The only time I ever broke a bone happened because I took a pair of jeans out of a laundry basket. OK there was a small flight of stairs involved, but the point is: I was not ski-jumping or hang-gliding.
My first summer job was as an apprentice in the props department of a local theatre. I came home after day one and announced at the dinner table with pride that I had spent the day learning how to operate a band saw. I thought my handyman father would receive this news with delight, but instead he went pale and muttered something about having paid for twelve years of piano lessons. Despite my father’s anxiety, I made it through a summer of power tools and hot glue with all my digits intact. The only crew member who was injured needed stitches after slicing her hand on a kitchen knife– cutting up a watermelon at break time.
I’m super careful when it comes to knives. (Note: If you are one of my children feel free to skip the remainder of this paragraph as I am about to reiterate that cautionary tale you are sick of hearing. You know the one.) When I was in junior high at summer Band Camp, there was a girl there playing percussion with one hand. Her other hand was wrapped from wrist to fingertip in a massive ball of bandages. The story was that she had been washing dishes and didn’t see a sharp knife lurking beneath the soap suds. She reached in, grabbed hold of the business end of the knife, and sliced the tendon at the base of her thumb. There was some question as to whether she would ever regain full use of that thumb. And the kicker? She was—or had been—a very talented pianist.
Household accidents are the cause of many serious injuries. Household hazards abound—there are things to fall off, things that slice and poke, caustic and toxic chemicals, many ways to burn and bruise and maim oneself. When you get right down to it, home is a dangerous place. But, since I am obsessive about not dropping knives into the dishwater, if I was going to do damage to the tendons in my hand it would have to be with some other weapon.
Like, say, a damp (with water, at room temperature, and with no harsh chemicals), soft (with no sharp edges) microfiber cleaning cloth, used while sitting on the floor (i.e. nowhere to fall) scrubbing at a spot on the carpet (again, no sharp edges). Scary stuff.
I’m not even certain how it happened, but there I was scrubbing away when suddenly the knuckle at the end of my index finger bent very far in a direction it was not to bend, there was an audible snapping sound, and it was no longer possible to maintain the finger in a straight position.
“Yup, you’re right”, said the doctor after the 5-hour wait at the urgent care clinic. “You tore the tendon. Good call!” (Note To Self: I am apparently a better diagnostician than I am a housekeeper.) “But I’m going to refer you to a plastic surgeon.” (Surgeon!?) “They’re the hand experts.”
Fortunately the surgeon seemed pretty laid back about the whole thing. “It doesn’t appear that you’ve torn it completely. It should be fine after six weeks in a splint. But it has to be six whole weeks. If you take the splint off and bend it once, you start counting the six weeks from the beginning again.”
So far the hardest thing is turning the car key in the ignition. Go ahead—try doing it without bending your index finger!
My teenager is still in denial about the fact that she’s going to be washing dishes for the next six weeks. (Actually, sweetheart, perhaps you should go back and read the third paragraph after all.)
And it has just occurred to me that perhaps I’ve been careful about the wrong things all these years. Perhaps I should worry less about cuts and falls, since it seems that the real danger lies in much more mundane pursuits. It’s a shame really. All these years that have gone by when I could have been learning to juggle knives on stilts.