2012 ended with a little mishap in the kitchen. I sliced off a small piece of my thumb with a mandolin slicer. Wow those things work great and not just on veggies. So on New Year’s Eve our afternoon was spent at an Urgent Care getting my thumb wrapped up by a very nice doctor who obviously specializes in something else entirely, and our evening was spent at the ER getting the first ridiculous mess corrected.
You know you're in trouble when the ER nurse and doctor bust out laughing at the handiwork of your Urgent Care doctor.
This is the part I sliced completely off, nice and clean. Clearly stitches were not an option. Thank goodness the mandolin was set at 1/8" and not 1/4" right?
You're welcome for not posting my actual bloody thumb. If you want to see one, Google away... there are plenty posted out there.
Why share this?
According to the ER, this often happens around the holidays when people are cooking more (you know, those of us who rarely cook otherwise) and in the summer when we're pruning in the garden. And some of us here are metalsmiths who use jewelers' saws and metal shears year round. So it seems right to share a few tips, obvious as they may seem, since they would have helped me.
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Let's get my idiocy out of the way.
Tip #1: Don’t use a mandolin without the blade guard.
(To be fair, I should relay that the ER would love to have everyone throw these into the trash.)
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Tip #2: Stay focused.
Don't get distracted when using sharp tools. Stay aware of where your fingers are.
This image comes from Medicalook.com
Tip #3: You don't have to dig very deep to find major arteries in your fingers and toes.
If the bleeding doesn't stop quickly, you may have hit one.
Tip #4: Listen to the doctor. As in listen actively, critically, and logically.
At least I knew right away to see a doctor. We chose a nearby Urgent Care because the issue seemed minor / routine but also urgent, as in continuing to bleed. I'm not saying that all Urgent Care facilities would mess this up. I'm just saying mine did. In my opinion.
These are some red flag quotes (paraphrased) from urgent care personnel to me:
Nurse: "I don't mind a lot of blood, that doesn't bother me, but I don't like to see cut skin."
Doctor: "This one is a real bugaboo."
Doctor: "Since stitches are not an option, the only way to stop the bleeding is with a compression bandage."
Doctor: "This will be a real headache for 3-4 weeks. If the bandage falls off while you're sleeping, when you wake up your bed will look like a crime scene."
Nurse: "You want to be really careful changing the dressing and keep an eye on it so you don't bleed out."
Me: "How do I know if the bandage is too tight, cutting off the circulation?"
Doctor: "It's a fine line. This type of bandage usually doesn't do that. You can come back tomorrow if there is a problem."
So I did listen with a bit of healthy skepticism.
Tip #5: It's usually not good to cut off circulation to a body part.
(Careful with this tip. There are obviously some injuries that require a tourniquet.)
The doctor wrapped my thumb very tightly with some gauze and nine band-aids, then sent me home. It felt tight but didn't hurt much at first. After about two hours my entire hand, all the fingers, wrist, and arm up to the elbow started throbbing. It just felt so tight.
We went to the ER to get a second opinion. Thank goodness.
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ER personnel were very entertained and couldn't stop laughing at all the band-aids. "Are you sure you didn't do this yourself?" they asked. Then, "This looks arterial." And, "Of course we have ways to stop the bleeding."
Yes, every bit of pain disappeared when the band-aids came off. I mean, the cut is really not that big.
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Tip #6: There are some good medical products and procedures that really do work, if you know about them.
The ER nurse applied a gelfoam dressing that stopped the bleeding within a few seconds, then added a wire cage covered in a sock-like tube. The cage comes off in a few days and then band-aids might be appropriate.
Tip #7: Just because a doctor is nice doesn't mean he knows what to do. Be your own advocate. Question everything. If it seems wrong, it might be.
Well that's my Happy New Year post, folks :-D Everyone have a very safe, healthy, and happy 2013!
Disclaimer: This post is based on subjective experience and some Google searches. I'm no doctor and this is not offered as medical advice. Please do your own research to determine any course of action. These are my opinions based on an isolated occurrence that may not accurately reflect the medical skills of those involved.