I remember in the 5th grade, days after school when my mother would teach me about idioms. Back then, when someone would tell me to not count my chickens before they hatch, I would take it for what it literally said – to not count my chickens before they hatch. Now I understand what idioms are and I don’t take such things for what it literally says. My favorite idiom would probably be that life throws you many curveballs. Basically, it means life will give you many unexpected surprises. This idiom rang true for me last weekend.
It was late Saturday night. I ventured to the kitchen of my household to put away a glass cup. I noticed some gunk on the bottom and decided to clean it with the sponge. The sides of the cup had been cleaned, as was the inside of the cup. The bottom however remained dirty. This time, I would push the sponge downward onto the bottom of the cup and by doing that I’d be —
Here comes the curveball – and it’s a nasty one.
The top of the glass breaks off, penetrating and slicing through skin of my right index finger. In an instant, that peach skin became stained with crimson colored blood. I looked at my newly wounded hand, seeing blood profusely expel itself. I panicked. I began shouting expletives. My girlfriend, who was preparing for bed, rushed downstairs to see blood dripping and seeping through my hands. My father, who was asleep, woke up, got dressed and took a cloth rag with him and gave it to me. Soon enough, we were on the way to a hospital in the middle of the night.
I remember telling both of them how I felt so stupid for letting this happen and that I don’t want anything bad to happen. Both reassured me that I would be fine and that I would get this hand stitched up. All they needed me to do was to calm down. But how could I? I just sliced my finger open doing something in hindsight that I know might have presented a risk to my hand and the pain was unlike anything else. The sensory on my right hand felt so weird, so strange and so painful that it made me uncomfortable.
We arrived at the hospital and for the next hour and a half, I would have my hand propped up and worked on. I felt every painful injection of numbing solution and every piercing of my skin once the stitching began. While all of this was happening, I looked at my girlfriend and father, who were there for me. I thought to myself, “Where would I be without the two of them?” The panic – dissipated. That’s the great thing about my life. Whenever something goes wrong, I know I have my support right there to help me. Always know that those who support you will be there for you and help you get through the rough times. We were all able to laugh about the incident in the end, but new challenges would wait the very next day.
Before leaving the hospital, my girlfriend was handed my discharge papers, which came with instructions on how to take care of my hand. When finally getting ready for bed, I admitted that I was concerned. Remember how I said that when I was a kid, I would take idioms for what they were saying? Well, one thing about me is that I tend to take directions for what they say as well. I expressed my concern for how specific the directions were and that I didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I was concerned about re-opening the stitches, washing the wound and the cleaning and dressing of the wound. I wanted to make sure I was applying the exact amount of water necessary when rinsing the wound and doing it at the right time. I wanted to make sure that I applied the right amount of Neosporin to my skin.
My girlfriend looked at me in the eyes and told me that sometimes I take things way too specific. And she was right – I became very specific as to how much water I would use, when the best time to start rinsing the wound would be and how much Neosporin would be needed. I obsessed over the timing and exact amounts of things when coming to taking care of the wound. Rather than waiting the full 48 hours to rinse my wound, like I planned on doing, she was able to get me to rinse the wound 36 hours after the incident. She then did the best thing anyone could possibly do for me – she instilled confidence in me. She told me that I can take care of myself and that I know what I’m doing – as long as I believe in myself.
With that said, my girlfriend helped me out the first time wrapping up the wound. To me, it was necessary that she helped because I am a visual learner. I can learn much better on how to do something if I can see someone doing it. The first day comes where I am required to change the bandages on my own. I could have asked my father to assist me, but I wanted to try and change the bandages on my own and not risk shouting at him because he may have done something to make the finger uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s best to learn lessons such as taking care of yourself on your own.
As I unwrapped the bandage, I noticed some sensory differences. Initially, I had thought I only sliced my finger open. However, I noticed something much different about my index finger. It was swollen and it felt weird to touch anything with the injured finger. Whenever I would touch something with it, I’d get this half-numb feeling. If I would lightly press it on something, I could feel that half-numb feeling radiate throughout my hand.
