Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I love my X-Acto knife. I’ve had it as long as I can remember and I can’t imagine life without it. I use it for all kinds of things, one of the most helpful being in cutting the thick plastic that surrounds an item you’ve just purchased and can’t figure out how to get it out of the packaging! Oh, this knife really, really helps. I’ve also used it in doing some scherenschnitte (paper-cutting) for Christmas gifts, until I realized that I really wasn’t very good at it and retired the knife from that job. But let me tell you the best use I’ve ever found for it.

In 2001 I had a very distressing bout with two doctors and an Urgent Care office over removing a tiny growth on the underside of my forearm. Actually, the removal of the growth wasn’t the problem; it was getting the stitches out. I don’t need to tell you that HMOs try to make everything as complicated as possible, and when the day came that my stitches were to be removed, I found absent doctors, nurses who lied about notifying me that the doctor would not be in that day, another doctor whose office was 15 miles from the first but could only do it the following day, and an urgent care to whom I was referred by my HMO which said they couldn’t do it because they didn’t do doctor’s work for them.

At that stage, after having spent two hours driving all over the Inland empire following my HMO’s instructions and still not having found anyone to remove my stitches, I was so frustrated I was close to tears. At the Urgent Care I stuck my head in the window where the receptionist sat and said to her, “I know you are only the messenger and I am not mad at you, but I have never, ever been given such a run around. It will be a long day in hell before I use your HMO again. I will remove these stitches myself with my X-Acto knife.” I huffed my way out of the office, leaving all the other patients, and the receptionist, with stunneds look on their faces.

It was at that point, when I got in my car to drive the 15 miles back to my house with the stitches still in my arm, that I almost cried. But I didn’t let myself. I was furious all the way home. When I get really mad, I get steely quiet. I walked into our apartment, grabbed a bottle of alcohol, a ball of cotton, a pair of tweezers, a magnifying mirror that I used for putting on my makeup and my X-Acto knife. Jerry kept saying, “What’s the matter? What are you doing?” I was too mad to talk. I washed the knife, the tweezers and my arm in alcohol and then sat down in good light at the kitchen table. I adjusted the mirror so it I could see the stitches. I laid the sharp blade of the knife flat against my skin and slipped its tip under the first stitch. With a little twist of the blade upward, the thread cut easily. I did the same for the second stitch and the third stitch. With the tweezers I pulled the threads out. I put antibiotic ointment on the tiny incision and affixed a Band-Aid. “TO HELL WITH THE DOCTORS,” I told Jerry. “I DID IT MYSELF!”

So you see, I think everyone needs an X-Acto knife. You never know when it will come in handy. For crafts or for doctoring, it works! Of course, over the years I had seen doctors take many stitches out of me and my kids for various and sundry little things, and I also had observed my cousin Shirlee remove stitches from animals, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know how to do it. But the X-Acto knife made it a piece of cake.

My mother always said there was more than one way to skin a cat. (Do not use your X-Acto knife for that, please). After the stitches came out, I called Kaiser Permanente Member Services department and asked them to send a rep out to sign me up, as I needed to change HMOs. Within a year, the old HMO was out of business!

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