Yesterday, for the first time in almost two months, I signed my signature with my right hand. Until now I’ve been signing it with my left hand — backwards — and since it’s a scribble either way, no one will notice. Where do I start?
On January 19th, a Sunday, I was working on some really thick reclaimed hardwood as a hat rack foot. I had just bought an extra-long blade for my jig saw, but I figured I’d save a moment or two by making what cuts I could on the table saw. It was raised up high (2″) and I free-fed it in vertically so I wouldn’t have to use the miter gauge. My hands were nowhere near the blade, goggles on, when the wood shot out of my hand. I never imagined that kind of force could exist from kickback. It wasn’t quite merely an academic concept to me because I’ve had kickback before, but only small, loose pieces of wood shooting out the ends. But here was this heavy triangle of non-dimensional hardwood like a cannonball, high-fiving me like a passing truck. (I avoid standing along the angle of the saw, which was good, because it it would have hit me straight on, well, I don’t know if I’d be standing here today.)
After that split second, I looked down to find everything there (the mind can count to five faster than you can imagine), but not quite in the right order. I immediately knew one or more fingers were broken, the middle one limp, and the direction off on others with major tears across three of them. Before the blood even came, Merry recognized it wasn’t my usual screaming. Adrenaline rushed in, I just held my hand to collect myself for a moment, then turned off the saw, said ‘screw the lights’, and met Mer on the stairs with a dish towel and cloth napkin.
Around the corner from where we lived (and she drove me to, making one red light optional), Mercy Hospital’s Emergency room staff took me in right away. I got much better service than Merry did when she went there last year, though I had to stand in the doorway looking faint to get meds as the pain started creeping through the shock. The injection did the job but made nauseous. I was sent (refusing an ambulance) to ECMC, where they have specialists for this sort of thing, to be stitched up like Frankenstein. Short on help (and a lady going a bit psychotic in the hallway), my wife the vet nurse stepped in and assisted, handing the doctor supplies as needed.
A number of people at both hospitals wanted to see it, some guessing it was a snow-blower incident, and the look on one woman’s face told me how bad it was. My wife took what she called “the money shot” which she showed incredulous co-workers and boss who thought staying home to help a husband wit ha hurt hand was silly — and promptly changed their minds. Since then, she’s shown it to a lot of people, even the head of my lodge, who asked for a copy and showed it around the brethren the next day. What an odd form of celebrity …
The moment I got home that night, I switched the buttons on my mouse and put it on the other side of my keyboard. I was all bandaged in a splint, but even though my thumb was free, it was like a whole new world of figuring out how to do simple things. The following week was surgery, with pinning three of the four bones (some multiple fractures) across three fingers, and reattaching a ligament.
I was confident from the moment I saw my hand that modern medicine could handle it, and that even if I didn’t return to full function, I’d deal with it, soaking in whatever life lessons I could glean from the experience. Let’s just say I’m making a lot of lemonade. And I’m grateful.