Sunday, January 18, 2009

Of sharp knives and severed thumbs

Warning: I don't tend to get queasy about blood and stuff, but I've learned in my four days of telling this story that I'm in the minority. So, while I could watch open heart surgery while eating dinner, if the title alone has made you weak in the knees, I'd recommend skipping this post. There. You've been warned. :)

On Wednesday night, I had planned on making fajitas for dinner. So after I got Jack settled with his dinner (probably mac and cheese--that seems to be his preferred meal these days), I proceeded to prepare the "real" meal. I got out the Foreman grill (because, even though I am usually one to grill in the winter, I am also one to be realistic when it's well below zero) and got the chicken and peppers out of the fridge. I plugged in the grill and decided to start on the chopping before I cooked the chicken. So I grabbed an onion and began slicing. Not even halfway through the onion, I somehow slipped and my thumb got in the way and before I knew it, I was bleeding. Quite badly. I grabbed a paper towel and held my thumb really tight. And that's when I noticed it. On the cutting board. I had cut something off. It wasn't just a flap of skin still stuck on the knife, like when you really nick yourself shaving and the razor holds the proof. In hindsight, it was probably enough to stick back on and hope to God it would stick. But I didn't. I threw it away.

I called my husband. And even though I wasn't particularly in a ton of pain (yet), I totally started bawling. "I cut myself really bad." To which Dan replied: "I'll come home right away!" And I said, "No, you don't have to hurry--I just don't know what to do. It won't stop bleeding." So he continued to try to talk me into calling a friend or someone to come over. But frankly, I didn't need anyone to come over and watch me cry. I just needed to sit and wait until Dan got home. I could have driven to Urgent Care with Jack, but even though I felt fine at the moment, I didn't really trust myself to drive while applying pressure without becoming lightheaded and fainting at the wheel. So I held a paper towel on my thumb for an hour and a half until Dan got home. And really, as long as I was holding something on it, it was fine. It was when I took it away that the blood rushed in and threatened to take over my hand.

We arrived at Urgent Care just after 7pm, which, for future reference, is a great time to go to Urgent Care! Not a single person was in the waiting room. I got to the check-in desk and told the woman what I did. She took my info and gave me a slip of paper that told me what room to go to. I asked her to direct my husband and son (who were parking the car) to the right place. In the room, a nurse came and took my vitals and brought me to a procedure room. She had assumed that "a really bad cut" meant a slice, in which case the doctor would be administering stitches. But right before she left to get the doctor, she said, "Oh, let me just look at it," and I removed the paper towel (seriously, could you give me something a little more sterile to hold on it, please?). "Oh, stitches aren't going to help that at all. Let me see what we have." It was too large of an area to do stitches, but too deep to just bandage. And there was the "IT WON'T STOP BLEEDING!" issue.

Dan and Jack finally found me in the procedure room, just as the doctor was putting my thumb in a bowl of warm water with some antibacterial soap in it. Holy mother of God, that hurt ten times worse than the cut itself. So much so that I told Dan he should probably leave with Jack. After about two minutes in the water, it felt fine. And that was good, because the boys came back. Jack wanted to make sure I was okay. :) I have to wonder what the nurse was thinking, though. I had just told her I was 16 weeks pregnant (just in case any of their procedures or treatments involved something I shouldn't have) and then she sees me almost hit the floor when my thumb has to sit in a bowl of warm soapy water. "Wow--good luck with labor, sweetheart." I almost wanted to reassure her that I really wasn't that wimpy. That I had endured 30 hours of unmedicated labor to bring my first child into the world, and I was prepared to do it again. (But please, God, let it be shorter). But I didn't.

So after my thumb had a sufficient soaking, the doctor came back in and explained what they were going to do. They had a substance called "gel foam" that they would hold on the laceration to stop the bleeding. It would adhere and eventually help your blood clot and skin form a scab. So the doctor held the gel foam on and it kind of stung. What hurt worse was the fact that I had just held pressure on this thing for almost two hours, and it was just sore. Then she let the nurse dress the wound and sent me on my way with the extra gel foam, accessories, and instructions to repeat this process in 24-48 hours. Oh, lucky me.

I did repeat the process. Twice now, actually. And both times, I've thought, "Wow! That really isn't as bad as I expected it to look!" but Dan still shudders at the sight, so I think I'm just being optimistic. Unfortunately, fooling around with it (taking the old gel foam off, applying the new, etc) makes it start throbbing again. You know, where you can feel your heartbeat in your cut. But apparently, it's helping.

My favorite part of the story happened on the way home from Urgent Care. Dan said, "Yeah, that knife is pretty sharp." I thought about it for a second and said, "You know, I actually haven't sharpened it in a really long time!" Sheepishly, Dan said, "Um, I actually just sharpened it." Surprised, I said, "What were you cutting?"

"Nothing. I just felt like sharpening it." Thanks, dear.


trish and chris said...

LOL that is VERY funny (the end is, about Dan). The rest of your blog was read with clenched teeth and i think i was holding my hand... yikes! you poor thing. you're so tough.

Holly said...

I too just finished reading it and realized that I am totally tensed up. Hope it heals well!

amy + ryan said...

oh, erin, i laughed, i cried (ok, i laughed UNTIL i cried). mostly i laughed at the "Holy mother of God" painful soapy water vs. childbirth comparison and the "Please, God, let it be shorter."

if you wrote a book i'd totally buy it. and give to to all my friends for christmas. what a fun writer you are to read! i'm always so excited to see you have a new post. :)

actually, the title did make me feel a bit light-headed. but the whole thing was totally worth reading. and i, like holly, just realized i needed to relax my shoulders.

hey, are you not going to have a thumbprint now on one hand?

Ann said...

Yikes! Sorry to hear of your ordeal, but I did kind of like the part where you threw a piece of your finger in the trash. That's just not the sort of thing you read about everyday. :-)

-Lisa- said...

OH MY GOSH... I JUST ONLY READ THIS NOW!! laughing and wincing at the same time... throwing part of your thumb in the garbage and dan's info at the end were my "favorite" parts..I would have asked to see your thumb tonight if I knew :) i suppose there might not have been anything to see at the moment.
love you