Yep. I was on a steep slope, unfolding a large sheet of greenhouse plastic, and I stepped on what looked like plain dirt only to hear a grotesque juicy crunch and a surge of pain in the arch of my foot. I sat/fell down and proceeded to uproot a small -something- sticking up out of the dirt. It was the tip of a buried jagged, gnarly chunk of dog-chewed deer vertebrae with old black gristle clinging to it still. I threw it as hard as I could out into the forest and turned back to my foot. The pain I felt was a bruise-like pain, maybe I just landed on it really hard… Nope. Blood began seeping out of the new hole in the sole of my shoe (I was actually wearing shoes, would you believe!).
Well then… Buggery dadgum gosh darn it, and goodness good golly gosh.
I hopped uphill to the cabin and commenced steeling myself for what I was about to have to deal with. With some helping hands I got a hot pot of water on the stove for tea. Priority #1 was cleaning the wound out and numbing the maddening pain. I sat down and let it bleed for a few minutes, hoping that the body’s natural response would help to flush any junk out of the puncture. Once satisfied, I lightly covered it in some clean gauze and wrapped it to keep any dust or debris from encroaching.
The tea water was hot by this time. I snipped a dollop of usnea lichen to bits with scissors, added a generous portion of crushed holy basil leaves, and dumped a hefty sum of epsom salt into the large sauce pot filled with piping hot water. Then I busied my brain with computer nonsense, did my best to ignore the pounding pressure, and waited for the water to cool off enough to dip my foot in.
Holy basil is my best friend when it comes to punctures. It’s nervine properties are truly miraculous. I have used culinary basil in a pinch with good result, too. But I prefer my friend Rama Tulsi. The leaves are not only numbing to nerve pain, but are antiseptic as well. A few years prior I put a nail through my foot and the procedure I did then was the same. As long as I keep the holy basil in contact with the wound, it’s virtually pain free.
Usnea is my go-to choice for anything I want to keep from getting infected. It is high in usnic acid, which is an antibiotic. It grows abundantly here and is simple to use. Nothing I’ve used usnea on (so far) has become infected.
And of course the epsom salt is just my choice form of personal torture for the sake of ensuring a clean wound.
After a good long initial soak, I felt I had the constitution to inspect my foot for the first time. I patted it dry with clean gauze and took a look. Tiny beads of… something… were poking out of the wound. Slightly horrified I pointed it out to Andy, who immediately picked up a pair of tweezers and loomed with morbid curiosity towards my upheld foot.
Me: “What are you doing?! Don’t grab it with tweezers! What if it’s attached to me!?“
Him: “Just hold still, I’m gonna find out if those are tiny rocks, you might have a bunch of junk in there. We need to get it out.”
Me: “PUT THE TWEEZERS DOWN! Don’t just pull at whatever’s sticking out of my foot!“
Him: “Just hold still, Jen…“
He’s laughing at this point. I retracted my foot and coddled it in terror, keeping an eye on his eager tweezers. I poked at the little pink and white bubble-like chunks protruding from the wound.
Me: “Okay, okay, okay, I touched it, it’s definitely a part of me. That’s a piece of my foot, don’t pull it out!“
Him: “Are you sure? It totally looks like burger meat. Let me take a look.“
Me (becoming increasingly distraught): “NO! PUT THE TWEEZERS DOWN! YOU’RE NOT PULLING THE BURGER MEAT OUT OF MY FOOT! IT’S MY FOOT MEAT! LEAVE IT ALONE!“
This went on until I was almost in tears of despair before he gave up. He really wanted to try and pull it out.
So I went into this wound vaguely terrified. I’d dealt with punctures, but this was a 1/2″ long, jagged, Y-shaped, deep punch into my foot with a nasty piece of old dirty bone. And my foot meat was sticking out of the wound. Did I finally get an injury so bad it would beyond me to fix? One of our neighbors is a medical doctor, he offered to come take a gander at it if I felt I needed help. I told him hopefully I wouldn’t, but I’d let him know if I did.
