Monday, February 2, 2009

Freak Accident - Part II

(I'd have updated sooner if not for yesterday being Super Bowl Sunday.  That and typing is a real pain in the butt right now)

The "woe is me" portion of this story lasted for only those few seconds.  The reality quickly set in that I was still a good 1.5 miles from the park entrance, and even though there was an access road for paramedics to come in, it might be a while before I got any legitimate medical attention.  And although there were some people offering help, they weren't going to do much besides stand around unless they were given some instructions.  

First thing I did was thank everyone for helping out as it was nice of them to take the time to assist me.  Next I asked if I could use someone's water bottle to wash out the wound.  My main concern was that the longer this thing was dislocated the worse it would be, so I asked someone to see if they could get some ice from the nearby farm that's inside the park.  Next I picked myself up and got off of the path and into a clearing.  There was no need for every man woman and child trying to enjoy a beautiful Saturday having to look at this.  The next thing I noticed was that the guy on the phone w/ 911 was having problems giving them solid directions.  I asked him if I could speak to them directly.  He said, "are you sure you're up to it?"  I told him I was fine and so I wound up spending the next 5-minutes trying to get this 911 operator to dispatch the correct group of paramedics to the scene.  (he was deploying guys from 3-4 towns over and I told him that would take too long and asked if he had anyone in one of the neighboring towns.  Thankfully he did - probably saved myself about 20-minutes there)

A short while later the park rangers arrived, and they had some ice.  By now I could see that the ring finger was swelling an awful lot and my wedding ring was now cutting off the circulation to the finger.  The ranger told me the paramedics would have a ring cutter and that we'd need to cut the ring off.  (wife's gonna love that)  

Fast forward to me being in the emergency room.  The ring was in 3-pieces (but at least I could now get blood flowing to the finger)  The whole left hand was quite swollen, and the right hand had some swelling as well.   When the doctor arrived he snapped the finger back into place.  (This did little to change the look of the wound, however as I could still clearly see ligaments and such as the swelling caused a lot of that stuff to be sticking out of the finger regardless)

After the standard ER stuff (IV, X-Ray, antibiotics, etc) my wife and I sat there for a while.  Our 15-year old son was there for a brief time, but my wife called a neighbor to pick him up as she said he was turning green upon seeing how badly the hand was mangled. As I was explaining to her what had happened, she could easily see how angry I was (mad at myself for having this happen, and generally pissed off at the ridiculous position I now found myself in)  It was just a simple fall, and if not for my hand blowing up I'd have just picked myself up and run home.  "how could THIS have happened??"  Well, we were sitting there a while - and pretty soon it became quite obvious how this happened. . . 

My legs were OK, no bruising of the hip on that side.  My left arm and shoulder were fine, as was my elbow.  My forearm had no scrapes or bruises, and even my wrist seemed 100% - no swelling at all.  There weren't even any scrapes on my palms!  I had fallen hard on pavement with my full body weight from a 6-minute pace - with enough force for me to completely roll over at least once . . . . and my fingers took 100% of the impact!  Must have, because I didn't have another mark on me.  It's typical to break a wrist and/or elbow when reaching back to brace a fall, but evidently, the way I hit - none of those things hit the ground directly.  Just the fingers - and clearly fingers are not meant to withstand that kind of impact.  The question now was - how bad was the damage?

When the doctor came back I got what seemed like some "good news/horrible news".  The good news - somehow nothing was broken.  Wow that was fantastic!  However, because I couldn't move the finger at all, and because I had severed a few ligaments completely, I would probably need surgery.  The doctor was calling in a hand specialist right away.  Surgery!?  I went from relieved to depressed in an instant.  "What did this mean?  How long before I recover from that?"

My wife did her best to keep me from losing it.  We waited forever again.  My hand was still covered in blood so I asked if someone could clean the wound.  They did (it hurt like hell) but the finger still looked terrible.  At this point I decided to forgo the repeated icings and just let the hand rest.  I kept trying to move my fingers, but it wasn't working.

Finally the hand specialist arrived and he was hell on wheels.  Yelling at this guy and that guy.  "Get me this", "where is that!"  He looked as pissed off as me!  Eventually he focused his attention on my hand.  We went over the story, then he checked for feeling in each of the fingers.  Check.  (I took that as a good sign)  Then he wanted me to bend the ring finger.  I gave it my best and unlike before it moved a little.  Now he wanted me to move the pinkie and he was very "no nonsense" about it.  I tried to move it and to my surprise it did move some.  (perhaps having it out of the ice was helping w/ that)  However, that was clearly not good enough for this guy.  "Come, on make a fist!"  (yeah, like that was going to happen)  I pulled w/ everything I had.  Just then the original doctor came back and took a look.  He said, "wow, that's amazing, that's 100 times better than before".  It was obvious to me that he was trying to justify having to bring in the specialist who had evidently been on call.  "so that's why the guy is so pissed off", I thought to myself.  

Based on this "indirect communication" between the doctors, I had now come to the conclusion that if I could move this thing enough, surgery was likely out and I could count down the minutes until I'd be home!  One more squeeze (I think even the core muscles were recruited on this one) and I seemed to pass the test!

By now the specialist seemed to have calmed down and he proceeded to explain to me what had happened to my hand.  Only one ligament was completely severed -  another one was partially severed.  As it turns out, these ligaments grow back by themselves.  (seemed odd to me, but hey, I'm not the specialist)  Rehabbing the hand was going to be the tough part - it would require a good deal of physical therapy to get full movement back.  I told him I wasn't worried about that part of it.  He performed a few more tests to make sure the partially torn ligament was still providing enough stability (it was) and then he was off yelling at some guys again to get the materials to make my cast.

As of now, the entire hand is in a cast up to the elbow, but if all goes well it will only be on for about a week.  After that we'll move to a splint that I'll be able to take off to start the therapy.  (the wound is still open - no way to stitch it up w/all that swelling, but he says it heals by itself as the swelling subsides)  

I think I can start doing some sort of training in about a week!!  My winter season is obviously over before it started, but if I only lose a week to 10-days - let's just say I never expected that.  

I'll post up my new training plan/schedule soon.  I've already talked it over w/ the coach, and as long as no hidden gotchas come up I don't think I'm going to lose much of anything.  Keeping my fingers crossed.


bricey said...

ouch....Be careful which fingers you cross!!! :) Take it easy

Ewen said...

That was some story Mike! Reminds me of when I dislocated my little finger in a motorcycle accident - but that was at 60mph, not 6 minutes per mile. You were unlucky!

I hope you can get back to some training before too long. If it's only a couple of weeks you should be soon back to where you were before the accident.