Quick update; so the day before yesterday, I pulled out all of my stitches that were left in my middle finger, peeled off the calloused skin, and it’s looking great. I went to my second occupational therapy appointment today and we made great progress with how far I could bend and straighten my PIP joint. I’m actually tapering off how often I wear my “skid plate” and how thick I wrap my finger to try to acclimate it to real life. I’m even occasionally using it to type in this article!
Back to the action… I arrived at the back door of the emergency room of Sharp hospital. The paramedics had given me a few choices of hospitals in the area but it was all the same to me, so here we were. Before we left, Slim gave me one last piece of advice. He told me that I needed to tell the hospital staff that my pain level was a 10 if I wanted to get pain meds. Anything less than that, I wouldn’t get anything or at least anything strong.
With that, I was wheeled straight out of the ambulance and through the automatic glass doors. I sat in the middle of the hallway, facing a family with a young boy who stared at me with disdain in his face. I smiled, but no one smiled back, so I just sat there holding my hand above my heart, massive and white in its giant roll of gauze, and stared at a wall while the paramedics filled in one of the staff members behind me. Now, pay attention. This guy who they were talking to, who was responsible for checking me in, would later play an important role in this story. I can’t remember his actual name (too much morphine) so we will call him Esteban.
After they were done repeatedly saying how horribly mangled my finger was, right behind my head, they wheeled me down the hall and had me move to a chair in a tiny corner of the emergency room beside a corner and a curtain. There was barely enough room for the nurse to squeeze beside my chair and the curtain to get to the table behind me. Audrey took a seat at a chair by my feet and kept me talking when no one else was there to keep me distracted. The paramedics came by to say goodbye before they took off. After they’d left, a very sweet nurse came over and began to ask me questions. Her name was….Susan or Susie or something like that. There was something that set her apart from the other nurses though. I’ve always known nurses to be very kind and caring people, but when she asked what had happened, it was more like a concerned friend than a medical question.
I explained that I had been looping a lead rope and the horse got scared and set back, which pulled the rope tight and twisted my finger through a metal ring. I told her it wasn’t his fault, I knew better. I told her I always tell my lesson kids to NEVER wrap lead ropes around your fingers for this reason. She cringed, but nodded and said, “I get it, I’m a horse person too.” Her smile was genuine and I really didn’t want her to walk away. She asked me a few other things and we talked about horses briefly before she had to attend to other things. Audrey and I chatted in between other nurses coming in and out. A doctor came in (can’t remember his name either, something Spanish sounding) and also was very kind and sincere as he listened to what had happened.
Then, he left. The longer I sat there, the more I began to feel, and the more the fear of the pain began to return. But it didn’t. Esteban appeared and asked me how I was doing. He too asked me how I had hurt my finger. After explaining it (this had to have been the tenth time today) he shuffled away. A nurse and the doctor returned and informed me that they had to take a look at my finger. I complied but wasn’t thrilled about it. I looked away the entire time. “What’s your pain level?” Someone asked. “It’s about a 10.” I responded, looking to Audrey who cracked a smile.
After it was over, there was another long pause. Dillon and his mom arrived and Audrey said goodbye. Several of my co-workers my co-workers asked to come say “hi” but weren’t allowed. Esteban suddenly appeared again.
“I’m going to put in a request to have you sent to UCSD.” He explained. “We could send you to surgery here, but our surgeons may take one look at it and realize they aren’t equipped to handle it. I don’t want you to get passed around from hospital to hospital so I’m going to try to get you sent straight to the best ones in the area, which would be the UCSD team.”
“Wow, okay.” I nodded. That seemed logical and I appreciated his initiative. I said thank you and he smiled and walked away.
Shortly thereafter, things began to move very fast. Esteban reappeared and told me that I was approved and would be moved to UCSD shortly, then the medical transport guys appeared. I was moved to another stretcher in the hallway. As I sat there, the Doctor and other staff all came by to say goodbye and good luck. Everyone offered words of encouragement, even the people in the chair on the other side of the curtain beside my little corner. The medical transport guys (and Dillon) giggled at my responses to people. I told Susie I would miss her and I wished I could just take her with me to the other hospital. She said she was sad she wouldn’t get to be my nurse, but that I would like the staff at the other hospital too. I realized again that God was really all around me. Each of these people was acting as the hands of God, from Esteban, literally the first person I saw when I got here, to Susie, the kind horseperson nurse, to the Doctor, and even the people on the other side of the curtain who I hadn’t even seen face to face. And as He showed His love through each of these people toward me, He also brought his light into this place where there wasn’t much.
