#DontJudgeMe: I Picked My Nose And Got Quarantined

Credit: Ian Conley

Sometimes I pick my nose. Who doesn’t? Kleenex are great, but they’re not always in reach. And even when they are in reach, it’s just more satisfying to pluck a booger with your finger. (You know it, I know it, so let’s stop pretending otherwise for appearance’s sake.)

Digging for gold is a great way to catch a cold or the flu, of course, but I never expected to wind up quarantined inside a hospital’s infectious disease unit. This is my story; don’t let it become yours.

At first I noticed a tiny bump in my right nostril, which I figured was just a zit that I could poke, prod and push out. Except it kept getting bigger and more painful. Oh, and I suddenly had a temperature of 101.4 degrees. I stuffed my right nostril full of Neosporin and tucked myself in for a fun-filled night of fever dreams, until I awoke with a larger nose, a puffed-up cheek and an even hotter fever.

This might–just might–require medical attention, I began to realize.

Going to a walk-in clinic is always terrifying, from the never-ending line to the coughs, itches and sores that you really, really don’t want to catch. After I spent an hour on a wax-covered examination table, a remarkably meek doctor shoved a probe into my nose and concluded, “Yeah, that’s a pustule.”

A pustule’s no big deal, I figured. He’ll drain the abscess and give me some antibiotics and I’ll be on my way.

At least, that’s what I figured until the doc consulted with his staff in the hallway. I’m pretty sure he didn’t intend for me to hear “…never seen something so aggressive! My God!”

Now, I’m a nervous guy and my dose of Ativan wasn’t quite helping. So imagine my panic when the doc came back and (in a hushed voice that he probably uses to say “cancer” and “untreatable” to his other patients) explained that I was to be admitted to the hospital upstairs immediately.

I spent the next four hours in an assless gown, watching an “Ancient Aliens” marathon, until a nurse entered to take blood cultures. BLOOD CULTURES. All the while the right side of my face continued to swell into my neck, and I couldn’t feel anything from my nose to my ear.

I fell into a violent sleep with thoughts of Nibiru and reptilians in my head. When I woke up, I saw three faces covered in caps and masks–you know, the kind Bryan Cranston cooks meth wearing–and I heard muffled voices discussing containment and brain damage.

My room was under lockdown. Anyone who entered had to wear gloves, a mask and a bodysuit. The pandemic specialists had no idea what was in my nose, but pumped me full of antibiotics to kill anything and everything it could possibly be.

Best of all, they needed a CT scan to ensure there was no swelling against my brain or infection spreading to my spinal tissue. You’ve seen “The Exorcist,” right? The film’s most horrific moment for me was never the demonic vomit or visions of Satan; it was Regan’s CT scan at the hospital. The scene is 100% accurate. You’re strapped down, injected with a strange fluid that makes you feel like you’ve s*** yourself and then slammed over and over with the loudest noise you can imagine, like a jackhammer plundering your eardrum.

Twelve hours and a few bad meals later, the antibiotics worked. The swelling went down, I walked out of the hospital and even drove myself home. The diagnosis is still a mystery; it could’ve been an aggressive bacterial infection or an unidentified strain of MRSA, which kills thousands of people every year. Anyway, I’ll always have fond memories of receiving intravenous saline and being ordered to use a measured piss jug. (My record is 500 CC of urine in one shot. I encourage anyone to try to beat me.)

The experience was not only a strange confirmation of my own mortality, but also of how utterly gross I am. Moral: Don’t pick your nose. Ever. And if my words don’t convince you, then perhaps my (DISGUSTING, REVOLTING, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) nasal swab photo will…

Credit: Ian Conley

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Ian Conley (@ianconley) is lucky to be alive in Boston.