Seems like it’s been the month for people losing fingers. I don’t really keep a journal. But I did write down the story of one boys lost fingers… Be warned, there are pictures.
July Seventh, the year of our Lord 2017. It is of the night before last I wish to speak.
It seems like taking a shower here is always a mistake, because as soon as I do something comes up and I have to go slog through mud again. The night in question was no exception. I’d just showered and put on a movie for the kiddos. As I was washing dishes and considering what to do for dinner, my attention was grabbed by shouts from outside. It quickly became clear that I was being hailed so put dishwashing on hold and headed out onto the front porch.
Outside I was greeted by a small crowd gathered around a teenager who was cradling his hand, wrapped tightly in a t-shirt.
As the crowd yelled out fragments to me, I slowly began to piece together the story. They had been fishing and a friend had accidentally cut him with a knife.
Now… maybe I was just feeling unloving or lazy. But I’d also worked a long day and was feeling quite worn out. So I directed them toward the local nurse, knowing full well he’d do just a good a job as me.
The crowd begged me to do it personally, saying that the wound was very bad and required my personal attention. Up to this point I’d not even actually seen the wound. Judging from the way he had his hand wrapped up in a t-shirt I figured that’s where the cut was, but I had no idea of the size or severity. So after dispatching someone to get the nurse, I called him over and took a peek at the cut. To my slight surprise, he removed the make shift bandage to reveal, not a small cut, but a missing finger. The middle finger of his right hand had been completely severed, and the index finger was only a flap of skin away.
I’d never sewn up a complete amputation, and was unsure if Jeff had any experience in that realm himself. I made a quick decision and set about getting the more experienced from a village down river.
A short while later I was seated on the tractor, backing the clinic boat down into the water. A brief conference with Jeff, on his way to the clinic, confirmed me in my decision so away we sped.
Except not really. I’d forgotten that we were going into the dry season, the river was so low that we had to alternate between using the motor and paddling the boat down river. So what should have been a short trip powered by a 50 horsepower motor became a much longer trip powered by the strong arms of a couple guys with paddles and dodging trees exposed by the receding water.
By the time we picked up the nurse, Marianna, and turned around we were heading back under cover of night.
I left her and the boat at the waters edge and headed home to get the tractor safely inside the fence. Back home I took a breathe, grabbed a pack of biscuits and headed back down to the clinic.
At the clinic I made my way through the customary, gaping crowd and into the operating room where the nurses where just about to start injecting lidocaine. With both nurses there, my help was superfluous, but I decided to take the opportunity to learn and so settled in to watch. At least that was my plan but somehow I still got roped into drawing up drugs and cutting gauze and trying to keep the patient distracted while the nurses stitched merrily away.
Since Marianna had more experience than Jeff by over 10 years, I expected her to do the actual suturing, which she did. What I didn’t expect was for her to ask Jeff’s advice on the best way to go about it. It seemed like she was taking his cue from him. I soon learned that he’d actually done an almost identical operation just about a month ago (and would do another one in a couple weeks, though I had no way of knowing that at the time).
They quickly sewed the ragged edge of the index finger shut and then moved on to the middle finger. The last segment of his finger had been cut clean off and had apparently fallen into the water never to be seen again. The two nurses carefully pulled the surrounding skin tight and sutured the gaping wound shut. After watching for a while, I realized that the procedure was much easier than I’d anticipated, that my help was completely unnecessary at this point and that I still hadn’t eaten dinner.
So I left them to put in the last couple stitches and headed wearily back towards home; reflecting on the long day. Maybe it hadn’t been necessary to do all the work I’d done, but I didn’t think it was wasted. It is after all, easier to suture with two sets of hands instead of just one.