About two months ago I got a splinter in my index finger. Not a big deal. It’s not the first splinter I have had. I tried to get it out with a tweezers and a pin but it would not co-operate. It stayed stubbornly lodged under the skin.
No problem. What tends to happen in a case like this is that the area around the splinter will become infected and the splinter will eventually be forced out by the infected pus. Not pretty, not really something to think about over breakfast, but quite effective nonetheless.
So I waited … and waited. And nothing happened. I could still see the splinter under the skin, it didn’t hurt, but it also didn’t show any sign of moving.
One of the other VSO volunteers in Rumbek at the time was a very experienced doctor, who has now, sadly for us, returned to New Zealand. After about a month I decided to take my stubborn splinter to see him.
He could see the splinter sitting in a little sack of liquid just under the skin. “Ah”, says he, ”Are you taking Doxycycline against malaria?” “Yes.” Says ! “Well,” says he “That explains it. You’ve got sterile pus.”
Of all the ailments I worried about getting when we were planning to come to South Sudan, (malaria, bilharzia, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis), I have to say that ‘sterile pus’ was pretty low down on the list.
“So what can you do, Doctor?” says I. “Well,” says he. “We could cut it out … (I don’t know what part he thought I would play in the cutting process, apart from fainting), … but if we do that, we risk introducing infection. My suggestion is to ignore it and let nature take its course. Mother Nature often has ways of dealing with this sort of thing.”
Huh! What kind of miracle cure is that, I thought to myself. Ten years medical training, forty years of experience as a qualified doctor all over the world and he refers me to Mother Nature!
I was thinking of asking for my money back, but then I remembered that I hadn’t paid anything, so I decided to say nothing. He did say that if it hadn’t cleared up in twenty or thirty years I should go back and see him.
And so, here I sit, typing this blog, with a finger full of sterile pus. It still doesn’t hurt. In fact I have to look carefully to see if it is still there at all. Maybe Mother Nature has been at work in her mysterious way.