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West Nile Virus and a Huge Brand

I've started this whole process of collecting places as work on my body. I had been living in New Mexico for nearly seven months, and had already decided that I would get the zia (for those that don't know, it's that red sun symbol on our state flag, and is representative of the four seasons, four cardinal directions, etc.), but I didn't know where or how. I was thinking about some kind of tattoo for awhile, but decided that a brand would look better. I'd seen some other folks with zia tattoos/scars, but they were all little and simple. I wanted to go bigger.

Eventually I came up with the plan to put it on one of my calves, with the tines of it both wrapping around my leg as well as going from my knee to my ankle. So now the design was all fleshed out, I just had no idea where to get it done. Having only lived here for a short amount of time, I didn't really know that many folks with work here, particularly brand work, and from what I'd heard there weren't any good artists around anyways (that was totally wrong, by the way). I eventually met a girl who had some substantial brand work done, and she recommended me to Noah at Evolution on Central Ave. I went with her to meet the folks down at Evo one night, and went in a couple of days later to talk to Noah about my idea. He seemed pretty stoked about it, and said that it would be a good project for him because people typically don't want quite that much surface area burned. We set the date for a week later after closing, and I went on my merry way.

A week later rolled around, and I went through the torturous process of shaving my legs. I figured if I had to do one, I might as well do the other so they matched. What a fucking nightmare. Ladies, I don't know how you do it, or why even, but trust me it's cool with me if you don't. After nearly a half hour of cutting myself to ribbons I was ready to go. That night IAM:Jexxica and I went down to Evo, and as Noah locked the doors we threw on some old school AFI and went to work.

I'm not too sure how many strikes there were, or how long it took. I was more focused on keeping my leg from shaking while Noah was working so that he would be able to get all the lines straight. When all was said and done (about thirty five minutes later, I'm told), I was feeling high as a kite from the endorphin rush. I paid Noah and tipped him pretty well, and we were on our way home.

The first couple of days were great, because I couldn't feel a damn thing. That was about to change. That Friday I flew back to PA to be with my folks over Christmas, and the flight home was the first sign of just how brutal healing was going to be. It hurt, but not too bad. By that Monday, it was starting to scab up a decent amount and was getting pretty sore. It only got worse from there. As the scabs built, they constricted the skin all around the brand, making every step very painful and giving me a bit of a limp. Eventually I would have to stretch enough to get the scabs to crack so that my muscles had enough room to move.

By the start of the third week, I had managed to survive the brutal cold of a Pennsylvania winter and made it back to Albuquerque, albeit in a good deal of pain and with a much more noticeable limp. The scabs were now very thick and solid, and leaked an interesting sticky thick orange fluid after I took a shower. I managed to keep it pretty clean, washing it once daily with liquid antibacterial soap in the shower, and patting it dry with gauze. This routine would keep up for nearly six weeks when it finally stopped leaking plasma and miscellaneous other fluids.

At the start of the fourth week, I was getting sick. We were in Phoenix just after New Years, and I had no idea what I was coming down with, except that it was making me delirious and making my leg ache. Unbeknownst to me for another week or so, I was coming down with West Nile Virus, which I had gotten back in the summer and incubated until this time. Lucky for me the brand continued to heal up nicely, and the scabs were slowly turning white and peeling off a little bit at a time.

As the West Nile progressed and started to really take its toll on me, I knew I would have to be exceedingly careful to keep my leg from getting infected. At this time I started getting strange little infection boils in all sorts of strange places, so my concern was to keep anything like that from getting near the brand. I stepped up the cleaning, and was washing it twice daily as well as taking antibiotics. The sickness continued until the middle of February, which means I was sick for nearly a month and a half. I had managed to keep the brand clear of any infection, and I think taking the antibiotics helped it heal a bit faster.

By the time all of the scabs were gone, all of the lines were straight and even, and the overall look was fantastic. It's been four months now, and it's starting to slowly lighten up, and isn't spreading out that much. The hair there is also growing back, which I hadn't expected since the follicles were scorched pretty extensively. I'm very pleased with it, and would recommend Noah to anyone in the Southwest thinking about getting a brand. And use bug spray, because West Nile Virus is horrible!


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 21 April 2005
in Scarification

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Artist: Noah+Babcock
Studio: Evolution
Location: ABQ%2C+NM

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