In college, the handle of a glass Pyrex baking dish snapped off in my hand as I was washing it, slicing four of my fingers. My immediate reaction went something like this: “Ouch! I think I was just cut!” Then I noticed the blood dripping down my hand, mixing with the water coming out of the sink faucet. I’m not sure if it was from the pain or the sight all that blood, but I suddenly felt lightheaded and queasy.
Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was there, “Dr. Mike,” a Boston University med student. He quickly pulled up a kitchen chair and applied pressure to my wounds, lifting my arm above my head to stop the bleeding. “Do I need stitches?” I cried. I had never had stitches, and the thought of somebody sewing up my skin gave me the freaked me out almost as much as all that blood. Dr. Mike seemed to think the cuts would heal fine on their own.
A week or so later, as Dr. Mike was performing wound care, he made the following observation: I probably should have gotten stitches. The four gashes took a ridiculously long time to close up, and I now have a faint scar on each my fingers.
Needless to say, the lacerations outlasted my relationship with Dr. Mike.
I was able to avoid needing any stitches for the next ten years or so. But on Tuesday, I lost my suture virginity. Here’s what happened.
After having my bedroom and dining room painted in the morning, I wanted to open the dining room window to get some air circulating. Our window are original to the house (about 40-years-old) and the woodwork has been painted, so sometimes they stick and won’t open. As I’ve done numerous times in my life, I gently banged against the top window with the base of my palm. Only this time, my right hand went through the glass. Bang. Bang. Smash. I don’t know if this happened because the glass was thin or because I hit a weak spot or because I’m much, much stronger than I think. But I heard the glass shatter and quickly clutched my hand. Again I yelled, “Ouch! I think was just cut!”
Sure enough, there was a deep laceration at the bottom of my thumb, and the blood was gushing. I swore I could see muscle. I panicked. I now had blood covering both hands. I called J and started screaming, “I’m hurt! I’m hurt!” when he — thankfully — answered his cell phone. (For those military wives out there, you know how hard it can be to get in touch with your husbands when they’re on base.) To my benefit he stayed calm and started giving me instructions. I grabbed a dishtowel to absorb the blood.
On his way home, he called one of our closest friends in Omaha, whose father-in-law was in town to help out with her newborn. She sent him over to my house to keep me company as I waited for J, as she researched which emergency room we should visit. (There are a disproportionate amount of hospitals to citizens here.) When her FIL arrived, he filled a clean dishtowel with ice. I started blabbing on and on; my nerves caused major verbal diarrhea. I found myself retelling the story of Dr. Mike, which reminded me that I should put my hand over my head to stop the bleeding.
See, ex-boyfriends can be good for something.
I already told you that my wound required stitches. Five or six, the doctor told us. I knew I had a valid reason to fear getting sutured; the lidocaine injections burned worse than when the glass sliced my thumb open. I cried. J held my (good) hand the entire time. Then he bought me pepperoni pizza for dinner.
Of course the whole experience felt more traumatic than it probably was. We need to replace the window pane (J joked that it looks like somebody was trying to break out of our house), and I have to return to the ER to have my stitches removed in 8-10 days. But then I will be as good as new and probably won’t even have a scar.
But there is a lesson to be learned that I hope you all take to heart: Don’t attempt to unstick a window by banging on the glass. Unless you want to risk getting stitches.