Monday, July 12, 2010

Where I've been, what I'm doing, why I suck

Is anyone still reading this thing? I brought cookies...

OK, so I realize it's been 2 weeks since any kind of an update and at least 2 months since I did anything of substance, and I do apologize for that. But I have a series of good excuses.

When I started work for the Census back in May, they had me working from 10pm - 6:30am, which was hard for my co-workers but I found it awesome because I'm a night owl and, as it turns out, I'm a morning person if I happen to have stayed up all night to see the dawn. Also, driving home in the opposite direction of rush hour is both fulfilling and hilarious. However, this made it especially hard for me to find time to write, because I would want to go to bed after I got home, which would put me me waking up at about 4 pm -- which is about the time the family starts to come home, the news comes on, dinner begins to be fixed, dogs are walked, etc.

Then there was the fact that I was also working Saturday and Sunday, because I knew this job wouldn't last nearly as long as they said it would (Two months? HAH!) and I had every intention of milking it for as much money as I could. Let me tell you, +10% shift differential pay at time-and-a-half quickly becomes an impressive amount. But before I could accumulate truly mad amounts of money, yo, my shift was eliminated after 3 weeks due to lack of work. (Just my luck, I was working at the one census branch in three states to be ahead of schedule.)

Fortunately, they called me the very next day (Saturday) saying that they had let too many people go, and that I had distinguished myself on graveyard with a good work ethic and agreeable personality, and would I like to come back to 2nd shift, 3:30pm - midnight? Hell yes, I said.

That one lasted a week before second shift was canned due to lack of work. Sigh.

On my last day of work, we had a massive pizza party. It was a very large reduction in force -- going from 45 people to around 15 -- and so our supervisors were nice enough to give us a federally-funded last hurrah. And everything as nice and lovely until the point where my left thumb damn near got cut off.

I don't really want to go into the specifics of the accident, partially for my pride and partially because the Department of Commerce is being nice enough to pay for everything through Worker's Comp and I don't want to say anything which might imperil that. Suffice it to say that at the end of the day I came home with a tetanus shot, 3 stitches, and nerve damage to my left thumb (cut was deep, y'all, went to the bone) which left a good quarter of it numb and bled like a mofo. Fortunately for me I've had first aid training and had the presence of mind not to freak out. I didn't even curse, even though it would have been appropriate. Instead, I think the following thoughts went through my head:

  1. "Well, tonight just got a lot more interesting."  *apply direct pressure to the wound*
  2. "Wow, that's rather a lot of blood."  *elevate limb and find pressure point*
  3. "OK, bleeding like a stuck pig but it doesn't hurt... I think I'm in trouble." *call for help as calmly as possible*
It's a good thing that one of my co-workers is handy with a first-aid kit, but even then I was bleeding through the gauze, so off to the ER I went. Protip: walking into the ER with a hand full of bloody gauze, elevated and held at the wrist pressure point with the other hand and saying "I cut myself..." will get you processed by the triage nurse immediately.

Now, I got very lucky for a few reasons. One, I'm right handed and the injury was to my left hand. Two, the loss of sensation is on the outside of my thumb. If it was on the inside, that would make life very difficult for me, because the inside of the thumb is the part which does most of the gripping and lifting and manipulating, whereas the outside is used for... pressing the space button on a keyboard and other stuff. Three, while the cut was deep it wasn't very wide (again, only 3 stitches needed), which is really good because if it had been a wide slice instead of an impact hit it could have severed all sorts of fun internal structure like tendons or ligaments.  I just happened to get whacked in the part of the thumb which was just meat over bone.

But still, it was annoying. The cut was about a quarter inch above where the thumb joins the palm, and that part flexes a lot during normal thumb motion. I don't know if you guys have ever had stitches before, but if you haven't, trust me -- you want to keep them as immobile as possible or else you experience what I call "the cheese wire effect". And then there's the fact that half of the very tip of my left thumb is numb, so once the stitches came out 12 days later, I had to re-learn basic tasks like tying my shoes.

That's part of the reason why it took me so long to update: while the thumb isn't exactly critical for typing, I had a heck of a time getting it to move out of the way of my index finger (it wanted to cuddle up next to it, like a karate-chop) and then sometimes making it move would hurt like a motherfucker. Even now, if I bump the place I was hurt, it's like an electrical shock along the thumb and it's not a pleasant feeling.

The other reason it's taken me so long is that I suck. Seriously. I don't know if I was depressed, or fighting off illness, or the rainy season we get in Florida was sapping my strength, but I felt very puny and whiny and all I wanted to do was lie in bed all day and sleep, and if I wasn't sleeping then I sure didn't feel like writing any damn thing and instead just played mindless click games like Legends of Zork.

But! This is me, trying to crawl back onto the blog-posting horse once again. Due mostly to stubbornness, I'd say I've regained about 90% functionality from my left hand. That's not from fancy physical therapy, that's from me going "No, I will not accept a gimpy useless thumb, you WILL WORK like you did before" and making my hand do all the things it used to do until it would start to hurt, at which point I would rest and take a painkiller and then be back to forcing it to work a few hours later.

The other piece of good news to come out of this is that Worker's Comp has again come through for me like a champ and has paid for me to see a hand surgeon about the nerve loss. It took me a while to navigate the maze of bureaucracy,, and then about as long to find a surgeon who will take WC (most won't), but I had an appointment last Friday with a VERY skilled surgeon (he's the guy you go see when your arm is ripped off in an accident and he reattaches it for you, so he's practically overqualified for this) and he says I'm a good candidate for nerve reconnection. He can't promise me 100% return of sensation, but it'll be better than what I have now, and if I'm at 90% functionality just from stubbornness then I'd say my odds are pretty damn good.

I just find it ironic that a month after my initial injury, with the laceration having healed nicely, my poor thumb is going to get cut into again and get more stitches. Couldn't we have done this a month ago while I was still opened up and easily accessible?

Oh well. At least I have a heck of a story, and maybe I'll find someone who thinks my scar is sexy.


  1. Ooooh! Cookies!

    Ooooh! Substantive post!


    On a slightly more serious note, it's good to see you posting again and I'm glad you've recovered as much thumb control as you have so far. Considering the amount of focused healing your hand was dooing and the soul-stealing trek through bureaucracy (sp?), I'm not surprised you were a bit out of it.

    It is good to "see" you back!

  2. Surgical scars are always sexy.

    Good to see you back and... 'good luck with the surgery' seems a bit vacuous, but I hope it goes well.

  3. Sorry to hear about the injury. That sucks.

    Also sorry about 2nd shift, I hate second shift. But not working is worse.

  4. Well that sounds epic! I had been wondering where you'd gotten off to. Hope the thumb gets all better soon!

  5. You can either tell everyone you got the scar in a knife fight during a poker game or that it's where they implanted your bionic upgrades.
    It's amazing what they can do with keyhole surgery these days!

    Glad to hear they're taking care of you, I had no idea your injury was so dramatic when I first heard about it *big hug*.


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