it all started because i was thinking about getting back into bicycling again. the motorcycle is all fun and good, but i'm not getting much exercise sitting on my ass. with a bicycle, i can get to where i want to go and get a work out in the process, a win-win situation. problem is i'm missing a few essential accessories, like a bike lock. so i went online searching for one (after visiting target and finding their selection lacking), and remembered that you could open an old-style kryptonite u-lock using a pen cap. i just so happened to have such a lock (with a missing key) and wanted to see if i could perform this trick. the pen cap i was using wouldn't quite fit inside the circular keyhole, so i used a buck knife to cut a few slits to make the pen cap a little bigger. what happened next i'm both embarrassed and pained to even describe, but i was cutting the slits with the knife pointing in my direction when the pen cap broke up and i sliced myself across the thumb.
at first i felt pain and i knew i'd cut myself, just didn't know where. i looked down and didn't even quite know what i was looking at when i saw it. was that a flap of skin? but why is there a piece of fingernail attached to it? can you even slice fingernail like that? for a few seconds nothing happened. my body didn't even know what just hit it. then all of a sudden blood started to ooze out from the wound. shit shit shit, i thought to myself, this is bad. i ran to the kitchen to grab a dish towel before running to the sink where the blood was starting to drip off my hand. apply pressure to the wound, apply pressure to wound i repeated to myself, trying to stop the bleeding. i started to feel light-headed.
with my one good hand grabbing hold of my thumb to stop the bleeding, i called my parents at the cafe. my mother answered. i didn't want to panic her. "something happened," i said, "i cut my hand." she didn't hear me correctly and thought i said i cut off my hand. so 5 minutes later they were outside, ready to take me to the mt.auburn hospital emergency room. i was in my underwear (don't ask) and had to put on some pants while putting pressure on my thumb. my father got out of the car, thinking that if my wound wasn't bad, we might not need to go to the hospital, but when i uncovered the bloody towel and showed him how half my thumb was hanging on my a thread, he got back into the car and drove.
at the hospital i waited patiently to check in behind a couple wearing matching face masks. what i wouldn't give for some swine flu instead of a severed thumb! i felt dizzy. when it finally got to my turn, i calmly explained to the receptionist what happened. "i was carving something and sliced my hand with the knife, almost severing my thumb," i told her. she calmly typed my information into the computer. "do you need to see it?" i asked her, slowly peeling back the towel. "no no, that won't be necessary," she replied quickly.
i sat in the waiting room with my parents. i felt drained but strangely calm. the thumb was painful - like the throbbing pain you get when you stub your toe - but i was getting used to it. i also had some superficial cuts on my hand but they were nothing compared to the thumb slice. just a few weeks ago my father was in the same exact waiting room when he burned his hand. now it was my turn. there were other people waiting as well, and i tried to guess what they were here for. none of them looked very serious. i was the only one clutching a bloody towel to an injury, shouldn't i get to go to the front of the line? but even in an emergency room, unless it's a life or death situation, you wait, like everybody else. and wait. and wait. to be fair, the wait wasn't as long as when i came with my mother to the emergency room last year.
when they called my name, my mother came with me. parents get weird when their children get hurt, even if that child is a middle-aged adult. when my father heard my mother tell him initially that i had "cut off my hand," he didn't quite believe it because i don't own any power tools. he was more afraid that i was in a motorcycle accident, but when he realized that wasn't the case, he figured it wasn't anything lift-threatening. earlier i told my mother she could go home if she wanted to, no point having both my parents waiting for me (i even thought about sending both of them home, but decided to be selfish and get a ride back instead of just walking home), but she chose to stay. a nurse took my blood pressure and asked me a bunch of questions. do you have any allergies? arre you currently taking any medication? on a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain are you in? (i answered 6). the last question was a strange one: do you feel safe at home? "yes...that is until i cut my hand today." we both laughed. with that the nurse sent us back outside, replacing the dish towel with a fresh piece of gauze. by that point the bleeding had pretty much stopped, and i was able to give both my parents a better look at the injury. my mother made a face like she smelled something awful. my father was more diplomatic, said it didn't look as bad as when i first showed him the fresh injury back at my place.
when they finally called me again to get patched up for real, i told my parents to wait outside. they might not want to see what happens next.
the worst case scenario would be i'd lose that part of my thumb that i cut off but still attached by a bit of skin and flesh. i'd have a tiny thumb for the rest of my life, i would never be able to hitchhike, at least not with my right hand. the best case scenario? that they're somehow able to reattach it. but with the fingernail split like that? i'm no hand scientist but it didn't seem possible.