After I was moved into the medical transport vehicle, the morphine really started to kick in. I don’t remember what anyone else said on the ride to UCSD, I only remember suddenly feeling very “barn sick” which is like homesickness but you want to go to the barn…which is practically home anyways. I started to cry at one point and I remember looking at Dillon, who asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I was going to ride my horse today. I just want to see my horses.” After that, I really don’t remember much, except that the UCSD hospital is very large, the hallways were wide and empty, with pictures hung on the walls intermittently, and that the staff was very smiley and didn’t talk about how tragically dismembered my finger was (at least not right in front of me).
They put me in my own room, at one point I was suddenly changed into a hospital gown which I don’t remember, and Dillon sat there and talked to me as nurses came in and out, making changes to my IV and taking my blood pressure. Then, a male nurse came in and sat down. He told me that I’d be going into surgery pretty soon, the names of my two surgeons, and what they were planning on doing. I had paperwork to sign, of course, giving them permission to do a “medical exploration” to see what damage had been done throughout my finger. He then asked to unwrap my hand so that they could take photos. I told him he could take pictures only if I got a copy. This time I only looked away briefly, but when Dillon looked I had to as well of course (he is notorious for looking when you tell him not to). It was pretty gnarly but because there had been blood at one point, you couldn’t see the same vivid white bone against off white skin and bright red blood. Now, everything was pretty red, except for my bright pink glittery nail polish. They wheeled me down to the prep area before surgery and I met my surgeons, but I really don’t remember. I just know I did. After I answered the same fifty allergy and medical history questions, I was brought into the operation room. The table had a little arm extension and I was asked to stretch my left arm out beside me and lay it flat, and then I was put under. While I was under, they took some X-rays and then rearranged the parts of my finger. I woke some time later back in my hospital room in the middle of the night when the nurses came in to check on me, but passed out again. This happened a few times until I finally became fully awake at about 4am. (That brings us to the first part of part 1) The next day, it began to rain. The skies darkened and the gloom cast a grey light over my hospital room. I spent almost all of my time sleeping, or waking up screaming because the pain meds weren’t working. But I still had my finger, and that was a blessing that was worth the pain. It felt like I was there for ages, but it was less than 24 hours. Dillon came to pick me up and my nurses came in to say goodbye. Right before we left, I looked out the window to see the sun peeking through the clouds and two rainbows reaching down to touch the earth. I smiled as I remembered God’s promises which He never ceases to fulfill, and all the subtle reminders of His love and presence that He leaves. I was amazed at the many ways that He had impacted my life and so many around me through this experience, and all of the new people He’d brought me in contact with. He had definitely showed me that He is able to work through any situation, even if we are simply sitting there and doing nothing. No matter where we are, He is more than enough to get the job done even if we aren’t even aware of it. We toted my giant sausage bandage home where I slept for like four days straight. A week later, I went back for my first post op visit and we got to see what had been going on underneath that giant bandage. Then we took some x-rays.
Eight screws, one metal plate and a pin now hold my finger together. The pin is there to hold the distal phalange (part of your finger where your fingernail is) and the middle phalange (middle bone where all the screws are in the photo) straight and keep the distal interphalangeal joint (the joint at the end of your finger behind your fingernail) from bending since the tendon which straightens the last part of my finger was damaged and is no longer there. The proximal interphalangeal joint, or the PIP joint is very stiff. Over time, I’ve been able to change the bandage and check up on it. All of the dark spots were once a big blood blister. Over time the skin stiffened and peeled off. And that brings us to this week when I trimmed my stitches and peeled the last bit of that skin off. Almost all of the open parts have closed up. We’ve gone from a giant sausage bandage down to a few band-aids and a little cloth sock.
And it certainly didn’t stop me from getting on my horse…just don’t tell my surgeons…
Have a blessed weekend!