Thumbs up!

And it started off as such a nice day, too.

February tends to be a bitch for us.  Aside from the Big One I just posted about, there have been other emergency surgeries, injuries, etc that happen to fall right around my birthday.  Hell, even the worst point of our almost-divorce a few years back – right in that strike zone.  So this year, we were celebrating having made it thru my bday for a change.

Irony is a cruel, cruel bitch.

Yesterday morning I got up fairly early, fixed Boy and I some breakfast, and left Dys sleeping (she’d been up ridiculously late) as I took Boy first to Wal-Mart, then to the Boy Scout shop.  At WM, we bought paint and sandpaper for his Pinewood Derby car (he chose an amber-ish color) and, as a bonus, a red t-shirt with a dragon on it.  I was happy because I so rarely get to buy him things – it was kind of a treat for me.

We made the half-hour crosstown trip to the Scout Shop to pick up weights for the Pinewood Derby car.  When we got there, I pointed out to him the RIDICULOUSLY long icicles hanging at the hip joints of the shop’s copper roof.  These things were literally 2-3 feet long.  We went inside, and the place was a zoo.  I gravitated to the Derby car section, and just as I reached out to grab a set of weights (the undercar type, that come in a scored trapezoid so you can break off the right amount to meet the correct 5-oz weight limit) when another dad reached out and nabbed the last one.  D’oh!  There was a little set of adhesive coin pockets there…add a quarter here, a dime there, to make the weight.  Well, it was all I had to choose from, and the race itself was supposed to be on Tuesday.  (I think – the last two meetings were snowed out, so there’s still a chance they’ll postpone it, I guess.)

While waiting in the LONG line, we ended up right behind the weight-nabbing dad.  At one point, after talking (very nicely) with his kids, he spotted me holding the coin pouches, and said, “Did you need weights, too?”  “Actually, yes I did,” I replied.  He held one up – he had two.  “Here, take this one.  If one isn’t enough for us, I’ll use a washer for the other weight.”  I thanked him kindly, and we were outta there and headed back home. stopping off to fill up our near-empty tank of gas.  We got back about 11:30.

Dys had said she’d be up when we got back, to which Boy and I both scoffed.  When she’s up that late, normally the butt-crack of noon is about her wake-up time.  I figured I’d give her a little longer before waking her up to play Rock Band.  If we were to get Boy’s car done and painted up, I needed to get to work, so before lunch I decided to haul out my X-Acto knives, sit down outside on my back stoop, and carve the channel underneath his car to place the weights.

See, some of you are already starting to cringe.  I got about 1/3 of the way through, doing a good job even though I was thinking how easy it would be to hurt myself badly…before I, you know, hurt myself badly.   (At this point, people with weak stomachs can turn away for a few.)

The chisel blade I was using slipped and I hit myself on the left thumb, on the top of the middle joint.  Hard.  I instinctively grabbed the cut and applied pressure.  I waited a sec, moved my other hand to look, and WAY more skin moved than should have.

Confession:  I am one of those people above who have weak stomachs.  Honestly, I’m a big fat wuss.  It kept me from pursuing a career as a surgeon even though my high school chemistry teacher literally BEGGED me to do so.  “You’re great at the science, and you’ve got the steadiest hands I’ve ever seen – much better than (prominent local surgeon)!!”  Yeah, Mr. G, but the blood?  I can clean fish and field-dress game all day long, but when it’s a real-life person I go all woozy.  Dys laughs at me when she flips it to medical documentaries.  I damn near passed out during the video of a c-section during our Lamaze classes, and I wasn’t even looking right at it.

I’ve cut myself before that my mom has put butterfly tape over it and later said, “We really should have gotten you stitches.”  Actually, though, I’ve had stitches twice in my life:  once when I had my wisdom teeth out when I was 16, and the other when I broke a piece of glass and got some in my hand when I was two.  This time, I was pretty sure the butterfly tape wasn’t going to cut it.  Still keeping pressure on with my right hand, I walked in the house, back to my bedroom, and told Dys, “Babe, I need you to wake up.  Now.  I need you to drive me to the ER to get some stitches.”  Well, THAT got her attention.

