Monday, 5 June 2017

Stupid, stupid, stupid

I think I make it clear that I see a lot of people who do stupid things.  Some of these people doing stupid things are actually stupid so can hardly be blamed for acting stupid, while some have simply made a stupid choice.  These choices may endanger their own lives or the lives of those around them, depending on A) what particular flavour of stupidity they've decided to commit, and B) how stupid that stupidity is.  But of all the stupid patients I have ever treated, few have come close to matching the stupidity of my least favourite patient:

Me.

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.

Oops.

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:
  1. Whew, the lathe is ok.  Good.
  2. Hm, I didn't get that balanced very well.
  3. Why the hell does my left hand hurt?
  4. What's that red stuff on the floor? 
I looked down at my hand, and there was a lovely jagged laceration on the thenar eminence (the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb).  As I should have done from the start, I went into Trauma Mode.  I was able to move my thumb - good.  I could feel the tip of it - good.  The laceration was deep, and I could see some subcutaneous tissue.  Not so good.  It was bleeding - not so good.  Um, was that exposed bone?  Shit . . . let me explore the wound to see if there are any foreign bodies in there -

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: . . .
Me: Hello?
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.

60 comments:

  1. I quite like your Mrs. Bastard. She sounds like a smart woman. 🙃

    In all seriousness though, I'm glad things worked out well for you.

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  2. I would love to read the blog of the ER doc who treated you. Would his title read "Doc Bastard lives up to his name in the ER"? Of course I am joking, and only puns intended here. Glad to know you are well and that the damage didn't ruin your career.

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    1. I was thinking the same thing. Did he get treated by a colleague & are his co-workers going to haze him when he comes back to work? :)

      Doc, PLEASE Leave The Handicrafts Alone! You are a surgeon. Your hands are your career. You save lives with those hands. They have no business turning wood or fixing coffee makers. Now, go stand in front of the mirror & give yourself the same lecture you would have given any other surgeon who ended up in your ER after having his hand split open by a spinning piece of wood.

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    2. I asked a colleague very hush-hush. A couple of nurses saw me, but it wasn't the scandal you're probably imagining.

      RC - I love woodworking. I love building furniture. I love looking at the spalted poplar goblet on my mantel. Is it a risk? Sure. But what is life without risk.

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    3. That's what the motorcyclists say Doc'!

      Not that I disagree with you but it's hard to criticise someone with a hobby that could kill them when you have a hobby that could at least end your career. We all have our own priorities I guess.

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    4. Life without passion is not one worth living. As long as he's smart about what he's doing, I dont imagine that he'll go Doctor Strange on us.

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    5. not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.

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  3. glad it wasn't serious. maybe you should have another doc or nurse look at it in a few days? docs are terrible patients.

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  4. Wait, so your first thought WASN'T to visit to a chiro?!? Sheesh...

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    Replies
    1. swish a chunk of maple in some water and then dilute the water a thousand times?

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  5. Don't forget to tie the lathe down.

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  6. Tendon transplant to repair my thumb. 13 weeks in a cast. Not fun. Really glad to hear you did not go that route.

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  7. Doc,

    You might enjoy AvE's YouTube channel.

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChWv6Pn_zP0rI6lgGt3MyfA

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    Replies
    1. I've been a subscriber for several months now.

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  8. I think its lucky for surgeons that the human body has processes that are homeostatic. If one aspect of physiology is out of whack, the other aspects can compensate. For example, if it’s hot and we sweat a lot and become dehydrated, we lose energy and slow down and generate less heat internally. I guess you are better at surgery than woodworking.

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    Replies
    1. I take great umbrage. I happen to think I'm good at both, yet still make mistakes at both as well. The difference is with my hobby, either the piece looks bad or I do at the end. With my profession...

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  9. Glad to hear about the non-autism. One of my cousins has started sending me anti-vaxx BS after I stepped on a nail during a remodel and got a tetanus booster. And my sister, an actual genius, has abandoned her regular anti-anxiety Rx in favor of a homeopathic solution. She is now unable to drive or even travel in a car...

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  10. You have to watch for that creeping autism. I think the only way to prevent it is to watch several hours of Jenny McCarthy interviews. I am really sorry.

    Glad to hear your thumb (and career) will be okay.

