How serious is a Hand injury?

Warning – You may prefer to skip this blog if you have a weak stomach since it contains graphic photos and a video of my hand injury. 

STOP Cutting Corners

STOP Cutting Corners!

It may be unlikely that you would die from a hand injury, but a hand injury can have a very significant impact on your life. Stop to consider the importance of your hands … doesn’t it make sense to protect them? Think of the intricate tasks you commonly carry out using your hand. Those intricacies and the sensory of touch connect your brain to your hands in a very unique way. To break it down even further how many daily tasks require the use of part of your hand … just a finger or your thumb?

A table saw kickback occurs when a table saw is used incorrectly; the wood is thrown back off the saw blade towards the user sometimes at speeds exceeding 160 kph (100 mph) … the kickback I endured resulted in the amputation of three fingers and my thumb. My thumb and middle finger were each connected to my hand by a small flap of skin while my other two fingers came to the hospital in a Zip-loc bag. The Doctors told me before my surgery that they wouldn’t reattach my ring finger or my pointer since the damage was too severe. The surgery would focus on an attempt to reattach my middle finger and my thumb. The Doctor tried to prepare me mentally by saying “Don’t have any hope for your thumb”. I took offense to that comment because I had all kinds of hope since, by this time, I had many people praying for me.

The first words I remember after my six hour surgery was the nurse saying it was a miracle the way the pieces of the thumb fit together. The medical team was able to reattach my thumb and my middle finger. I told the Doctor afterwards that he shouldn’t steal someone’s hope. Although I had faith that I would get my thumb back, he was the Doctor conducting the surgery. His response was insightful. “If you would’ve seen how damaged your thumb really was you would understand my comment. Your thumb wasn’t broken, it was shattered”.

I did see my thumb … in fact I stared at my hand for nearly four hours from the time of the injury until they put me under for my surgery. I didn’t see the details of the x-rays that were taken and honestly questioned the validity an x-ray of that type of mess and how it would help them repair my hand.

These picture show my hand in a pretty sorry and sore state days after my injury. I had one pin holding my middle finger on and two pins holding my thumb in place. Two pins were required for my thumb so that they had something to collect the bone fragments around. Although my pinkie was not damaged I was urged not to move it for six weeks until the bones and tendons healed. I actually captured the removal of the two inch pins from my thumb on video and have posted on YouTube (below).

Just a reminder only watch the video if you aren’t queasy … ah, who am I kidding if you’re still reading you might as well watch the 39 second video.

Some adaptation was required to address the absence of some of my fingers and the limited mobility of my middle finger. Let me repeat again “I am very fortunate” … I would say that I have about 80% usability of my hand … even though some of the intricate tasks are now more of a left-handed endeavour. A couple of farmers close to my home town did not fair quite as well. Check out “Bruce Osiowy’s Story” who was forced to cut off his own finger and thumb with a swiss army knife in order to free himself from a rock picker. Murray Bedel has battled longer than both of us with an injury which claimed both of his arms.

How would missing a hand impact your tasks at work? I joke with some of my co-workers that I’m working as a seven finger typist which still trumps the folks who are two finger typists. A friend of mine is a Dentist and we had some good conversations while I was recovering. He confided in me that “he couldn’t afford to do his own renovations in the event a serious injury could occur”.  In retrospect I couldn’t afford to be careless or use the improper tool either. I may not have staff dependent on me for their livelihood, but I have a family that depends on me … simply put it wasn’t worth the risk of doing something I knew was dangerous for the amount of time it “saved” me.

Months after my injury occurred I recall a very simple task; trying to get my keys out of my pocket. I reached into my pocket to get my keys, but somehow they weren’t in my hand. I could feel they were in my pocket, but I kept missing the keys. Finally it dawned on me that the keys were falling through the hole where my ring finger used to be. I recall lying in my hospital bed looking at my ring finger and thinking “What good is that?” Such a little bit of the finger left hardly seemed worthwhile to save, but the complete absence of my ring finger would provide an even bigger hole in my hand. Ironically prior to my injury I remember talking about some of my fingers and comparing the strength and usefulness of each finger. At that point I really downplayed the significance of my ring finger … now that its two-thirds gone I can see that I didn’t give it nearly enough credit.

Do you take your hands for granted? Consider the loss of touch or the increased difficulty with everyday jobs? Are you carrying out tasks that have pinching, grinding, crushing, or cutting hazards for your hands? I challenge you to identify and address the hazards that you and your co-workers face at work or you and your family members face at home.

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