As she went to get dressed, I went back to the kitchen and held my hand over the sink.  I got the instinct to peek again.  “Maybe the butterfly tape…”   NOPE.  Not only that, but now I was officially feeling faint.  I decided the best thing to do was to go sit on the back porch again where I could put my head low and not bleed all over the house.  Now here’s Funny Part #1:  While I’m sitting there, pale and sweating and clutching my hand (the pressure is keeping it from bleeding too much)…one of my neighbors that I don’t know well comes up and starts to have a conversation with me about my late beloved next-door neighbor.  She wanted to say that she and several of the other neighbors had noticed Dys and I trimming her bushes, raking her leaves, and shoveling her driveway, and wanted both to thank us and let us know that they’d told the family that we’d done so.  I was trying to be polite, thinking this would be a short talk and not wanting to alarm anybody, but she kept talking and I kept reeling until she asked if I was okay, and I said, “Actually, I’ve cut myself and I’m waiting for my wife to get ready to take me to get stitches.”  Neighbor went into overdrive.  “Oh my!  Do you need me to drive you?  Stay with the kids?  Anything!”  Heh.  I assured her we were okay, and she worriedly left, asking me to call if we needed anything.

Dys still wasn’t ready…she was getting dressed, calling the immediate care center to see if they were open (they were), talking to Boy, etc.  We decided NOT to force Boy to sit in  a waiting room, for all our sakes.  He could stay home safely, playing video games, and Dys’s parents agreed to call him every 30 minutes or so and talk to him for a while at a stretch.  Not knowing how long we’d be waiting, I came back in to grab a book, and on second thought, a can of Coke to get some sugar in my faint stomach.  Dys wrapped my thumb in a piece of and old towel and taped it up securely, then she had me go sit in the car while she took the dog out to pee and then we left for the immediate care center at about 12:30.  I told Dys she could just drop me off and I’d call her when I was done, but she shrugged me off.

Luckily for us, the ICC wasn’t terribly busy.  (We missed the Sat night rush, I guess.)  We (mostly D) filled out my paperwork, and soon thereafter we got called back.  I explained that I had an L-shaped laceration on my thumb, pretty deep although not sure HOW deep, because I told her up front, “YOU can look all you want, but I’M not gonna.”  Dys says, “I’m gonna look.”  I said, “Oh, so THAT’S why you wanted to stay!”  The NP looked nervous.  “Well,” she said, “I can see the bone.  I’m worried you might have ligament damage.  I could suture you, but I would recommend that you go to the ER at the hand care center downtown.  We accepted her advice, and I went ahead and got my tetanus shot there. The doc wrapped up my thumb (way too loosely, D snagged the tape after she walked out and did a much better job) and we left.

It was after 1 and neither of us had eaten – and with me feeling pretty faint, we decided to get some food.  I only thought afterward “that might have been dumb,” but D said she’d thought of it and was sure they’d only do a local on me.  Anyway, we hit a drive-thru and went to the hand care ED.  Luckily, as a specialty emergency dept, they also weren’t too busy, so we got right in.  All things considered, I was in a decent mood.  I felt better having eaten, and my normal defense mechanism of rapid-fire jokes was in full gear.  A resident took a quick look, I got some x-rays taken to survey any bone damage, then the resident numbed me up pretty good with a digital block.  Then a fellow came in and she and the resident spent probably 15 minutes digging around, pushing my thumb in all directions, and even comparing it to my right thumb.  “See?  This one doesn’t move that much.  There’s ligament damage there.”  Looking at the X-ray, they even thought they saw a spot where I shaved the knuckle slightly flat on one side.  Bonus.  I said, “Hey, I’m a bad musician, but I’d really like to not be any worse.”  They reassured me that I’d be cool.

They left to get things set up to operate on me.  Dys took this opportunity to try to talk me into letting her take pics of the cut with her cell phone.  At first I said NO WAY, but I gave in.  She didn’t get the good shots of the ladies holding everything open and poking around, but if anybody wants to see what color my blood is, drop her a line.  She then hushed me for a minute so she could overhear the fellow discussing my case with the senior attending, then shortly thereafter they took me back and set me up to operate.

I found myself wishing for my iPod.  They hung a little curtain so I couldn’t see what they were doing and so didn’t have to make sure I was looking away all the time, but still, something to focus on would have been good.  The nurse set me up with a tourniquet on my bicep, over my pushed-up sleeve of my sweatshirt.  She had to go back and get a bigger one, which I chose to take as “Yeah, these are the big guns, baby!” and not “I’ve got fat-dude arms.”  The fellow came in, and told me that the tourniquet would probably be the most uncomfortable part of the whole experience.  They got all their prep work done, balled up a little gauze for me to cup in my relaxed hand, inflated the tourniquet, and got to work.

She was right.  That tourniquet was TIGHT.  First my hand and arm went cold, then it went numb, and soon thereafter I lost all control over it whatsoever.  At one point the fellow said, “Relax it.”  I said, “Uh, I’ve got zero control over it right now!”  She laughed and said she meant the nurse.  I don’t know about you guys, but to me, I like it when the docs working on you are making small talk while they’re working.  To me, that means “routine.  We can do this.  No biggie.”  I’m lucky enough to live in a city where they’ve actually done a successful hand transplant. The fellow working on me?  Yeah, she studies with those dudes.  Compared to that, my repair was no big deal.