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  11. for the record, the standard construction bandage is Scotch 33 electrical tape. Scotch 35 works in a pinch but it isn't quite as stretchy. the cheap store brand stuff is much inferior.

    and after (redacted) years, my wife has adopted my standard expression: "leaking hydraulic fluid"

    and you won't qualify as stupid stupid stupid, until you make the same mistake a second time. - early Milwaukie cordless Sawzalls will tear the skin off a fingertip in half a second if you hold them wrong.

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    Replies
    1. We call it "blood sacrifice" done for the job. Some are bigger sacrifices than others.

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  12. Ah doc, and they tell us nurses make terrible patients. Wishing you a rapid recovery!

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  13. I prescribe some colloidal silver, and an infusion of rosemary oil. Also, visit your local chiropractor to remove the threat of Autism from the tetanus shot, and the inevitable cancer which is coursing through your ph unbalanced veins.

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    Replies
    1. Consult healing crystals if more help is required.

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  14. Next time you do/say something dumb, you can blame the Tdap for causing the creeping autism which has suddenly manifested itself.

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  15. So glad that you are OK. Here is a tip from something I learned the difficult way-stay away from chainsaws.

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    Replies
    1. I have one, but it's a small electric one.

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    2. those are the dangerous ones, you can't hear them sneaking up on you.

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  16. Oh i know how this story goes! You go to katmandu become a wizard and make a bargain with dormamu!

    also this is why it helps to wear gloves. I didnt wear gloves while smashing a toilet with a hammer to fit it into my trashcans after itd been replaced and ended up getting 10 stitches on my finger.

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  17. I can handle laceration. I think bleeding under a fingernail is more painful. I'll never forget it when I crushed my thumb hammering.

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    Replies
    1. I struck a finger square-on with a hammer once. It's about the most painful injury I can remember.

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    2. I have too many to choose from. about all I can say is it is the silliest injuries that hurt the worst. have a hot metal shaving from a drill drop down your clove cuff just as you take your hand away from the grip to reposition it? hurts like hellfire. also leaves a very interesting scar until it heals.

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    3. I have two with a similar theme to one another.

      The first was plain and simple lack of situational awareness. Late night electronics repair, reached for the solder, found the tip of the soldering iron with the back of my right wrist.

      The second was failure to keep in mind the physics of the dull reciprocating saw blade I'd been using for the past hour. Went to change the blade, burned my thumb.

      Needless to say, I've learned to be a lot more careful around hot things. Mostly.

      And I have to say mostly because two days ago, I scalded a couple fingertips on a CPU heatsink. Fan failure, kept shutting down in Windows, and I figured, "Well, I've got the case open, I'm going to replace the fan, might as well take the heatsink off, blow the dust out of it, and put it on with new thermal paste." Yeah. Don't do that until things cool down. Lesson learned the hard way.

      Needless to say, I have a profound dislike of hot things.

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    4. I've laid my hand down on a soldering iron. it's smelly and painful. currently I'm growing out the damage on a fingertip - I do an occasional exothermic weld - welding with thermite - which involved preheating the mold and the material to be welded - I use a heat gun for the mold, and a torch for the material. yep, touched the material.

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  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. If you haven't been hunted down and eliminated yet, you soon will be

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  19. could be worse. you could be into hunting. or motorcycles.

    (still, have you ever seen a shop class teacher with 10 fully functioning digits?)

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    Replies
    1. Yes I have. There were 3 fingers and 7 toes.

      Jason

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    2. My high school shop teacher had all his digits, he just had a glass eye ;P

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    3. "caution, laser emits high energy light. do not look into the end with your other eye"

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  20. We renovated our first house quite extensively and I used to use the line that Russell Crowe uses in "Master and Commander": "There is so much of my blood in the woodwork she's practically a relative"!

    Glad you didn't do anything permanent.

    Ugi

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  21. I laughed a little too hard at the tetanus comments..

    Poor Doc, you keep doing what you love..
    And after 20 years of marriage we do form psychic and psychotic tendencies towards our husbands..
    My husband is a mechanic by trade and was working on our car using a breaker bar to break something free, the breaker bar slipped and smacked himself in the face, I had the feeling to call home, I was in the middle of a pool tournament with a woman's league.. Call home husband is frantic because he is bleeding from the eyelid, tell him no hospital til I got home, 2 hours later I get home, poke his orbital lob, not soft and mushy, no movement, ask him if it's tissue pain or searing my eye is going to fall out pain, clean the cut, check it's depth, clean it with q-tips, and then wash it out.. I look at him and said suck it up, he bruised his pride more than anything, has a tiny little lightning bolt scar. Called me home from a girls night out to come wifey him, but, come to find out later all the girls broke out the cocaine, I'm a recovering addict so he saved my will power from being peer pressured.

