I was born with three feet—two at the end of my legs and one located on my left arm. This left "foot” may look like a hand, but it’s incapable of handling any of the work of an actual hand. Simply put, I am left-side challenged!
Recently, I had an unfortunate encounter involving my right hand and a sledgehammer. At the end of a very long, tiring day in the garden, I was putting in one more garden marker before retiring to a hot shower. Lacking the physical strength to pound through a foot or two of hard clay, I opted to bring in the big gun for the job and just get ’er done quickly. Yes, hind sight is indeed 20/20, but then again, it did provide me with enough "hands on” experience to discuss the topic of injury on the homestead with a little authority.
1. Assess the Damage Immediately
There are several types of pain involved with excessive bleeding and potentially broken bones. I say that for the benefit of any bystanders that are witnessing or attempting to assist an injured person. While "Where does it hurt?” is a very valid question, sometimes an injury cannot be pinpointed immediately, and therefore, "everywhere” is a very valid answer.
To the injured I say, try to get through the profanity, puking or "Ouch! It hurts!” dance as quickly as possible. Immediately assess the wound for gushing blood versus spurting blood and obvious open fractures. This initial observation tells you if you need a tourniquet or just pressure, a dash to your med bag or a trip to the ER. In my case, a quick rinsing of several layers of dirt was required prior to my analysis.
I happen to be very stubborn. My initial glance did tell me stitches were definitely required and a fracture was probable, but I ignored myself. This is usually the time your mother would say, "Do as I say, not as I do!” and that is what I am saying now. My unwillingness to seek immediate medical attention resulted in a wound that can no longer be stitched, and is therefore more susceptible to infection and scarring.
2. Stock Your Med Kit
The time to make sure your medical supplies are together and complete is not after an injury occurs! I have a complete set of medical supplies, but unfortunately, they were somewhat scattered between bathrooms and kitchen cabinets due to recent small injuries, like splinters and blisters. The worst part was that I usually have an emergency kit outside but had recently brought it in to restock and just never got around to it. That teaches me about procrastinating!
Your emergency kit can be as extensive as you feel necessary, but there are a few basics that should be in every bag. Including bandages of various sizes is pretty obvious, but you might also want to include sterile gauze. Gauze can be found in numerous sizes and should be a staple in any first-aid kit. In addition to things to wrap/cover a boo-boo, you need something to keep infection out of it. But this includes more than ointments. Because we work with animals and fecal matter, we should all have heavy duty cleaners, too. It is imperative to get all debris out of open wounds, so a good, solid cleaner you can soak your wound in is a step in the right direction.
Don’t stop your medical supplies there, though. Ice packs, braces and splints are all helpful even if a trip to the doctor is in order. I won’t give advice on medications, as some can thin the blood and do more harm, medicines are a personal choice—if an ER trip is in your future, the staff may not be able to give you anything if you’ve prescribed yourself, and let’s face it, they usually have the better meds anyway! (Kidding! Kidding!)
3. Know and Articulate Details of the Accident
It’s amazing how important the smallest details can be when a doctor is trying to assess an injury. In my case, because I didn’t go to the ER right away, the details were a bit fuzzy. I later realized they were important to the doctor because he needed to decide the course of tests to order. If the sledge hammer whacked me full force atop my hand, x-rays would show him what he needed to know. If, however, it grazed my hand and knuckles, a more in-depth look was required. He would need to look at my hand from varying angles, to see hairline fractures, splintering, etc.
4. Keep Your Shots Up To Date
It’s up to you whether you choose to vaccinate your family, but if you do opt for shots, now’s the time to make sure they are up to date. As the nurse stood in front of me with a tiny needle, she informed me while the initial tetanus shot would be relatively painless, it would probably leave my arm tender and immobile the next day. She suggested I take it in the left arm, as my right was already in so much pain. Weighing my options, I went against her advice and instead opted to maintain the ability to pick my own nose should the need arise. I could not risk losing control of both my arms! This was, of course, prior to me realizing the extent of my left-sided challenges! My point is, if it is time for a few booster shots, get them now so you don’t have to make a similar choice!
5. Embrace the Awkward Until You’re Healed
To sum up this experience, it turns out I did not fracture my right hand. However, I will have a nasty scar on my middle finger because I didn’t seek medical attention quickly enough. I am currently at the mercy of anyone able to help me as I have absolutely no control over my left hand and my right hand is out of order. This, unfortunately, puts me in numerous awkward situations daily:
- I’ve been learning to brush my teeth with my left elbow firmly planted on the counter and simply moving my head around. Every time, I allowed my hand to control the toothbrush, I ended up attempting to gag myself or brush my nostrils.
- I’ve regressed to the hunt-and-peck typing method with a very uncooperative left index finger, taking my 50-60 wpm to a very unfortunate 5-6 lpm (letters per minute).
- I’m incapable of snapping, zipping or tying pants and have been in easy pull-up britches for several days now.
- I’m forbidden from frolicking with the livestock without being wrapped almost completely in plastic, for at least another week or two!
- I eat like a toddler learning to hold a spoon. After shoveling a large heap of mashed potatoes up my nose, I have resorted to living off sandwiches for the next few days!
I’ll leave all other "challenges” to your active imaginations and instead leave you with Mom’s sage advice: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Get more tips on avoiding and surviving farm mishaps:
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