I spent the first day soaking my foot in antiseptic salt water, loathing the incident. It was our last beautiful, warm week of fall before the plunge into snowy winter. And I was now bunged up and out of commission.
Him: “You’re not gonna be walking on that for awhile, Jen.“
Me: “Give me 4 days.“
I mapped out my plan of action for healing my foot as quickly as possible. After and in between my foot baths I dressed the wound with an activated charcoal drawing salve and wrapped it in clean gauze again. I had to keep it moist; never let a puncture seal over on top before the inside is healed.
Day 2 was much the same. Curse-hopping around the house, each hop pumping more blood pressure into my bloated foot. Trips to the toilet were dreadful. I spent most of the day soaking my foot and intermittently laying down to read. A neighbor had given me the book “A Long Trek Home”. Ironically, this is when I picked it up to read about walking thousands of miles on foot, and my foot pointedly throbbed with displeasure at the thought. That night I again applied the drawing salve to help ensure any foreign material would leave the wound.
Day 3 was the day I felt confident that my wound was sterile from the antiseptic/antibiotic salt baths, so I added horsetail to the mix to gently stimulate tissue healing. Hopping around the house was less bothersome, but sitting inside watching the last beautiful 70º days of fall slip by was torture. Also my hopping thigh was killing me. I soaked my foot all day long- at least 8 hours in the horsetail-loaded tea. At night I applied the drawing salve one more time to keep it moist and encourage cleansing of the wound.
Horsetail is a gentle stimulator of tissue repair. It’s mild and fairly soothing and will not rush the wound to seal shut before it’s ready to do so. I favor horsetail for punctures.
Day 4 was the test of will and skill. I had slept much more comfortably than the previous nights with almost no pain. I sat on the edge of the bed and braced myself for the test; could I put pressure on it?
I triumphantly hobbled into the kitchen to say “Hey look! You said I wouldn’t be walking for a good long while. I said give me 4 days.” I was quite pleased with myself. That day I repeated the same protocol from the day before; heaps of horsetail in the antiseptic, soothing salt bath. All day long I sat and read and soaked. That night though I switched to a gentle comfrey salve to keep the wound moist and encourage more tissue repair. Little pink and white beads of meat were still protruding from the wound, but it was otherwise looking fantastic.
Comfrey and should not be used on a puncture until it’s in its final stages of healing. It will stimulate such rapid tissue repair that you may risk sealing over the top of your puncture and leaving an unhealed pocket within, which may lend to a deep infection that has no way out if there is any debris or bacteria in the wound.
On day 5 I was hobbling with more confidence. My herbal regiment remained unchanged. I managed to hobble down to my car, drive over to the barn, and milk the goat myself. A satisfying accomplishment, as normally that is my own chore.
On Day 6 was walking gingerly, wouldja believe! Day 7 though 9 brought steady mobility improvement and an unchanged treatment routine. All-day horsetail soaks, with fresh comfrey salve and clean bandages before bed.
I was up and walking with a mildly uncomfortable limp by day 10. I switched to twice daily foot bathes loaded with comfrey or hound’s tongue to seal the deal on my wound. I kept clean dressings over the wound and wore shoes to get around and do my farm chores.
By day 14 the foot-burger-meat had retracted into the wound and for the first time I stopped applying salve before bed. The wound sealed shut over night for the first time. For the next week I did evening foot soaks, still with my staple mix of usnea, holy basil, and epsom salt to ensure no infection could set in. During the day I kept clean bandages over it to prevent debris from finding the wound. It would split open as I went about my day and bleed a little bit. This, as far as I’m concerned, was excellent, helping to ensure that it healed from the inside out, as punctures should, as well as ensure that any new debris was likely being pushed out of the body by the blood.
At the time of writing this, it’s been 25 days. The wound is completely healed over. A bit of a hard knot remains in the arch of my foot; that will dissipate with time. The body’s ability to heal is truly amazing.
*And an added update 3 months after the incident, my foot has remained healed and without complication.