I love that scene in ‘Jaws’ where the three guys sit on the boat and compare their scars. You can learn a little, I think, by hearing about people’s scars and how they came to have them.
Let me tell you about three of my own scars – in chronological order - and how I got them.
Eye: I have a 7mm scar just to the left of my left eye. I was fly fishing with my brother in a boat on the Garavogue River, one May evening around 1978. We used to cast dry flies pretty sweetly, my brothers and I, in those days. The trick was to sit on the still river among the bobbing 'spent mayflies' and wait for the surface to be broken by a trout sucking one down. Then you had to quickly drop your fly right on that spot and hope that the trout would take yours too. If he did, you would then ‘strike’ the hook into his mouth and hopefully play him into the boat.
It was getting late in the evening and we were thinking of heading home when my brother spotted a nice disturbance in the water out in front. He stood up and back-casted the length of line which he already had spun off the reel. Unfortunately the huge black spent mayfly ,which he was fishing with, snagged me less than half an inch from my left eye. “Don’t Strike,” I shouted to him but he had already started the forward motion of his cast, effectively striking the hook into me instead of the fish.
The hook was embedded and wasn’t coming out. We boated down the river and all the people on the bank asked us if we had caught anything. I kept my hand over my eye to hide the bushy alien impaled there and lied that we hadn’t. We pulled the boat up onto the far shore and struggled up the two fields to the hospital in our waders.
It is easy to remove a hook. You push the barb through and snip it off and then the shaft just slips out. I explained this to the doctor but either he didn’t want to hear it or (as he said) he was intent on returning my lovely Spent Mayfly to me intact. He took a scalpel and, slowly and painstakingly, he cut it out. It was more dark-red than black when he was done but I got it back plus a couple of stitches into the bargain.
Wrist: I have a small but deep scar on the back of my right wrist and various smaller scars all around that wrist. This was 1981, I think. I got a call one Sunday morning to go with my friend (who reads this stuff – Hey ‘S’) to Rosses Point to push a caravan up to a place where it could be hooked to a car and towed away. I got on the back of the caravan with his uncle and we both pushed. Sadly - for me mostly - we pushed on the caravan window. Not smart, I now know. The glass smashed and both of our arms fell through, my right and his left. He was older and wiser then me, I guess, because he left his arm in through the broken pane and took his own sweet time easing it back out. I didn’t. I instinctively pulled back and, in the process, impaled my right wrist on a long sharp shard of window-glass that was left sticking down.
Such was the extent of this little impalement that I could not remove my wrist from the glass on my own. Somebody had to take my wrist and pull it off the glass. I got some smaller cuts on the underside of my wrist from that manoeuvre.
We wrapped me up and took me to the hospital. When I was unwrapped the back side of my wrist had swollen up alarmingly like an angry black blister. The attending-person asked whether I could move my wrist. I did, up and down once, and the ‘blister’ erupted, spraying globs of dark blood on everyone in the vicinity.
Thigh: On my left thigh, I have a large and amazingly deep ‘dimple’ in the muscle. I got this while skiing in New Hampshire with my cousin, circa 1989. We drove up from Boston and I hadn’t been skiing for quite a few years. My cousin and his friend were regular and good skiers and I felt I had to keep up with them, as a matter of pride. High up the mountain, I skied over a little edge, flew a bit and fell, landing on my left thigh. Unfortunately I found what was possibly the only sizeable rock on the whole piste and I found it hard. This hurt like absolute buggery and I lay there in the snow wondering what to do next. I was on my own, the cousin-and-friend were probably already in the bar at the bottom.
I has ‘Salopettes’ on, so I couldn’t easily inspect the damage but the leg was swelling and tightening alarmingly and I wanted to get down the mountain as quick as possible. I had a pewter hip flask full of Jack Daniels (as you do) so I drank it all down then I skied tentatively back to base.
This happened very close to Christmas and we soon travelled on to Boulder, Colorado to spend the holiday with some other relatives who lived there. A number of these relatives were doctors. Most memorable about this scar is the level of indifference paid to it by these doctor friends/family of mine. My leg, at this stage was an utterly atrocious sight – not cut, nothing broken, but whatever bleeding had occurred on my thigh seemed to have run down under the skin and pool in my foot which was black and horrible – as was the rest of the leg.
