Tetanus Shots & Table Saws

For the past month or so, Diane has been battling bronchitis. She’s had a horrible time with it and it seems to happen every year at this time when things turn really wet outside. It’s always a concern for me because when she’s making me a sandwich and coughing I fear that I may be the next victim. So far that hasn’t happened, probably because I convinced her to visit her doctor a couple of weeks ago and she got some antibiotics to help her fight this. After three days on the antibiotics I was confident that she was no longer contagious and allowed he to resume her sandwich making duties. She’s been slowly improving since then and is almost back to her normal self.

Yesterday she had her followup visit with the doctor to see how things were going. After she left I got to thinking that it’s been a number of years since I had my last tetanus shot. Now, that’s not normally something I think about, but it gave me something to consider as I went down to my shop to continue work on a couple of projects I have going for Christmas.

Within 10 minutes, during which time I was able to make a series of boards, with angled edges of precisely 11.5 degrees, on my table saw. On the very last cut the table saw snatched the perfectly good leather glove of my left hand and gnawed a large chunk from the forefinger area. Due to the pain which accompanied the destruction of my glove I was pretty certain there was physical damage involved. My well honed reactions to events of this nature cause me to make a tight fist of my left hand and clutch it to my chest in a manner that, had anyone been present, may have indicated I was suffering a cardiac event.

Before the pain subsided, I turned off the saw, and the shop vac that was connected to it in order to suck all the sawdust away from the saw, and headed for my car in order to make yet another visit to the emergency room. It took longer than necessary to get out of the house because I couldn’t find my phone, which was on the work bench in the shop. Once I remembered where the phone was, I checked to ensure the dogs had full water bowls and that the cat had food (she drinks from the dog’s bowls), got my car keys and headed down the hill

Because I had my left hand clutched to my chest I decided that I didn’t want to fuss over how to get my seat belt strapped around me so, throwing caution to the wind, headed down the hill without it. It feels really odd to drive without a seat belt. It’s just not normal. But I did it.

Instead of going directly to the emergency room, I parked by Diane’s truck on the other side of the building thinking she would know something was up when she saw my car. To ensure there was no confusion, however, I went into the reception area and asked one of the ladies to please give Diane a message about where I was so she would know why my car was there. Then I walked around the building to the emergency side of things.

Walking into the emergency room with my hand clutched to my chest, I knew, would create a stir, so I just said “table saw”, to the first person I saw so they wouldn’t get the wrong idea about the reason for my visit. Those two little words granted me front of the line priority and, after a very brief check in, I was rushed to a room beyond the normally locked doors where things happen.

Since I’ve done this before, a number of times, and most recently for the same finger, I know the procedure, and most of the people helping me. I assumed a prone position, in my well used work clothes, on a nice white sheet, then opened my fist so the nurse could get the glove off and check the damage. From precious experience I knew that my clutching method would stem the flow of blood to a minimum so wasn’t surprised when none came pouring out when the glove was removed.

Here’s what it looked like …

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Notice the nice 1/8″ kerf. Since I’d never seen the interior of my finger before, I was quite fascinated.

A nice young lady, who claimed to not be a doctor, but a PA, checked out my wound and determined that she could save it. During her investigation, she asked about the status of my tetanus vaccination and I reported that that particular shot was one of the reasons for my visit because it’s been about 7 years since my last one and figured another one was due. Oddly, that coincided with my last visit to that same room, for issues with the same forefinger.Then she gave me a shot to deaden the finger, telling me I’d feel a little pinch when she inserted the needle. I assured her, when it was done, that what I felt wasn’t too bad, but it certainly wasn’t like a pinch. She laughed. Then my finger went to sleep before the pain took over my senses.

Diane arrived to keep me company around this time and I was happy that she wasn’t mad at me. And, she had good news that, though she had infection in her eustachian tube, the bronchitis was much better. I love being with my wife, even in an emergency room.

Actually, the most severe pain was at the moment of impact with the saw blade as I felt each tooth tearing into my finger as it spun. Nasty. Still, it was nice to have it numb.

Then one of the nurses came in and administered the new tetanus shot, in my right shoulder area, after which another nurse arrived with equipment she used to scrub the be-Jesus out of the wound, ensuring there were no stray little bits of leather or wood chips hanging around. I didn’t watch because I knew she was doing a very thorough job and I didn’t want to vomit on my chest. It wasn’t until then that my right shoulder began hurting a little from the injection.

When the scrubbing was done, the PA returned with the stitch kit she needed to repair the damage. As she entered, the lights flickered a bit, and everyone was commenting about the odd smell in the air. For me, it had a distinctive bakelite smell indicative of some sort of electronic equipment failure. My friend, “The Plant Electrician”, is no doubt well acquainted with that telling aroma. After a short time the fire alarm sounded and everyone vacated the building, out into the rain, to await the fire department.

A nurse quickly wrapped a bunch of gauze around my finger and Diane went to get her truck to bring it around so we could sit and wait. I was thankful for that as I watched everyone huddled outside in the rain. They could have gone to their cars, too, but they didn’t.

Finally the fire department showed up …

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… and they shooed everyone away from the building, out into the rain. Apparently standing under the shelter of the entry area wasn’t a good idea. So, everyone left, but we were allowed to stay, sitting in the truck.

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That’s my PA, Kimberly, in the white coat. In front of her, is another Diane that I’ve known a long time, and to her left is Kimberly’s scribe, Beth. I don’t know where they went, but I regret not offering them all a seat in the truck to await the outcome of this event. I’m sure Kimberly could have stitched me up while we waited.

Finally, after about an hour, long enough for my finger to heal, we were allowed back into the building where we assumed our previous positions. Mike, an ex Navy Corpsman, provided us with warm blankets which felt really good.

After everything settled down, and things were moving back to normal, Kimberly reappeared to resume her task. Because of the delay in finishing the procedure, we both thought it would be a good idea if she added a bit more numbing agent before getting busy with the stitches. While doing so, I learned from idle chatter in the hallway that I was the cause of the need to evacuate because everything was going just fine until I got there. Having broad shoulders, figuratively speaking, I figured I could accept that responsibility and ease the burden a little for the real culprit who drove his vehicle into a power pole somewhere nearby.

Six stitches are now holding my finger together. That makes 21 stitches total for that one digit in its lifetime. None of its neighboring digits have ever been stitched up so it has the record, hands down.

I sincerely hope every one of you who have suffered through this narrative are in good health and will continue to enjoy that state of being for the remainder of your lives.

Now I must heal.

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