The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #100091   Message #2002681
Posted By: GUEST,Don Meixner
20-Mar-07 - 09:02 PM
Thread Name: The Hand Injury
Subject: The Hand Injury
Here is my story of my injury. I really have no reason to tell it other than to show people, our buddy Spot, who lose the luck now and then that someone else has been there before and it is possible to come back if you are willing try.

        I don't imagine that my experience with a hand injury caused by a table saw is in any way unique to the many other similar injuries that happen through the year. It was more severe than many and not as bad as a few I've since seen.

        Here is what happened as nearly as I and the forensic insurance investigator could figure it. The board I was ripping came apart in the saw. PT Lumber is cut green and then treated in large pressure tanks to infuse the lumber with a rot and bug proofing chemical. Very often tensions are created in the wood that is released, occasionally violently. The saw kicked the board back at me and in the same moment flipped the saw guard up in the air exposing the blade to the air. The butt end of the board hit me in the solar plexus which knocked me windless and I fell forward over the saw. My left hand came in contact with the saw guard and was directed down onto the blade. The blade caught the side of my thumb and cut half way through the bone between the tip and the first joint. The rotation of the saw spun my fingers through the saw blade in succession from thumb to pinky.

        The x-ray showed my index finger to be 95% severed. My middle finger was cut through in its entirety just forward of the middle joint only soft tissue kept it from being lost. The ring finger was cut to 90% and had I been wearing my wedding ring I surely would have lost some if not all my fingers. The pinky was nearly severed at the first joint. What saved me from losing any finger movement was the incredible luck that everywhere the saw passed through tissue it missed most of the tendons and those the blade cut were only superficial injuries.

        The X rays showed remarkable pictures of the saw kerfs in each finger. The cuts were clean and complete with the Pyramidal peak that a wood worker knows in the bottom of a single shallow passage of the saw blade through a board. Except in this case it was a profile in black and gray, repeated four times and shown by a fluorescent light.

        What was also shown in the x ray was the great amount of treated lumber slivers and bone fragments that were driven into my hand by the force of the saw blade. Each of which was a potential infection waiting to happen if the wound wasn't cleaned completely.

        The most serious damage and truly the worse injuries were done to the nerves and the arties in each finger. The saw cuts in the bone would grow back together with new mass. The middle finger was repositioned and reconstructed with a minimal loss in length. Where nerves could be re-sewn they were. The same was done with arteries and veins. But the end result was significant nerve loss and blood loss. Post surgery I nearly lost the fingers to lack of blood flow. It was only after a two month period that the swelling caused by the injury and subsequent surgery finally diminished was the threat to my fingers nearly gone.

        However, I still have to be very aware of my hands. Nearly 18 years later I am still seriously in danger from cold and frost due to the lost of circulation. I have such limited feeling in my fingers that I wouldn't know if I were burning them.

        Physical/Physiotherapy is what gave me back the ability to play. Endless and at times seemingly brutal PT made me a player again. Scar tissue is the big concern here. As it builds up it stops movement in the tendon sheaths and joints. I would sit at my work bench during lunch with my hand closed up in a woodworkers bench vise to keep my fingers stretched open.   Then at break times I would sit at the bench with my fingers closed as much as possible and then closed in the vise to help with closing my fingers. Hot water and deep massage, myofascial release were all employed in my recovery. I did all this daily for 36 weeks.

        The single over riding factor in my ability to play at all is that I lost no fingers. Mine are a mess mechanically and when I make a fist they never close the same way. They always hurt in the joints but not much at all in the tips.
        I found the Autoharp to be invaluable in my recovery. I started with songs in the key of C as the bars are all in the front row on the harp. The passive pressure that the bars springs developed added to the muscle therapy. As my ability increased I move to songs with minors and thereby employed the back row or chords as well.
       Spot, get an Autoharp. They helped me and my friend ED who had a stroke. He now is back on his old 00-18 and he will tell you the Autoharp was instrumental ( Heh! what a pun!) in his recovery.

        Musically I have had to give up the violin. I find that many of the open chords like C and F and Bmin are very problematic. I can span three frets and that's about it. I can't barre any chords to speak of. And I have discovered that a shorter guitar scale is best. I have learned that for me a capo is often my best friend.

        The bright side is that while I am not the technician I once was I am a better musician. My stage work is better now than 18 years ago. I play different from what I did before. And by now not better or worse, just different and that's not bad.

The injured musician has to come to some realizations.
The first one is: I may never play this instrument again. But there is probably another instrument I can play.
The second one is: I am never going to play the same way again.
The third one is: I didn't learn to play over night. If I choose to play again I won't learn any faster than I did the first time.
The forth is: This is hard and at times frustrating work.
The fifth is: You can't do it alone. You need help and support. I would never have come this far with out the help of a wife and three kids, three PT's and a brilliant surgeon.

        I can tell you that for all the frustration and disappointment the end rewards have been beyond imagination for me. I am playing again pretty well.

       Don't sell the banjo Spot. Hang on to it. You'll need it in a little while.