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.  

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.)

Tip #2:  Stay focused.

Don't get distracted when using sharp tools. Stay aware of where your fingers are.

Major arteries of the body from MedicalLook.com
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.

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.

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.


01/03/2013 12:30pm

I love this post and have my own similar story to tell. I woke up one morning with three painful, red, swollen lumps in my armpit. Went to a walk-in clinic like you described. The doctor told me they were spider bites. In my armpits?! In bed?!

He gave me a tetanus shot and sent me home. The lumps went away and came back.

My primary care doctor told me I was lacking iodine in my diet and had me take dulse tablets (basically seaweed).

After suffering with them (painfully) for two years, I finally wondered if it could be from using deodorant with aluminum. So, I stopped doing that and they went away. I want to go back to those doctors and say, "Armpits = deodorant, you idiots!"

01/03/2013 6:51pm

Oh my gosh, Christi. So glad you figured it out!

Pam McGinnis
01/03/2013 2:23pm

OMG, I'm so glad everything turned out ok.

01/03/2013 6:54pm

Thank you, Pam!

Sharon Butcher
01/03/2013 6:28pm

Fist of all I'm glad it was not the complete finger and you are OK.
Secondly, this post was funny, you really have a way with words.
Keep writing!

01/03/2013 6:57pm

Thanks Sharon :-) The whole thing really does seem funny after the fact LOL.

01/03/2013 6:56pm

I did almost the very same thing with a mandoline called a V-slicer, which works even better than a regular mandoline. It took hours and lots of ice to stop the bleeding. The little finger was sliced very neatly, and I was able to superglue it back together. The ring finger was something else entirely. I had sliced off a good chunk of the nailbed and an area that was up to the phalange. Luckily I didn't slice any tendons, but don't know how I managed to avoid it.

My son helped me to get the bleeding stopped and helped me to patch it up. He's the vegetarian. My husband turned green every time he saw it for weeks. He's the big tough guy who slices up his hands on a fairly regular basis.

Afterwards, when my son had cleaned up all the blood in the sink, the countertop, the floors and the bathroom, he starts throwing away the vegetables (vegerarian apparently includes human blood). He comes over holding a piece of white rubbery meat, flapping it and says, "Mom, I found the rest of your finger!"

My finger will always look a little "off" but it filled in quite a bit.

Your thumb will be okay, although a little sensitive for about 6 months.

01/03/2013 10:38pm

Oh Katherine, OUCH. Your story tops mine for sure. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

Amy Belillove
01/04/2013 12:01am

Oh for G-d's sake, Sue. I went between weak-kneed and laughing. (Sorry, don't mean to laugh at your misfortune and injury). It is amazing to me that an urgent care was so inept. I work in a hospital, and know most smart doctors, still you would think this would be basic urgent care 101! I once stabbed myself with a butcher knife right in the fleshy area between thumb and forefinger. When I turned my hand upside down, blood poured out. It's pretty scary how much the hand can bleed. Needed 2 stitches that time. Wishing you a quick healing. Plus there was some very good advise in your posting. Happy New Year!

01/04/2013 2:26pm

LOL Amy, misfortune isn't quite so bad if you can find humor in it ;-) Ouch re: the butcher knife and thanks for the good wishes. Very happy New Year!

01/04/2013 2:51pm

My spouse and I both injured our thumbs similarly when we were preparing a bushel of corn for freezing by removing the kernels from the cobs. We didn't go for help, but spent considerable time with our thumbs in the air above our heads - - I think he also drank a bit of alcoholic meds. I hope you will be OK soon. I was teaching piano at the time and kept having to wipe blood off the piano keys. It made quite an impression on my students!

01/04/2013 4:40pm

Oh Karen, thank you and that's quite a picture. I never knew corn could cut like that. Good thing to know. And I am quite sure your students will not forget you LOL!


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