A Human Experiment

     Experiments on human beings are moral only by writing novels and short stories. That’s why I write them.
     Oh, you could argue that experiments on humans are moral with informed consent, but those are three slippery terms: informed, consent, and informed consent.
     Nonetheless, I have informed myself and consented to become the object of a human experiment.
     It feels that way, anyway.
     The FDA approved “the procedure” in 2010.
     I am about to let a doctor inject me with a Clostridium bacteria, to relieve me of a condition that doesn’t bother me that much.
     I trust my surgeon, who has operated on me twice for DePuytrens contracture: a thickening and hardening of the fascia between the skin and muscles of fingers, which makes the fingers bend in toward the palm.
     You can’t straighten them out with a hammer. It used to be called “claw hand.”
     A similar thing happens to the penis, in Peyronie’s disease, which I don’t even want to think about.
     And speaking of hammers, my surgeon – who has the disease, and subjected herself to the injection – wrote in a newspaper column that the injection makes it look “like somebody has taken a sledgehammer to your hand, and in some people the bruises track all the way up the arm. The swelling subsides as you recover.”
     Thanks, Doc!
     I hope so!
     The Clostridium eats away the thickened fascia, and the day after they inject you, you return and the doc “manipulates” your finger “until you hear a pop.”
     “I still jump every time I hear that pop because it’s so loud,” Dr. Liz wrote. “But after the pop you can generally straighten the finger all the way out …”
     At last, some good news …
     Why would I do this?
     Because I’ve had the surgery twice. And the six weeks rehab is worse than the surgery.
     Dr. Liz tells me that the first week is just as bad with the injection, but when the reaction goes away, there you are.
     The contracture comes back, eventually. It’s genetic, and it mostly affects men of Northern European origin. I inherited it from my mother. Not that she is a man.
     The first two times Dr. Liz knocked me out, and when I awoke, the kindly nurses in the recovery room told me to push the button in my hand if I wanted morphine. I fell asleep pushing the button, then woke up and puked.
     So surgery wasn’t that bad.
     It was the rehab that killed me.
     I don’t want to go through rehab again.
     Plus, I think it’s kind of cool – today I think so; right now – to be the subject of a human experiment.
     Possible complications include “a ruptured tendon … need for further injections, skin tears, nerve or blood vessel injuries, or even fracture of the finger,” Dr. Liz wrote.
     A good friend of mine, who has DePuytrens contracture, and a medical Ph.D. from Yale, does not want to go through the procedure, though he’s eager to find out what it does to me.
     Let me go on the record that I am not writing this to set myself up against Dr. Liz should the procedure go wrong. No, no. I love Dr. Liz. I would not do anything to hurt her even if she chopped off my head and boiled it up to make sauerkraut. Which may not be a bad idea.
     I’m writing this because it’s true, and curious, and because a lot of people out there have DePuytrens contracture. Last time I wrote about it on this page, worried people who had the disease wrote and asked me about the surgery. I told them about it.
     So here we go again.
     I’ll be injected on Tuesday. I’ll tell you how it went in next week’s column. Which I assume I will peck out with my left hand.

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