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Why Some Ideas Are Better In Theory

In the PFIQ feature on Jon Cobb, there's a picture of the piercing in the nape of his neck. I was intrigued by this because it was cool as Hell. I never thought piercings of that nature were possible. Over time, I started to wonder what a full column of these piercings would look like. I have a form of scoleosis that causes my back to make kind of a "dead man's curve," with a mild curvature to the left near my shoulder blades, and a more prevalent curve to the right in my central and lower back. I always wondered what it would be like to have a straight spine. Shortly after I began my piercing apprenticeship, I decided to find out.

My spinal piercings began using three 8 gauge, one inch stainless steel straight barbells, located directly below my shoulder blades, one and one half inches apart. Two weeks later, all three had been removed. Two of the piercings had swelled over the beads of the bars, and one rejected. I began to lose faith in my idea. A few months later, another piercer I knew mentioned the possibility of using nylon as an alternative to steel, at least for use during the healing period. The thought behind this was that nylon wouldn't be rejected by the body as easily as steel is. With renewed spirits, I began hunting for a suitable substitute for the barbells.

After searching high and low for nylon thread or fish line of a decent gauge, we settled on using .095 inch(almost 10 ga.) weed-whacker wire, thinking it to be the best option. In June of 1997, Erik MacKinnon, with assistance from my apprentice, Julie Walls, performed four piercings, about an inch and one half apart, going from the nape of my neck to the top of my shoulder blades. They ranged in length from two and one quarter inches(at the nape) to one and one half inches long(at the top of the shoulder blades). Start to finish, the whole endeavor took almost two hours. After preparing the needles and nylon wire(autoclaved and then soaked in the hard surface disinfectant METRICIDE), Erik shaved the piercing area and cleaned the skin with Betadine. He then meticulously marked the entrance and exit points(made all the more difficult by my compressed scoleosis), and had me lay down face first in the chair. Julie drew the skin up in her hands, serving as the "clamp" while Erik ran the needle through. the pain level was equivalent to that of a standard surface pierce -- feel the needle go in, feel the needle go out. The nylon had been cut into six inch pieces, and, after insertion, the ends were melted and formed into "beads". After the piercings had been completed, I was exhilerated. Erik and I were high off of the event for the next few hours. And then, my back began to swell.

For almost two weeks, I questioned the intelligence of what we had done. My upper back was so sore that a wind gust would cause me great pain. Any sort of pressure on the area was excruciating. But, the swelling did eventually disipate, and the only negative effect was an annoying itch around the entrance and exit wounds. One month went by -- no real pain, no rejection whatsoever. I was ecstatic. I was also ready for the next four.

There really wasn't much difference between my first two sets of piercings, as far as procedure goes. An audience had developed the second time around, but that didn't bother me. The piercings themselves were what mattered to me, and if people were genuinely curious, more power to them. The second set of four were about one and one quarter inches in length, and were positioned directly between my shoulder blades. At this point, I began soaking daily in a bathtub full of hot water, with one cup of Epsom salts added. This seemed to help a great deal with the swelling, as well as drawing out any excess discharge and relieving the itching sensation. Including this with my regiment of Bactine twice daily worked wonderfully.

Another month went by, and it came time to do another set of piercings. The first three were brutal, as they passed through the scars left from my very first attempt. After these three, Erik convinced me that I was Superman and that we should finish the column then. I now see the error of our ways.

The following weeks were utter hell. I swelled twice as badly as I had before, and the scars had filled almost immediately with infection. The other piercings were beginning to react negatively, as well -- starting to swell and discharge excessively. I was miserable. My whole back hurt unbearably, and I was considering bailing out on the whole idea. Still, I perservered and eventually got through the inital healing.

Since that time, I have encountered several problems. The four piercings in between my shoulder blades have rejected due to constant stress and pressure from movement. The piercings through the scar tissue, as well as the one directly above them, have frequently developed keloids around the entrance and exit holes. (Although I have no idea why only these four have that problem) And the bottom two piercings, at my beltline, flare up often. Nonetheless, of the fifteen that Erik performed, eleven have stuck, with no migration at all.

I am now at the point where I feel insertion of steel jewelry is a necessity. Due to the porous composition of nylon, as well as the fact that the excess length frequently results in unnecessary pulling and rubbing, I doubt they'll ever heal completely using the wire. With any luck, the piercings are healed well enough to accept stainless steel. As for the four that have rejected, we're tinkering with the idea of either vertical piercings with nylon, or possibly starting off with stainless steel jewelry. One way or another, I will finish what I've started. I'm just stubborn that way.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 Feb. 1998
in Surface & Unusual Piercing

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