Yes, the trauma surgeon became the patient a few days ago. Fortunately I didn't put my life in danger, but I did stupidly threaten my career.
If you don't already know, I'm an avid do-it-yourselfer. I paint, fix, create, mend, build, really anything that involves anything around the house. If there is a tool that doesn't involve metallurgy or automobiles, there is a very high probability that I have it. For example, when our automatic coffee machine went bad about two years ago, Mrs. Bastard bought a new one, but I wouldn't let her take it out of the box. Instead, I bought a new solenoid and installed it (I didn't even know what a solenoid was at the time, but it's amazing what you can learn on YouTube). And when the water pump on that same machine started making funny noises two weeks ago, I installed a new one. Yeah, the new coffee machine is still in the box. Boom.
Anyway, in addition to fixing most anything (people included, apparently), I also am an amateur woodworker. Name a woodworking tool, I have one (or three). I've built most of the new furniture in my house over the past 10 years, but my newest wood hobby is turning. Last fall I bought a lathe and made myself some turning tools, and I've been getting to know the machine and its capabilities, making several little bowls and cups in the process.
You can probably see where this is going, even if I couldn't.
Four days ago I upped the ante and decided to try a bigger bowl. I installed the maple blank on my lathe, knowing it would be unbalanced and that I had to balance it by turning it round while it was spinning at relatively low speed (around 600 rpm). What I didn't realise was exactly how unbalanced it would be, because the lathe started bouncing all over the place. My split-second reaction was to try to grab the machine to stop it from falling over, but in that instant my left hand came in contact with the spinning wood, not the machine.
I felt the wood hit my hand near the thumb, but I didn't immediately feel any pain. My second reaction (which should have been my first reaction) was "TURN IT OFF, STUPID!". The wood came to a stop, and I then assessed the situation. These were the thoughts that came into my brain in order:
- Whew, the lathe is ok. Good.
- Hm, I didn't get that balanced very well.
- Why the hell does my left hand hurt?
- What's that red stuff on the floor?
OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW FUCK OW OW
As I grabbed a paper towel to stanch the bleeding, I started to catalogue the supplies I have at home to suture it up. Lidocaine - check. Needles and syringes - check. Gauze - check. Suture material - check. Needle driver, forceps, and scissors - check, check, and check.
Sweet, it's my left hand and I'm right handed, so I can suture this myself.
Wait wait wait . . . how am I supposed to tie a knot in the suture with one hand. God damn it. Just go to the hospital, idiot.
Mrs. Bastard has a rather eerie ability to sense when things are going awry. More than once she has called me when something is amiss, not actually knowing 1) that something is wrong, or 2) what that something is. If I believed in psychic abilities (no, I do not), I would believe Mrs. Bastard has them.
My mobile literally rang as I was getting out of my car at the hospital (100% true). I didn't even have to look at it to know that it was my wife. Somehow. My exact first words to Mrs. Bastard before I even said "Hello" were:
Me: Ok, well on the bright side, I decided not to put in my own sutures.
Mrs. Bastard: . . .
Me: . . .
Mrs. Bastard: . . .
MB: WHAT. DID. YOU. DO.
It wasn't so much a question as a statement. I told her I was fine, I still had all my fingers, but that my lathe had sort of bit me. She sighed. It wasn't an "Oh well, I love you, dear" sort of sigh, but more of a "You're an idiot and we'll talk about this when I get home" sort of sigh.
An hour later I had a numb thumb, a large chunk of maple (that I had initially mistaken for bone) in my pocket as a souvenir (ok, "large chunk" may be a slight exaggeration, but 7 x 6 x 3 mm is HUGE for a splinter), a tetanus (Tdap) booster, and several polypropylene sutures in my hand. It wasn't until I was driving home that it dawned on me just how close I came to ending my career in that moment. I've seen some horrific life-altering woodworking accidents in my trauma bay, and I just as well could have lost my thumb (or even several of my fingers).
I got lucky. That was it. Nothing but dumb luck saved my hand (and my career). But as I've said innumerable times in my life, I'd much rather be lucky than good. My hand will heal up in a few more days, I'll take out my own sutures (at least that I can do myself), and I'll get back to turning that bowl, having relearned an extremely valuable lesson. Every now and then one of my tools teaches me to treat them all with utmost respect and never let my guard down, even for a split second.
And if anyone is wondering about the tetanus vaccine, no, I'm still not autistic.