Links are NSFW: Graphic images. IAmA person that essentially severed all of his fingers on a tablesaw. AMA
I have never really talked to anyone about this, not even my parents, other than just telling the basic story (1000 fucking times). I generally prefer to keep my shit to myself. That being said, here you go, entire Internet. This is a pretty long read, so settle in.
Oh, and TL;DR? Fuck you, try typing this entire thing with a thumb.
I've done carpentry for about a decade, and am very comfortable around all the tools of the trade (except shapers, I won't fucking touch those arm-shredders).
I did maintenance for a retail store. The basement was a dedicated workshop/woodshop. On April 22, 2010 I had just finished ripping down a piece of lumber to replace a rotted section of a window at work. I killed power to the saw and reached down to grab the wood, i somehow misjudged where my hand was in relation to the blade.
I heard a crunching-ringing noise and my right arm went flying back behind me. I pulled it back and went to "shake out the pain" when i realized blood was blasting out of my palm. I severed every artery to every finger (2 arteries each) except my pinkie, which only lost 1. I also cut my index finger completely off right across the PIP joint (The "knuckle"), leaving it hanging by a flap of skin. The knuckle itself exploded, a lot of the bone scattered across the workshop. I'm sure there are pieces still lying around down there. I severed all of the flexor tendons and nerves on the palm-side of my hand. The tendons to my pinkie were spared, but most of its nerves weren't. Fortunately the saw blade stopped once it hit the rest of the bones in my hand.
Post accident damage report:
Pinkie - not devastated but still fucked up
Ring finger - fucked
Middle finger - fucked
Index finger - LOL
A good description of the pain would be to slap a brick wall with your flat palm as hard as you can. It just felt like something smacked the shit out of my hand.
I was alone in the workshop, i paused for about 5 seconds to check and make sure all of my fingers were accounted for. The first words out of my mouth were "God damnit, that sucks." I never felt panic throughout any stage of this experience, i don't think i've ever been so angry with myself though.
The best way to describe the bleeding was like a garden hose turned up about 1/3 of the way. It was literally pouring out of me and splashing into puddles on the floor. The ceiling of the workshop still has a straight 3-foot line of bloodstains right above where the saw sits and you can still see my blood-trail across the concrete floor and up the wooden steps, almost 2 years later. I lost about 60% of my blood all-in-all.
I went and grabbed my boss who gave me his jacket to wrap around my hand and a few minutes later we were on our way to the ER. I nearly passed out during the 8-ish minute drive due to how fast my blood pressure was dropping. We got to the ER probably 12 minutes after the accident, i had pulled myself together by the end of the ride and was no longer lightheaded. Boss' grey jacket was now completely red.
Fortunately for me, the only micro-vascular surgeon (exactly what I needed) within about 150 miles was just finishing a 12-hour shift at the hospital. After about 20 minutes of waiting in the triage, and started looking at my hand and ordered xrays. He was angry with the doctors me for not giving me any pain meds, since that meant he couldn't really probe around in my hand yet. By this point the pain was starting to set in, not terrible yet but really starting to throb. He told me that, from what he could see, I would probably lose all of my fingers. He left to go prep. My bleeding had nearly stopped at this point.
I spent another 15 minutes or so in the triage after he left hanging out and cracking jokes with my boss. I have always used humor to deal with everything, i know worrying about shit and FMLing doesn't fix anything so you might as well make the best of any given situation.
They eventually put some amnesia-inducing drugs into my IV which made my head and neck itch like crazy and wheeled me into a hallway outside the OR. About 5 or 10 minutes after that, they finally pushed me into the OR. They knocked me out. It's strange to think that you might actually feel all the pain of a surgery at the time it is happening, but just not remember it afterward. Well, here are some of the pictures from my surgery that I'm sure you all want to see.
