Learning to Sew


Before you jump into wound repair, you really need somebody to practice on.

The human animal is such a curious beast. To learn to do something, we must practice it. They say it takes 10,000 iterations before we can get really good at something. I can only assume that firing nuclear missiles and running for president of the United States are exceptions. Regardless, the only way we currently know of to master a technical task is simply to do it a lot.

“The Matrix” offered a cool alternative. This truly groundbreaking 1999 science fiction opus posited that our reality is really little more than a digital simulation. In that world, if you wanted to master kung fu or learn to fly a helicopter, then some controller just stroked a button, and those skills were instantly uploaded into your consciousness. That’s a cool idea, to be sure, but imagine a world without PowerPoint presentations. Oh, the horror …

While house clearing, computer programming, plumbing and professional football are all dependent upon intensive, intentional practice, some more unsettling professions demand similar stuff. Principal among them is the practice of medicine. That can be discomfiting if you think about it.

I learned my craft in an inner-city emergency room. People are bad. If left to their own devices, they hurt each other with disheartening predictability. That simple fact kept us in training opportunities.

You assume that if you suffer a car wreck near the enormous level 1 trauma center, then the folks who will be working on you once you get to the ER will be the greatest medical minds in the region. Not so. Those great minds are at home asleep. The worker nugs who will be trying to piece you back together are medical students and residents. It really does have to be like that. Were it not for the relentless parade of shredded meat that rolled through those trauma bays, all those little baby doctors could never learn their craft well enough to take care of you or your kids back home in Mayberry. Now, hold that thought …

Basic wound repair requires a little specialized gear.

The Joys of Sewing

I love to sew. My grandfather was quite the manly man, but he was also one of about five guys on the planet who knew how to run a sewing machine. I inherited that from him through my mom. If I can’t find a custom holster to carry some exotic firearm or other, I just break out my wife’s sewing machine and whip up my own. The only thing more satisfying than that, however, is sewing wounds.

Like everything else, there’s a technique to it. Once you learn the basics, they apply almost anywhere. In that regard, sewing human flesh is not fundamentally dissimilar from serving as an electrician or a carpenter. Inculcate the fundamental techniques, and the rest will follow naturally. However, you have to learn someplace.

Our heroines this fateful evening were absolutely enormous. The American Deep South is one of the fattest places on planet Earth. It is telling that in America in the Information Age, obesity among poor people is a public health crisis. In all of human history, nobody ever had it so good. These two ladies were well north of 300 pounds apiece, and neither was particularly tall. However, that’s not what sets them apart.

As near as I could tell, this event began as a disagreement over the affections of some thug. Both girls were situated in the back seat of his car when the squabble conflagrated. In short order, things got out of hand, and each winsome lass produced a box cutter. They proceeded to go at it like two weasels in a sack. The results were predictably ghastly.

You could measure the lacerations on these women in feet. They carved up each other’s faces, boobs, arms and bellies. They kept at it until they both got tired. All of the lacerations were relatively shallow, but they went on for miles. It was a med student’s dream.

Every wound is just a little bit different, but the same basic techniques apply across the board.

I scored a couple of bottles of lidocaine and a quiet corner of the busy ER and went to work. Throughout it all, the girls were shockingly cordial. It was as though they were sitting on the front porch drinking iced tea together. When one got tired, I just indexed to the other. They kept up a friendly conversation throughout. More than three hours later, I was spanked, but they were no longer actively bleeding.

The end result was hardly the sort of service one might receive from a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, but they looked human again. That, and I learned how to sew. I suppose everybody won.

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