by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Our first hard freeze was looming last week, so it was time to bring in all the tender crops. Two days prior, I'd cut all the squash and cucumbers; the day before all the chiles, peppers, and eggplants. As I snipped apart tomato plants and hauled tubful after tubful of green tomatoes up to the house, Aries was busy clear-cutting the stripped-clean plants and hauling loads up to the chipper/shredder.
After a break for lunch, he started processing everything for the compost pile. I was down by the garden shed - organizing the cages and trellises for storage, coiling up soaker hoses. Faintly, I heard Aries calling me from up near the house. I poked my head around the shed to see what he wanted. "Get up here! You have to drive me to the emergency room," he yelled down.
I thought he was kidding, and replied, "Yeah, right."
"No!" he said, "I really mean it! I caught my hand in the shredder! Get up here!!"
I ran. He was holding the fingers of his left hand with his right. At least, there was no spurting blood. I grabbed a clean washcloth for his hand, closed up the house (it was threatening rain), and grabbed my purse and keys. The hospital is about five miles away, on the other edge of town. It took me maybe 10 minutes to drive, and they got him into an emergency room right away. I settled in and waited, for hours, as they x-rayed and stitched him up, updated his tetanus immunization plus gave him two massive doses of antibiotics (those two shots, one in each arm, were the only things that brought tears to his eyes) and finally sent us home with prescriptions for pain-killers and more antibiotics.
He's reasonable lucky, albeit in quite a bit of pain. He was sweeping the shredded pile away from beneath the bottom screen, using a piece of board. There's a rounded guard piece there, with nickle-sized holes for the material to fall through. The holes are also just big enough, that when his grip on the board slipped, to let the tip of his middle finger on his left hand slip through. In an instant, it shredded his fingertip, shattering the bone into pieces. Fortunately, it didn't penetrate deep enough to damage the joint. Right now, he has 20 stitches and his hand in a cast, but it looks like the bones will knit back together.
We're ok financially. He has pretty good insurance coverage through work, and we have enough liquid savings to pay the deductibles and emergency room co-pays. His bosses are looking to see if they have any modified light-duty position he could do, but it's not likely. So we're now in the waiting period before his medical leave of absence gets approved. It's looking like he'll be out of work for 6 - 8 weeks.
I have to tie his shoes for him each morning, but since it was his non-dominant hand he's managing ok for the most part. I've had to take over the firewood hauling, and putting the garden to bed. Aries just finished up with the antibiotics, and is cutting back on the pain-killers. He's not the type to just sit around though, so being so restricted in his actions is really getting to him. Plus, I know he's berating himself for getting into such a fix in the first place.
So, could this accident have been prevented? He's always so careful around machinery - wears safety glasses, heavy boots, tucks in his shirt, but hates wearing gloves. In this case, gloves might have been enough to have been stopped by the size of the holes. As I said, it was threatening to rain that afternoon, so he wanted to get everything finished up before it started - maybe he was rushing the job a bit. He'd sprained a couple of fingers on his right hand at work the week before, so he's been using his non-dominant hand more instead. The lack of coordination in his left might have been a factor. We'll make it through this. It's a shock, but not a disaster.