The Famous Toilet Incident

Continuing a never ending string of unfortunate events, I present the cases of the toilet and the sand. The toilet in 1991 and then the sand in 1992. Even at this early date, the nature of my accidents were becoming famous.

The Beginning

In the beginning, lived a small boy named Scott. This young boy was to be a troublesome one for his parents even from an early age. When he was still in diapers in just learning to crawl, he pulled over a floor lamp, breaking the bulb. His mother came back into the room to find young Scott eating the broken glass pieces from the bulb. Just a short time later, when he was learning to walk, he lost grasp of a coffee table, fell and broke his baby brother’s arm. If nothing else, these events would foreshadow a life full of unfortunate–if not humorous–string of incidents forever shaping his life.

Things quieted down after the first two years of his life until he was in 4th grade. It was then, that he broke 2 fingers in his index finger playing basketball at recess. (He hung up the basketball shoes that day) Just two years later, his grandfather would run over his foot in the aforementioned car incident. Four years after that, Scott’s life really started getting interesting.

“Looks like you cut your finger”. No really idiot, how did you figure that one out?

The Toilet Incident

In July of 1991, after 4 years in Boy Scouts and I had developed a passion for service. Much of this service time was in my local church, community and school. In 1989, our youth group went to Colorado for a missions trip and I was forever touched by the experience. So, on July 28, 1991, the youth group again left on a missions trip–this time to Virginia. After 2 days on the road, we arrived late on July 29 and were set to start work on July 30th. One of the first jobs we were set to perform (And the only one I remember to this day) was for myself and Scott Sullivan to move a broken toilet about 50 yards. We then were to pick it up and place it in a large dumpster.

Unfortunately, this camp was very poor. So, we were not supplied with gloves. Picking up the toilet went smoothly. However, when we tried to push it over into the dumpster, I pushed on a spot with broken porcelain. The only sensation I had was the loss of sensation. It was like a tingle and then nothing. I didn’t even know that anything had happened until I looked at my arm and it was covered in blood. Blood never bothered me until this day. In that moment, the blood had covered my entire arm.

Triage

Looking back, I know that I probably overreacted. However, when I looked at my finger, I saw bone. I also saw a fingertip held only by flap of skin. In reality, the wasn’t that gruesome. I can only explain what happened next as “instinct”. The Boy Scouts had taught me a lot of first aid. By instinct, I immediately stopped the bleeding at the pressure point. I then ran up the hill to the nurses station. (It felt like a mile, but was more like 100 meters) On the way up, I nearly knocked over the nurse. When I arrived to the empty nurse’s station, I collapsed on a bench–out of adrenaline.

Trip to the Hospital

The wound was immediately wrapped and plans made to get treatment. The first stop was about 10 miles away at a first aid station–empty. Next, we stopped at a clinic 15 miles from the first aid station. They took me right to the doctor who told us to get me to the hospital ASAP for surgery. The hospital was about 10 miles from the clinic (total drive time of about an hour). Arriving at the hospital, we waited in the ER for what felt like hours.

Once I was taken to a bed in the ER, I was seen by an internist. He unwrapped my finger, grabbed the tip, pulled it down and said “Looks like you cut your finger”. No really idiot, how did you figure that one out? If I had the strength, I’d have punched him. This whole process is a bit foggy to me. However, I remember being taken upstairs to a plastic surgeon. He sewed me up and informed my pastor to take me home immediately for reconstructive surgery.

We went back to the camp and made arrangements for the return trip. During the evening, I was on high doses of pain medication (as well as the entire trip home). The only thing I remember about the next 36 hours was a group of campers in our cabin that night. Apparently, the entire camp had heard about it and rumors were flying. Some heard I had died. Others heard that I had lost my hand. Or my arm. Needless to say, we went home as fast as we could. The VA hospital had already set up the appoint for the day we returned home.

Home for surgery

At the surgeon’s consult 2 days later, we learned the extent of the damage. I completely severed both tendons in the finger (rendering the joint inert). Both nerves were also severed–one worse than the other. The general surgeon set up a consult with an orthopedic surgeon 2 weeks later. He felt that the wound needed to heal before surgery. I don’t remember much about this two weeks either. I imagine I was on painkillers at this time.

The orthopedic surgeon had a different opinion at his appointment. He questioned waiting and set me up for surgery just a few days later. Again, I don’t remember the surgery or the wait. What I do remember though is coming home from the hospital. My arm was wrapped from elbow to fingertips with my hand partially fisted. I now remember nearly everything about this issue for the remainder of the treatment.

Therapy

Just 3 days after surgery, my hand was unwrapped and therapy started. I nearly passed out when I saw the finger. It looked like hamburger. 22 stitches total — 15 on the outside, and 7 on the inside. The therapist started me on “scar tissue” exercises. For the next week, I was to rub the incision several times a day–increasing the pressure daily. These exercises were intended to break up the scar tissue.

She explained that for the next 6 weeks, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES was my finger to move. If I even twitched it any straighter than it was, both tendons could snap. If this happened, they could snap (like a rubber band) all the way to my elbow. I did my exercises to the best of my ability over the next several months. Once I was allowed to bend the finger, I started electro-shock therapy.

An electrical impulse device would send pulses through my tendons to force them to bend. This went on for several months as we re-strengthened the tendons. I learned a valuable lesson at this point:

Don’t let your mom hold try the controls on your electro-shock device.

Mom turned it all the way up. My fist clenched, my wrist bend 90 degrees, my elbow flexed, and I punched myself in the shoulder. She never touched it again. 🙂

Conclusion

By January, (6 months later) therapy was concluding and decisions had to be made. Because the finger was immobilized for 6 weeks, the scar tissue grew faster than the tendons. The scar tissue is now wrapped about both tendons, permanently freezing the second joint at about a 30 degree angle. I was left with the decision to have a followup surgery and therapy or accept the condition of the finger. I opted for the latter. It was a ring finger–what impediment would it be?

Strangely enough, the only issue I still have is that I have trouble typing the word “this”. Because the finger doesn’t bend, when I try to type the T, my finger typically presses the S first. I type so fast that the h-i comes very quickly and are followed by the T. (I’ll let you think about that one!)

You’ll have to read later about happened just 2 days after I was released from therapy!

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