So, after digging around in there and surveying the damage closely, she says, “Well, the good news is, we can absolutely fix everything.  The bad news is, you won’t be playing your guitar for quite a while.  You’re pretty good:  you cut this one tendon about 95% of the way through.  You got this ligament over here as well – lacerated it, and actually took a tiny chunk out of it – but that should heal up just fine.”  She looked at the bone, and looked at it, and looked at it, and said, “Are you sure you’ve never injured this thumb before?”  “Nope.  Never.  I can’t think of any…WAIT.  Yep, that’s the thumb I hit with a hammer when I was 12 or 13.”  “Well, that flattened spot on the x-ray was probably caused by that.  You probably had a tiny fracture and it healed that way.”  She looked.  “Ah.  Yes.  But THIS is fresh.  Yep.  You took a tiny chip out of the bone, too.  Those X-Acto knives are pretty unforgiving.  If they’ll shave wood, they’ll shave your bones just fine.”  She paused.  “At least you put the laceration right on top where it’s easiest for us to get to.”  “Well, you know, Doc,” I says, “I wanted to keep you guys from being bored on a Saturday, but not have to work too hard.”

Well, score one for me.

They worked on me for probably an hour or close to it.  At one point, she said “Your tendon and ligament are all repaired, we just have to irrigate it and then sew up the skin and then we can let the tourniquet down.  Can you make it?”  I said, “Sure, I’m uncomfortable but I’ll make it.”  Well, the last 10 minutes with the tourniquet I was seriously uncomfortable.  Not only was all feeling gone, but it got to the point that even though I knew my arm was straight on the table, I could have sworn that it was bent 90 degrees at the elbow.  I started squirming a little bit, and just when I was about to ask “Uh, how much longer?” they were done.  The first let-off of the tourniquet felt great – a rush of warmth – then pins and needles to beat the band, but in a weird way, that felt good.  Then I swear it felt like not only did I have no control over my arm…still…but it felt like it was LOCKED in position.  I actually told the doc, “Wonder if this is what rigor mortis feels like?”

She started explaining to me that she’d be splinting up my thumb.  I’d just been thinking about the stitches, but oh, sure.  A splint.  Then she started talking about keeping the plaster dry.  I said, “Oh, a cast?”  “No, a cast goes all the way around.  This will only cup it.”  Ah.  But then she started laying out the plaster strips…the length of my entire forearm.  At that point, I just started to giggle.  We had officially crossed over into ludicrous territory.  So now I’m in a half-cast to my elbow for 2 weeks – and looking at some serious physical therapy after that.  I hope y’all liked my techno music, because that’s all I’m doing for a while.  (Hell, for at least 2 weeks I can’t even play Xbox.  Head to the library, check!)

Ah, February.  You dirty bitch.  Thanks for the badass birthday, at least.  Thumbs up!!

For the medically literate:

Left thumb extensor pollicis longus 95% laceration
Left thumb open proximal phalanx fracture
Left thumb ulnar collateral ligament of MPJ partial laceration


18 Responses

  1. God. I’m so sorry. That sucks SO BAD. And… there really isn’t much more to say, is there? I think next February you should just take a month-long vacation. To somewhere safe. With no sharp objects, and padding on every corner. I hope the pain is manageable!!! Did they give you some good drugs? Did The Boy freak out, and what is the future of his pinewood derby car?

    I said the same thing about a trip – Dys says NO. NO PLANES, BOATS, OR INTERSTATES. She has a point.

    Pain – meh. They gave me a script for painkillers. I took one last night, haven’t taken one at all today, although I may at bedtime, since it’s uncomfortable when I tried to sleep. Otherwise, it just kinda aches like a sprain. Cuz ligament damage IS a sprain, basically.

    Boy didn’t actually see until I got home all bandaged up – and he didn’t freak otherwise. I broke out my big metal angle grinder and did a halfassed job on the body cavity of his car. As I type, we’re about to go back outside & put the second coat of paint on.

  2. SHIT. 95%. I guess you can be grateful for the other 5%. I’m glad you managed to get in there and get surgery to repair it. Still, it bites. BF wishes you a speedy recovery.

    Coulda been worse. Apparently there are lateral bands on either side of the ligament that hold the ligament in place that I did NOT get – and they’re supposedly near impossible to repair or heal.

    Thanks for the wishes!

