Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Nemesis

Meet the rotary cutter. It is without a doubt the greatest advance in quilting technology since the needle and thread. It allows you to cut fabric with speed and accuracy that is unmatched by any other cutting tool available on the market today. It is also a sharp little bastard.

Last Tuesday, this particular cutter and I had, shall we say, a little “run in.” A disagreement, if you will. A small conflict, one might say. An altercation. It was over just who would occupy the same point in the space-time continuum in the dining room/quilt design studio.

I lost.

My right index finger took one for the team. Or, more accurately, my right index finger gave up a portion of itself so the rest of me could live. Well, “gave up” isn’t quite right. It was more like “was involuntarily separated from” a portion of itself. The finger didn’t make its sacrifice quietly though. No, it protested with great enthusiasm, bled profusely, hurt like a mother-f***er and generally caused quite a ruckus.

I’m really lucky that Slag was in the next room when the blood-letting started. He heard the weird noise I made, you know, the universal word for “I just cut off the end of my goddamn finger!” It sounds something like “Aahhaaahhhaaahhheeekkkkkk!!”

Slag handles emergencies better than anyone I know. My little screech sent him into full catastrophe-management mode. It took him all of about 30 seconds deduce what had happened, locate the chunk of finger among my quilting stuff, pack it on ice and then get me and the finger chunk in the car. I swear, we were at the hospital in less than three minutes.

For my part, I did manage to stay conscious until I was actually in the presence of trained medical personnel. Then I passed out cold, as I am wont to do. Slag caught me, naturally, while the medical personnel yelled for gurneys and whatnot. I woke up with a view of ceiling tiles going by really fast as I was rolled back into one of the emergency room “work bays.”

A couple things I didn’t know before last week:
1) If you show up at an emergency room covered in blood, you don’t have to wait.
2) Even if you are covered in blood, they still want you (or your husband, who is also covered in blood) to sign some form before they work on you.

Turns out we saved the finger chunk for nothing (though one of the nurses did praise Slag for packing it exactly the right way: not directly on ice, but in a bag on ice). The doctor said the risk of infection was greater than the benefit of reattaching the chunk, which wasn’t really that big. He measured the gaping wound on the end of my finger and pronounced it to be 1.5 cm by .75 cm, i.e. small enough that the skin should grow back over the wound on its own.

I didn’t lose any significant amount of bone. I sorta cut off a diagonal wedge starting just above the last knuckle and ending at about the center of the end of my fingernail. Everybody has said that I should end up with a finger that looks “pretty normal,” which I’m taking to mean that the sight of my finger probably won’t make small children cry for their mothers.

Slag has lots of experience dealing with wounded fingers, so he’s been handling the dressing changes. I couldn’t even think about it for the first couple of days without freaking out. I didn’t look at the finger until the weekend. I finally examined it at length Sunday night. I think it’s going to be OK. It may be a little pointier than it was before, but I think it will be functional. French manicures are probably out forever though.

So far, the biggest problem has been showering. It’s really hard to do with one hand. Try it sometime if you don’t believe me. And the hardest thing about showering is dealing the shampoo bottle. At first I just opened the bottle, held it over my head and squeezed until I felt something ooze on my hair. Unfortunately, by the time I felt something ooze, there was about half a cup of shampoo on my head. One-handed rinsing is pretty time consuming too, so that first shower took a LONG time. The last couple of days I’ve perfected the trick of pressing the shampoo bottle between my elbow and body and squeezing shampoo into my good hand. Sorta like what I imagine playing a bagpipe would be like. Skiver suggested I get Slag to help me, but I don’t think Slag would stay “on task” in the shower. In the end I think it’s more time-efficient for me to just do it myself.

Work hasn’t really suffered, since I can work at home as needed while completely smashed on pain killers. I don’t type very well with ten functional fingers, so there hasn’t been any big loss of productivity there. Plus, I think the pain killers have actually improved my attitude a bit.

The only work issue so far is my boss has taken to saying “We’re number one!” every time he sees me in the hall or in a meeting. I do have a really big, bandaged index finger, reminiscent of those big foam fingers you see at sporting events. So it was funny the first eight times he said it. But now it’s not funny anymore. Somebody make him stop.


Blogger Ian Thomas Healy said...


Re: your boss.
Practice showing him your hand with foam finger and middle finger raised. Then he'll be like "We're Number...hey, are you flipping me off?"

And you'll be like "OH, SNAP!"


9:35 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

it's official. quilting has become an extreme sport, up there with shark racing, hang gliding and day after thanksgiving shopping.

glad you're ok.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Jazz said...

I don’t think Slag would stay “on task” in the shower

Of course not, boys will be boys, whatever the circumstances...

10:19 AM  
Blogger nic said...

glad to hear you're okay! Yikes- that even gives me the creeps. I'm happy to hear you survived okay!

Slag's a good boy. Even if he's naughty in the shower. ;)

5:59 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

ian, He would just laugh more and then give me the "two fingers" for another month every time I see him. I suppose there are worse things than having a boss with an overactive sense of humor.

kara, I don't think anything matches day after Thanksgiving shopping, not even cutting off a finger. Too scarey.

jazz, So true. There is just no "innocent nudity" with a man in the house.

nic, Thanks. I think I'm going to survive it. I'm REALLY grateful that Slag was and is around to handle all the gore.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous TinaRee said...

I feel your pain. Has anyone introduced you to the X-acto knife? Matt cutters? Those lovely paper guillotines? If its sharp (or dull) I have cut myself with it. I even managed to take off a chunk of finger meat with some hot glue once. Now that takes real talent. Your finger will heal. You've got other fingers and hand parts to maim and mangle in the future. Get right back to it just as soon as you can. Show no fear. Sharps can smell fear. Just remember this...Art is painful.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

holy shit!!! what a traumatic experience. My sympathies.

I want to see a pic of your finger when it heals up. I love medical "oddities".

8:20 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I guess you had to cancel your weekly manicure then.

Hell of a story, lady. You tell one hell of a story.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

tineree, I guess I'm just learning what you have known for years. I'm going to get back in there and show that rotary cutter who's boss!

rachel, Hey, Slag has a picture of it now if you want to see it. Just say the word. :)

jocelyn, I wonder if you get a discount when you only have nine fingers that need a manicure?

11:49 AM  
Blogger Stucco said...

So, now you can cash in on all those mutilated finger fetish sites?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

EEEKKK ... I have learned to trim the nails before using those damned things... Get better soon! I hope you didn't ruin a project.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

stucco, I knew you would come through for me. Only you could turn a partial finger amputation into a reason to talk about porn. :)

cheesy, Thanks! The finger is doing much better and all the fabric survived the washing with no stains. The question is, should I tell the person who's getting this quilt that I bled all over it??

9:54 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I need to see a picture of the nub.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I did this two years ago with my brand new Martha Stewart kitchen knife. Cut the side/tip of me left thumb. Man did it bleed and HURT? Just like a third degree burn. I made the nurse give me a shot to numb the thumb on the 3 day follow up when she had to pull the bandages off. Fingers bleed something terrible. I'm way more respectful of that knife which now that it cut my thumb off, is the dullest damn thing......
Good luck quilting and watch yer fingers ;)

10:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home