The Amorsley household had a very eventful weekend and frankly, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. I knew we’d turned the corner from “worse” to “not-as-bad” when Wendy moved on from worrying about her injury to discussing the options for bathroom window upgrades.
The incident in question was a very bad combination of hand and glass, with the result being a broken window and a very deeply cut pinky.
We were having a leisurely Saturday afternoon, all three of us napping in the big bed when Zelly got up to use her potty. Wendy and I drifted off again, certain that she could handle her business without our assistance. After a few moments she started going on and on about the window being open. I was content to ignore it, but Wendy got up to deal with the offending aperture. Moments later I heard a “Bang-Crash” and broken glass falling, followed immediately by Wendy shrieking. My mind wasn’t clear but my feet hit the floor in a hurry and I grabbed an old towel out of the hall closet on the way to the bathroom. There was Wendy, a bunch of broken glass, blood coming from her hand. We got the hand wrapped and I realized that Zelly was perched on the big potty, having had a big poop. I wiped her up, sent her off to get her shoes and tried to piece together what I needed to do next.
The window was a small, ‘tip-in’ window, surrounded by glass block and already had a crack across one corner. Wendy managed to hit it at the right angle, with the right force and without catching any of the frame. Her hand went right through it and I found the largest piece of glass outside in the flower bed the next day. The glass was thick and wavy and I have no idea whether she cut her finger on the way out or back in. Even thinking about that gives me the willies.
Wendy was justifiably upset and worried about her pinky, which had been gashed deeply at the base. She thought it was coming off and that worry combined with the blood — she does not do blood — was making her woozy. We got some cold water going, she rinsed the wound and wrapped it again. I was trying to find someone to could come and sit with Zelly while I drove Wendy to the hospital. No one was home. I heard Wendy say she thought she was going to pass out, and to call 911. I did and soon was talking to a nice 911 operator who sent some nice firemen to our house. Oh, between the call to 911 and the guys getting to the house, we had to get something other than a nightgown on Wendy. Between her knees buckling and her towel wrapped hand, that was quite a challenge. She also insisted on brushing her teeth, something I’m sure the guys appreciated when she began to display her “situational tourettes” at close range.
Situational tourettes, you ask? She cursed at the nice firefighters who were trying to help her, she really did. I knew what was going on, having 10 years of experience with Wendy’s panic attacks and ways of responding to stress. I stood in the kitchen with Zelly and calmly explained to the firemen that she was stressed and worried that she was going to lose her finger, desperately hoping that they wouldn’t take her responses personally.
“You know, we’re just trying to help her, I’d hate to see how she reacted if it was really bad,” one of them said to me.
I nodded my head sympathetically and noted with relief that this injury wasn’t ‘really bad’. I was also happy that Wendy hadn’t heard that comment, because she probably would have served up another helping of curse words. Zelly was her charming best and flirted with anyone who would look her way and kept asking me if her Mama was going to be ok. They took a look at the hand, bandaged her up and declared she’d need stitches. More evidence for me that this injury hadn’t threatened her finger in a permanent way, if the finger was coming off, stitches wouldn’t do the trick. They asked her if she’d like to ride in the ambulance, or have me drive her to the ER? She screamed something about waiting for 3 hours in the f*cking ER and stomped out the door in the direction of our car. I sighed and gave the guys knowing looks as they packed up their stuff to leave. I packed up Zelly, grabbed wallets, sunglasses, etc. and followed Wendy. Zelly said “thank you” to the firemen and waved as the truck pulled away.
We didn’t have to wait very long at the ER, thank goodness. Wendy was escorted to a treatment area, next to a woman who thought she was having a heart attack and a guy who got on the bad side of a reciprocating saw. Wendy’s stress manifested itself in an endless stream of tears and the adrenaline shakes. Listening to the people around her didn’t help either.
I was sitting with Zelly on the floor of an elevator alcove across the hall (the ER is being remodeled so things are not optimum in terms of waiting areas). I purchased some root beer and pretzels from a vending machine and told Zell we were having a picnic. She was restless and endlessly curious and talkative with all the other folks who were waiting with us. I wasn’t sure how long this would work, there wasn’t much to keep her preoccupied with. She was asking questions about her Mama and about the people around us and pointing out all the numbers and buttons on the elevators.
I’d left a message on my parent’s machine and that of a friend, Shannon. I was beyond hoping that anyone would show up. Of course, that’s just when Shannon did show up (yay, Shannon!). I felt about a million pounds lift off my shoulders. I filled her in on the details, told Wendy what was happening and helped get Zelly into Shannon’s truck. They’d go to the Procession of Species and then hang out at our house until we got back. I went to sit with Wendy, but first stopped the nurse to get an idea of what was going on.
“We haven’t been able to do anything yet, she won’t let us. She needs to calm down.”