“It’ll be fine,” the docs all shrugged as they inspected it, “Don’t worry.”
I didn’t, and it was, so I guess they were right. Twenty years later, it’s still an impressively deep scar though.
I have others – don’t we all? But that’s three for you to be going along with.
One other thing worth mentioning about these scars is that they all happened quite a long time ago (although it only feels like last year). The scars are all faded now and not at all prominent. If you were looking at me, you would hardly see them
It’s the memories that still itch sometimes.
If you have a scar story, and want to leave it in the comments – or, indeed, do a post on your own blog, I’ll pick my own favourite and post you a book of my shelf, just for fun. I’ll give you a choice of three… God knows what they’ll be.
Thanks for reading.
Does it count if it doesn't really show?
When my older sister and I were in school, she would drive us there in the mornings. Her car was in the shop this particular day, so we caught a ride with one of our friends. It was rainy and downright nasty weather, and (you see where this is going) traffic was a mess approaching the school. Our friend at the wheel didn't see the line of stopped cars until he crested a hill, and he was unable to stop. He hit the car in front of us, there was the inevitable chain reaction and I think about five cars were involved.
I still remember the song that was on the radio - it was The Monkees. My bookbag was on the floor of the car in front of me, and when our car collided with the one in front of us, it flew up and smacked me in the chin. Thereby crunching my teeth together through my tongue which was between them at the time. I began to spit out mouthfuls of blood.
We all managed to crawl out of the car, our dear friend took one look at me and ran to the bushes and vomited. I really had no pain at this point because of the adrenaline and shock, and I tried to turn down the ambulance ride to the hospital. The paramedics didn't buy it, and one of them (screw you dude, wherever you are) thought it was clever to ask me repeatedly "Cat got your tongue?" as I sat there stuffing my mouth with gauze. Shortly after that the pain finally showed up, and it was disgusting.
I ended up with stitches in my tongue, the last two put in with no working anesthetic. Thus began the quietest week of my life. The ER Doc didn't do a great job of sewing me up, so for a while I had random jagged pieces of tongue sticking out here and there. After a surgery and another week of being quiet it's mostly fixed, but I have a lisp that sneaks out from time to time as a result. I can tell where the damage was if I look in the mirror, but I doubt anyone else could.
On the plus side, after I bit my tongue in half my pain tolerance went through the roof. No other pain I've ever had even remotely compares.
"Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh."- Leonard Cohen
I only have two scars, one hidden by an eyebrow – I was hit by a rock as a kid – the other self-inflicted in my sleep. In my early teens I woke one night to discover a cut on the back of my left wrist. I can only assume I dug a fingernail in during the night but – amazingly – it never woke me and I have a scar about an inch long and no real clue how.
I love this post. Your writing is wonderful and your blogs always inspire me. I have so much to say on the matter (and oh so many scars) that I'm going to blog it.
However, I should point out that the CORRECT way to remove an embedded fish hook (a common A&E problem) is to tie a nylon suture thread to the hook, drag the patient around the waiting room for 5 minutes or so, then submerge them in a tub of water, before hitting them over the head with a Priest. Then you can just tear the hook out. Painless.
I have a scar on my chest just below my neck that I have had from infancy. My mother accidently spilled scalding hot coffee on me. I also have a scar on my left pinkie, self-inflicted, as a result of using a dull knife to slice a tomato; I somehow managed to cut the tip of my finger.
We won't discuss the Caeserean scars.
Bonnie: That sounds awful!! (Exactly what I was looking for) :)
Thanks for telling it, and for telling it so very well.
Jim: Thanks. That's the worst scar story ever. Which, of course, makes it wonderful. :)
LuceKD: I had *such* a good laugh at this. Really. Thanks. :)
Julirose: Oh we should discuss Cesarean scars. I was born that was myself and feel a great affinity with the subject.
Firstly, LuceKD (above) cracked me up.
I have a significant scar. When I was seven years old, I was on the way home from school and I was chased across the road by a bigger lad. I thought I could make it but I was hit by a car.
A significant time later, I woke up. Without a spleen and with a large, ragged scar across my stomach. It had been emergency surgery to save my life.
