NFC and Me - The Gross Part

About a month ago I decided, in an act of solidarity with my microchipped cats, get an NFC chip put in my hand. The standard place for it is the back of your hand, in that fleshy area where the bones of your thumb meet the bones of your index finger. The kit has the tag tested, sanitized and inserted into a large needle. The site has really detailed instructions on how to do it, but emphasizes how it's a good idea to have a professional do it. Since I do not trust my manual dexterity and currently no one is in the "put a 10g needle between the correct layers of skin in my hand" level of friendship, I started asking various piercers if they would do it. My first choice was Saint Sabrinas, since they've pierced my nose twice and are generally nice people. The response I heard back was that they wouldn't do it - "They [their staff] feel it falls outside the realm of piercing and it's just not something any of them are interested in pursuing."

I emailed some other people who didn't respond, but luckily I found someone in St Paul who was not only willing to do it, but kept a couple of the kits in stock!

The healing process was not a pleasant one. I definitely don't blame the piercer for this, but I also don't know what I should have done differently. I'm going to describe the process to put it into my hand and the healing for it. If you're grossed out by that, you should probably read the blog post after this, which is just about what I want to do with it.

When I talked to the piercer about it, he said that while the injector was an easier way to do it, he'd recommend doing it the way you do other implants - make a small cut through all layers of the skin, put in the implant, then sew it up. His problem with the needle was it was harder to know where the implant would go - doing it like other implants ensures it goes in the right place. He's the professional, so I took his recommendation. He made a cut, seperated the skin from whatever is under it with a small, flat metal instrument, put the chip in then sewed me up. I walked out with an NFC chip in my hand, kept in by four stitches and held together with a compression bandage. The process hurt, certainly, but the sensation after the cut was a curious one. Thre are no nerve endings under your skin, but it would go from not feeling anything besides pressure to a very sharp pain as a nerve registered something. Either way, I'm the type of person who watches the needle go in when I donate blood and I think I have a highish pain tolerance, so it wasn't that bad.

The healing instructions were to leave the pressure bandage on as much as possible and come back in 7-10 days to have the stitches taken out.

The area is a really hard one to bandage since it needs to flex a lot and trying to get a seal around the web of your thumb is tricky to say the least. To remedy this, one of the first things I did was buy a box of waterproof, 360° seal bandaids - assuming something getting caught in the incision would be the biggest potential problem. That was a huge mistake. Never leave waterproof bandages on 24/7. Between that and removing them a couple times a day, I really tore up the skin of my hand around the incision. My skin got dry, irritated and fragile, and soon I had a really nasty looking hand. I think it was the 5th day when I decided to leave the bandaid off to let the air get at it and let the skin around it heal a bit while I worked from home. I had googled something that made it sound like that would be okay. That was another huge mistake. The day after, the incision was puffy and swollen. This wasn't working out well.

I put the pressure bandage on the next day, thinking that might help, but it really didn't (I had previously only been wearing the pressure bandage after work and while I was sleeping). Finally, on day seven, I did what any rational person would do and took the stitches out myself and didn't tell anyone. I kept things clean but did let the air get at it as much as possible. I think taking the stitches out at that point really helped - the swelling went down a lot after that.

Once things started healing up more, I put lotion on it and neosporin once in a while. It'll be a month old in a week, and I imagine with a bit more TLC it'll all be back to normal by the end of the month. The only thing that's kind of annoying now is it itches while it's healing.

I really can't help but think just doing it with a needle would have been easier. I had one person the day after I got it done ask me if the bandage on my hand was from an NFC chip - it's a very odd place for a bandage - and when I described to him what the piercer did, he was kind of perplexed. The needle barely left a scar on his hand, and it's a lot less damaging in general.

But, really, if I would have insisted he used the needle and that would've gone bad, I would be hating myself for not following his recommendation. And he also told me to contact him with any questions or concerns which I didn't do and I should probably not take stitches out myself. Oh well, I wasn't planning on being a hand model anyway.

Anyway, it was all worth it though because it is giving me some ideas on new arduino projects, which I'll talk about in the next post :)