the Bastard of Istanbul. . . is on my leg

Furuncle

A “furuncle” is more common than a “carbuncle”—which besides being a completely compelling medical concern, is one of my favorite and oft-used words. What I thought was a common boil (furuncle) on my leg has now developed into a medical odyssey worthy of a description by Homer.
As I write this, sitting at a glass dining room table on a cold, gray, rainy Istanbul day, what used to be a carbuncle has been reduced to a bloody crater surrounded by some flaming and painful cysts.
About a month ago, as the price of gas began to fall back to earth, I looked at plane tickets and saw that I could buy one from D.C. to Istanbul for less than $600, so I jumped at the chance to escape from the memories of last year’s holidays which are lingering and bittersweet. My former roommate here is amazingly hospitable and while I stay with her we will hatch plans for buying a place here and building a project together. But that is another story . . .
As the holidays began around Thanksgiving, I noticed this itchy bump on my leg that looked like a spider bite. A couple days later it was shiny, red, and engorged and shot flames up and down my leg. It took a couple more days after that to get to the doctor and when I went, they couldn’t help me. In the meantime all types of well-meaning friends counseled me to soak it with hot compresses, cut it open with a razor blade, and other nausea-inducing cures. But I waited another 3 days and then my friend, told me that she had an appointment with a dermatologist in Soho the next week and they had lots of appointments available and I should go.
Hmmm . . . never go to a ‘doctor’ just because they are not booked. There is usually a reason they aren’t. On the evening of the first big snow of the year in New York I went to see him. The flakes were heavy and wet and my cyst throbbed on my leg as I walked to what turned out to be an entirely euro cosmetic surgery ‘lounge’. Trance music played softly as botoxed and plastically modified patients lolled about on enormous white leather ottomans. I sat stiffly on the edge of one, trying to keep the pain to a minimum, and looked at the featured artist of the month. Because it was also an art gallery. Huh. After a pretty brief interval, a fine, black male nurse in Dolce and Gabbana glasses and scarlet red scrubs came and ushered me into an examination room—“The doctor will be with you in a minute.”
Turns out he just needed to be awakened from a late-afternoon nap. I aurally witnessed his wake-up call through the thin wall separating me from the next room. The exchange went something like this:
NURSE: “Come on, Man, wake up!”
DOCTOR: “AAAAAARrrrrrrrrrr errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”
NURSE: “Dude, you have a patient in room 3—get uuup! (sounds of a bodily struggle)
DOCTOR: groaning and whiny baby noises followed by the sound of crinkling paper.
Five minutes later, a big-nosed Pee Wee Herman crossed with a mad scientist character entered the room. His hair was soaked and swirled in a tornado up and over his head and there were splatters of water on his shirt. And white powder on his nose. I’m not saying that doctors can’t take naps—because they should—but I wish that maybe this guy was more attentive when dealing with my legitimate medical need. As it was, he just looked at it, said there was no pus in it and then shot it up with cortisone. It worked over night to bring the swelling down, but at the same time suppressed my immune system (which cortisone does) enough to allow the staph infection that had caused the bump in the first place to RUN RAMPANT—and thus, in the end, necessitating the taking of large quantities of antibiotics for the next couple weeks. It has also formed a huge, scary hole in my leg which gives me shudders every time I think about it.
My family thought that I should cancel my trip, but I assured them that there are doctors and hospitals here. And there are good ones, but now I’m not so sure about things being as streamlined as in other countries. Mostly I am again living in “Turkish Time” as I deal with getting my lost baggage delivered to me after 2 days and just hoping for a miracle. 2008 was a harsh year for me emotionally, and it seems like someone wants to slip in a little more misfortune before the year ends. I’ll try to hold it together for the next three days until 2009! Mutlu Yillar!

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