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    1. at least the timing was fortuitous.

      compare that to dropping a steel junction box cover off a ladder on top of my head, with the expected leaking hydraulic fluid. stopped the leak with direct pressure, and finished the project. then when I got home asked her to check to make sure it was clean, she freaked out and decided I needed to go to the ER (without examining it). finally her mother came and looked at it and declared it was just a minor scrape.

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    2. Lol.. Wives can go either way.. it's like this- you're dieing and we are going to the hospital or you're not..
      I cut my forehead when I was younger and it bled enough to soak my shirt, my dad grabbed the glue and said look no more bleeding, as I stood there looking like Carrie..

      Lol hydraulic fluid is red isn't it? One of my guys sprang a leak in their boom (tow truck) and was covered in it, thought it would be funny to watch my reaction. I burst out crying searching for a med kit to get them plugged so we could go to the hospital, the driver seen me balling trying to get stuff to get him stable that it freaked him out, and then he sat next next to me all night out of guilt because I cried hard enough it put me in to sobs..

      My line of work there is a few sentences that make you go hmmm- I have a difficult situation, I have an odd request, this is going to sound strange, I don't know how to explain it- these are all sentences that lead in to something I'm not going to like..

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    3. with men, it is "honey, we need to talk"

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  22. Me: Ok, well on the bright side, I decided not to put in my own sutures.
    Mrs. Bastard: . . .
    Me: . . .
    Mrs. Bastard: . . .
    Me: Hello?
    MB: WHAT. DID. YOU. DO.


    Congratulations on having even better conversation openers that MY husband, who has been known to start off with things like "Before anybody else tells you, I *was* wearing my hard hat."

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  23. Eons ago, when my brothers were in "hunter safety" classes (preparatory to getting their duck-hunting licenses), the teacher showed a beautiful Mossburg shotfun with the barrel blown into a bell-shaped explosion, and said "this is why, after you've tripped and fallen into the mud gun-first, you clean the barrel before you fire at the next duck! This guy could have died!"
    My brother asked "What kind of moron did that?"
    The instructor gently answered, "Your Dad."
    Apparently he had been hunting with my Dad that day, and asked to keep the gun as a classroom exhibit.

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    Replies
    1. "shotgun", not "shotfun"...

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  24. The worst I've done to myself was slipping while using a box cutter to even out an edge of cut corrugated plastic. I was cutting away from myself but the box cutter wasn't sharp enough (apparently) and it slipped off the edge and dug right into the back of my left hand that had been bracing the table. Went clean through the skin on the back of my index finger's knuckle, and cut through something that still hasn't healed quite right, the big tendon no longer runs along the top of my knuckle (atleast, I can't feel it). The grip on that hand is pretty weak and slightly delayed but it has most of it's movement and flexibility back.

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  25. And if anyone is wondering about the tetanus vaccine, no, I'm still not autistic.

    This autistic here carefully listened and engraved in a mental stone the security procedures when this autistic had his machining (yup, metal) technics course 16 years ago. Don't know if it's a feature of autism to be able to engrave procedure in a mental stone but if so, do you wish you were autistic dear Dr Bastard? :)

    Al

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    1. Oh, and before you ask, I did get a 4 ton machine to move under its own power while turning a large chunk of stainless steel.

      Al

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    2. Comparing the effects vaccine induced inflammation on the child's blood-brain-barrier to an adult is where I draw the line.

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    3. comparing woo to science is where I draw it.

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  26. Husband is a mechanic, so I've seen lots of "leaking hydraulic fluid", and heard even more colorful swearing.
    Glad you're going to be ok, DocB.

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  27. Husband is a mechanic, so I've seen lots of "leaking hydraulic fluid", and heard even more colorful swearing.
    Glad you're going to be ok, DocB.

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    Replies
    1. as I've heard a brit friend say, "requires the hand size of a baby and the strength of a gorilla."

      I almost changed out a water pump without running out of swear words until I dropped a bolt down the middle of the engine.

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  28. Lol.. Wives can go either way.. it's like this- you're dieing and we are going to the hospital or you're not..
    I cut my forehead when I was younger and it bled enough to soak my shirt, my dad grabbed the glue and said look no more bleeding, as I stood there looking like Carrie..

    goldenslot

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