How Our Family Motto Became "We Can Make Anything Worse"

You Don't Really NEED that finger, right?

How Our Family Motto Became "We Can Make Anything Worse"

There are many things common convention tells us under the guise of keeping us safe and happy; things like “stay away from a Mama Bear with her cubs,” or “avoid small patterns if you’re pear-shaped,” or “Jeni, for the love of God, please do not wear that crocheted beer-can hat to my parents' anniversary party.

I bet you’ve even told your kids such things. We’ve all told a child to watch their fingers in the car door, lest they be chopped off, but we know that never happens.

Except it does happen, and it happened to my family.

When my daughter was 4 years-old, a fun day filled with holiday shopping plans quickly became a ticket to Nightmareville, when the minivan door slammed on her tiny hand. Okay, not good, certainly, but likely a broken finger...maybe two. 

Except there is nothing I cannot make worse, and instead of a tiny broken digit, we were now dealing with four broken fingers and one severed pinky. When I saw her standing up in the van, having escaped from the seat I had secured her in, it took me a second to realize what had happened. Her hand got closed in the van door and we discovered that “keep your hands inside the ride at all times” is not just an amusement park rule, but good general practice.

I watched the blood drain from my daughter’s face as her tiny mitten turned red. Her eyes were shining but unfocused, and I pulled her mitten off to assess the damage and her left pinky finger fell off at the 2nd joint.

I then did what any well-prepared, rational woman with several First Aid courses under her belt would do: I started screaming like a fucking maniac.

A frantic emergency room visit saw me re-enacting the "Give my daughter the drugs!" scene from Terms of Endearment as I went into all out, legitimate panic, because hey, fingers are pretty important to the human species. It’s kind of what sets us apart from lower species, like amphibians and people who don't return shopping carts to the corral.

A plastic surgeon specializing in fingers and hands was on call at our local hospital that day and within hours, my daughter was in what would be the first of two surgeries. We were briefed on what this would entail: Emergency Room visit, X-Rays, general anesthesia, plastic surgeries x2, physiotherapy, surgical recovery, doctors follow ups...and lots of pain control.

The gory details are just that, but I will tell you that two intricate plastic surgeries, countless cups of shitty hospital coffee, and a plastic surgeon kicked in the balls by a tiny purple winter boot when he accidentally touched the wrong finger, and many physiotherapy appointments later, my daughter emerged with all ten of her fingers, all operational and with full range of function.

The many hospital visits meant we quickly became experts at crisis pain management. The emergency room is a real “on the job” learning environment and if you have either been kicked in the nuts by a child or lost a finger, you know that acute pain is serious business. Acetaminophen is a great option for many kinds of pain, but losing an actual part of your body may require something stronger than over-the-counter pain management. We also used topical local analgesic gels, but when it came to managing the worst of the pain, both before surgery and in the period following, we needed to use a stronger pain management arsenal including morphine and other Intravenous (IV) administered drugs. There are other ways to help ease hurt: the staff splinted her hand and gave her ibuprofen before first line X-rays, especially since I was unable to accompany her inside as I was 6-months pregnant.

My daughter was a few years past her nursing days but that would have also been a great technique for providing comfort to a child in the ER. Instead, when we had to, we just acted like big, bumbling fools to make her laugh. My family is blessed/cursed with an appreciation for dark humour and even at four years-old, my daughter could find a smile when we’d make an inappropriate noise or gesture. Yes, I am telling you that fart jokes and asking a doctor how his tender nuts are after being kicked by a pixie child is sometimes exactly the best medicine. Those small smiles and chuckles provided even a tiny modicum of relief for our family and our child and if I thought it would have elicited a smile, I would have run through the hallways wearing only a crocheted beer can hat. Even the hospital staff got in on the act: the surgeon, who had allowed my daughter to take her favourite “lovely” into surgery (at the time it was a plastic lizard), wrapped the lizard’s paw in a bandage identical to hers for recovery. Laughter can be used as a distraction, there is actually research that shows humour reduces pain in kids!

Childhood pain - especially acute pain - is not funny. But when a kid is scared and hurting, having the perfect blend of appropriate drugs and being able to provide a chuckle or two shows that while laughter may not always be the BEST medicine, it’s still part of a great management plan and we were soon pros at navigating the pain-relief system for kids in the ER.

These days, we have a strict “hands in laps” rule in the car, and we are even able to laugh about the whole thing. But we now know better. We also have a working knowledge of ER and home pain management for the kids. Childhood is a time for making memories, and sometimes those memories include not-so-great things like broken bones, stitches, and yes, even severed fingers. Let’s do all we can to make sure looking back includes the knowledge that we did all we could to help those situations be as pain-free as humanly possible.

These days, my now 17 year-old daughter has all ten of her fingers. And I can assure you, she has the ability to use them all - especially the middle one.


You Need to Turf This BBQ Item - and Here's the Scary Reason Why

Surgeons Post Warning Over Common BBQ Tool

You Need to Turf This BBQ Item - and Here's the Scary Reason Why

Do You Own One of These BBQ Brushes? Get Rid of It Now, Surgeons Say

How do you like your steak or burger? Medium rare, well-done, or with a sharp jabby death spike hidden in the centre? 

If you are using one of these bristle style BBQ cleaners to clean your grill, BBQ, or smoker, it's a very real possibility your next patio party will wrap up in an operating room, and no wine pairs well with that. reports that Canadian surgeons have long been saying they see too many cases of BBQ brush bristle injuries in emergency rooms every grilling season. The thin wires of the BBQ bristle-style cleaners easily appear almost translucent and all but disappear on a dark grill, making it virtually impossible to detect one should it become attached or embedded in cooking food. From CBC: 

Canadian surgeons are urging people to throw out wire-bristled barbecue brushes, because none of them have figured out a surefire way of removing the wires when they get stuck in people's throats.

The thin, sharp wires can come off the brushes, attach to barbecue grills and cling to food without being noticed. If it's swallowed it can cause damage to the throat and epiglottis, which is the flap of cartilage that covers the opening of the windpipe when swallowing.

Canadian surgeons at this year's annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology spent time on this specific issue, and the CBC reports Dr. Ian Dempsey outlining the difficulty in removing the bristles. (Otolaryngology is the field of medicine relating to the head and neck. They are not bird-watchers (that's ornithology) which I was relieved to learn because it seemed strange bird-lovers would be giving BBQ advice since they're supposed to be devoted to the preservation of birds, not the cooking of them.) 

Dr. Dempsey says: "None of us have figured out a surefire way to get rid of them, so we'd prefer just to prevent it from happening in the first place. We're hoping that if enough people raise this issue, hopefully we'll just eliminate those types of brushes from the market and use a safer alternative." 

The meeting also cited the frequency in which these injuries occur, and many major outlets see several cases per month. Also mentioned are cases where the needles become ingested and become lodged in intestinal walls, which sounds about negative a kabillion on the summer fun to-do chart. 

I just bought a new grill brush, and while it does a great job removing residue and charred food, the bulk of its allure was lost after the bit about causing damage to "the flap of cartilage yadda yadda windpipe." NOPE. Turf it. 




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