My patient was a middle-aged man who was severely mentally retarded. He was able to do some things like walk and feed himself but was unable to talk. His caretakers brought him in for a paronychium, which is a small abscess under the cuticle of the finger.
The treatment for a paronychium is to drain it. It is usually done by cutting between the cuticle and the nail, lifting the edge of the cuticle and expressing the pus.
We formed a team: the caretaker, the nurse and I. They held his hand as I made a little cut and squeezed a pretty good blob of pus out from under the cuticle and onto the nail. As soon as the patient saw the pus, he broke his hand loose from their hold, stuck the end of his finger in his mouth, sucked the pus off and swallowed it.
It happened so fast and was so unexpected that we were at first startled, then way grossed out. The patient was completely unfazed.
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