It's made a mess of my stomach -36 stitches will do that - but I'm grateful even now for the skill and help from those medical staff.
But I have a comedy scar. A 'serves you right' scar. When I was a young tearaway (I'm an older one now) some of us decided we should go to the richer part of town and slash some car tyres so we could show those snobs we meant business.
A Swiss Army knife, in the hands of a 13-year-old boy, against a metal-walled Mercedes-Benz tyre. The German car won. The Germans always beat the English.
And I've got a visible scar on my left index finger - as proof that class warriors need to be a bit smarter than that.
Currently the only scars I'm sporting are on the soft inner sides of my two elbows; one a tiny neat pin-prick from a recent round of blood tests and the second a rather more intrusive purplish welt from a few hours spent hooked up to an IV on Saturday.
Thankfully, I'm fine -- besides which, I don't think any pain could compete with BonnieCelt's jagged tongue stitches. One of my ultimate fears. *shudder*
I have a lot of scars, but the most entertaining was from the day I almost cut the tip of my finger off while making brownies.
I was in college and friends and I had gathered in the dorm TV lounge to watch our favorite show. I volunteered to make the brownies. Instead of using scissors to open the bag, I chose a large knife. For reasons unknown, I also chose to use my right hand when I am left handed. I sliced through the bag and left a large gouge in my finger.
Here's where it gets interesting. Most people would head to the doctor right then for stitches, but our favorite show was on and there was chocolate involved. We baked and enjoyed the brownies. I sat with my arm elevated and applied pressure to my bleeding finger. When the show was over, my friends walked me the three blocks to the health center. There a very mean nurse washed the wound and a doctor treated me. No stitches, just a butterfly bandage. To this day, I can't feel the tip of my finger. Ah the memories.
Simon: Ow ow ow, the big one sounds... big. And the little one, why you feckin' little delinquent, you... serves you bloody right. :)
Sally: Gosh, I hope you're all right and that you never have any other scars. :)
Reese: I would have waited for a brownie too, I mean, we've got Loads of fingertips, right? :) Thanks for sharing.
And @Twistedlilkitty has just blogged quite magnificently on the subject here:
'Scar Tissue Now With Balsam'
I have been pretty accident free and don't have many scars but here's my two cents .. because you asked nicely!
The earliest scar I have on my right knee in shape of stone chippings. I was around 7 when I incurred said scar. It was a late summer/autumn evening-glorious sunshine but a bit nippy! The whole family had gone for a walk to our local beach only 2minutes from our house. On the way home Dad had to check something in one of the twenty odd holiday homes he was caretaker of. We lived on site. He hopped in car and I followed suit on my little pink bike. I couldn't catch up and skidded on the chippings and one lodged in my knee! Dad saw me in mirror and back tracked. He carried me home and sat me on edge of our yellow bath and I screamed as I saw hole in my leg and as he pressed a flannel face cloth against it. Its still as visible on my knee.
Further down the same leg I have a 2 inch scar where I got my first and only stitches in July 1999. I was 15. I had just returned from a solo trip to family in Massachusetts. I had just gotten a babysitting job daily from 2-6pm. At noon I decided to head to beech for a pre baby sitting swim! I cycled down path to beach on my Raleigh Coco bike-which had sharp spokes poking out of mudguards. Dad promised weekly to cut these spokes since I got bike for my 12th birthday. As I cycled down ramp to beech I picked up speed. Deciding not to break my neck I tried to stop bike with my leg. I was wearing shorts-probably last time I wore shorts! Mid calf I feel a stabbing sensation .. not too painful. I look down to see a 2 inch and very wide rip in middle of my calf. I had to get 8 stitches, 4 of which burst, hence the hideous scar! On way to be stitched I am moaning about the scar-Mom says "Sure ya don't have great legs anyways". Sympathy at its best! By time I get home the spokes have been cut off!
Speaking fo my mothers sypmathy, one Christmas I am haging 80's style chains from ceiling using an antique stool. As I climb up a rung gives way and nail rips through my thigh! I land stomach down on the stool winding myself. My mother is standing crossed legged as she nearly pees from laughing! This scar is on my left thigh-but its ok beacuse I "don't have great legs anyways".
