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11.18.2010

GIVE ME EIGHT

I taught my daughter well. She is a bit of a smart ass at times.  It's the part of her that brings me great delight really.  Every once in awhile when I am leaving her after spending time with her shopping, visiting her when she was still in college, helping her with a project of some kind or eating with her she will say "Give me eight mom!".   It's her way of being funny.  It's also all I can give her.  She is referring to my inability to give her a full high ten with both hands.  In 1996 I was working in our small bathroom doing some drywall repair behind the 1950 big heavy porcelain toilet.  The bathroom was small - maybe five by seven feet.  I removed the toilet from the floor but wasn't strong enough alone to carry it out of the bathroom so I just picked it up enough to move it from the bolts in the floor to repair behind it.  I then sanded and primed and painted the walls in the bathroom.  There was no room in the bathroom for both the ladder and the toilet that I had moved.  I proceeded to use that toilet as a ladder of sorts to trim out my paint job around the ceiling.  Not standing on the seat, but rather standing, much like a surfer, posed on the tank of an unbolted to the floor 1950's toilet.  It would slightly move and tip when I moved to reach a new spot with paint from my paint brush.  I did what all good toilet surfers do, readjusted my center of gravity to regain balance.  I was literally on the last several brush strokes to have the remodel job completed when I did not regain my balance fast enough as the toilet tipped.  The odd thing was I was falling but it seemed to take forever.  I had a conversation with myself as it was occurring, "I have less than a two foot location to fall in between the cast iron tub, sink and the two bolts sticking up from the floor.  This porcelain will break when it hits the concrete slab floor.  I will impale myself on something and might not live through this."   How I thought all those things in a split second I don't know.  I remember putting up my right arm and hand to shield myself from whatever I knew I would hit.  I don't recall hitting or feeling the impact but I no doubt did. Honestly I think someone cushioned my fall and then picked me up.  I went from all those thoughts in my head and falling, to standing upright with no memory in between.  As I stood there amazed that I had lived I immediately looked at my right hand.  I knew I had done some serious damage to my hand - my pinkie and ring finger were completely folded down to my palm and I could not feel the right half of my entire hand.  I tried with my mind to tell them to move but they would not move.  Also, with every beat of my heart blood sprayed from the center of my hand like a hose.  Arteries, tendons and nerves were severed.  Again in those seconds as I was taking stock of what was happening I had a myriad of thoughts, "What if I can not play the piano again?  What will I do?  What if I bleed to death from this artery bleed?  Who picked me up off the floor?  Where were they?  Why did I not feel extreme pain?"  As I looked around briefly it appeared that a murder had just occurred in the bathroom I was finishing the closing strokes on to complete a remodel job.  Blood literally sprayed everything and continued to I as stood there.   It ran down my legs on my feet, pooled on the tile floor as I reached for a bath towel to wrap it in.  It soaked through the first normal sized bath towel in a matter of a couple of minutes so I wrapped another around the current one hoping to slow down the bleed.  I felt an odd sensation in my right foreman like it was on fire.  Turning my arm that was attached to my now cut hand I saw a laceration from my wrist bone nearly to my elbow.  The laceration curled the skin back and laid my arm open to the bone.  I stopped to view the layers of skin, muscle, veins and exposed bone.  It was much like the surgery channel.  Our small town hospital did not have the capability to deal with the surgery and injuries so I was transported to a larger hospital.  While waiting in the emergency room a doctor finally came to take a look at what surgery would be needed.  The man who was looking at my hand arm just happened to be in the hospital on a Sunday afternoon and happened to be a hand surgeon, the best in the area.  He liked my spunk and I liked his matter of factness and wit.   I asked him a ton of questions mostly about whether I would ever play the piano again.  He hedged.  I reasked.  He hedged again.  I asked again explaining that part of my life to him.  He said it had been now several hours since the tendons and nerves had been cut.  The longer it goes the further they retract into your wrist making it more and more difficult to get them reattached properly.  He would do the best he could do but that he was equally concerned that they couldn't get a handle on the bleed from the artery.  I remember feeling grateful that God himself or one of His angels had literally cushioned my fall and then picked me up but was also struggling with how a moment would change something I loved forever.  They took me into surgery for 5 or 6 hours.  Going home several days later I was told it would be awhile to know the outcome of success of reattachment both with nerves and tendons.  Eventually rehab started, scar tissue built up and surgery had to be done again.  Then rehab started again.  Scar tissue built up again over top of the tendons shortening them and continuing to pull my fingers down.  The focus for a year and half was my right hand.  I desperately wanted full use of it.  I longed to play an octave again with the reach of my thumb and pinkie.  My wrist wouldn't cooperate in the octave reach either as the tendons were caught at the base of my hand too.  Every Sunday as I sat in church I would listen to the sermon and massage the scar tissue in my hand and fingers - stretching it out.  Almost immediately upon stopping the massage I could feel it retighten and retract.  I had yet a third surgery for scar tissue to try to get more flexibility.  Nothing seemed to work.  Driving to Indianapolis one day alone for a consult with another hand surgeon I was talking to God about it once again.  Why did I desperately need this to be normal again?  What if it would never be normal again?  Could I go on with my life and not make it my focus?  So what if I had to do things differently or if music playing would be less in quality than it once was - I needed to move on.  I talked to the surgeon who said he would do the surgery but felt that really all that could be done had been done and what I was left with was really about the best I could ever expect.  Opening my hand up for the 4th time would get rid of some scar tissue but would re-create more.  That day I decided to move on the best I could.  It probably took several years of playing the piano before I didn't cry afterward because I had to play using the muscles in my forearm and literally will part of hand through my forearm to work.  It was just painful both physically and mentally.  By the time I would get through playing my neck, shoulder and arm screamed in pain.  I also couldn't feel two of the five fingers on my right hand so tactile playing was a challenge.  I couldn't peel anything or hold a knife or much of anything tightly in that hand.  And, because my hand would longer go flat my middle knuckle stuck out so far I was constantly scraping it on walls or doors.  My normal way of doing a push up had to be altered as my hand could not go flat nor my wrist bend at the much needed 90 degree angle.  It's been almost 15 years since then.  People will ask me if I have short sleeves on what happened to my arm.  My answer is "toilet surfing accident".  My hand surgeon said he had repaired lots of injuries but never someone who had a toilet surfing accident.  He told everyone he knew and the orthopedic office staff and I had a great time of laughing over my stupidity.  There are many events of that day that are God moments from how I fell, to being cushioned and picked up by some heavenly being, to that hand surgeon happening to be in the hospital on a Sunday afternoon.  My hand still hurts when I grip anything too long - shovels, paint brushes, the sprayer on a hose.  I still can't play octaves like I used to.  I can't feel things in those two fingers.  There are though two blessings I have found; life goes on altered but it goes on and you find a new way to live - even joyfully in spite of what you lost and, I finally aged into the old looking right hand I have.      

1 comment:

  1. Hhmmm your freshly pressed tan white or black shirts must hide the scars...I never noticed. That's my friend Lynn...brush it off and keep on keepin' on...there is life to live!! Vella geh as they say in dutch.

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