Bill’s hands are so disfigured that he can no longer fit gloves over them.
About two months ago, his right ring finger was amputated. In a matter of weeks, he could lose the middle finger on his left hand, which was swollen with a large, maroon-colored sore covering the knuckle when VICE News met him on a recent morning in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood.
The lesions are markers of a drug Bill said he never intended to consume. Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer known on the street as “tranq” or “tranq dope,” has infiltrated Philly’s illicit opioid supply. The 59-year-old, who did not share his last name with VICE News, shivered as he hunted for mittens at an outreach event for drug users in Kensington.
“Boy, this is angry,” said a nurse who volunteers with the harm reduction group Savage Sisters, while examining a wound on one of Bill’s fingers at a pop-up wound care clinic at Kensington’s McPherson Park, known locally as Needle Park because of its open-air drug use.