Holidays in the emergency room

It's been a busy Fourth of July around the farm. It felt busier than normal right from the start. All the daughters were coming. "Where are you, Dad?" That was the text message I got. Well. And where was I? Less than half an hour prior to that, I...

It's been a busy Fourth of July around the farm. It felt busier than normal right from the start. All the daughters were coming.

"Where are you, Dad?" That was the text message I got. Well. And where was I? Less than half an hour prior to that, I was extracting my left pointer finger from what turned out to be a nasty metal fan blade, which grabbed it and pulled it in. I took one look at the gash, exclaimed "S...T!, grabbed some paper toweling from the kitchen to staunch the flow of blood, and headed for the medical clinic, dialing while I drove to warn them what was coming.

The text message also said: "There's blood. What happened?"

Last winter, down in Florida, we missed our airplane flight, and someone happened to call that an emergency.

"No," I replied, "emergencies involve emergency rooms." Missing your flight is an inconvenience.


This, however, was close to an emergency. I drove real fast.

I looked at the doc, who was putting in the fifth or sixth stitch, and asked if it was within proper protocol to text message back to a daughter in the midst of her quite meticulous sewing. "Anything to keep you distracted." I think she meant anything to shut me up.

I texted: "She's stitching my finger back together. Picture to follow."

"Say," I asked the doc, "would you mind me taking your picture?"

She gave me a minor look. Now, in the world where men and women must interact, there are, of course, looks. These looks divide into major and minor categories. A major look -- eye rolls aren't included here. They're in another category, and should never be ignored. Major looks from the female of the species usually result in severe disharmony, and often revolve around one's behavior, one's lack of behavior or one's comments.

Minor ones are tougher to read. But then, how much worse can this get? She's novocained me twice already, which involved a nice looking nurse going medieval and leaping on me to restrain me. She's -- "I can feel that," I told her -- needling me with what feels like a dull 10-penny nail. To heck with a minor look. I took her picture, offered to send it to a medical journal as the first interaction of technology and doctor.

I'm not a tweeter, but I found myself wishing I were. What a great tweet this would make.

"Ouch!" The novocaine was wearing off again.


"Need a bullet?" The doc asked me. Hmmmm. As in shoot me? No. As in to chew on? Yes. No indecision here. I'd just finished a history of the civil war, and it contained more information on amputations without benefit of anesthesia than I ever wanted to know. Here I am, already twice novocained, begging for more. The seventh stitch was like a prick. The eighth stitch, well. I looked for the nurse. I was going to need restraint.

"It doesn't help that your finger is callused," said the doc.

I wanted to say: "It doesn't help that you're using a ten-penny nail," but didn't. What didn't really help was the fact that I had once again disappointed myself by sticking my hand in where it didn't belong. That was disillusioning, to say the least. Stupid, really.

"This is more fun than looking down someone's swollen, germy throat, right?" I asked the doctor. I got another minor look, and a pretty noncommittal reply. If I were a doctor, this would be the fun part. Lining up needles, suture kits, proper novocaines, surgical field drop cloths, X-rays, talking about necrosed tissue -- "What's necrosed tissue?" I asked her.

"Skin that dies," she replied, busy filling a needle from a jar of what I was soon to think was watered down novocaine. Everybody is cutting corners these days. She squirted some out, and came at me with it. The nurse grabbed me.

"I'll help you, just squeeze my hand," she said as she put a half-nelson on me.

I guess I already covered this part, but it keeps coming back, sort of. Like a nightmare.

I asked whether or not one started at one end with the stitches.


"Nope," she replied, "you start in the middle."

You know what? There aren't that many problems that can be solved by starting in the middle. Doctors may have sole possession of this approach. Starting in the middle sounds like fun. "Ouch!" We were at stitch number nine. Once again, I needed a bullet. Once again, they went to the medicine cabinet and broke out what I hoped this time was the good stuff. "Two percent, right?" The nurse asked the doctor. "Yes," she replied.

Two percent? Two percent! To hell with the 2 percent, I wanted to say, get me the 100 percent. I wanted to say that, but once again the nurse was helping me, and I couldn't talk. Ahhhhhhhhhh darn! I hate that needle.

I hate typing without my left pointer finger, too.

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