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Diabetic Navel Piercing

I got this piercing about 6 months ago, after researching for about a year on BME. During that time, I found very few experiences that included a diabetic piercee. I've been a diabetic for 10 years, and I try to be super-careful with the boundaries of the disease – that should explain the year researching.

I spoke to my doctor about the piercing, and at first she was confused as to why I would do such a thing (This didn't fit her schema of a premed student. In fact her words were, "That's for more artsy people"). But as she explained, a navel piercing would not affect the injection sites of insulin (either side of the naval) because they were so far away. (As a side note, I looked online to see if this was true, and the only thing I found was an Australian site that categorized piercing under a "dangerous business" tab. I wasn't happy with the message it sent – a sort of righteous, leave your body as it came vibe – it didn't help at all). Also, for the future, a navel piercing would possibly disrupt a laparoscopy procedure. There's 2 ways to do a laparoscopy: either through your navel or through an incision. Your navel is basically a seal that is created when you leave your mother. It's sealed with, as the doc put it, "a dust-like material", but I think it looks more like smegma or skin cells. Anyway, once you break this seal, it can never really be the same, so laparoscopies are better done by incision, regardless of mods. She mentioned I'd have to take it out if I get pregnant, but I told her they sell flexible bars and it wouldn't be a problem. My health was in good enough condition, and I had a green light.

I started cleaning up my diet, eating more fruits and vegetables to give myself a supply of nutrients to burn when I got the piercing. I searched Queens for a piercing studio, seeing as I didn't really trust those in the Village (if I tried to get a reference from my friends, it was just a general area I was given, not a specific studio, and it was based on corrected DIY jobs). I found Studio 316L, and I called numerous times, asking about procedure and what kind of soap they sold, what gauge they pierced at, etc. I scouted my neighborhood for cleaning supplies, hard vented eye patches, Ace bandages (in case I had to protect it during the gym) and I asked for saline at my job. My mom wanted to be with me during the piercing, so I waited till she got back from her trip. The problem here was I wanted to be pierced well before school (and stress) started again, and I had my period (which I retain water weight and I didn't want that to mess up the alignment).

So I had to wait another week, and then I went. I spoke to Jose on the phone every time I called – I even called to make sure he was there before me and my mom got on the train. When I found the studio, it was smaller then I imagined, but clean and well lit. The staff recognized my voice, and had me fill out paperwork and took a copy of my ID. I spoke to Jose and picked out the jewelry: a white gold 14g double CZ curved barbell. Jose suggested that I use a medical plastic barbell, but with all the stories I read, almost all of them said not to pierce with a retainer. So I stayed with the gold. He led me to the back, and sterilized the jewelry and opened a disposable needle, which he showed me. I lay down on the chair, and he marked me while I quizzed him on technique (not too deep and piercing up towards my face). He answered everything perfectly and marked me. I stood up, moved around, and the marks didn't move much (a test to see how much the skin would move if I stretched at the gym). I sat back down and he told me to breathe. This is when I didn't see clamps – and I asked, to which he smiled and said, "We don't use clamps here." That freaked me out, and he told me to relax and breathe. I realized this was a free hand piercing and relaxed slightly and breathed.

When the needle went through, it really didn't hurt. I felt it, but I didn't feel pain. This may sound strange, but I felt a needle. I've been taking injections of insulin my whole life, so I've been through bad ones and good ones. The bad ones feel like the needle is fire and I can't wait to get it out of my skin, and the good ones just feel like pressure. I have a theory that the bad ones have hit a nerve, but don't hold me to it. This was definitely a good feeling. He put the jewelry in and I bleed a little, which I quizzed him about again – it means my circulation to the area is good and it should have a better time healing. I was still iffy about catching it on things, seeing as I had a bulky Northface jacket with a belt, so I made him tape gauze over it.

I bought soap, saline spray, and another bar (oh, side note: a good thing is that this place gives you a free piece of jewelry with every piercing: so I had 3 bars in total). The deal with my mom was I'd pay of the piercing and materials, she would pay the tip. So the total for me was something like $114, and I think my mom tipped $20. I didn't care about the price, because it was a clean environment and friendly service – I believe they earned that money.

After I went home, I didn't want to bend or even sit – I could feel the bar in my skin. I spend a good deal of time thinking I was rejecting, but I think I was just not used to having a bar in my skin. When I slept for the first week, keeping some pressure on it, like my hand, helped. It bruised a little, but with the minor bleeding of the piercing, I wasn't too concerned. Then I started getting little red things at the holes –not keloids, not particularly scars, but a red discoloration. I asked everyone I could – EMTs I knew, other premeds, I pulled out my trauma books – I couldn't find anything that matched it – not even on BME. Then one day I wore a white gold ring, and my finger broke out. Aha. Metal allergy! I switched to the plastic bar I bought, and it cleared up instantly (in retrospect, I should have listened to Jose – plastic is inert, meaning it won't want to combine with any other molecule to make it more stable. Metal, on the other hand, is always an alloy – this makes it stronger than the compound it self, for example, gold is really soft by itself. Metal has molecules that do not have a complete valence electron shell and will react with some materials to gain a complete shell. This is why you see metal rust, while plastic stays the same). Plus, the plastic is slightly flexible, which made things easier.

In all, this is the best behaved piercing I have. You have to clean it frequently, but mine let me know when it was time by itching slightly (never scratch!!!! You will introduce bacteria) or feeling "tight". Cleaning, I think drained debris and possible pathogens. Also, the free bar I got was steel with acrylic ends – useless I thought, but I've heard piercing can close in a very short time, so I used this bar to keep the hole open when changing the jewelry. Also, when changing the jewelry, it helps to smear the new bar with Vaseline or something to help it get through, then washing it out. As it stands at 6 months, I've had no infection (irritation, yes) no migration and certainly no rejection.

In closing, let me again praise the quality of Studio 316L, not only from this experience, but when I went back a few weeks ago to pick up more soap, the receptionist remembered me – seriously, everything I did – calling, what jewelry, who pierced me. She said she was worried when I didn't come back in such a long time! I hope anyone who reads this comes away with a new perspective on piercing prep/aftercare, and if there is anything I can help you with from a medical stand point, please email me.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 22 Aug. 2007
in Navel Piercing

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Artist: Jose
Studio: 316L
Location: 84th+and+Roosevelt%2C+Queens+NY

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