Probably my most sensitive and at times embarrassing scars and ones no one rarely sees are on my breasts. I have suffered with Psoriasis all my life and among other areas the skin on my breasts is affected and is so delicate it has scarred over the years! Probably most noticable to me and as I have grown up I have learned to accept them!
My scars aren't very exciting but they exclusivly mine and proof of life! Many more to come I am sure, all with their own little tale to be told!
Amy: Thanks for your valuable comment. One of my other scars - which is worth a future post all of its own - is how my acne-ridden teens left a time bomb of scarring on my face. It all seemed to pass without trouble until I put on a few middle-aged pounds and there they all were. :) Sometimes they're hardly noticeable, sometimes it's Bill Murray standard and sometimes it's James Edward Olmos. Ah well...
OMG, I'll have nightmares of fishhooks and skiing accidents now.
I have scars, but none are exciting; some from surgery and the rest from stupidity. LOL
Thanks for the invitation to mull over my scars, Ken.
I have scars but they are invisible. They exist beneath the line of my skin, etched into my mind. These scars drive me to blog.
Twenty years ago when I was still young, I stood under the shower one morning and found a pea-sized lump in my left breast. I had soaped myself down as usual and with my right hand I pressed the skin against my rib cage to feel the texture of my otherwise smooth breast. I was in search of imperfections.
A friend had not long ago been diagnosed with breast cancer and I was more diligent in my search than usual. Only that night I had dreamed of my friend’s gaping breast cut open by a surgeon’s knife. I took it as an omen.
‘It’s probably nothing, but it feels a bit fibrous.’ The doctor did not want to alarm me. ‘Best to get it looked at.’
It took a few anxious days before my next appointment.
‘This won’t hurt a bit,’ the specialist said, ‘ just like a mosquito bite’. He pushed a long silver needle into my breast above the lump.
A mosquito bite? Clearly no mosquito had ever bitten this surgeon before otherwise he would have known not to lie to me. On a scale of one to ten – toothache being one, childbirth ten – I rate this pain from my memory today, at seven. But it was gone in a flash. The surgeon peeled off a pink bandaid to cover the drip of blood from the pinprick hole he left behind.
The results came back negative but still, ‘to be certain we should take that lump out,’ the surgeon said. ‘I might have missed the growth itself.’
The night before the day of the knife, I looked at my breasts in the mirror. I had a mixed relationship with them. They were the love of my babies’ lives but they stirred up unfathomable and ambivalent feelings in me. They were not however available for wounding.
I woke from the anesthetic without pain, still groggy from the drugs. The surgeon visited before my discharge.
‘All fine,’ he said and used an unrepeatable word, which when translated into layman’s terms means a benign fatty deposit. The white bandage held both breasts firm and hugged my ribcage. I was mummified.
‘Keep the bandage on for a week. Cover it with plastic in the shower. I’ll be able to take the stitches out then.’
In twenty years the scar has faded but it remains for me to see, a tiny junction on the left side of my left breast. ‘The first wound on a baby’s skin’, writes AS Byatt in her book, Still Life, ‘is the cruelest’. And so it was for me – this scar, this wound, this mark on my breast. But as they say, I should be grateful, it could have been worse.
Apart from being stitched up good and proper by Wilhelm, a German-Liverpudlian obstetrician, after my son had been sucked out of me with a hoover attachment, my main battle scar happened on the hockey pitch.
As if adolescence isn’t tortured enough I was forced to spend some of mine in a boy's boarding school. There were only 2 girls in the Senior School. Me and Sheila Bald Eagle Davidson. We were required to behave like boys in all matters. (Well, nearly all. But let’s not dwell on that)
This meant playing ALL sport; rugby, cricket, football and hockey. My Headmaster’s comment on my school report says it all: ‘Andrea's all smiles one minutes, all tears the next. Depending on whether she gets her own way. Sport is compulsory here. And if she lost some weight she might even make the Hockey First Eleven.’
As it happens I had a monumental crush on the Head Boy who just happened to be Captain of Hockey. (If that’s not an incentive to starve yourself what is?) So I got stuck in and became quite useful up the back. (No jokes. Please) During one memorable February blizzard we were being forced to endure Games practice. The snow was falling so hard it was impossible to see anything but my own sturdy blue veined thighs. There was no way we were going in. Death or fatal illness seemed the only way out.
