February 14, 2013

Trip(s) to the doctor

What's with that finger?

Have you ever done something so stupid that you would avoid ever telling anyone, if you weren't bleeding to death and needed to be rushed to a doctor? Wow. I did. And to make it even more embarrassing, it was the second time that I did the same stupid thing, failing to learn my lesson the first, less severe, time. Now here I am telling the whole world about it, or at least that tiny portion of the world that reads the Blogicito.

I almost cut off my finger between the last joint and the tip. When it happened, there was so much blood gushing, including spattered on the wall and my clothes, that I wasn't even sure at the time that my entire finger was still attached. I quickly wrapped a paper towel around it and ran down to the garage to tell El Jefe that I needed to go to the hospital – now! Thank God he was home! He looked up at me surprised, looked at the by now bright red paper towel wrapped around my finger and started getting ready to go. He didn't ask any questions!

So what did this dastardly thing to my poor finger?

My favorite little kitchen tool, the immersion blender that was a gift from one of my readers. I had warned everyone how sharp it is and to be very, very careful when using or washing it. Do as I say, not as I do. I now think of this tool as 'the finger decapitator'.

I was making hummus and stuck my finger in the bottom of the blender to remove the great gobs of hummus that were stuck inside. Unfortunately, I didn't unplug it first, and – you guess it! – I accidentally pushed the power button while my finger was inside. I later admitted to El Jefe what I had done, and to his credit, he never asked me how I could do such a stupid thing. It took me awhile before I could use that blender again, but I love it so much that I had to forgive it.

We went to a private emergency clinic. The young doctor attended to me right away. He started cleaning the wound and then realized that he was going to have to anesthetize the finger. Oh, those shots HURT! It felt like the needle was going into the bone.

Frankenstein finger
This was the first good look I had of the wound. The cut was almost to the bone, he said, and encircled 3/4 of my finger, including cutting through my fingernail at one side. He made me lay down on the table with my arm hanging off the side while he worked on my finger. I did sneak a peek every now and then but I was mostly happy to not see the horror that was my finger, staring at the ceiling instead, thinking, "Is he almost done? Is he done yet? I want out of here!". When he finished, he made a joke, "Now you have a Frankenstein finger!" Yes, that describes it pretty well.

I was to clean the wound and re-bandage it every day. I asked what to use to clean it with and he said to use hydrogen peroxide. Hmmm. That surprised me because I've read that peroxide should not be used on an extended basis because it actually damages the new tissue growth and prevents wounds from healing. I was disappointed that he didn't know that.

He used a a strip of a special kind of medicated bandage net underneath the normal bandage. He gave me prescriptions for antibiotics, pain pills, and some antibiotic cream. He said to get more of the bandage net, but guess what? Of course, none of the pharmacies in town had that or even knew what the medicated bandage was, even when we took the package for them to see. We ended up having to buy some from Hospital D'Antoni. They said that they don't sell them but after much begging, they made an exception to sell us a few from their supply.

I was also to get a tetanus shot at the public health clinic (oh horrors!). "Can't you give the shot?" "Yes, but it is expensive here and free at the public hospital." "I don't care. I'd rather you do it." He agreed but then found out that the clinic didn't have any. Then we went to half a dozen pharmacies trying to find the shot. All had some kind of tetanus shot that apparently is not the kind that lasts 10 years. Figures. We called the doctor to verify, and yes, that wasn't the kind of tetanus he wanted me to get. I procrastinated and never did go to the public health clinic or get the tetanus shot.

I went back after a week to get the stitches out. Oh, joy! The stitches had become infected inside my finger and the doctor had to rip the whole thing open again to clean it out. I cried again as he began, and once again, he had to anesthetize my finger.

Laying on the table, I looked down and saw the gaping wound dripping blood on the floor and thought "Deja vu!" – it was never going to heal properly now and I would have a Frankenstein finger forever. This time he didn't sew it back together but gave me this finger brace to keep the finger from bending and opening the wound. Now I couldn't do anything with my left hand. He also gave me a prescription for another round of a different type of antibiotic.

I liked the doctor. He was kind and sympathetic. He tried to reassure me that it would heal without too bad of a scar. I know he cared, but he was so rough that he actually made me cry. "Why are you crying?" he would ask. "Does this liquid hurt?" or "Do you feel the needle?" "No, your hands are hurting me!" I wasn't angry. I don't think he realized how rough he was being. Finally El Jefe said that he needed to treat me like a woman (you know, delicately!).

I think the doctor felt bad about the infection. He decided that I should come back every 3-4 days for him to check on it. He didn't even charge us for the visits, only a paltry sum for the supplies used each time. It took almost a month for the wound to completely heal. Because my finger was still so tender, I had to keep it bandaged for a month or so after that to protect from bumping it, which I seemed to do constantly. I even slept with a sock over my hand because I kept hurting it during the night.

The 'feeling' in my finger tip is still not completely back. It feels a little like when your foot is asleep, tingly and still a little tender when I touch it or use it. For the first few months, it felt like a big club. Typing was really difficult for several months as I couldn't feel what key that finger was on. It has been six months now and thankfully there seems to be some improvement and my typing has improved. The doctor said that it could take a year before it is back to normal, or that the feeling might never completely come back. We'll see.

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