I tried to explain Wendy’s panic attacks and suggested that they just get on with it. It all went over his head, he looked exasperated. I walked back to Wendy. She looked awful, her hand still wrapped in the EMT bandage, her eyes read and puffy from crying. I asked her what was going on and if she was resisting treatment, as the nurse had suggested. “No, what did he say?” This of course got her all pissed-off and she had another of her tourettes outbursts. Still able to multi-task within a panic attack, she had the presence of mind to remember that I’d left messages with my parents as well and suggested I call them back with an update. “Ok, I will, but when they come back tell them you want them to work on you, they seem to think you don’t.”
I walked to the nurse’s station, picked up the black phone and dialed ‘9’ for an outside line. Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mom hustling down the hallway. I walked out, gave her the story and got some very good hugs. After reassuring her that things were under control, we hugged again and she left. Time to return to advocating for Wendy.
They’d given her valium in an attempt to settle her down, but the adrenaline and panic had her shaking and crying with no letup in sight. While I was gone, talking to my mom, she’d asked the doctor what she was waiting for.
“We’re waiting for you to calm down.”
“I’m having a panic attack and it’s not going to stop until you start doing something. ”
“Well, I don’t want to come in here with a needle and have you freak out.”
“I’m not going to freak out, I’m just going to cry. I have a high pain tolerance and if you tell me what you’re doing, I’ll hold still.”
Apparently Wendy convinced her, because when I got back behind the curtain, the doctor was inspecting the wound. She checked for feeling in the adjacent finger first, then the pinky. Wendy could feel her touching the back of her pinky, and partway down the sides. She could feel pressure in her fingertip pad, but no skin sensation. The strength test involved Wendy pushing and pulling her pinky against the doctor’s finger. At first Wendy was reluctant, “I’m don’t want to, it feels like it’s going to fall off!”
The doctor reassured her that it wouldn’t but Wendy was on a roll, “It feels weird, I don’t like feeling air inside my finger.”
She could move her pinky both directions and the doctor told us this probably meant there was no tendon damage. The doctor explained that the nerve damage was probably cutaneous, meaning within the skin layer, instead of more serious damage.
Next she wanted to have the would cleaned and prepared for stitches. To prepare for that Wendy had to get some pain killer on board. The doctor returned to inject some “numb-a-caine” into the area around the wound. Since this involved actual poking into the slash it wasn’t easy for Wendy, who turned her head to the side (away from her hand) and did a lot of controlled breathing. With the injections completed, Wendy relaxed a bit and I realized I had a tight grip on her knee. I apologized and she told me it didn’t bother her but instead helped anchor her.
The nurse came to clean the wound, Wendy held still and breathed her way through it. He was looking a little less exasperated with her, which was good.
The doctor returned and put in seven stitches, Wendy crying, breathing and holding still the whole time. She complimented Wendy when she was done, clearly surprised that this crying, pissed off woman could control her reactions so well. Shit, didn’t we both try to tell them? Doctors and nurses need to listen to patients more, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.
During the stitches, Wendy began to joke a bit and show some of her wit. The tight coil of panic had begun to loosen, partly due to the valium but mostly due to moving forward with the treatment. I knew we were in a good place when she insisted on showing off her knee scar to the doctor… one that hadn’t gotten any stitches at all. She also told us that what she really wanted right then was a cigarette, another sign that normalcy was returning.
I told her, “Honey, you can chain-smoke all the way home if you want to” causing the doctor to chuckle and say, “Hey, you shouldn’t say that around me.”
I returned with, “I tell you what, you can hand me a pamphlet on the way out.”
Bandaging proved a bit of a challenge for Nurse Troy, given the location of the injury. An actual splint was rejected in favor of splinting to the ring finger. He wrapped and rewrapped to reduce the amount of gauze between the two fingers. Soon we were ready to go. We received care and feeding instructions, were told to check in with a doctor in a couple of days and that the stitches could come off in a week to ten days. The doc gave us a scrip for vicodin and one for an antibiotic. We were on our way.
At some point on the way home, Wendy shrugged her shoulder and joked, “I hated that window anyway, now we’ll just get it replaced sooner rather than later.” She was full of plans to call Washington Energy Service to get to work on replacing the window, and she knew just what kind of window she wanted and she was talking about a mile a minute. This was a good sign that she had already moved on, the injury was past tense, bathroom window improvement was the future.
After a quick stop at the nearby pharmacy, we arrived home to find our daughter and friends. Wendy filled them in on the details while I cleaned up the mess in the bathroom. Once I was done I had an overwhelming feeling of relief and fatigue and I realized that I never really fell asleep during my nappus-interruptus. I was very happy that I still had Sunday morning sleep in time to look forward to.
(Click this link if you want to see the injury — not too gory, but not pretty either.)
[Part two of this story will describe Zelly’s reactions and the way she’s been processing this incident]