Famous Last Words.
For then I saw him. The Head Boy. Running towards me. Out of the drift. Like some Big Handsome Snow God. I was transfixed. He lifted his stick. I must have swooned towards him involuntarily because his stick missed the ball and hit my face instead.
I don’t remember pain but the blood on the snow was spectacular. It’s a cliche but he could have put my eye out. I suppose was lucky he didn’t. (One benefit of fat puffy cheeks?) The surgeon was from Carlisle - he may even have had some German in him - but he put my broken face back together in a way that was miraculous. Matron later informed me helpfully that she'd thought my life was ruined when she saw the extent of the damage. (Body Facism was compulsory at that school)
Head Boy was eventually ordered to my bedside with flowers and a box of After Eights. I will never forgot the look on his face when he saw mine. After he’d gone I looked in the mirror for the first time. (Let’s just say a young John Hurt could have played me in the movie) The swelling was horrific. The stitches started at my brow bone and went right round my eye and onto my cheek. (Though I'm sure I could recreate the whole look again if I went in and had 'work' done.)
I was self conscious for a while but that soon went. And the scars gradually faded. So much so they're hardly visible now. Ironically, living through it among a group of boys was the best thing that happened to me. They looked at my face every day, made cracks and basically accepted it. I often wonder if that would have been the case with a bunch of girls?
I have a scar on each ankle from flying off my bike over a stretch of gravel to land in the ditch. I don't know what year it was, probably the 70's cause I would have been about 12, I think.
My brother and I had matching bikes, new that year. Mine was pink/ red and his was red. Both had those banana seats. They were one of the best things we ever got.
At this time we lived in Scarborough, on a deep ravine. All the land around was hilly. Our house was at the bottom of a very big, steep hill. My brother and I were coming down the hill with a neighbour kid on her bike too. One of them said "let's race".
I was always the careful one, being the oldest of four kids I think you just grow up that way, looking after other people, being responsible, etc. So, any time there was a race I lost. I never really tried to win cause I had to be careful, look after the younger sisters and so on.
But, something snapped that time and I was going to win. It may have been the defeat that week when everyone was standing on top of a hill of dirt at the construction of some new homes. It was a drop higher than any of us were tall. Each stood at the top and jumped off. Not me. I could not make myself do it. So that could have been part of the reason I snapped that day.
My brother and the friend began peddling down the hill, leaving me behind as I would just coast down only using my brake to stop going too fast. That day I began peddling. I peddled and peddled and peddled. I passed them. I was still somehow peddling even though the bike was going very fast by then and I could feel my feet struggling to stay on the peddles at all. Before I even got to the bottom of the hill I did lose control of the bike. I got the the bottom and somehow I then flew over the handlebars (those long ones we had in the 70's) I flew over the road, the gravel at the side of the road and I landed on our front lawn. Not far from the yellow fire hydrant and the big pine tree.
A neighbour teen aged boy that I had a secret crush on (of course, why spare me?) picked me up and brought me into the house so my Mom could have a look at my shredded feet and hands.
I never had scars anywhere except on the top-side of my ankles. That's my only interesting scar story.
My only other scar is barely visible. My sister's Rottweiler got happy or too excited when I brought out the food dish and her tooth snagged my hand, ripping a stretch of skin from my wrist to the top of my thumb. It bled a lot. But I was the only one home. This was when she lived in the Dominican Republic so I just took care of it myself. I worried if I should get stitches but it did finally stop bleeding.
Give the girls more credit. We had a girl at our school who came back from Christmas holidays with a scar from a ski pole that went through her face. Other than being curious none of us made her feel she was less than pretty. At that age, they are all pretty really so it wasn't a challenge. Her scar healed to become an extra dimple in her cheek. She already had dimples so it was an odd looking dimple with two of them almost connected. I still remember when she first came back to school. No one tells kids anything so we had known she was missing for some reason. She told us what happened herself.
Susan: You can hardly beat my window one for sheer stupidity. :)
Elisabeth: Thank you! "They were not however available for wounding." I love that line.
Gibbzer: Oh poor you! And he had After Eights, that was posh. :)
Laura: I feel I know your scars of old... how can that be??
