Of porn, Ron Jeremy and...Jesus? Part II

In his second and final installment, Craig Gross tells the story of someone who was rescued from the

With over one million people visiting our website every year, we have seen that the issue of pornography reaches far and wide. Our organization aims to help those who consume porn and help those in the porn industry.
As an outreach to the porn industry for the past six years, we have attended many pornography conventions. There we hang out with people who call porn their vocations. We met porn producer Donny Pauling in the first couple years of our ministry at the Las Vegas show. He gave us a hard time for being at porn shows and for the faith we represented. Donny even went as far to post porn on blogs of the XXXchurch website, which we promptly deleted. Through this love-hate relationship, we became friends with Donny.
Donny had left the Church in his early twenties to become a photographer. He later found himself in the lucrative business of shooting porn. He rose to make a half million dollars a year producing porn.
Donny had a pretty normal upbringing. He was raised in a Christian home, and his father was a pastor. He never planned to be in the porn industry; it kind of just happened, and the money came next. Soon he was working with two of the largest companies in the industry, recruiting the girls, ushering them through the contract process, editing and finally selling the material.
It was in this process that he saw the dark side of porn. Girls would knock on the door of his home late at night and beg for their photos to be taken off the internet. Donny saw girls strung out on drugs and alcohol, and depressed because of porn. Their family or friends had found out about their secret careers and the stark emotional reality sunk in. Girl after girl would come to Donny, and all he could say was “You signed a contract, I am sorry.”
Experiences like these were overwhelming to Donny. One day he pulled over to the side of the road and prayed, “God I done, I do not know what it means to follow you but I am ready.” Later that day Donny called XXXchurch, with whom he had become friends at porn conventions. Two days later, a pastor was on a plane to help Donny in this major life transition.
It has been two years since Donny quit the porn industry. Since then, he has taken some flak from old friends, traded in his old salary for a more modest wage, and struggled in his faith. Regardless, Donny will smile at you and say his life is best it has ever been. Donny is trying to figure out what following Jesus means for him. He is currently studying to be a pastor and regularly shares his story on tour with XXXchurch.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear