Dateline: 1 June 2006
I was working in my garden yesterday afternoon, preparing the soil so I could plant tomatoes, when my son, Robert, called out to me from the kitchen window...
”Hey Dad! James cut his finger. It’s pretty bad. I think you should come in.”
I stood up, straightened out my stiff back and marched toward the house, wondering what I was going to encounter. Just how bad was the cut going to be? Would I have to take my 11-year-old son to the emergency room? I wished Marlene was not away running errands.
James was waiting for me just inside the door. He was clutching his finger. There was a very concerned look on his face. “”How did you cut it?” I asked.
”On the top of a can,” he replied.
”Let me see it.”
He extended his right hand, and let off his grip around the finger. The cut was in the fleshy thumb-side of his middle finger, between two knuckles. It was a bit over an inch long, and deep. But not to the bone. It was hardly bleeding and that surprised me. I shook my head and pronounced in mock seriousness, "Well, it looks like we’re going to have to amputate.” James managed a weak smile.
I took my work boots off and walked into the kitchen with my wounded son following, and clutching. ”Tell me again how you did that.” He showed me an empty can of Bush's Baked Beans on the counter. The round top, held to the can by a small section of rim metal, was hinged straight up. James had reached into the cabinet over the counter for a drinking glass and brought his hand down on the sharp lid.
It so happened that James and Robert were hungry. Marlene wasn’t there to feed them so they opened the can and satisfied their empty stomachs with the beans. I like it when my boys fend for themselves, but I stated the obvious: ”You shouldn’t leave the lid up like that. Next time, fold it down into the can and throw the can away.”
”It’s starting to hurt a little now,” James said, looking at his finger.
I replied, ”Oh it’s gonna hurt all right! I expect you’ll be screaming in pain in a few minutes.” He didn’t say anything.
”I’m going to have to wash it real good,” I announced. ”Because if I don’t wash it out, it could get infected and swell up and turn green and ooze pus and gangrene will spread up your arm and they’ll have to cut yer whole arm off.”
He protested with a frown... ”That’s not a nice thing to say. It doesn’t make me feel good.”
I quit the kidding, grinned, and told him, in all seriousness, ”You’re going to be fine, Buddy. Dr. Kimball’s going to fix you up real good.”
My hands were soiled from working in the garden. I made a big show of sudsing, scrubbing and rinsing up to my elbows, with him waiting patiently by the sink. Once clean, I regulated the water to a comfortable warm, worked lots of fresh soap suds into my hands and gently washed his hand in mine. Then I rinsed his hand off and patted it dry with a clean towel.
The gaping wound showed meat and was, frankly, a little unsettling to me but I didn’t tell him that.
”That’s a good one, James. Did I ever tell you about the time I cut myself bad and your Mom sewed it back together for me?”
He responded by showing me a diagonal scar on the base of his left index finger, where he had cut himself with a knife a couple years ago. I had never noticed the scar before, but it sure did look familiar. I looked at the same spot on my own left index finger and there it was.
”Look at that, James,” I said, proudly showing him the scar on my finger. ”That’s the one Mom sewed up. You and me got the same scar!”
I reached for a bottle of Betadine in the kitchen cabinet.
”Is that going to sting?”
”No, it shouldn’t sting.
I flooded the cut with the solution and told him to wait while I went to my shop. There, in a file cabinet drawer, I keep a bunch of first-aid supplies, including a selection of military surplus sutures....
But I did not get any sutures. I got the next best thing—little butterfly bandages. Butterfly’s will hold most cuts together very well, especially if they are not bleeding too much. They are, to my down-home, self-sufficient way of thinking, a satisfactory substitute for stitches. I always keep a supply of butterfly bandages.
One butterfly, carefully placed, pulled the wound together very nicely. To keep it clean, I applied a couple of oversize Band Aids. Then I told my patient not to get the hand dirty or wet for at least a couple of days, and not to put a lot of stress on the finger— Doctor’s orders.