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Friday January 8th, 2021

In some ways it has not been an auspicious start to the knew year. I am excited about how the change in my work situation will allow me to have more time at home, and more time for writing. That is really big, and good, thing. But I have had a bit of a bad run of it.

The old year closed out with my desktop computer dying. This computer has all my writing. Then at the beginning of this week I damaged my car. Finally, on Wednesday night I almost broke my thumb. If bad things really do come in threes then we are all set. But if this is the start of a longer streak, I better go back to bed and not get up until spring.

What I am happy to report is that all three of these incidents can be concluded with the phrase, “It could have been worse.” The computer died because the SSD hard driver controller failed. That was the drive with the OS installed, but all of my writing archives were on the other hard drive. I lost whatever was dumped on the desktop (and I have a bad habit of dumping stuff on the desktop) but at the end of the day that is a minor loss. I have a new hard drive installed and today I will finish installing the software. It could have been worse.

The car damage particularly irked me because it was unequivocally an act of stupidity on my part. In the great December snow storm a kind neighbor plowed a large portion of the driveway with their tractor. In the process they pushed a log off at an angle beside the top of the driveway. It has since remained embedded in the snow bank. When I pulled into the driveway I realized I had parked too close and the pointed end of the log was pressing against the side of the car. “Need to check that before I pull out tomorrow,” I thought to myself. Then I went inside and forgot about it.

The next morning I was in a hurry leaving for work. I hopped into the car, put it into reverse and–craaack!–started tearing of the plastic front of my bumper. The pointed end of the log had caught the corner of the bumper and had inexorably started to peel the plastic sheathing off the car as I backed up. In the morning dark I feared I had done serious damage to the bumper, perhaps necessitating a complete replacement of the bumper. When I was able to inspect it later after work I realized that probably replacing the popped plastic rivets would be a sufficient repair. In the end my thoughtlessness cost me sixty dollars and change, hundreds of dollars less than I was anticipating. Talk about a sense of relief.

I felt like that was enough for one week, but then Wednesday night I almost broke my thumb. I was folding up a big collapsible aluminum ladder, and a chunk of snow was jammed between the bottom rung which prevented the ladder from sliding down the last section. So I kicked the chunk of snow out and did not think about where my thumb was positioned as it grasped the ladder. The snow went out and the ladder swiftly slid down crushing my thumb with finality.

The pain was something like slamming your hand in a car door. Even before I became a nurse and was schooled in the different words for pain I already knew there were distinctly different kinds of pain. There is the sharp clear pain of a slicing knife. There is the stabbing throb of a headache, the burn of heat, the pulse of infection, the clench of intestines, and so many others. Each distinct in its own way, some more tolerable than others. Blunt force trauma–like slamming your hand in a car door or crushing said hand in a collapsible ladder–is a pain all its own. I don’t consider it the worst kind of pain, but it is a pain with a very loud roar, a sudden explosion like a bomb going off in your body.

I dropped the ladder as I started to double over and the ladder fell on the new van which by some miracle did not get damaged by the impact of the ladder. My thought in the moment was, “I broke it” meaning my thumb, not the van. The pain was like a tidal wave, a flood that I tried to contain by clenching the thumb as hard as I could with my good hand. In that moment I felt like I never wanted to move that thumb ever again for the rest of my life. In the moment it felt like I couldn’t, and yet was afraid that it would and that the movement would increase my pain to unimagined levels. I felt like I wanted to take flight from my own body, burst away to escape the pain. Instead I walked around groaning through clenched teeth until the pain subsided to a current which could be contained by my own body.

With time I was able to let go of my thumb and take a look at it. Nothing was torn off, bleeding, or standing out a strange angles. Even more promising, nothing had yet ballooned up to grotesque proportions or changed to any alarming colors. At this point it seemed promising that no horrific damage had happened–though in a strange contradictory sort of way my thumb both hurt and had a distinct numbness along one side which indicated which thumb nerve had been colossally smashed by the ladder. With ice and some tentative movement I determined the impacted joint had no debilitating injury. I had escaped relatively intact.

Afterward, I noticed that once the pain leaves the mind feels amazingly clear.

The damage report the next day was not much changed. The crush affected muscles across the back of my hand and up to my elbow but the swelling remained very localized and only the mobility of the one thumb joint was impaired. There was pain on palpation only in one spot and also with certain movement of the thumb. At this point I feel fairly confident that I will be back to normal within a week.

It could have been a lot worse. My brother-in-law had his thumb sliced off in a folding chair when he was a little boy. A former neighbor crushed her thumb in a hydraulic wood splitter. The both managed to keep (or reattach) their thumbs but with much more blood, gore, swelling, and pain. I can’t say my experience made the same level. But I did feel like I couldn’t catch a break this week.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Cynthia January 9, 2021, 12:01 pm

    I say the same thing, “It could have been worse,” so often. Someone that I live with usually doesn’t enjoy those words from my mouth at those moments though, so I’ve learned to say it under my breath! I know the pain that thumbs can cause and I’m so glad yours looks to be temporary. My left thumb is causing me the same trouble that my right one caused which led to my thumb surgery and lots of rehab. Thumbs are definitely important appendages! It could have been so much worse – thankful that it wasn’t – along with the hard drive and the car bumper.

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