Content warning: skip this one if you are squeamish about bodily fluids.
Last month, I had a fairly large tattoo put on my left upper arm. It was something I’d planned for some time, commemorating the journey I’ve been on with my medical issues and autism diagnosis in a positive way. I was fortunate enough to find an artist who could take the somewhat overambitious and poorly thought-out idea I had, and scale it down while at the same time making it way better.
This was the first tattoo I’d had installed since my snake and blackberry vine half-sleeve that I had done shortly after my narcolepsy diagnosis, and while it was smaller in size, it was also a lot denser, fully covering an area about the size of a slice of bread. It took about two hours to do, which was a lot less time in the chair than for the last one, but it really hurt something fierce – I think because of the dense coverage and the location.
The artist explained that a new trend in tattoo aftercare is to cover the piece with a clear breathable bandage for the first three to five days. While it’s covered, I wouldn’t have to worry about washing it, or applying any ointment, and it would reduce the chance of infection or heavy scabbing. I don’t tend to react excessively to bandage adhesive in most cases, so I went with the film.
When my partner got home, about an hour after I did, she said “let me see how it looks!” and I rolled up my sleeve to show her. She got a funny look and said, “I thought you said you weren’t going to do a watercolor style tattoo?”
“Huh? I didn’t.” I looked at my arm and saw that the bottom part of the rainbow infinity ribbon that surrounded everything , down where it was supposed to be a gradient of blues and greens, was covered in a feathery-edged red. WTF? I touched it gingerly – it jiggled. Apparently the plasma that was seeping out of the fresh tattoo was collecting under the film.
I didn’t know if that much leakage was normal or not. I remembered the last tattoo being weepy and needing to be carefully rinsed and patted dry a lot for the first few days, but I didn’t remember it being this wet. On the other hand, since I was cleaning it every couple of hours, and it was air-drying, maybe I didn’t notice how much it was actually producing? I had my partner take a picture and texted it to the artist.
She got right back to me and explained that I was a ‘seeper’ – someone who leaks more plasma than average after a tattoo – and that we could change the film in the morning if it filled up more than it had so far. By the time I went to bed, I had a pretty good-sized sac of fluid on my arm. Maybe about an ounce! It looked and felt like a water balloon, completely contained by the clear film. I couldn’t see the bottom two thirds of the tattoo at all any more.
When I went to bed, I made a wisecrack about disregarding any loud pops heard during the night. I was careful to lay on my right side, as (joking aside) I didn’t want to squish out any of the mess onto my sheets. I figured that it should let up by morning, and then I could have a fresh film applied that hopefully would not become a bag of plasma.
I have no idea what happened during the night. Maybe I tried to roll over? Maybe I scratched at the bandage in my sleep? All I know is I awoke, some time after midnight, with the sensation of wetness down my arm and a cold, clammy puddle soaked into the sheet under where my left hand was resting. Ugh! I turned on the light to find watery red fluid sprayed up the wall beside the bed and all over the sheets. I guess that will teach me not to make jokes, it really had popped like a water balloon!
Stripping the whole bed at one in the morning in a gabapentin haze wasn’t really an option, so I cleaned up my arm and then got a big clean bath towel out of the laundry basket to cover the wet area on the mattress and then went back to sleep. I had the film changed the next morning and the problem didn’t repeat. I suspect the excessive leakage was related to my EDS somehow, maybe? That’s just a guess.
Healing was otherwise pretty uneventful except that when I removed the film, I did have a red skin reaction for about a week where the adhesive had been. It wasn’t severe and I think the benefit of keeping the tattoo covered for the first five days outweighed that downside. I also had a bit of a mast cell flare that might have been coincidental, or might not.
I absolutely adore my new ink and it was worth the pain and mess. I can hardly wait until the weather warms up so that I can actually see it more often – it’s so cold right now that I am always in multiple long-sleeved layers so the only time I get to see it is in the shower.
Featured Image: Close-up of a leaf covered in water droplets. A color filter has been applied that gives the image a purplish tint, but all of the details of the veins in the leaf are red. WordPress free image.