Saturday, July 12, 2014

Losing Part of a Finger...and Ultrarunning

Back in February....

[image credit Gary]

...I was careless with my snowblower. A heavy, slushy snow clogged the discharge chute. Of course, the first remedy is to clear the blockage with a stick or probe, but if you use a snowblower for any length of time, eventually you'll be sticking your hand in there to pull out the slush because the stick can't do it. 

Which I proceeded to do, as I have tens of dozens of times before. Only this time I didn't wait quite long enough for the moving augers to wind down to a full stop...and CRUNCH!  The last joint of my ring finger on my dominant hand was gone. It didn't hurt--and in fact did not hurt for some hours--and only felt like a strong blow to my hand. 

Anyway, I knew at the time that it was a non-trivial event, but it has proven to be a big deal. Some 5 months afterwards, progress is slow: the finger is still swollen and thus doesn't bend well. It does not hurt per se, but often tingles when touched, feeling much like a low grade electric shock. 

The tingling and lack of hand strength/mobility are the worst effects, but as long as I am complaining, here are a few examples of some things that are affected for me:

  • Using chopsticks--cannot do
  • Catching a Frisbee or a ball--avoid, too afraid of jamming the stump
  • I now clap like a wussy, because it hurts
  • Sticking my right hand into my pocket is always a gingerly-undertaken adventure, as is retrieving the desired object
  • Bowling--cannot hold the ball
  • The near constant defensiveness with which I guard my sensitive finger

OK, by now you're thinking, this clown feels sorry for himself. After all, it's just one joint on one finger.  And time will continue the healing process. So this post is a cautionary tale, and the point you should take away is that every part of your body is precious, and the loss of a seemingly minor chunk is in fact a big deal.  AND: don't get complacent around machines!

My takeaway is that I have a huge respect for the perseverance of lower extremity amputees who somehow regain their running abilities,  managing to push through the pain and all the other stuff to make a prosthesis work.  At best, it's a tenuous body-contraption partnership that has to require vast amounts of gumption and will to function.

I am acquainted with the loss of a piece of a finger; I cannot fathom what it must take to make a replacement leg work.  My hat's off to you folks!

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