Tom is a tough guy. He hates having anyone make a fuss and usually understates any injuries he receives. Being the blacksmith at Fort Frederica, his hands were covered with scratches and burns. A couple of weeks ago he came in from using the grinder in the machine shop and stated matter-of-factly, “I am severely injured.” He took away the paper towels pressed around his finger so I could see and I had to agree with his assessment. Thus began the Saga of the Broken Finger. Warning: this post contains graphic pictures.
Tom was polishing a tiny S-hook he made as blacksmith. Generally he is very careful around power tools. As he polished the tiny hook, he thought to himself, “I should really hold this with vice-grips instead of my fingers.” Of course, it was at that moment that the hook turned, caught on the rotary brush, and pulled his finger into the machine. The machine crushed the third phalange of his right index finger, and tore the flesh away from the tip of the finger. He calmly turned off the machine, grabbed some paper towels to hold his finger on, and cleaned up a little blood. Then he came to the RV to tell me of his injury.
Of course we headed immediately to the emergency room. I started driving, but I have this stupid physical response to pain and blood in others: I pass out. As I was driving, I started to get really light-headed and knew I was going out. I managed to pull off the road and stop the truck. Tom and I changed positions so I could lie down and he could drive. Thus the poor guy ended up driving himself to the emergency room. Some help I am!
The emergency room in Brunswick was packed with people. We waited two hours before anyone looked at the finger. Because of the constant pressure from the paper towels, it wasn’t bleeding enough to get quicker attention. When we finally got back to the room they took Tom for an x-ray. Yes, Tom had a broken finger. When they started to stitch him up, I headed for the waiting room before I embarrassed myself again.
Two hours later, he was finally stitched up with twelve stitches. The intern who did the stitching was very meticulous about lining everything up. Tom got injections for pain and for antibiotics. We went home (I was finally able to drive) after picking up pain meds and two different kinds of antibiotics.
Two days later we had a follow-up visit with a orthopedic specialist. After he saw Tom’s finger, he repeated what we had heard several times in the emergency room, “You are lucky your finger stayed attached!” He didn’t do much except schedule us to see the hand specialist.
One week after Tom broke the finger we saw Dr. Sullivan, the hand and microsurgery specialist for Brunswick. He had been on vacation the previous week, or he said he would have done surgery the day Tom broke the finger. Although Dr. Sullivan suggested surgery the next day, we decided to wait until we got to Ohio to see another doctor.
The main reason we wanted to wait was a side effect of the antibiotics for the broken finger. Tom had developed a severe rash and fever from an allergy to the Bactrim antibiotic. Dr. Sullivan said he hoped it didn’t develop into Steven Johnson Syndrome. After looking it up, we hoped so too. Of course Tom stopped taking the Bactrim immediately, but the rash and fever meant he didn’t do much for several days.
We made an appointment to see a hand specialist in Ohio, finished up our last week at Fort Frederica, and headed north. Tom saw Dr. Gowda here in Columbus. Dr. Gowda repeated what everyone else said about the broken finger: “You are lucky you still have the whole finger.” He also told Tom it was too late to do surgery and Tom would just have to accept any inconvenience in the way it was healing.
Fortunately the broken finger seems to be healing well. Tom got the stitches out and started doing finger physical therapy. The rash is all gone and he feels fine. He will wear a brace on the finger for at least two more weeks while it continues to heal.
We are both thankful that Tom has his whole finger. There doesn’t appear to be any nerve or ligament damage. It hasn’t even affected his activity much because he is left-handed. But Tom has also learned a couple of things: no more sulfa drugs for him and to be even more careful around power tools. He has a new rule: secure the workpiece and hold the tool rather than secure the tool and hold the workpiece.