Skip to content

WOLF: Can you remember the stories behind all of your stitches?

COLUMN: Every scar provides a unique memory
Some of the stitches Philip Wolf picked up during a bout with flesh-eating disease in 2002. (Heather Prestage photo)

I moisturize daily.

My regimen has nothing to do with an endless quest for flawless, wrinkle-free skin. On that front, I’m happy to let nature run its course and I won’t be having any fish-pout procedures anytime soon.

But for more than 20 years now, I’ve been a moisturizer.

It began in the aftermath of a bout with flesh-eating disease back in 2002. The somewhat terrifying photo (apologies if you’re having lunch right now) accompanying this piece shows my skin had a bit of a rough go.

Lost a chunk of tricep and have a couple of nifty scars.

As part of the healing process, I was given a special cream to help deal with the scarring.

I don’t use that particular cream anymore, but still out of habit lotion up my arm every day after hopping out of the shower. Most days, I don’t even think of the scars, it’s just routine.

I thought of those stitches – and the photo – the other day when I was watching a show about former Toronto Maple Leafs legend Borje Salming.

I recalled that back in the 1980s, he took a skate to the face and was rushed to hospital.

He ended up with something like 300 stitches and looked for all the world like some sort of James Bond movie villain.

It got me wondering… could I remember all my own stitches? And I also wondered how many people managed to make it through life without any, and if they did have any, what was the story behind it?

It took a sobering look in the full-length mirror (is that guy me?) but I think I can account for all but a few.

Obviously, the pre-eminent ones are from the flesh-eating disease. Started with a little cut on the elbow (one stitch) and quickly worsened to the point where I was lucky to keep my arm – and to survive.

Some amazing medical care and a staunch refusal to leave my young son helped me rally.

My favourite stitch came from when I was five years old. I was in the backyard at my grandparents’ house, dutifully helping in the garden.

“Watch out for that rake,” Gramps apparently called out, though I clearly wasn’t listening.

Stepped right on it, and like an old-time cartoon character, I caught it right between the eyes.

One stitch and a couple of black eyes later, I was none the worse for wear.

READ MORE: WOLF: What do bacon, baseball gloves and hockey card gum have in common?

READ MORE: WOLF: What are some of the best sounds in the world?

My next couple came when I somehow sliced my middle finger opening a gate lock. Not too exciting.

I know I had one or two inside my mouth from dental work as a youngster as well, but I don’t really count those.

Most of the rest were sports-related.

Caught a few stray hockey sticks, couple of stitches over each eyebrow (returned to the game after one of them).

Also, with my helmet knocked off, I had a wayward goalie stick chop me right at the top of my forehead in the middle. Knocked me for a loop and left a massive divot, couple of stitches and to this day, no hair grows there.

A couple more from arthroscopic surgery on my throwing shoulder in my early 20s and another one from a knee scope.

Pretty mundane stuff. I know I also added to the tally after surgery for a more recent second bout with the necrotizing fasciitis (why am I so damn tasty?) but I couldn’t see those ones either and don’t plan to look.


I remember a neighbour getting a little tipsy and squeezing a wine glass too hard and cutting up her hand. Scandalous back in the day.

When I was in elementary school, one girl had a ski pole somehow go through her cheek. We were all very quiet on the bus ride back to Duncan from Forbidden Plateau.

I saw many sports teammates get carted off in need of repairs.

Clearly, it’s never good when you have to get stitches.

But I wondered if any of you out there have an interesting or humorous tale you’d like to share that ended with a stitch or three?

Stuff along the lines of “it was a million to one shot, doc,” or pretending you were Evel Knievel back in the day.

Drop me a line (email address below) with your best stories.

PQB News/VI Free Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email at or by phone at 250-905-0019.

Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
Read more