Upon noticing the difference in my finger from a sensory and mobility standpoint, I came to the conclusion that things that I could normally do would be a lot harder without my dominant index finger.
On Sunday, my father and I decided to have steak. Normally I can cut a steak, but without the index finger, I couldn’t apply the force needed to cut the steak without hurting my finger. This forced my father to cut the steak for me. Now I’m someone who likes to try and do things on his own and tell people, “See, I told you can do this, and I didn’t need any help.” However, I know my limitations, and I knew I couldn’t cut the steak on my own.
Getting dressed was a hassle because of several things. First, with no possibility of clenching my fist to help get my hand through narrow sleeves, I required assistance in putting certain shirts on. Short sleeve shirts were okay to do on my own, but sweaters, coats and long-sleeve button-up shirts were too difficult to do on my own. Second, some of the regular mechanics of putting on clothes, such as buttoning up a shirt can be accomplished a lot faster with the index finger. Now I did have my left index finger available, but it doesn’t do a good job on its own – it needs the other index finger to get the button through.
Being able to carry things had become difficult. Normally, when cleaning up or moving things around, I will carry as much as I can. However, because of my finger, carrying things with my right hand became difficult. Holding onto objects would hurt. The pain from the swelling and the burning sensation that I’d get inside my finger would wind up intimidating me from trying to carry everything I can. For now, I would be entrusting my left hand to do all of the carrying.
Then there’s driving around. Normally, I could place my key into the ignition, twist it and then put the car in reverse or drive and be on my way. For right now though, because of the burning sensation I feel when extending my arm and/or fingers too far, I have a much harder time doing this with my right hand. In addition, wrapping my right index finger around the steering wheel was too painful.
The pressure to do things without my dominant index finger, as well as not re-injuring myself initially got to me. When I set pressure upon myself, it can sometimes create additional, unnecessary stress. It’s that stress which creates the anxiety that people close to me know all too well. It’s this anxiety that makes me doubt myself at times. It’s that doubt which people can see and hear.
That’s why it is so important that you have people close to you to reassure you that things will be okay. But you also need yourself to tell you that things will be okay. Part of being independent requires you to trust yourself when faced with pressure. So, I built trust in what I would be doing by devising plans and strategies that work around the injury and physical limitation.
Despite the consequences stemming my injury, I have been able to learn how to adapt with the challenges that come along. Does it take more time? Yes. Is it painstakingly tedious? You bet. But did I trust myself and the plan I set? Yes. Do these changes still get the job done? Absolutely. As long as you can get the job done, that’s what matters.
When getting dressed, I have found ways to work around having to use the right hand. Whether it is by forcing myself to treat my left hand as my dominant hand or using my right arm as support, I found solutions to my problems. When it comes to carrying multiple things, I reminded myself to use my left hand only and that the risk of re-injuring myself because of a desire to finish things fast if fruitless.
I imagine at some point this week, I will be able to do even more than I am right now. Maybe I can finally put on clothes with no worries about time. Maybe I can shovel snow off the driveway, or at the very least, push it to the side without having my finger feel like it was being rubbed against dry ice . Perhaps I can write more legibly with my right hand.
As I have recovered throughout this time, I’ve been able to learn a lot. I’ve learned that when incidents like these occur, as long as you have your support nearby and they’re seeing you through this, everything is going to be okay. In addition, I’ve learned that no matter the physical limitations that are set forth upon you as a result of the injury, there is always a way to adapt and work around it. Most important, as long as you believe in yourself, you can do anything – barring physical limitations – that you set your mind to. However, I should point out, in humor, that I’ve learned to not clean dishes at 1:30 in the morning.
This incident has taught me a lot of things, but all of this brings me back to that idiom I love so much. Life gives you curveballs. However, like any batter who steps up to the plate, they have to make adjustments after that curveball. That right there is the underlying theme that I want you to take out of this. There are many things in life that are unexpected – this incident was surely one of them. How you adjust to these unexpected changes is crucial.