My Health Scars
Ellis Bartholemeus is a big fan of quantifying and at QS17 she discusses her "quantified body" as she tracked her physical scars. She also shares the data on her scars which includes the date of the injury, size of the scar, impact of the scar, and healing time. In this talk, Ellis exposes the intimate and deep learning that come from simply slowing down to examine a part of one's life--in this instance, her scars.
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I’m a fan of quantifying. I’m curious about my life and trying to understand my life. This is the third I’m standing on this stage to talk about one of my experiments.
Six years ago I turned 40 and I celebrated my birthday with an exposition and I invited everyone to bring their trash and treasure to write it down, because I wanted to show what I could get rid of and what I wanted to hold onto forever because there were some important aspects for me to let go of.
So this was on my fortieth birthday and I invited everyone via a note. This was my invitation. I invited them to come to the party and write down what is your treasure and what is your trash. And everyone really did a great job at finding out what they wanted to get rid of and to see that it’s also very close to the thing which is so important to you.
And one of my exhibits, seven, was my body. I wanted to get rid of my body because it had been injured so often. So the white dots on my charming assistant, who is helping me. So the white dots are all the incidents I needed for medical assistance for, and they are quite a lot. And I was quite fed up with all the pain and all the recovery and all the limitations that my body gave me during my life for not being able to do what I wanted to do.
And for this talk, I wanted to investigate that body again and look at all my skin scars. So I’ve got 18 skin scars and I’ve been diving onto it last month like what is it about. And this is my most recent skin scar. It’s one year old. It’s 35 cm long that I cut with glass trying to trash something. I needed six stitches, but I was very lucky that I didn’t damage my foot function at all. So I was lucky in that sense, however I got another scar which added up to my total amount a lot.
And the second scar, also I was very lucky because this is in my face. And it’s over here, but you don’t see it because it just got inside my wrinkles, but it’s also to 30 mm long, and this I got first day living in Amsterdam 18 years ago. I fell off my bike and there were two ambulances that came to pick me up because I was quite heavily injured but I’m recovered again, and it was a very clumsy fall off my bike.
And then another injury in Greece, I went for a climbing holiday there and I got to see the hospital as a tourist. I got inside the hospital in Greece. It was very little island and that was how I got injured. I was trying to open a bottle of wine, and you can see it’s very much a dangerous thing and I’m very much aware, but I managed to get in in here, and there was blood going over there, and I needed only four stitches there.
And my knee, that’s not a very good picture, but you see seven different scars here. My knee was operated twice. I needed with a skiing injury, I had this crossing thing was broken and I needed to be reconstructed, so they did that in a very innovative.
But then I was one of the 1000 patients who had this typical problem, that I a very good at rejuvenating material.So I had this so called cyclops knee, which is only once in 1000. So I photoshoped my own eye, but I have a graph of tissue on top of my knee. So I’m very good at recovering and I’m too good at making new skin.
So my proudest scar is at my foot, totally at the bottom. So it’s 26 years old and I made a picture of all the way around because this one was very hard to measure in size because it actually goes all the way around my ankle.
I had a fractured leg 26 years ago and it was an open flesh wound and it had surgery three times over and over again to make sure I could use my ankle in a proper way again. And for the first three years it looked like I was bitten by jaws. And this is a very good state. It looks it recovered very well and it changed over the years a very lot.
So this is from very up close, so it was torn like this and this and then they made a zig-zag, again to make some space. And they had to remove skin and they took it from the other side and they took from my bum a little bit.
But in total, in summer I had measured all my scars in length and it’s about 1m high all my scars if you add them up and it’s about 30cm wide. But this is all my skin scars which you can see visible, but I also have scars inside me, so I’ve had quite some bones have been broken and this is my ankle. And the photo just now was my ankle just after the accident 26 years ago and this is about five years ago because there are still some things happening with the ankle. However it recovered really very well.
I have been really extremely lucky, and you can see how lucky I am, because this was a car accident I was in. this is a piece of the car, and over there is another piece of the car and I was in between there and I’m still here. However, not everyone in that car is here anymore.
So this is a list of all the incidents I’ve had on my body, and I’ve been really trying to dig deep into my history and it’s quite a lot. And there are people who never have to go to hospital, but I’m sort of accident prone.
And what I noticed is that most of these things happen in the month of May, so from now on after this research I know that next year I’ll be extra, extra, extra careful and also this picture showing a heart, I cannot count how much scars are on my heart, the people I miss, the hurt I felt that’s really a lot. But I leant to trust and look at that with all the recovering of all these other things. And I’m using the scars actually as an analogy or metaphor for recovery because I also treasure my body because it shows so much resilience and I’m able to recover from so many damage that it’s really amazing what a body can do, and how scars can live their own life and be part of me.
So I want to invite everyone to come and quantify me at lunch today and tomorrow. I’m bringing a lot of trash and treasures, and I want you to guess what they are and talk about. And there’s also a big reward for the one who is guessing the best. So thank you very much.