Sunday was a quiet day, which started rainy enough to cancel a ride we'd planned. It was to be a test run of what we are hoping will become our regular Sunday shop ride. A handful of us, of varied skill levels, were going out to make sure the time and distance were appropriate for a group such as ours.
However, at 7am my phone began to blow up with cancellations across the board. The least experienced of the bunch was the last to cancel, which made me want to go out with just him, but I knew he wasn't ready for the rain just yet. I peeled my bibs and knee warmers back off and laid back down for a bit, making plans with the wife to drive in together and get breakfast. The last thing my wife said to me when we got to the shop at 10am was, "be careful please, I have one of my bad feelings."
At 3:08pm, I'd be on the phone with her again, asking "remember that bad feeling you had? I'm on my way to the emergency room..."
It gets gory. If you don't want to read the details, and see a more graphic photo, click here to go away. Otherwise click 'more' and/or scroll down, depending on how you got here, to continue...
I was replacing a tire on a fixie. Some sort of tricked fixed thing with lots of flat black, anodized colors and 26" tires. The dad and son were hanging about, asking questions and waiting. The bike was a squeaky, creaky mess.
After the new rear tire was on, and I made sure the chain was nice and tight the way those kids like it, I was regaling them with tales of appropriate chain lubrication and maintenance while I applied my favorite, Chain-L. The thing I love about that stuff, is you can give the pedals a nice crank, and apply it to the speeding chain and literally listen to the chain quiet down.
They were impressed.
But the next step, which is wiping the excess from the chain, is where this story goes wrong. The experienced mechanics know what's coming, and have probably already cringed. A few passes in, something caught and my thumb went all the way around, through the cog with the chain. The pop that plays over and over in my head was the sound of a tooth of the cog puncturing my nail. I taught a few kids a new word, grabbed my hand and ran to the restroom. Rinsing it off, I could see there was some serious damage. The nail was caved in and the tip of my thumb was more detached, than it was attached. Rubbing some dirt on it and going back to work wasn't going to be an option this time. So, I went back out, hand wrapped in a rag, and announced that I would be requiring a trip to the ER, and we were off to UCLA.
When I entered the ER, I apparently didn't look so wonderful, because I was assisted immediately and made my way through each step quicker than I had ever experienced. Within thirty minutes, I had a room and a slew of nurses and two doctors had looked at my hand. They weren't rushing to fix it quite yet, but I got something for the pain, and an x-ray within the first hour.
About the time my wife arrived, I got my diagnosis and they discussed with us what would be done to repair it. The tip of my thumb was partially severed, through the nail. The cog tooth had exited through the pad of my thumb, but that wound was not big enough to need attention. This had also resulted in a tuft fracture; in layman's terms, the bone below my nail which constituted the tip of my thumb was shattered or crushed.
They planned to sew my thumb's tip back on, both through the flesh and the nail, and performed a 'digital block' which involved pumping my thumb full of anesthesia that would last six hours, and left me unaware of them even touching me, let alone what they planned to do. There's two stitches in the flesh on the side of the nail, and then they burned four holes in my nail using a white hot iron thingy, and used said holes to stitch the nail back together. By doing it in this manner, the bone would put back into the best position to heal.
After a week or so, the stitches will come out and from there I'm told it will be four weeks before I'll be able to put pressure on my thumb. After then, I should still be cautious and use my discretion, as the bone will not be 100%. Even now, four days later, it's not the wound that is painful. It is the feeling that my thumb is not connected to the bone inside it.
So there you have it. Be careful when you work on bicycles, man.
PS- I was fifty-three miles away from logging a thousand miles in 2011. Double ouch.