At about 8 p.m. Sunday my husband said I would probably need to go to the emergency room. The bleeding had not stopped from the gash on my left thumb. A steady trickle of blood kept filling up the gauze bandages I kept wrapping around my it. This was about three hours after the skin of my thumb got in the way of my peeling potatoes for dinner.
“Do I really have to?”
I so much did not want to go to the ER. Not for something stupid like this! I wanted to just get into my pajamas, curl up in bed with some peanut M&Ms and–I don’t know–read a Walnut Creek city staff report. (Aren’t I fun?)
My thumb didn’t hurt, and I figured that, after triage, a cut thumb would wind up pretty low on John Muir Medical Center’s emergency room priority list–even if the emergency room wasn’t busy. I could be there for hours, sitting up in the waiting room, with that artificial waiting room air and something obnoxious–like Fox News–playing on the TV. Would they even have trashy magazines to read?
But my husband, the son of a nurse, said the cut looked deep, and it looked like it would keep bleeding, unless I got stitches. He offered to drive me, but I said I could drive myself, and by 8:15, I was in the car on my way to John Muir.
Things didn’t look promising when I arrived. Half the waiting room seats were filled, and I was third in line to register. At least, Fox News wasn’t playing on the TV. Rather, it was re-run of House. Yes, the TV medical drama–yes, the irony of this show being broadcast in a hospital waiting room. Given that I’m rather fond of House, I decided I could pass the survive this waiting room for a little while.
But it turned out I wouldn’t be left out in the waiting room. As soon as I signed in, a triage nurse came to get me and take me back to an exam room, where I was invited to sit on a hospital bed. I thought, well, if I’m here for a while, I can at least lie back and try to zone out.
But right away, a nurse came to check my vitals (blood pressure 121 over 73) and look over my bloody thumb. A few minutes later, the doctor herself appeared, and she looked it over, too. We all had a little laugh over my injury, with both reassuring me that potato peelers are involved in a lot more finger gashes than you would ever realize.
A technician irrigated my thumb, and the doctor saw that stitching it up wouldn’t be possible. There was no flap of skin. There was no skin at all, just a deep little hole that the doctor said looked like it reach pretty close the bone. She recommended placing this synthetic material over it, which would act like skin. She would then wrap it up, and she recommended that I wear a splint for a few days, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to bend my thumb and re-open the wound.
And that’s what the ER staff did. The nurse also gave me a tetanus shot, because I couldn’t remember the date of my last shot. “I’ve been giving out a lot of these today,” she said, adding that a lot of people had come in Sunday with cuts and other injuries that would warrant tetanus shots.
It all went pretty quickly and efficiently, despite the fact that, as he technician mentioned, a trauma case had just come in, and “a lot of people are dealing with that.”
An added benefit: in between the visits of the nurse, doctor, and nurse technician, a staff member came and took my insurance information and co-pay.
So, I was out of the emergency room, armed with my discharge papers, in about an hour, despite my presumably low-priority injury. I’ll have to go see my primary care doctor in a couple days, to make sure my thumb is heeling and to probably get some antibiotics.
And, now I’m back home, writing this. To my surprise and delight, I’m not having any trouble typing. I’m also OK with the splint. It looks rather dramatic–more dramatic than my so-called crisis was, of course. But as the nurse and I joked, if you’re gonna go to the emergency room, you should at least leave with some visible reminder of the “emergency” you went through.
I will soon curl up in bed with my M&Ms and my Walnut Creek city staff report.
But I need to close with some words of advice. You know how your mother tells you to always wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident and have to go to the emergency room? Well, it’s probably good to keep up with your manicures, in case you slice a digit with a potato peeler or a bagel knife. Alas, I had to expose my ragged, need-to-be-cut-and-filed-fingernails to strangers.
Oh well, I’m sure they’ve seen worse.