How I ended up in an emergency room
I exaggerated a little about the "emergency room," but I was in a hospital nonetheless. We just didn't want to deal with paying for a big expensive ambulance or anything.
Basically here is what happened. This was my first ever piercing on anywhere on my body other than my ears. I'm still only sixteen, and in Illinois I need parent's permission to get anything done. So, being a stupid impatient kid, I decided to go get pierced by a friend of a friend. This "piercer" basically ran a sort of business out back in his and his mother's hair salon, and from what I heard, he frequently pierced minors whenever he could for the money. I needed something discreet, but I didn't want an oral or navel piercing at the time. So I decided to get my hand web pierced--I wear long sleeved shirts and hooded sweatshirts, so I figured it would be easy to hide. Which it was, anyway.
First off, I want to discourage anyone as dumb as I was who might be reading, to get a piercing based on something like that. If you get a piercing, you should put thought into it and read about it or at least ask around to know what you'd be dealing with. It should be something you really want, not something you get just because it's easier to hide. Also, a piercing should be done by someone that knows what (s)he is doing.
The guy that did my hand web piercing was someone that started piercing to make some extra bucks here and there. Yes, he had a license, but I don't know how he could have had one, seeing as how he gave me some of the worst advice ever.
But getting back to the piercing itself. He sat me down in a chair in the cramped room that he called his piercing studio. He had something like a shelf on wheels next to the chair, with drawers full of open, obviously unsterilized jewelry and tools. I don't recall him sterilizing my hand at all, and the placement was awful. I'm pretty desensitized to pain in general, but he did something strange and it was pretty painful. When he stuck the needle in, he basically stabbed my hand in a swift motion, but it was only halfway through and he put it in crooked. So he tilted it and poked it through the other side. Just the process of getting the needle through seemed to take more than fifteen minutes, and even he seemed a bit flustered and confused. But getting on with it...
He took a captive bead ring from his big drawer full of them, and dropped it into a cup of hydrogen peroxide (is this even the correct chemical to use for sterilizing jewelry??). He immediately pulled it back out and opened the ring using just his gloved hands, and the bead fell onto the ground. Without bothering to sterilize the ball, he pushed the needle out using the ring. This was the most painful part of the entire session. The needle was a standard straight hollow needle, and he pierced my hand while it was (as he instructed) completely flexed, stretching the skin tight. Pushing the ring through felt like he was forcing a ball through a square hole.
I'm not sure if maybe this is the standard way of doing this piercing, but it was horrid. What's worse is that without sterilizing the ball, he just put it onto the ring. And he didn't even do that right! Repeatedly, while trying to fasten the ball onto the ring, he dropped it again and again. He seemed to be struggling with his "ring-closing pliers" which were just a pair of regular needle nose pliers, with no fitted grooves for easy clamping. After he was finally done, he told me, no lies, to clean my piercing regularly with hydrogen peroxide. To this day I wonder if he was joking or not, but the people I knew that got pierced by him actually did this! At the moment I didn't know better, but I do now, thank goodness.
During the healing period for this awful, ugly piercing, I stopped using hydrogen peroxide because it was irritating my skin (I'm still reeling from my own naivety!). I started washing with soap, though not antibacterial...and fiddled with it a bunch, because the placement itself just bothered me. The ring basically hung from my hand by what looked like just a millimeter of skin. It didn't reject, but basically I woke up one day and it had swollen up and reddened, a visible bump under my skin as big as a grape or a cranberry. So, being inexperienced and foolish, I removed the ring thinking that it would help drain the pus. There had also been a yellowish...well, as unappetizing as it may be, booger-like goo oozing from the holes for a couple days. I was terribly wrong, and when I removed the ring my hand just swelled up like a balloon!
I showed my mother, who hadn't even seen it until then (imagine her surprise and disgust!) and we took a rushed trip to the 24-hour free clinic. At the clinic, after waiting in a queue with pus and yellowy mucus dripping from my swollen hand, I saw a doctor. She was even more inexperienced as I was when it came to piercings, so she downright couldn't believe it when I told her that it was an infected hand piercing (she didn't even know hand piercings existed, like most people). She examined it for a while, then decided that she had to drain the abscess.
So it went like this. She first stabbed a big ol' hypodermic needle into the original piercing hole, and shot my hand full of a local anesthetic. That was incredibly painful, and I actually screamed a little. My hand was basically on fire at this point, until the anesthetic got to working. She then took a scalpel and cut an inch-long cut into my hand web, and after what looked like half a pint of blood and pus poured out into the medical basin, she took a "culture sample" by poking and prodding around inside my hand with a Q-tip. A nurse bagged this as she kept the wound open to drain all the fluids.
Unfortunately, the anesthesia was beginning to wear off, and I could now feel all of this going on. I thought I would puke from disgust and pain. Eventually, after most of the fluid drained, she packed the incision full of bandages to keep the fluids from forming another abscess. I went home, and that night when I washed my hands like she told me to, the packing bandages fell out of me and I gagged in disgust...it was so repulsive. For the next week I was completely bombed out on Vicodin, because believe it or not, it hurts a hell of a lot more for an inch-long incision in your hand to heal than a regular old piercing. It's healed since then, but I still have this sad little hole in the tough skin, and I shudder whenever I see it.
Don't do what I did! Make sure you seek out a good piercer with a trustworthy portfolio, and do your research when it comes to taking care of your piercings!
submitted by: sungyim
on: 23 Jan. 2007
in Surface & Unusual Piercing