusty, not only with lymph but with pus, and I found that every morning there was a build up of gunk that needed to be removed. Not only that but the area around the piercing hole on the right hand side was starting to get swollen. Badly. The whole area was also starting to turn red, a redness that extended quite a few millimetres around the piercing; the gap between the two balls was red, as was the area above and below that part of the bridge of my nose. I knew that wasn't a good thing.

I reverted back to doing sea salt soaks on the bridge, and that did help with reducing the swelling, but as soon as I stopped them it would flare up again. As the weeks went past the other side of the piercing started to swell, until I had two extremely visible, red bumps nestling against the formerly pretty metal balls. As that was happening the pus and crustiness around the piercing was getting worse. Originally an annoyance that needed almost constant cleaning, it now looked scabby and felt like I had a cut there which was only just starting to heal. It looked nasty and felt nasty. Every time my glasses knocked the piercing a throbbing pain ran through the bridge of my nose. It hurt to clean it, it hurt to touch it and it hurt to look at it. But I refused to take it out.

I think that stubbornness had a lot to do with that refusal. By that point I had had the piercing for four months. I refused to accept that there was anything wrong with it, even though it looked very bad. I had come this far with it, I thought, I'm not going to take it out now. Not only would it have been admitting defeat, but it would have been a waste of £30, which was a lot when I had very little money. Everyone I spoke to told me to take it out. Though I don't believe it was infected (there was no heat around the area) everyone else believed it was. I carried on with an ever decreasing frequency of salt soaks and tried the 'if I ignore it it will go away' policy, neither of which worked. In desperation, in January of this year, I went to see my doctor who took one look at it, decided it was infected and told me to remove it as 'infections, especially around the nose and eyes can go straight to the brain and leave you seriously ill'. Having heard that kind of thing from doctors of friends before, as well as the advice given in the BME Encyclopaedia (last two lines) I ignored that piece of advice, but did get a two day supply of antibiotics and left with the words 'if it's no better in two days, take it out' ringing in my ears.

It was no better in two days. It was no better two weeks later, but I kept saying to myself that tomorrow I'd take it out. Of course there was always another tomorrow and I kept putting it off. Just under a month ago, however, I got two new piercings. As soon as I walked into the studio Sean noticed my bridge and frowned at me.
'It's not good, is it?' I asked.
He shook his head. After asking for advice on what I could do to heal it (not much – try using vitamin E cream to bring the scarring down, but if it gets any worse take it out immediately) I knew that I'd have to remove it. If I let it get any worse the scarring would be dreadful, plus I had two new piercings to heal and I didn't want anything to get in the way of that.

Two days later I retired my bridge.

Since removing the piercing the redness has disappeared from all but the immediate site of the holes made by the piercing. The scabs, lymph and pus have all gone and the swelling has gone down immensely, although I do still have two fairly visible bumps just above where my glasses sit. I will start rubbing vitamin E or Aloe Vera cream into those soon, in the hopes that the swelling will go down further and I will, some day, be able to get the piercing done again.

The moral of the story? Hindsight is a great thing. Throughout the course of the piercing I did many things wrong; changing it too soon then changing it too often; neglecting sea salt soaks and fiddling with it with dirty hands; being stubborn and leaving it in long after it should have been removed. The next time I get this piercing done, or indeed any piercing done, I will be taking far more care of it, and more importantly listening to my body for a sign of things starting to go wrong. I might have lost one piercing, but at least I've gained a bit more knowledge.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 19 Feb. 2006
in Eyebrow Piercing

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