We’ve been going through a rough time – rabbits dying of unrelated diseases, unexpected new bunnies due to mis-sexing (it only took one), depression occasioned by the inability to live the Serenity Prayer, a slump in my business, a well-loved cat missing and presumed dead, marital troubles occasioned by the visit of my daughter, on top of a really useless winter with no skating or skiing, Jersey weather – all in all, some powerful heavenly body seems to be in retrograde for us. (That said, the attitude of gratitude is never far below the surface.)

So yesterday, on the healing side of the bump in our relational road, Quan smudged the house with sweet grass, and I went out to start a sauna to burn out this wretched karma, whatever it is. Chopping kindling in the candlelight (not wise, I know), the hatchet hit a knot and bounced over to peel off a strip of flesh from my left index finger. Annoyed at first (it didn’t hurt much), I kept stuffing the split wood into the firebox, until I saw and felt the blood dripping off the heel of my hand.

I went outside in the dark and pressed snow into the cut, which immediately melted into pink stains below me. I went inside and popped some ice onto it, but the momentary look inside my skin was disconcerting. Funny how I can do dissections, and hold another’s heart in my hands without queasiness, but my own blood and fascia is immediately and viscerally dissociating. Quan was insisting I should go get it stitched, but I resisted until 15 minutes of icing had failed to staunch the bleeding. Again, I looked, and this time the vastness of the space and the movability of the skin left me lightheaded. (Wuss!)

Our neighbor, a nurse, looked at it and said it needed the stitches, as well as a good cleaning. It’s total black ice here now, so no one was on the road, and the emergency room at our local (good) hospital was empty. Even so, an hour later I was still sitting in the examining room, presssing cotton to my wound, unseen, except to take insurance data. The sweet old PA who finally wandered in injected anesthetic directly into the wound, painful in itself, but the immediate aftermath was like a scorpion sting – agonizing, inescapable, stiff-armed pain that had me doubled up or pacing, going on for 20 minutes. Finally he put some topical anesthetic on it, which toned it down, but I could still feel all the stitches going in, and since he could see me flinch as he poked through each layer, he put in fewer stitches than he should have.

Only after it was over did I get a pain med. More than two hours after arrival.

Even though I am an alternative therapist, I have nothing philosophically against the medical system, which deals with a different set of problems from the ones I am equipped to handle. Therefore I prefer the term ‘complementary’ for what I do (though I cannot abide their term ‘traditional’ for what they do – with a track record of about 300 years,surgery and biochemistry are hardly ‘traditional’ compared to acupuncture, massage, and dietary modification). If indeed what I am doing is not purely educational. But every time I enter the medical system, I am appalled. I would be out of business if I offered service on the level I received last night, and this from well-meaning and unharried people. The pain of the injury was nothing compared to the pain they inflicted on me. The waiting time – perfectly justified if they were busy – wasted an evening on trivialities. Next time, I will have some betadyne, a curvy needle, and some dental floss, and with the help of a jot of rum, do it myself.

I freely admit to being a wuss, especially on my hand, essential to my living. And my injury wasn’t remotely life-threatening. But I am amazed that the reaction is not, “Here, let’s get you a pain med, and then we’ll take your data, and then we’ll clean it up, sew it up, and bandage it.”

I needed to find a local doctor anyway – I’ve been here four years without one – and this incident pushed me into doing it. The poor guy got a pretty hard interview from me today, but he took it well – “You want to be responsible for your own health care, ” he said, and that’s a nice way of putting it.


One Response to “Hatchet”

  1. Elaine McGillicuddy Says:

    LOL over this line — “Next time, I will have some betadyne, a curvy needle, and some dental floss, and with the help of a jot of rum, do it myself.”

    But sorry about your accident, Tom! I’d ‘ve been a wuss too!

    Sending healing thoughts,

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