  3. Glad that you’re ok and that you will heal. Your wooziness and descriptions made ME woozy, and I don’t get woozy unless it’s my kids that are hurt.

    We don’t seem to have rough months like you and Dys. We had a rough year (2007). Luckily, it hasn’t settled into a routine thing. Perhaps next year, you’ll be able to break the Feb curse!

    One of these days we HAVE to beat the Feb curse, right? (Don’t answer that.)

  4. As I said before “Oh ferfucksakes!” 😦

    While reading, the klutz in my head was saying “urgent care is going to send him to the ER, I just know it”.

    Ugh. I’m sorry, TB. I, too, am glad you aren’t a lefty!

    Yep, I can still wipe my butt. 😀

    I had barely thought about permanent ligament damage until the urgent care chick said it. At that point, admittedly, I started to worry a bit. But things should be cool. (Eventually. After some probably sucky PT.)

  5. What KILLS me is that you were filling time before playing rockband.

    If it helps at all, my past three trips to the urgent care center were caused by an escalator + birkenstocks, a ball-point pen, and bales of hay. Losing to an exacto knife is LIGHTYEARS better than to a ball-point pen.

    “I hurt myself working on my kid’s pinewood racer with an exacto-knife” sounds both manly and parental. And painful.

    But, if you’re gonna attack yourself with a knife…at least you know how to “do it right”.

    I’m glad you’re expecting a full recovery, now you’ll just have a cool scar to feature when you’re playing a bitch’n metal solo. Even in Rockband.

    You just KNOW that I’m not alone in that Pinewood Derby injury stat column.

    To paraphrase Keanu Reeves…pain heals, chicks dig scars, but dumbass self-injury stories last forever.

  6. OK, in this pic it looks like you lost the whole damn thumb!

    Nah, if anything I probably gained a few ounces in silk sutures.

  7. oh barf, puke, gag. I cut my finger really bad on a knife today (not THAT bad) so i am already woozy

    Hope you’re un-woozied by now! Sorry bout that, and hope you heal up quicker than I do!

  8. Ouch! That BLOWS!!!!! I assume that I am going to cut myself with EVERY knife…because for a two year stretch, I did. But none of them anything close to that…and “irrigation” just sounds disgusting.

    But, I still wish you taken some “during” photos.

    Trust me, Dys is mad that she didn’t insist on being present for the surgery itself. If she had been, she’d have been mad that she didn’t bring the good camera.

  9. I’m no longer going to whine about the burn on the pad of my thumb and the fact that I cut the shit out of my finger while cutting hair because it didn’t end with a trip to the ER.

    Hope everything is ok otherwise!

    I feel much better now on Mon morning (cept the cast is more annoying) – I’ll let you know how everything is after PT starts, heh.

  10. I see I’m not the only one February has physically harmed this year and yes, she IS a bitch. At least you got a good and nasty story to tell. Did it score you some major ‘cool dad’ points with the boy?

    Not yet. Though I did play the “THIS is how bad I wanted you to have a good Pinewood Derby car! (I only entered once as a scout and was eliminated in the first heat, and I remember being bummed.)

    Maybe when the wrap comes off and I can show him the scar.

  11. found your blog by way of MTAE and I am thoroughly enjoying it already…I’m such a sicko. You also appear to have excellent taste in music.


    Sickos welcome here…I can always recognize my own! And wait to judge my musical tastes for a little while to see if you can stomach my frequent death-metal forays…

    Thanks for commenting, and stop on by anytime!

    • Ohhh Marie…you may want to be careful jumping into this group, it won’t be long before your voice ends up going out over the airwaves…next month’s topic has GOT to be serious gaping wounds.

      OOOH you’re correct. We should all talk about our worst and/or stupidest injuries!

    • the death metal is what I’m referring to! \m/

      I later cruised your blog and saw the reference to Exodus. Thumbs up!

  12. NICE!!!!!!!!!! You don’t mess around do you? You’re the kind of guy who wants to do it once and go all the way with it, aren’t you?

    That’s me, dude.

    And, seeing you’re the weak stomach kind, I won’t bother relating any of my stories. But I have them. Many of them. More than my share really.

    Just in case you’re ever interested.

    I can read ’em, I just don’t like seeing the pictures!

    Hope you heal well.

    Gracias, man.

  13. […] has been one of the most challenging, exhausting weeks of my life. And it’s more evidence that February is just a shitty month. It makes me sad, because this is also the month that BF asked […]

  14. […] is never a set topic – this month, as per MTAE’s suggestion, based on my dumbass thumb I’m pondering having everybody talk about stupid and/or […]

  15. than k you for your idea

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