i was asked to lie down on a hospital bed with wheels. an amazingly good looking physician assistant named jason came by and said he'd fix me up. he asked if i wanted any over-the-counter painkillers to ease any discomfort, but i told the pain would reinforce a valuable life lesson regarding knife safety. first he injected me with some powerful local anesthesia. it was a large scary syringe that he jabbed right into my thumb muscles. "this is going to hurt so take a deep breath." it hurt, but soon afterwards my thumb went numb. he injected so much fluid that the palm of my hand was actually slightly swollen. 5 minutes went by, and after a doctor came by and gave him the okay, jason started to clean up the cut. he swabbed the thumb with some hydrogen peroxide. it was all fizzing but i felt nothing, blissfully detached. then he separated out the two halves of my thumb and washed it with a distilled water squirter. when it came time for him to stitch me up, that's when i looked away. even though i wouldn't feel it, the idea of sewing me up turned my stomach a little bit. on the thumb itself i got 4 small stitches, but on the fingernail side he used a liquid adhesive to bind the two halves of the fingernail together. so i wouldn't lose any part of my thumb after all. another nurse came by to give me a precautionary tetanus shot when i told them i couldn't remember the last time i had one. "it's going to hurt a little bit, then hurt some more tomorrow, and the day after that," she told me in regards to the shot. at first i thought she was joking but then realized she was serious. the tetanus shot was far less painful than the thumb shot. she also wrapped up my thumb in gauze, even though it wasn't necessary. "just put on a bandaid when you change the dressing," she told me. she also reminded me to make an appointment with my primary care physician to remove the stitches after 10 days.
after i signed some papers (with my non-writing left hand; i basically just drew a scribble) i was discharged. we arrived at the hospital around 5:00 and left at 7:30. my parents were starting to get worried because i was gone for a while, but thought maybe i was getting some stitches, which takes more time, instead of just a simple bandage job. as soon as i left though, the anesthesia must've worn off because my thumb started to hurt. it was a throbbing pain, the kind i could take my pulse with. i moaned a little bit and asked my parents if they had any advil or tylenol. we went to the cafe, where my mother made me some vegetarian sushi for dinner along with some braised beef. later my father drove me back home, waxing philosophically on the fragility of human life. the two advil gel capsules i took finally kicked in and my thumb stopped hurting.
back at my house, it was still a crime scene. the buck knife was still on the coffee table, along with the broken pen cap. i quickly closed the knife and put it away, not wanting to be reminded of what just happened. in the kitchen was the initial blood-soaked dish towel that i used to wrap up my bleeding thumb. the kitchen and bathroom sinks were both splattered with dried blood. while dried blood is tough to remove from hard surfaces, it actually comes off quite easily from clothes (when presoaked with detergent).
with my right thumb in stitches, i won't be able to write or use chopsticks, but that's about it. i use my right hand for finesse actions (my pincher claw), while my left hand has more power (the crusher claw). thankfully i can still type. later in the evening i realized i do something else with my right hand that i can't easily do now: go to the bathroom! it felt like i was doing it for the first time, didn't know which angle to attack.
that wasn't all that happened today. in the morning cleber, the 2nd paint contractor, came by to do an estimate. unfortunately mike from yesterday decided to show up at the same time to drop off his written estimate, so there was a moment of awkwardness. i felt like i got cheating or something. i told mike that cleber was just there to look at the windows, which was something mike didn't want to paint. after mike left, cleber and i could take more freely. he was a young guy but with an eye for details. he works solo, so it'd take him 3 weeks to paint our house. at first he was reluctant to tackle the windows as well, but after giving it some thought, he started to see the possibilities. i really like cleber, he didn't give me any numbers yet (maybe friday or monday), but i hope he's cheap enough that we can afford him, i think he'd do a great job. finally, the 3rd contractor got in touch with my today. unfortunately i was too busy cutting off my thumb at the time so i won't be able to call him back until tomorrow.
i also visited the community garden for the first time since saturday. i did some weeding and gave all the vegetables a thorough watering. my tomato plants look anorexic. hopefully now that the weather has improved, the plants can take better advantage of the sunshine.
i went to market basket this morning at 10:00. that's a great time to go because the place is pretty empty, but usually around that time i'm just about to wake up.
i had a conference call with client S today. they want me to do a very small project for them, not so much programming as just an advisory role. so small in fact that it's the kind of thing i usually wouldn't even charge them for, but maybe i can make some grocery money for the next few weeks.