Surgery lasted 12 hours. Apparently every time he gave an update to the people waiting outside, the prognosis was different. IE: the middle finger could be saved but the others don't look good, then the middle finger was fucked but the ring finger should be alright, he's only going to have a thumb and pinkie, and back and forth like that throughout the night.
My parents made it to the hospital from the other side of the state about halfway through the operation. Just in time because the surgeon, during his hourly report to the waiting room, said he was going to clip my index finger off and call it a lost cause. The story I heard is that my mom jumped down his throat and told him that he was going to do his "fucking best" to save every single finger. I have personally never heard my mom curse.
I am now waking up in in the ICU in some of the worst pain i have ever been in, my right hand is swollen to 3x its normal size with tubes sticking out of my palm and wrist. The room was blazing hot in order to promote blood flow through the newly repaired arteries. The vent in the ceiling was blasting right onto my face, i felt like i was dying. I looked over to my hand and saw all of my fingertips sticking out of the bandaging, elation doesn't describe the feeling.
The pain was unbearable. My surgeon came in to talk to me, he grabbed my hand and tweaked it this way and that to show off his work to my family, everything went black for a minute. He was obviously still in "surgery mode" where he treats the hand like an object rather than part of a person.
They had me hooked up to morphine but apparently I am in the minority of people on whom it has no effect. They kept giving me more and more. They clipped a stitch in my palm to relieve some pressure, a large jet of blood shot past my face and over my shoulder, hitting the wall about 5 feet to the left of the bed. I remember complimenting the nurse on the distance. No relief in pain.
Shortly afterward they decided the morphine wasn't working. I remember watching the nurse inject something else into my IV line, Everything instantly went white as i overdosed.
I remember a thick white haze, i felt a hand on my chest and heard my mom's voice saying "breath" every now and then. I complied as best i could. I was told later that i was taking about 4 breaths per minute.
I came to in an ambulance. Apparently my mom demanded that I be transferred. The EMT looked down and asked how I was doing.
"Never felt better."
My next memory is being in another operating room. I distinctly remember the nurse saying, "This should help you forget what is about to happen," as she injected something into my arm.
They inserted a long needle into my armpit. It was a nerve catheter, basically an epidural for my arm. Like this, but into my arm. I was so out of it that the pain from the needle wasn't bad, but then the Dr. said "Hit it." and they flipped on the ultrasound. Absolutely the worst pain I have ever been in and hopefully ever will be in. They missed their mark and had to readjust the needle a couple times. They activated the catheter and my arm instantly went numb, absolutely no feeling whatsoever. No pain. Heaven.
They finally got around to giving me a blood infusion after a couple days. I went from zombie to human within minutes.
Holy shit this is turning into a novel, i will breeze through the rest. Here are some more pictures to reward you for making it this far.
They thought i had contracted MRSA while in the hospital, a very nasty strain of staph. Turned out to be nothing. MRSA Scare
I had 4 additional surgeries with a hand specialist at the new hospital. A few pins removed and a few screws inserted and suddenly i could move the knuckle again, only about half the flexion, but i'm sure as hell not complaining. The other joints in my index finger calcified and do not bend at all so i am always pointing at something.
9 months after the initial surgery, both tendons to my middle finger re-ruptured with a deafening SNAP during PT. No pain, just a lot of noise and a limp finger. I went back into surgery but they could only salvage one of the tendons.
My nerves are still fucked, i can elaborate on what nerve damage is like if you guys want. It is somewhat interesting but i had to edit it out due to character count. My index finger is about 3/4" shorter than it used to be.
I will say that even with my dominant hand fucked up for life and with hardly any dexterity, my outlook on life is much brighter that it was before the accident. I am a happier person overall.
Sometimes you have to lose a little before you really appreciate how much you have.
Oh and it took 3 months for the dream-version of me to develop a fucked up hand. I thought that was pretty interesting.
*Edited for formatting.
*Edit #2: By popular demand, my hand in its present state. Fucking sexy.
Thanks for the laughs guys. Here is a video of where I am today.