Micah makes toy swords out of scrap lumber. Sending planks of wood through the table saw out in the shed is a common practice for him, something he has done dozens of times. On Tuesday, as the blade was winding down after cutting a half-dozen new toy swords, one of his newly cut boards fell off the table. He reached for it and whack, the saw sliced half way through his left-hand middle finger.
Wendy and I were sitting in the living room. We were in the middle of a discussion of some organizing we wanted to do with our bookshelves after lunch. The galloping across our back deck with a frantic “Mom, mom, mom!” was clear to our ears: something was seriously wrong.
There was no bleeding, just his finger split wide open and exposing a small bone fragment. We rushed his hand under cold faucet water as we both yelled emergency orders to ready children. “Lydia, get the medical tape from the bathroom!” “Isaiah, get the first-aid kit from downstairs!” “Noah, make sure the saw is off!” It’s nice having so many kids, and they all snapped into emergency mode. Wendy and I assessed the situation. No doubt about it. Today’s plans changed. Today was going to be ER day.
Within a few minutes, the three of us were heading for the car. Micah was not in too much pain, sort of in shock, and I had to hold him tightly to make sure he wouldn’t faint. Wendy sat with Micah in the back seat, I drove — fast. We sped to the emergency room, but we clunked along a bit. There were some obstacles that we ran into, and I wish we would have had these thought out first.
1. Where to go?
We didn’t know exactly where to go. There is a new UrgentCare in Monument, but it is a limited facility. We went there first. I ran in and explained the situation. “Bring him in,” they said, “but if it requires surgery, we’ll have to send them down to Colorado Springs.” I opted out of that hoop and took him straight to Colorado Springs, and the local people agreed that that was a good idea. Wasted 15-20 minutes. Lesson learned: Know the limitations of the local hospitals and clinics.
We’re small-town people, I guess, because we didn’t expect a security guard at the ER. With Micah’s hand wrapped in a bloody towel, Wendy helped empty his pockets of all metal objects. Two pocket knives, a utility blade, and a screwdriver bit dropped into the tray. Needless to say, this raised the eyebrows of the security guards and stalled us a bit. Wendy and I had to go through the system, too. Just a few minutes of time wasted, but we probably would have gone through faster if the weapons didn’t end up flagging us.
3. Know your story.
Practitioners and doctors are almost like detectives; they first want to reconstruct what exactly happened. What you tell them will help them treat you. We didn’t answer, “Micah was making swords.” The injury would have been viewed much differently. Instead, “He cut himself on a table saw when the saw was winding down.” Much more accurate as it pertained to the injury, and it explained the laceration they were viewing.
4. Have your insurance information with you
Bringing your card should be just as important as your car keys. Forgetting it won’t deter your treatment, but will certainly frustrate the process. Even if you don’t have insurance, be ready with the standard answer, “self-pay,” to help speed along the process. Wendy and I are working on a larger post about our personal payment options, so more on that later.
5. Expect down time, and enjoy it!
Micah was sped to a check-in room, then walked to an ER room, vitals were checked, etc. In the middle of a weekday, medical students were on deck, so at least a dozen practitioners and students gawked over Micah’s wound before the doctor got there. It was comic relief, really. “Whoa! Check that out! Cool!” were encouraging words to a 14-year-old boy in pain. I suppose we could have grown irritated with it, but we welcomed it instead. There were other times when no one was there and we were waiting. We spent time talking, praying and joking together. “Did you see the look on that security guard’s face?” Laughing helped ease the anxiety.
6. Be insistent, but also understanding
We’ve had bad ER experiences in the past, so Wendy and I tend to be skeptical of the advice from the practitioners and even the doctors. That said, understand that everyone is there to help the wounded. Case in point: the time came to refer Micah to a specialist. We were told that would be the next day. I pressed a bit, “But shouldn’t it be today? I mean, this is serious!” One nurse called the specialist directly (very thoughtful!) and tried to get him in, but the doctor was already in surgery and would not be available that day. Understood. We went home with pain meds and a cleaned/bandaged hand.
All this considered, it was one of our best ER experiences. We saw the specialist yesterday. One of Micah’s two nerves in his finger was severed. (If you get into gory wounds, you will enjoy this picture, taken after the specialist removed a bone fragment from the finger.) Micah will undergo operation today to reconstruct the nerve and sew up the finger. Looks like 6-12 months of healing before he’s back to normal.
Your prayers are appreciated! Wendy and I are working on another post on how we’ll be paying for the medical bill. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be about $10,000. For starters, Micah has put his six swords up for sale for $1,750 each. Any takers?