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The Hand Injury

20 Mar 07 - 09:02 PM (#2002681)
Subject: The Hand Injury
From: GUEST,Don Meixner

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.

20 Mar 07 - 09:18 PM (#2002699)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Leadfingers

Jeez Don - That is one Horrendous Story ! And I thought I had a dodgy trip after a motorbike crash ! I partially severed the nerve in my upper arm and had nineteen fractures and dislocations in my left wrist ! Minimal movement in the hand when they took the plaster off !
I had to relearn from scratch too - But I made up for it by learning barre chords the second time round . IF I hadnt had good medical support (AND the incentive of a nice Martin guitar) I sure as hell wouldn't be gigging now !

20 Mar 07 - 09:21 PM (#2002703)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: catspaw49

Thank you Don.

When I wrote you the other day it was with the hope that you would post exactly what you have. Many of us have known the basics of your story but there have been times like with Spot where I wanted the tale straight from the horse's mouth. In your case that might be the wrong end but what the hell......(;<))

What we now have here is a place I can bookmark for when the next "Spot" comes along. If you miss the thread, no problem, the words are here as is the strength you have shown. This is a fine story of what desire can do and of course that works on more than one level. But at it's root it tells other instrumentalists that a surprising amount of skill can return if you both want it and are willing to work hard and believe in yourself. Honesty in yourself and the willingness to go around what you can't get through are life lessons for anyone. Lord knows this wasn't just a stroll on the beach for you.

Mr. Meixner I am proud to know you and once again, thanks for coming through for us all.


20 Mar 07 - 09:23 PM (#2002706)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Peace


20 Mar 07 - 09:27 PM (#2002710)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Effsee

"I sure as hell would be gigging now !"
Terry, I know it's late, but I think you mean "wouldn't".

20 Mar 07 - 09:28 PM (#2002711)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: catspaw49

BTW, y'all should also know that Don is also a jeweler/silversmith who creates some beautiful, delicate, things with those same mangled hands.

Didn't know this stuff didja'? Yeah.........pretty cool.....


20 Mar 07 - 09:45 PM (#2002726)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: katlaughing

Well, jeez, Spawdarlin' just said everything I was gonna! I will add my heartfelt thanks to you, Don. I am proud to know you. I will be passing your story on to Night Owl. She lost almost all musical abilities when she was t-boned a few years back. She knows she'll never get it all back, but I think she's just about ready to try, again. She'll love what you said about the autoharp. It's one of her favourites.

I would also add that folks who want to know more about his silversmithing can go to His Website and see "The Jeweller's Choice," a design of which Don has donated numerous bracelets to the Mudcat auction over the years. He also makes BEE-YOU-TEE-FULL earrings. I was the lucky recipient of a pair.

Thanks, Don.


21 Mar 07 - 12:04 AM (#2002783)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Jim Lad

Jeeze! I was sure it was going to end with him buying a bodhran and I hate creepy endings. Thanks Don. Well timed.

21 Mar 07 - 06:38 AM (#2002911)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Spot


    Well, that's certainly put things into perspective!! My problems are considerably less than yours - just the loss of pads on index and ring, right hand!! Six months down the line , they can still reduce me to tears if I catch 'em wrong....!!   Having listened to all the advice , I'm keeping the banjo - I've been convinced that there's light at the end of the tunnel...   it's heartening to know that there are folks out there kind enough to care!! Thanks to every one of you...

                Best Regards...Spot   :-)

21 Mar 07 - 06:44 AM (#2002915)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: jacqui.c

I'll confirm Don's ability as a silversmith - Kendall and I have wedding rings bracelets made by Don and the workmanship is beautiful. I didn't know this story and am amzed at the recovery Don has made to be able to do the fine work that he does.

21 Mar 07 - 06:52 AM (#2002919)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: kendall

Jeez Don, at first I thought this just happened! Don't DO that!
Folks, this guy is an artist with his jewelry. Jacqui and I wear some of it every day, and we get a lot of compliments.

21 Mar 07 - 07:14 AM (#2002934)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: The Fooles Troupe

Don, thanks for that.

Spot - just hang in there - if you believe, you can achieve much. I once met a guy who had serious hand injury who was able to play guitar (open tuning) much like a steel style using 2 fingers.

And don't forget Django 'created his style' after serious hand injury left him with 2 working fingers. You may not be able to do exactly what you did before, but if you really want to you will be able to still 'make music'.

Btw, I have just finished saving up and bought replacement autoharp strings - might be able to do something useful with it now... I will need to start looking for useful autoharp hints - but since I am a 'recycled muso', I should be able to take most of my previous piano chord and Stradella experiences and fake it?... :-)

If any of you autoharp experts want to refresh any useful old threads, or write some new hints, you can help Spot and me.... :-)

21 Mar 07 - 08:11 PM (#2003634)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Peace


When you have a few minutes, message me, SVP. Thanks.

22 Mar 07 - 12:47 AM (#2003769)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: DonMeixner


My problems weren't worse than yours. They were exactly the same. Everyone's injury is the worse that ever was to the person with the injury. Don't let anyone minimize your pain or your effort to come back.

I thought my world had ended and I gave up. I didn't see a future for me as a musician. I sat down after the reconstruction and cried. My left hand was the size of a cantaloupe. I couldn't see space between my swollen fingers, just stitches, gauze and dried blood. It was a month before I began therapy and for hours each day I just stared and the mangled mess on my arm. I still stare at the scars from time to time.

About four weeks into therapy I was in an antique store. Some kid was running loose and knocked over a glass display. I reached out with my left hand and caught a small glass paperweight. The pain was exquisite but I knew then that I had some hope left. Thats when I began my real effort to play again.

My therapist was a woman I worked with at The United Cerebral Palsy center where I am a technician. She knew I was a musician and she planned my therapy around that. She also gave me a Harmony Sovereign 5 string banjo and said I could keep it only if I could play it. Such is the power of the carrot and the stick.


22 Mar 07 - 07:59 AM (#2003931)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: Mooh

Don...That was the most frightening read I've ever had! The way you tell it, it's impossible not to put one's self in the story. I'm happy that you were able to make the best recovery possible. Thanks for the table saw reminder too. Mine has paid for itself many times over, and it's a thing to be respected.

Thanks again.

Peace, Mooh.

22 Mar 07 - 08:38 AM (#2003961)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: GUEST,The black belt caterpillar wrestler

It just goes to show that even when you think that you have taken every precaution with powered machinery there is something that can go wrong.
I learnt the hard way 2 years ago that when using an angle grinder you must make sure that what you are cutting cannot move in any way. The concrete slab I was cutting was fine until the monent that I cut through it and the two halves parted company. One pivoted and momentarily trapped the cutting disk, jerking it upwards and throwing me off balance. The cutting disk, still with the power full on, came down on my left hand cutting into the side of my thumb, not quite reaching the bone and luckily missing the tendon. I had to have a nerve micro-surgeried and this now gives reduced sensation, but basically I'm back to normal.
I did have an irritation along the wound for abut a year then one day noticed a small dark blue dot under the skin. After careful investigation, thinking that I had got some sort of splinter in there, it turned out to be the end of a stitch that had not been removed. A bit of a tug on the freed end and a knot appeared, so I cut through below it and removed it myself. No more itch and the wound has looked a lot healthier since!
So, be careful with machinery and how you use it and make sure that you get the correct treatment if something happens.

24 Mar 07 - 09:35 PM (#2006292)
Subject: RE: The Hand Injury
From: folk1e

I just had to keep reading, even though my toe nails keped coming off!
Just goes to show........