... and you haven't got the 'full effect' until you've gone and read @luceKD's post about *her* scars. Click on the the Blog link:
'Scarred For Life'
Well, I've either been lucky or something of a wuss when it comes to physical peril. Despite doing things like breaking my knee skiing, I've avoided much surgery.
The only scar of note that's visible to the naked eye (and not the naked Gav), is behind my right ear and is the result of having a sebaceous cyst removed. The what isn't really the thing, though; it was the timing that mattered.
The cyst had been there for about six months, growing, then shrinking, then growing a bit more. "Nothing to worry about," said the doctor, "If it gets painful we can just take it out." Cool.
It got painful about three weeks before my wedding. And big. And red. And so I had a choice; try to get it taken out quickly and have either a giant plaster or scar for the wedding, or hope it went down. I choosed option b. Wrong choice.
My friends were very supportive and, on my stag do, christened the thing "Cyril the Cyst" and drew a little face on him in biro. In hindsight, that probably didn't help.
So, Cyril was there in every wedding photo when I'm facing left or someone thoughtfully caught me from the rear and he was there in all the shots of our honeymoon (and my stag do). But now he's gone and just the scar remains. He is not missed.
gnasher: you know I have to ask... at the wedding, did you dance to, 'it started with a cyst'? :)
I was wondering if this was one of your lost posts repeated. I am sure I wrote about those scars to you before as well.
No. It's a new one, I swear. :)
We must have discussed it under some other heading.
Only the scars of rejection. Ha! So poetic. I wish.
I can't get my hair cut short because there is a large ugly scar on my scalp from when I was playing under a big truck as a child, forgot, and stood up. Sliced it on the frame, I guess. Enough blood to make my mum scream. I milked it for all it was worth of course. Chocolate pie that night.
Your stories are better, though. :)
Relax Max: I'm the same! My head would be a map of scars and stitches. We'd best keep our hair on. :)
Okay, so that book I mentioned is going to BonnieCelt for the very first comment on this post. I think it evokes the wound - and the events surrounding it remarkably well.
Without wishing to sound mawkish, the superb quality of the comments I received in this post has meant more to me than you might imagine. Blogging has its up and downs and the fun and interaction I've had with this post has given me the motivation to keep hacking away with my weekly post. Thank you all very much... and mind yourselves, eh? :)
I was a paperboy a long time ago. My mother brags about how young I was when I started working. Every time she tells that story I get younger. In a few years, she'll have me handing a newspaper to the midwife as I enter the world.
My first scar, right between my nose and upper lip, occured during a front wheel malfunction on the bicycle I used to deliver newspapers.
I had rigged my bicycle with two plastic milk crates, metal clamps and a bottom support attached to my front wheel to carry all my newspapers.
I could take you there today, I remember the exact spot where I fell. It was at the point where five roads met. When four roads meet, everything is , usually, square. The fifth road made one piece of land pointy.
From the street, I approached the curb of the pointy piece of land as usual and attempted to jump my front wheel up over the curb so that I would be on the sidewalk and able to flip papers onto the stoops of houses. As I jerked my handbars upward, my front wheel came loose from the front fork and utter catastrophe struck. I know I got the scar from that event and that is where the memory ends.
My second scar, on the fat part of my left palm under the thumb, occured when a knife I was using to cut the plastic wrapper off of a roast pork, in the German delicatessen in which I was working, slid across the slippery meat and committed the grossest of intercourse with my poor defensless palm. The fact that my other hand was in charge of said knife is a sad commentary on my respect for the German butchers instruction and wisdom.
My third and last scar is actually two scars, six odd stitches, on my right pinkie and ring fingers. These scars occured during a battle stations drill in the missle compartment of the submarine on which I served. I was climbing up a ladder and I just missed grabbing at the upper rail and instead gabbed, just under the rail, a sharp piece of expanded metal; sheet steel with holes in it, and it sliced my fingers open like a razor blade. I remember seeing inside my fingers as the corpsman performed his initial examination. That is my first experience with wooziness. I actually asked permission to sit down! After I sat down, I agreed to anything. The corpsmans' striker/assistant did a good job with the stitches and by then I was ready to go..again.
God Bless you and yours,
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