Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The One Where Ben Cut Off His Finger

Warning: this is a kind of gross injury story. No bloody pictures, except one, which is very small and you get warning beforehand so you can skip it.

Saturday was meant to be our last day in America. Our flights to Haiti were scheduled for 8:45 Sunday. We had a long list of things to do: pack, make a  Walmart run, wash the dog, call friends, etc.

Around 11:30 we headed to southern Dallas for a family birthday lunch at Ben's grandparents' house. We brought Jefe so everyone could meet him. Ben stepped into the kitchen to begin preparing the hamburgers. While cutting a giant block of cheese, he almost cut off his finger.

I had my back to the kitchen and was sitting with Ben's grandmother. All of a sudden I hear a lot of screaming. Ben's aunt yelled, "Do you need to go to the hospital?". Without a second of delay, Ben said, deadly serious, "Yes."

Somebody wrapped his hand in a towel and somebody else handed me a plastic bag to catch the blood. Ben's uncle Thomas grabbed the car keys, I grabbed my purse, and we raced to the car.

Thomas knew the way to a hospital about five minutes away. Ben was really scared. The white towel wrapped around his left hand was saturated with red, and there was about an inch of blood pooled at the bottom of the bag. Thomas paused and then drove through a red light or two. Ben was telling him to hurry. At one point we were silent and Ben asked to turn on the radio. It was "Penny Lane". Ben started singing, so Thomas and I started singing, too. I thought it was helping to distract him.

We arrived and raced into the ER. I banged on the glass and a blonde nurse took us right back, to a sink area. She unwrapped the towel, rinsed the cut, and then rewrapped it. Then they sent us back into the waiting room to wait.

Ben was in a tremendous amount of pain. The waiting room was packed. I got on the phone with my mom and she called the airline. Then she got my insurance file out and comforted me that this would not, in fact, bankrupt us. I couldn't even remember my deductible- in the States we have a high-deductible plan and I've never even used it in three years. Thank the good Lord that we ponied up the money (which seemed like a waste often) for insurance.
 About half an hour later, we were called back into the ER and saw a PA, Jonathan. He unwrapped the finger again and this time asked Ben to move it. Ben was able to wiggle the whole finger but could not bend it (like you would to pull a trigger). That's when the PA knew tendons had been severed. Up until this point I thought our travel plan might be salvaged- perhaps stitches and a good bandage could allow us to get on with our day and flight out as scheduled. However, the PA said that tendon damage meant immediate hand surgery. He tried to see if there was a proper surgeon on call, but there wasn't. He gave Ben a digital block, which numbed the finger completely. As you can see below, this made Ben's fiesty side come back.
 Ben was taken for hand xrays, where they had to unwrap the whole thing again. The PA Jonathan came back. There was a hand surgeon at an affiliate hospital 20 minutes away and said we could transfer there. Jonathan got ready to stitch the finger up (why they would stitch a would that was about to have surgery, I don't know).

Ok, here's the picture of the cut. It's cleaned so it's not bloody.

To the bone

 Then we waited for several hours. This part was kind of sweet. I think the grace of God prompted my critical, blaming, controlling side to die temporarily and I felt supernaturally peaceful and loving. This is our first medical emergency together.
 Around 6 pm, our transfer paperwork was ready. The charge nurse informed us that Care Flite was on the way. EXCUSE ME?!!!

If you're not familiar, Care Flite is an ambulance HELICOPTER service. We were horrified. For a finger? She later informed us that they also have ambulances, and that for insurance liability purposes, patients are not allowed to drive in private cars during hospital transfers.

Oh brother. Well, we got a laugh out of that.
 They insisted on strapping Ben into a gurney and rolling him through the ER and onto the ambulance. Would not let him walk himself there.
Guns up in the ambulance.
I drove behind the ambulance. It was the first time I was alone. I thought about the fact that I'm Ben's primary person. I was the one who signed the forms, was allowed in the xray room, and told his grandparents it wasn't a good idea to come visit. I'm allowed to do that. It's my prerogative. I'm a grown-ass woman. And I am, more than anybody alive, responsible for taking care of Ben. It was a heady thought!

We arrived at the second hospital and they put Ben in an ER room. His nurse swore a lot and was funny. We explained again about Haiti and how we were trying to have the surgery immediately. I had to make a decision quickly about whether to cancel my flight or not. The nurse paged the surgeon and put Ben in a gown. Lots of waiting. My parents arrived just as OR nurses wheeled Ben up to the pre-op floor.
 In the pre-op area we met the surgeon. All we had heard before was that he was short, foreign, nice, and that his name was Dr. Upenas (pronounced you-PEE-nis). Not joking.

When we met him, we discovered it was actually Upe ñ as. He said he had done 30,000 finger surgeries. He said he was going to use a fancy new technique involving placing amniotic membranes over the severed tendons. "Um, ok," we said.

A tall, loud Louisiana man was the anesthesia provider, and he gave us a minute to kiss and pray before Ben went in to surgery.
I joined my parents in the surgery waiting room for a few hours. The surgery only took 45 minutes, but pre-op and post-op were long. I watched the Olympics and ate the dinner my parents had brought. They brought me a bag of things I had asked for- phone chargers, spare clothes, things for Ben in case he had to spend the night. I decided that unless Ben had complications, I would fly the next morning. I called everybody in Ben's family. I sent emails. My dad left to go pick up our dog- Jefe would be flying with me to Haiti in just a few short hours.

Finally, close to midnight I spoke to the surgeon. All the tendons, arteries, and nerves were severed, but they were all repaired successfully. He will have full usage of the hand back. I then got to go back and see Ben. He was freezing cold and the two post-op nurses were covering him in warm blankets. They were very excited because he had held down a cracker. They said he could go home that night.

His pain meds would need to begin in four hours, the middle of the night. Where to find a 24-hour pharmacy? My dad drove to six different pharmacies before finding one. He filled Ben's pain med prescription. Mom drove Ben and I home. We arrived at 1 am. Ben went right to sleep. I frantically packed and was in bed by 2:00. My alarm went off at 5:30.

I flew all day and God proved so merciful. 15 hours of travel with two bags, a puppy, and a third world airport went as smoothly as possible.

Ben sees the surgeon again Wednesday and will fly back to Haiti Thursday.





  1. Looks like your prayer request list on the right might be missing a request or two now...


  2. Oh goodness! That is crazy! Yay for US insurance and traveling mercies and especially a doc named U penis! :)



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