I have several things wrong with me. One is a fairly early onset of rheumatoid arthritis, which is essentially one's own immune system attacking one's joint tissue, identifying the tissue as an invasive force. Another is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is significant scarring of my lungs (in particular the left), which makes it hard to breathe at the best of times and leaves my heart working twice as hard.
These aren't really visible, per se. They're not what one would call visible illnesses. I do HAVE some visible conditions, mind - side effects of the other two.
This is the reason I don't wear shorts.
Those are my legs, clad in the compression bandages that I have on 7 days a week.
The reason they are in compression? Well, there's two reasons; Lefty and Sheldon.
This is Lefty. Lefty is a venous ulcer that sits on the outside of my left ankle. Lefty happened when I had pleurisy, around about 2010.
Leg ulcers like Lefty happen, often, due to high blood pressure. The vein wall gets stretched, allowing some degree of plasma into the tissue of the leg, which increases the chance of blisters, infections and all sorts of other nastiness. (It happens so much more in the lower parts of the leg because of gravity - the g-forces in a roller coaster really hit you as you reach the bottom of the slope and swing back up.)
Lefty has been my constant companion for six years, and he hurts. He hurts quite a lot. He's only exposed for about five minutes twice a week, when the dressing is changed. The picture was taken as aforementioned dressing-change was occuring. He hurts when I have been standing up long enough, when pressure has been put on him, when the air pressure is weird, when I have walked a lot, when I have been sat down too long, when I sneeze, when I crap, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
Lefty is a bastard. Lefty, however, looks a lot less problematic than Sheldon.
Sheldon looks like Patient Zero of a zombie outbreak. Sheldon looks like the land mass of the evil continent in a fantasy realm. Sheldon hurts even more than Lefty.
Sheldon has been with me for a lot less time than Lefty has; when you get one ulcer, there is perhaps an 80% chance that you will get another, in the same way as getting a chest infection will almost guarantee you will get another. I have had Sheldon for about six months. He's a lot more superficial than Lefty, which is why he hurts so damn much.
See, while Lefty hurts a lot of the time, it is a rather bearable pain, most of the time. It's a low pulsing throb, like the vague headache you have four days after going to see Slayer - unless agitated. Sheldon, however, still has all his nerve endings - and so Sheldon is a little ball of agony at the slightest provocation. I can take my blood pressure from Sheldon's pulsing, on a bad day.
Sheldon is healing faster, if only because he's more superficial. This contributes to the pain factor, as well. It looks grody, and that grodiness is overgranulation. The skin is healing a little too fast. That is both good and bad, because if it doesn't heal properly, it may lead to further ulcers in the future.
The compression bandages do several things. One is they keep the wounds covered and clean, so they don't get infected. They also provide a minor amount of bump and scrape protection. They absorb any moisture that the ulcers kick out. The primary thing they do, however, is force any plasma and such out of my tissue and back into my venal system, so it can be processed properly. (My piss smells a bit weird because of this.)
So if I grimace a bit, or shift my weight seemingly at random from foot to foot, or lean down to seemingly adjust my socks, then this is why. These two bastards, and the effect they have on my life.
They were dressed a little differently, recently; the dressing was a touch more loose than usual, and because of that, I have slept less in the past four days than most people have in the last 24 hours. I've seen the last three 3ams, and each of them has been a shitty time to be awake and alive.
Right now, though; right now I am feeling a lot better.
I am doing a lot better than I was, and that is down to the nurses, doctors and medical practicitioners that I've seen over the years. Their help has been beyond indispensible. They've been incredible.
The big question though...why Sheldon?
Well, he causes me discomfort; he's consistently not funny; he's abrasive; and he always seems to knock when not wanted. Also it complains when something is in its spot.